This intriguing building has a colourful history. Originally it was the stables and service quarters of the great medieval manor house of Chitterne All Saints that stood, until it was demolished in about 1824, in what is now Chitterne Sportsfield. The service quarters survived and were converted into six separate dwellings called Great House to house farm labourers and their families. The new conversion’s name probably transferred from the original building, Great Manor. ( Manor Farm was once known as Little Manor).
The only photograph I have of the converted building at about the same time as the census is this one where it appears in the background of the 1923 accident with a falling tree. Great House was still housing some farm labourers, but by then only four families lived there.
In the 1930s, along with Manor Farm (now part of Chitterne Farm), Great House came into the ownership of the War Department. It was sold in the early 1970s and the new owners converted it into a single dwelling named Coach House.
I don’t know when exactly, but when Great House housed six families, it had been numbered along with the rest of the village, possibly between the 1911 and 1921 censuses, as the 1921 gives us village house numbers for the first time. The six dwellings were numbered 37 to 42 Great House, coming after number 36 Gate House and before 43/44 Yew Tree Cottages (Bow House), which explains why there is still a gap in the numbering of village houses. Today the building is number 37 Coach House, and numbers 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42 don’t exist.
Who was living at Great House in 1921?
Charles and Susan Colborne and their five children lived in 3 rooms in number 37 in 1921. They had been in Chitterne since 1915. Charles who hailed form Rockbourne, Hampshire, had served in the 5th Hants Regiment in WW1, before being invalided out in 1916. In 1921 he was a builder’s labourer working for Holloway Brothers of Imber. Susan, birth name Topp, came from Wincanton in Somerset. Their children were 16 year old Charles junior, who worked at Webster’s farm (Clump Farm) as a carter, Bessie aged 13, Lily aged 10, Hubert aged 7 and Phyllis aged 3.
Living at number 39 Great House William and Agnes Collins also had 3 rooms. They had not been living in Chitterne long and I know very little about them, although they were still in the same house in 1925. William was working as an under-carter ploughman for the farming Collins family at Manor Farm, but I don’t think they were related as he was a Wiltshireman and the farming Collins’ were from Devon.
Stephen Williams at number 40 Great House, was alone in his 3 rooms on 24 April 1921 when the census was recorded, although he says he was married, but no wife is listed. Now here’s a strange thing: According to Rev. JT Canner, Stephen’s wife, Amelia, died in 1916 and is buried in All Saints graveyard. Perhaps he still thought of himself as married despite having lost his wife. Stephen, like Charles Colbourne above, also worked for Holloway Bros builders of Imber, but as a bricklayer’s labourer.
Lastly, at number 41, lived the Dowdell family. They had three rooms shared between widow Eliza Jane Dowdell, born Eliza Jay in Broadchalk, Wiltshire, her four grown-up children, Edith 25, Albert 23, Edward 21, Hilda 15, and her orphaned grandson Leslie Jay 9. Eliza was the widow of Tom Dowdell, born Hanging Langford, who had died in 1918. Albert and Edward both worked for Charles Collins at Manor Farm. Hilda was born in Chitterne so the family had been here since at least 1906, whereas Albert and Edith had been born in Hanging Langford, and Edward in Codford.
Many workers of this post-war era had moved several times in their lives. Those living at Great House were no exception, the unusual building was home to a transient population for the main part of the twentieth century, until more mechanisation did away with the need for so many farm hands.
I am grateful to J & RR for their invaluable help with the 1921 Chitterne census.