One of our old time villagers, Raymond Poolman, sadly passed away today, the 19th November 2017, aged 84 years.
Ray had lived his whole life in Chitterne apart from a brief spell of National Service in Germany in the early 1950s. He was born at The Round House, the youngest son of William Poolman and Elsie, née Drewett. Like his father he worked in farming at The Manor for the Wallis family, until he was made redundant, and then for the REME at Warminster.
Ray was a lifelong Baptist and met his wife Freda through Baptist connections in Dorset. They were married at Alderholt Congregational Church in 1962, and moved into their new bungalow, in Chitterne, next door to Ray’s parents, in January 1963.
Both Freda and Ray played the piano and organ. Ray had been taught to play the piano by Olive Burt née Polden, as a child. Both he and Freda played for Baptist services at the chapel in Bidden Lane and when the chapel closed they continued to hold Baptist services themselves at the Village Hall in Chitterne for many years. Ray represented the Baptist Church on the Village Hall Committee. Later, the couple attended services in Tilshead until that chapel also closed.
Ray and Freda have been our neighbours for the last 41 years. In all that time their garden has never looked less than immaculate. They were both great gardeners and grew many vegetables and flowers. Freda does still. After he retired Ray took up gardening for other villagers, and was often to be seen mowing the grass at Chitterne House.
There have been Poolmans living in Chitterne since the 18th century, all descended from John Poolman who married Betty Eyles at Chitterne All Saints Church in 1757. Ray was one of the last descendants living here, but not quite the last.
Some time before World War II the Defence Land Commission of the War Department (WD) of the British government bought up a lot of land and properties in Chitterne including Chitterne Farm, the Racing Stables and Manor Farm. Manor Farm was run by a tenant farmer under WD ownership for about 60 years. In the 1980s the land and barns were amalgamated with Chitterne Farm and the farmhouse sold off. So today we have Chitterne Farm West, owned by the Ministry of Defence, and Manor Farmhouse privately owned.
By 1939 the Limbrick family ran Manor Farm and lived in the farmhouse. The tenant, William Isaac Hatherill Limbrick, was born in Gloucestershire, but he and his wife Emma Annie née Cave had spent several years farming in Canada before coming to Chitterne. Their children, Tom and May, were born and grew up in the wilds of Saskatchewan.
According to BL, who paid a visit to Chitterne a short while ago, his father Tom and aunt May were almost feral by the time they set out for England. But Tom ran the farm here and appears to have been well-liked in the village. He offered the re-formed Cricket Club a field to play on in February 1939, married Marguerite Willcox of Tytherington, Gloucestershire in 1941 and lived in Brookside (Brook Cottage) with her. Their three children were baptised in Chitterne Church. Tom joined Wiltshire Flying Club and gained his flying certificate in 1946. May married Ralph Carey of Potterne in 1942 at Chitterne Church.
The Limbrick family left Chitterne after the war in about 1948 and returned to their roots in Gloucestershire. William died in Sherborne, Gloucestershire in 1964, Tom died only 5 years later, aged 52 in Cheltenham.
On a hot Saturday in June this year our village dwellings were photographed from a helicopter flying at 800 feet. Last week, like many other villagers, I was offered a copy of the digital photograph of my house and garden. This is it.
The photographer had done his homework and spun a good yarn to effect a sale, but there was no need from my point of view, I was a willing customer. But some of his information was worth telling.
Do you know, he said, that in 1994 Chitterne and Shrewton were the last two villages in the UK to be photographed from the air using the wet film method? No, I didn’t. Do you have a copy of the photo taken then? Yes, I have, and showed it to him. Here it is.
A bit faded from sunlight after 23 years hanging opposite the front door, but now I know why. It was taken using film later developed in a dark room. Your two villages, he said, are quite famous in the aerial photography world.
Chitterne has one church but three churchyards. The present church, All Saints cum St Mary’s, was built in 1861-62 to replace the two old medieval churches of All Saints and St Mary’s. Lord Long gave a patch of land in the centre of the village for the new church. Unfortunately, the land he gave is too waterlogged to allow for burials. It’s ironic, to my mind, that the church builders of the 14th century had a better sense of local topography than the ground-breaking Victorians!
So, the new church has an empty churchyard, apart from the war memorial, and the two old churchyards on higher land are still used for burials. This often confuses visitors to the village searching for the graves of their ancestors. To solve the problem a Burial Guide was created 13 years ago and placed in the new church. The guide lists all the known graves with numbered plans, which had been created using GPS two years before, as none previously existed.
The guide and plans of the two graveyards have just been updated.
My mother, who was a Warminster girl, once told me of a couple of lads from Chitterne that she knew in her youth. She knew them as Pont and Pimp Bailey. Pont was short for Ponton and Pimp was short for Pimple. How word fashions change!
These lads were footballers, as were my mother’s brothers, so they came to Warminster to play football and that’s how my mother knew them. Reading between the lines I get the impression that she idolised these handsome Chitterne boys, because she also mentioned cycling over to the village with a friend. This was back in the 1920s, before television, when Chitterne Football Team had won the Warminster Hospital Cup three times in succession and were local football heroes.
Fast forward to today when I am looking at the Marriage Banns Register for Chitterne and come across the banns for a marriage in 1929 between Frank Bailey and Amy Gilbert. Frank was the youngest and smallest of the Bailey boys hence his nickname ‘Pimple’. Amy Gilbert was a Warminster girl, the same age as my mother and distantly related to her. I wonder if they were friends and rivals who went cycling together?
The Bailey boys were the sons of Tom and Amy Bailey, who lived at 2 Middle Barn Cottages. There were nine children in the family, two girls and seven boys. Sadly, Frank Bailey lost his life in the second World War and is remembered on our village War Memorial.
The highway robbery of Matthew Dean in 1839 led to the erection of two monuments, which still exist. The first is alongside the A360 between Gore Cross and West Lavington and marks the spot where the robbery took place. The second stone is just inside the Chitterne parish boundary at Chapperton Down. It marks the spot where one of the fleeing robbers, Benjamin Colclough, fell down and died.
The Chitterne Robber’s Stone is inside the Minstry of Defence’s Imber Range Danger Area, where live firing takes place during military exercises and public access is generally prohibited. A recent exchange of emails about the Chitterne stone with a keen photographer led to his disappointment. Not necessarily because of the Salisbury Plain by-laws – he could have chosen a quiet time to visit the stone – but because the photo of the stone on the history pages is out-of-date. Since the photo was taken a protective fence has been erected around the monument, rendering it less appealing for atmospheric photography. The text of the article about the robbery on the history pages needs up-dating too. Here is a better version:
Matthew Dean, an Imber farmer, was making his way home on horseback from Devizes market to Imber on 21st October 1839 when he was attacked at Gore Cross by four men. They pulled him off his horse and robbed him of three £20 pound notes from North Wilts Bank, a sovereign and a half in gold, £2 in silver and his hat. His horse ran off and after recovering Dean followed them on foot.
Nearby he came across James Morgan, a farmer from Chitterne, who rode after the four men and saw one of them discard his smock. Meanwhile Dean enlisted the help of John Baish, carter, and James Kite, the farmer at Gore Cross farm. They joined the pursuit on horseback with Morgan, but losing sight of one robber, carried on chasing the other three.
Eventually the three robbers sat down exhausted and Morgan left to get more help leaving Baish and Kite to guard them. William Hooper, a farmer, came to help with a loaded gun and a faster horse, but after threats and retorts the robbers made off again and ran for about a mile and a half. One robber fell and they left him and chased after the other two. Hooper’s brother James joined the others and when he confronted the two robbers they threw down their sticks and surrendered.
But Kite and Baish were reluctant to take hold of the robbers and yet another argument broke out. James Hooper went to get more help and the two robbers made off again with William Hooper, Morgan, Kite and Baish in chase, now joined by Hooper’s shepherd and his son. After about a mile the robbers were exhausted but still armed with large fold sticks. They threatened Mr W Sainsbury who came to assist with the arrest, but upon being threatened in return with Sainsbury’s whip and two pistols, they surrendered. While the shepherd was sent to Imber for a horse and cart the whole company headed towards West Lavington. The robbers gave up their arms when the cart arrived and rode in it to the Lamb at the bottom of Rutts Lane, West Lavington, where they were handed over to the constables. Deans pocket book with the £20 notes was found intact on the downs.
Next morning James Morgan found the body of Benjamin Colclough on the downs. Colclough had been a hawker, thirty-five years old, and had died from a ruptured vessel in his brain. At his inquest the jury gave a verdict of felo-de-se, ‘one who deliberately puts an end to his own existence, or commits an unlawful act, the consequence of which is death.’ His body was buried at Chitterne All Saints without funeral rites.
The fourth robber, Harris, was caught soon after and detained for further examination. He had been seen with the other three at various times near the site of the robbery and was found near a hayrick where he had probably spent the night. Dean swore he was one of the robbers, so he was kept in Devizes prison with the two others pending trial.
At the trial the three, Thomas Saunders, George Waters and Richard Harris, were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, present day Tasmania.
The stone monuments, built by Mr Sheppard of Bath, were erected by public subscription on the same day in August 1840, as a warning to those ‘who presumptuously think to escape the punishment God has threatened against thieves and robbers’. The ceremony was attended by many, and refreshments were provided at Tilshead Lodge by ladies of the locality.
This update is thanks to more recent research about the robbery and its aftermath by Lyn Dyson and Quentin Goggs. Their book, ‘The Robbers’ Stone’, is a mine of information and has much more on the trial and what became of the robbers. If you want to know more I recommend getting hold of a copy. It was published in aid of West Lavington Youth Club in 2012 and is available online.
Be aware that the map reference for this grade 2 listed stone monument quoted on the Historic England website is wrong! The correct OS Grid reference is 006477 Sheet 184 Salisbury. Thanks to PT for this information.
Alice Grant married Donald Nottage in the village in 1930 and the reception was held at the King’s Head where this photo was taken. Behind the wedding guests you can see the old thatched skittle alley and function room, which once stood at the back of the present car park.
Alice was the daughter of James Grant and his wife Elizabeth née Poolman. She and Donald lived in London after their marriage, but Alice and her daughters came back to Chitterne for the duration of World War 2.