A Short Walk from my Door

Late Spring/early Summer is the best time of year. I feel very lucky to live where we do when the fields are lush shades of green, the hedgerows decked with May blossom and the verges with lacy Cow Parsley.

I’m heading away from the village.

The road to Codford is just the other side of the field.

In the distance lies the Wylye valley.

Frothy Cow Parsley
The Chitterne Brook leaving Chitterne
The Chitterne Brook flowing to Codford to join the River Wylye.

Ducks and Damsel Flies were here a moment ago. The ducks soon scooted away when they saw me.

I’m heading back home now through fields full of Cow Parsley.

The village comes into view.

A last look at some pink fingers of May blossom that seem to point towards the Cow Parsley. So much beauty on my doorstep.

Tomb Unearthed

During the drought last Summer four pale rectangular patches appeared in the grass at St Marys Chancel graveyard suggesting that something solid lay buried, most likely old tombs. Yesterday a working party revealed what lay beneath.

DR recording the position of the recently uncovered slabs on the plan

One of the patches covered two engraved stone slabs laying side by side, as if they had fallen towards each other from an upright position, as perhaps the side panels of a chest tomb might fall. The other patches covered stone slabs which had no engraving. Were they all part of the same tomb, or parts of other tombs? I have concentrated on the engraved slabs for this blog.

The two engraved slabs

The engraving on the two slabs is very worn, almost indecipherable, but one member of the party was able to decipher ‘CHRISTOPHER’, not too common a name in Chitterne’s past. I could only think of Christopher Fripp, Christopher Iles and Christopher Fricker who might warrant such a tomb in St Marys. I discounted Fripp as too far back in the 1600s, and also blacksmith Iles, who has an iron grave marker quite nearby, leaving Fricker, who had leased The Manor in the early 1800s.

What do we know about Christopher Fricker? Not a lot as yet, I have come across three persons bearing that name in my researches. Christopher son of John and Mary died 1718, buried at Chitterne St Mary 30 Nov 1718; Christopher parents unknown, died 1815, buried 3 May 1815 at Chitterne St Mary and Christopher of Chitterne, freeholder of Imber 1818.

The Christopher who died in 1718 was a young child so can probably be discounted. I have no record of a burial in Chitterne for the freeholder Christopher, so that leaves Christopher who died aged 60 in 1815.

The preferred Christopher Fricker was born about 1755, exact year and place of birth unknown. He was a gentleman, and bondsman for several local marriages. He leased The Manor at Chitterne St Mary from 1802 or earlier, until his death. “The house of Mr Frickers if I recollect right was the best house in the village,” said his neighbour William E Sanders in his ‘Recollections’. Christopher’s name also appears in the Amesbury Turnpike documents, where he is noted as a trustee in 1782. All in all quite a man of means, such as we might expect to be buried in a chest tomb.

Besides the family members mentioned, I have come across other Frickers in Chitterne from as far back as 1604 and as recent as 1878. There are no Frickers in the village now but there are still some in the area so I am hopeful that someone with knowledge of the family history will throw more light on our new graveyard discovery.

I’ve had more info from J & R:

“I think he is probably the Christopher Fricker baptised on 7 November 1754 in Britford, that’s the only person of that name around that time. If it is him, then his parents were Thomas Fricker and Mary Fricker (nee Hiscock) noted on the baptism, and they appeared to marry in Colerne on 13 November 1748 – only marriage I could find between a Thomas and Mary.”

J & R sent extra information on the woman we suspect was Christopher’s wife:

Her name was Mary Biffen, who was also buried in the same graveyard as Christopher on 9 December 1818. They had married by licence on 11 February 1782 at Edington, Wiltshire. Mary was 15 years older than Christopher, so she may have been married previously, in which case Biffen would not have been her maiden name, which would be why J & R have been unable to find a baptism record in that name. On the marriage record Mary is described as ‘of Edington’, not ‘spinster of this parish’ as is usual. Christopher left her £400 in a bank account in his will. After his death all his stock was sold and Mary appears to have moved to Stapleford, Wiltshire as per the burial record. Mary also left a will in which she is is said to be a widow.

Very many thanks J&R

Connie Gorry

Connie 1967

I was very sad to hear that Connie Gorry had died this week, albeit at the grand age of 94 years. I liked Connie a lot she was fun to talk to and a mine of information about old Chitterne, which is not surprising given her own history.

She was born Constance Hilda Grant, a descendant of the John Grant, described as ‘a poor shepherd’ who first turned up in Chitterne about 1700, having been born in about 1660. This John Grant was Connie’s 6 x great grandfather, so her ancestors had lived in Chitterne for over 300 years.

Connie’s father was Ernest Frank Grant of Chitterne and her mother was Minnie Found. They married in Southampton in 1927, where Connie was born. Minnie died in 1933, and Connie remained in Southampton until the second World War when she came to live in Chitterne for safety, and stayed. She married Brian Gorry in 1952 and the couple lodged with the Poolmans at the Round House until 1954 when they moved into Robin’s Rest, 29 Chitterne. Connie spent over 60 years in Chitterne, finally selling 29 in 2015.

I always thought it was fitting that Connie lived in that particular house associated with shepherds in days gone by. Perhaps her own ancestor had lived there when large flocks of sheep were the mainstay of the rural economy; perhaps that’s why John Grant fetched up in Chitterne in the first place.

96 Chitterne

This photo of 96 under 3 inches of snow was taken on 14th April 1966

96 appears to have been built on the site of two older 19th century cottages, on a holding once called Clear Spring. The new house existed in 1911 when it housed the bailiff who ran Clump Farm.

Ernie George wrote the following story about the house when Edward Polden lived there, which may ring true with some villagers after the rising of the springs earlier this year 2023.

Clear Spring Clear Off

Old Eddie Polden tried year after year to tame the spring water that flooded around his house since he’d lived there. One year, in summer, he sank a well out the back near his stable, and topped it with a stand-pump and horse trough, saying to himself:
“That’ll put a stop to it.”
But, the following year in early March, spring water bubbled up again between his back door and the White Hart, and was soon laying all around his house and trickling from his front garden into the road gutter.
“Well, I bain’t finished yet” he said, “and I will git rid unnit next yer!”
So, the following summer, he dug a trench for land drains from his back yard between his house and the White Hart, under his downstairs rooms and out into the front garden, under the road and into the Cut.
“Thur I reckon I’ll be clear uv thic-ayer spring, frim now awn,” he said.
Come the next Spring, returning from his land near the Bourne, Eddie noticed that spring water was running across the road from under the wall between the Grange and the Gate House, as it did every year. Eddie couldn’t wait to get home. He jumped off his horse and cart and went round to his back door. Sure enough, he could hear water trickling into the land drains, so he went over the road and, yes, water was trickling from his drain into the Cut. Hooray!
“Well mother” he said as he entered the back door, “we gawt it beat!”
But, next morning, Eddie stepped outside his back door straight into a boot full of cold water.
“Blast an’ dam!” He yelped, or words to that effect, and those were the only things it seems that would control the spring, for within a fortnight, water was lapping around the front of his house again. And so it has been every year since when the springs rise.
So Eddie gave it his best, and so did all succeeding occupants of Clear Springs, at least up to the mid 1920s. As Eddie said just before the Great War, “the old-uns allus called it Clear Spring, I only wished it would Clear-Awf, an bovver White Hart or Clump Farm!”

The Paulets and the White Hart Inn

I was musing about the old inn in Chitterne St Mary on the corner of the High Street and Bidden Lane and it occurred to me that, if the date over the door is accurate, the inn must have been built when the Paulets were Lords of the Manor.

Sir William Paulet (1485?-1572), 1st Marquess of Winchester

That realisation set me to thinking about the Paulets who held the Manor of Chitterne St Mary, an influential family at court in Tudor times. Their connection with Chitterne St Mary stems from 1547 when King Edward VI granted William Paulet a large swathe of land stretching across Wiltshire, Somerset and Hampshire for services to the crown. William was an executor of King Henry VIII’s will and helped the young King Edward VI govern. Having served four Tudor monarchs, he was created the 1st Marquess of Winchester.

Just over a hundred years later in 1651, when the inn was built, Chitterne St Mary had passed down generations of the Paulet family and was held by Sir Henry Paulet, second surviving son of William Paulet 4th Marquess of Winchester. Henry Paulet, born about 1602, lived at Nether Wallop in Hampshire. He was returned to the second parliament of King Charles 1 representing Andover and created a Knight of the Bath at Charles’ coronation. But he may never have taken up his seat in parliament due to a brawl with Sir William Stourton, which was hushed up. He died in 1672 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Chitterne St Mary and the White Hart Inn remained in the hands of the Paulet family through successive generations until Norton Paulet sold the estate to Paul Methuen in 1758. The Methuens of Corsham Court, Wiltshire were Lords of the Manor until 1830 when they sold to the Long Family for £70,000. Under Sir Walter Hume Long the estate was sold off piecemeal at auction in 1896. The White Hart Inn was bought at auction by Morgan & Bladworth, brewers of Silver Street, Warminster for £2000.

The inn remained in the hands of brewing companies for the next 60 years, until it was made redundant in 1955 during the tenure of Charlie and Florence Mould. Following the closure the site became the base for a carrier business until it was sold for private residential use sometime in the 1970s.

Family Reunion at Clematis Cottage

A sad story lies behind this 1913 photograph of Clematis Cottage (94 Well Cottage).

The lady is Ann Polden, nee Lucas from Alderbury, widow of Augustus Polden who died in 1907. The men are her grandchildren Hector, on the left, and Harold Down, sons of Ann’s daughter Frances. Their father was James Down from Stockton.

Frances had married James Down in Bournemouth in 1882, but he died from smallpox in 1894 leaving her with six children, aged 10 to 2 years. After James’s death the family split up, the three eldest children to orphanages in London, the three youngest to live with Ann and Augustus in Chitterne.

Hector and Harold in the photo were the two eldest, they went to the Jersey Home for Boys in Lambeth. Their sister Ellen, known as Mabel, born 1886 was also in an orphanage in London. Ann and Augustus, both in their 60s, took in the three youngest of Frances’ boys, Douglas 6, Leslie 4, and Bertie 2, and brought them up, but presumably couldn’t take in the whole lot. Frances carried on working in domestic service in the Bournemouth area until her father died when she moved back to Clematis Cottage with her mother.

So here are the two older grandchildren with their grandmother in Chitterne in 1913. Hector born 1883 was a career soldier and sergeant in the 1st Wilts. He served in South Africa in 1911 and was killed in March 1918 at the battle of Fremicourt.

Harold born 1884 was in the Royal Navy, aboard HMS Contest in the battle off Jutland in 1916 but survived the war and in 1929 came to Chitterne. In 1950 at the age of 66 he married Charles Mould’s widow Florence. Florence was the landlady at the White Hart pub. Harold and Florence carried on at the White Hart until 1955. Harold died aged 84 in 1969.

Clematis Cottage had been in the Polden family for years, first leased by Augustus around 1880 and bought by him at auction for £38 in 1896. After his death in 1907, when the grandchildren had left home, three of the rooms were let to Harry Poolman and family, with Ann and Frances living in the remaining four rooms. After Ann’s death in 1915 the cottage passed to Frances who, with her unmarried daughter Mabel, occupied the whole cottage but took in a schoolteacher lodger in 1920s and later Frances’ son Harold. Frances died in 1944 and Mabel married Harry Dicks in Salisbury in 1946, at the age of 60.

It’s amazing to me to finally have a picture of this family as I know quite a lot about them. Such a sad story, Frances Down widowed so young with her fractured family, whose descendants nevertheless have been in touch, keeping the family history alive.

Thanks to TH as ever for his tremendous work on the Feltham archive from 98.

Who Split 93 in Two?

This simple question turned out to be far from simple, the answer required a delve into the deeds of 93 Chapel Cottage, Bidden Lane, Chitterne.

Back in the 1970s Chapel Cottage and Coombe Cottage were semi-detached dwellings in Bidden Lane. Then twenty-odd years later the two became one house again, and the Coombe Cottage name disappeared.

I was curious to know who had split 93 in the first place so I asked the present owners, and discovered more history of the house in the process.

93 Bidden Lane in the Maidment’s time. The shop door on the right, the door to living accommodation on the left. The bakery is just visible far right.

The present owners believe that their house had an extra storey added in 1872, and the difference between the 1871 and 1881 censuses gives weight to that theory. In 1871 Ann Fry and her son Tom inhabited the building, whereas in 1881 it was occupied by Jacob Everly’s family, his sister and a servant.

Jacob Everly, a woodman from Corton, had bought the premises from George and Charles Compton in 1879 for £250 with a mortgage intending to set up a bakery and grocery shop. Unfortunately things did not go well for Jacob. His wife Sarah (nee Poolman of Chitterne) died in 1880 after the birth of their third child William, and Jacob borrowed another£50 against the shop. Meanwhile villagers were reporting that he was being contrary and not opening the shop up. Things went from bad to worse, baby William ended up an orphan at Barnardos after his father’s death, and was shipped off to Canada as a child migrant. But I digress, at census time in April 1881 Jacob and family were still living in Chitterne, but not for long.

Jacob Everly’s mortgagors, Hill and Ponting, sold the premises in May 1882 to Frank Maidment of Burcombe for £300. Unlike Jacob, Frank and his wife Rose made a great success of the shop and bakery, staying in Chitterne for the rest of their lives. The villagers must have been very relieved. Their son Charles was born in the village and eventually joined them in the business before marrying and setting up his own business in Bournemouth. In 1906, following the death of William Brown the previous village sub-postmaster, Frank took over as sub-postmaster and 93 became the home of the village post office as well as the grocery and bakery. Besides wearing all these different hats, Frank was also the Minister in charge of the Baptist Chapel next door. What a busy man.

Bidden Lane heading down towards the village centre with 92 on near left and the Post Office grocery next door

The Maidment’s reign at 93 ended after 70 years with the death of Frank in December 1952. His son Charles inherited the premises, which he sold to J M Stratton in November 1953. The shop and post office had moved up the Lane to number 65 in 1949. At this point in 1953 number 93 was still one dwelling and J M Stratton filled it with their tenants. Strattons mortgagors sold the house to K and M D Gifford in May 1972.

Very little is known about the Giffords, not even their first names, but they were the couple that split the property in two, into 93 Chapel Cottage and 93a Coombe Cottage. They lived in Coombe Cottage themselves and immediately sold 93 Chapel Cottage to Sidney Cox.

The Giffords only stayed in 93a for a year, selling 93a to Reginald and Margaret Mansell in 1973. During that year the Giffords had enlarged the garden of 93a by buying two lots of land from Wiltshire County Council (WCC).

Cottages on the right were among those demolished for road widening

WCC had been buying up cottages on the St Mary’s side of Bidden Lane since 1966 with the intention of widening the road. In 1966 they bought 7 cottages, numbers 85, 86 and 87 from Cecil W Windsor and numbers 88, 89, 90 and 91 from John K Polden, in 1970 they also bought number 92 from the mortgagors.

The widening of the road in the late 1960s allowed the Giffords and later the Mansells to extend the garden area at 93a to take in all the remaining land formerly occupied by the cottages purchased by WCC which hadn’t been used by the council to widen the road.

Back to number 93 Chapel Cottage. Sidney Cox stayed there for year and sold the house on to J M Smaggasgale, who converted the loft to provide an extra bedroom before selling again in 1975 to Richard and Yvonne Whitehouse.

The Whitehouses sold 93 Chapel Cottage to ML in 1984. M and LL also bought 93a Coombe Cottage when it came up for sale by the Mansells, after Reginald’s death in December 1994, and turned the two cottages back into one – and that concludes the tale of 93 Chapel Cottage.

My grateful thanks to the present owners for taking on board my initial simple question and for allowing me to see the many complicated deeds associated with this property.

Wet Chitterne

The Chitterne Brook overflowing 15 Jan 2023

2023 comes in with a splash! Chitterne is no stranger to flooding, our last big one was in January 2014, in the very same week in fact. Early January was a popular time for the springs to appear in 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2003. Usually they come up and go down again causing no trouble, but every so often…they don’t, as in 2014.

Flood 2014

I described the reason why Chitterne is susceptible to springs popping up occasionally in a blog back in 2014. This was before I started blogging on WordPress. To read that blog go to http://www.suerobinson.me.uk and click on Old Blog, January 2014.

This January the water table has been fickle. Water first appeared in our garden on the 4th January, on the 6th the water level was higher, on the 9th it started going down, the garden was dry on the 11th. On the 14th it came back up again much faster!

On the 16th the temperature dropped overnight to -7C, and the water level increased leading to some interesting effects from the traffic splashing through the flooded roads.

All the spring water draining from the village into the Chitterne Brook rushes headlong toward the meadows on the outskirts, swelling and overflowing the banks on its way to Codford to join the River Wylye.

The start of the meadows on the edge of Chitterne
The swollen Chitterne Brook flows over the top of a farm bridge
Creating a mini waterfall

After a week of mostly freezing temperatures overnight, and no rainfall, the spring water started to recede. Several houses suffered water indoors but we came off lightly compared to 2014. The Cut in the village did not overflow as it had in 2014. Since that time the local council have made strenuous efforts to keep the Cut free of obstruction, and laid in stores of sand bagging materials. We live and learn.

To finish here are two photographs of past floods in the village.

Flood 1925
Flood 1970s

2022 Round House Round-Up

It’s wet in Chitterne and the Cut (Chitterne Brook) is filling on the last day of 2022, not a day to be outside. So I sit here and contemplate what we have achieved this year, numerically.

21 history blogs written and posted.

3 groups taken on history tours around village.

3 villagers or ex-villagers added to the burial record.

110 books read.

34 sets of guests and 14 dogs welcomed to the Nest, our holiday let.

10,123 miles cycled by Dave, my other half.

There is more but I failed to record how many history queries I answered during the year. Next year I intend to keep a record. A couple I do recall – one lady hoping to live here asked whether Chitterne was a friendly village with lots of interaction. I told her yes and listed all the possibilities. To another gentleman writing a book about Wiltshire’s unsung heroes, I gave info on our Scotland Yard detective Bill Brown for inclusion in his book.

A Happy New Year, thank you for following Chitterne Now and Then.

Great House Chitterne in 1921

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.