Bidden Lane is the original name of the road that divides the two old Chitterne parishes of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary. The civil parish of Chitterne did not exist until the two were united in 1907. Before that such was the fierce rivalry between the two that inhabitants of one parish referred to their near neighbours across the lane as ‘vurriners’*. Bidden Lane was the one and only ‘Lane’ to old Chitterne folk and for that reason some strongly objected to Back Road being changed to Back Lane a few years ago, but I digress.

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Photograph annotated by the late Ernie George 1921-2012. The Spratt boys were Bill 1903-1974 and Arthur 1907-1992.

Sadly the use of Bidden Lane as the name of the road has declined in the last 100 years. The less poetic Shrewton Road is more widely used now, but for this blog I have been looking into the origin of Bidden Lane.

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1822 map showing Betham Lane Field

An old map of both parishes dated 1822 names some of the fields. On this map a field on the St Mary side of the lane, lying between Chitterne Dairy road and Harvest Road, is called Betham Lane Field. Could Betham have become Bidden?

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Betham Lane Field from Chitterne Dairy road

In 1841 the lane is noted on the census of that year as Biden Lane. In 1871 it is Bidden, in 1881 Bitten and from 1891 to 1911 Bitton Lane. The census takers, who were not always locals, would have spelt the name used by the villagers phonetically, hence the different recorded spellings, and Wiltshire folk pronounce their Ts and Ds almost identically by swallowing the hard sound when it occurs in the middle of a word, hence Bidden or Bitten.

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Another early photograph annotated by Ernie George
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Another of Ernie’s photographs. The cottages on the left 83-87 were demolished for road-widening, number 56 on the right has gone, but 54 and 55 beyond remain.

By 1925 Rev. John Canner referred to the lane as Shrewton Road in his Church Visiting Book. Since then Bidden Lane has been gradually superceded by Shrewton Road, and yet Bidden Lane is named on up-to-date Ordnance Survey maps of the village.

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