Thanks to LW, who sent in this photo of a postcard featuring Chitterne Church, I have had fun looking into the identity of the sender and receiver.
I’ve seen this postcard of our church before, it’s one of a series published by Frank Maidment, Post Office Stores, 93 Chitterne, but what’s really interesting for me is the message in pencil on the reverse. Mostly postcards that come my way are blank on the back, I rarely see an old Chitterne postcard that’s been written on and posted.
Here is what the message addressed to Mr L G Found, 83 Radcliffe Road, Fortham, Southampton, Hants says:
Dear old bean
Just a card hoping you are all well as it leaves everybody here. I hope Ethel is feeling better. We had it fine here yesterday for a wonder. Give my love to all ….. Frank sends his love to you all
Mr L G was Leslie George Found, the youngest son of George Found and Harriet Haines, both of Chitterne. The Found family lived at 65 Bidden Lane and Haines family a few doors away at 71, but George had found work on the railway and he and Harriet moved to Southampton after their children, Ethel, Lilian, Minnie and Leslie were born.
I think the postcard was written by Leslie’s sister Minnie who married Frank Grant in 1927 – so Frank sends his love makes sense – and I think the Ethel mentioned is Leslie and Minnie’s older sister. Ethel was born in 1894, Minnie in 1897 but I don’t know when Leslie was born.
Minnie was the mother of Connie Grant, later Gorry, who lived for 60 years at Robin’s Rest, 29 Chitterne (now called Apple Tree Cottage) on the Tilshead Road. Connie was born and lived at Southampton until World War 2, but was evacuated here during the war and married Brian Gorry in 1952. Sadly Minnie died aged 35 in 1933 when Connie was about 4 years old.
Our local pub the Kings Head is to close at the end of this week. Like many local pubs its fortunes have been stormy since the clamp down on drinking and driving and the ban on smoking in public places, but it has survived until now. Who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I thought I would take a look at the pub’s past.
The first reference to an inn here comes from the 18th century when the inn was part of the Chitterne estate owned by a series of wealthy landowning families. The George Inn burnt down in Chitterne St Mary when Thomas Bennet was the tenant and the Paulet family were the owners. James Wheeler took on the tenancy in 1742 and presumably changed the inn’s name because the Wheeler family were still there in 1826 when another James Wheeler was the copyholder of the “King’s Head Inn, outbuildings, garden, yard etc.” which he held for the lives of Mary Huntley 62, Mary Wheeler 32, and William Huntley Wheeler 10 (mother-in-law, wife and son). By then the owners were the Methuen family who had bought the Chitterne estate from the Paulets in the 1770s. Wheeler and Huntley memorials are still visible on the outside walls of the chancel.
The Long family bought the Chitterne estate from the Methuens in 1830. The Wallis family of Chitterne St Mary Manor were their tenants and William Wallis’s mother-in-law Ann White was the innkeeper. The Wallis family continued to be associated with the inn until they gave up malting their own barley around 1910. In 1896 the Longs auctioned the estate and the inn sold for £1350 to ‘Marjant? Bladworth’ (pencilled none too clearly alongside the inn details on the auction catalogue) who could be agents for a brewer. Bartletts brewery in Warminster were supplying the inn with beer in the early 20thC before they went bust in 1920.
Landlords of the inn changed frequently after Ann White. Henry Hull 1841; John Whatley 1851; William Compton, saddler and innkeeper in 1861 and 1871. Then the 3 Bs: James Burr 1880-1887, William Beak 1888-1894, George Brown 1895-1897. By 1901 Sidney and Alice Daniels were landlords followed by another B, George Burgess during World War 1.
Ushers Brewery of Trowbridge acquired the inn after the demise of Bartletts brewery. Joseph and Kate Robberts ran the pub in 1925, George Turner in 1927 and Thomas Burbidge 1928-1932. William and Florence Jones in wartime and in 1945 Mick and Winifred Benson took over and stayed until 1954. Their daughter Jeanne married Ernie George, a Chitterne lad, and settled in Townsend. Ernie made a drawing of the pub yard as it looked in 1948.
Cecil and Doris Newton took over as innkeepers from the Bensons in 1954 and stayed until Cecil’s sudden death in 1980. The other pub in the village, the White Hart Inn closed permanently in the mid-1950s, so that gave Cecil and Doris a boost and they made the most of it. During their time the pub Cribbage team won the league in 1974 and the darts team played in the Till Darts League in 1977, winning against the Royal Oak at Shrewton, but then losing to the Catherine Wheel 10-9.
The Kings Head was still an Ushers pub in 1980, but before 1990 it was up for sale and brewers Gibbs Mew bought it.
After the Newtons 26 year tenure landlords came and went with alarming frequency, none staying more than four years despite the pub winning the Bulmers and Gibbs Mew competition for the best display of flowers in 1995. From 1980 to 2002 the pub had eleven different landlords and then changed owners once again.
Gibbs Mew sold the pub around 2002 to Enterprise Inns. The new owners revamped the bar area considerably, replacing the optics with shelves and updating the floor surface and eating area. The pub re-opened on the 29th November 2002, but despite these efforts the pub’s fortunes didn’t improve, the final straw was the closure of the road outside the pub for bridge works, which lasted several months in 2005.
Four more landlords came and went, the optics came back, and closures in 2008 and 2009 led to Enterprise Inns offering the pub for sale in September 2010. They were heading to auction in February 2011, but at the last moment agreed to sell to the current landlord. The pub opened as a Free House on 1st April 2011, and has been open now for eight and a half years, the longest serving landlord since the Newtons.
Now Saturday night will see the pub close once again. What will the future bring?
Recently JM shared with the village a transcription of a newspaper article from 2010 written by Ferdinand Mount, former resident of Chitterne. I am sure ex-Chitternites would like to see it too so I am sharing the transcription and the original newspaper article here.
Ferdinand Mount is currently our most famous past resident. He is a writer, journalist and political commentator, writing for The Times and Daily Telegraph, former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, author of several novels and “Cold Cream” an autobiography.
Cold Cream has wonderfully evocative passages describing Mount’s childhood in Chitterne. He lived here from birth in 1939 to adulthood. His parents had bought the small two-up-two-down cottage adjacent to the former malt house in 1938. Before that in 1925 the cottage was known as Pine Cottage and the malt house still stood next door. The malt house was later demolished and the cottage took on the name Malt House. The Mounts added an extra wing with a sitting room and two bedrooms, and planted the yew hedge at the front.
Going back to the article. Mount describes his first brush with politics as a young boy attending the Conservative Party fete held at Chitterne Lodge “by kind permission of Mrs Payne”. Mrs Payne was Gwen Payne, wife of Lt Col. L H H Payne R A, resident of the War Department’s Chitterne Lodge. The War Dept. had purchased the Chitterne Lodge estate in 1937, which included Chitterne Farm east and the Racing Stables. The Paynes lived at the Lodge from about 1940 to 1949.
Here is the transcription:
The Conservative party fête was held at Chitterne Lodge by kind permission of Mrs Payne. As our MP, Mr Grimston, got up to speak, he put down his bowler hat, not on the table beside him which was draped with the union flag but on the chair behind him. He spoke about the need to support Mr Churchill in the struggle that lay ahead. Mr Grimston had been our MP since 1931. He had a thin moustache and a general air of severity. As he warmed to his theme, I noticed a small boy, smaller than I was myself, about four years old perhaps, crawling through the flowerbeds immediately behind Mr Grimston’s chair, which was right at the edge of the sunlit lawn. The small boy took hold of the bowler hat with one hand, then got a firmer grip on it with both hands and rather slowly, almost ceremoniously, put it on his head so that it came down over his ears. It was impossible for any adult to reach him without crashing through Mrs Payne’s flowerbeds. I do not know in what direction Mr Grimston’s remarks were now turning, possibly the perils of socialism, but like the rest of his audience, I was gripped by what the small boy would do next. To our vast disappointment, at that moment a woman in a flowery dress risked her high heels on the rosebed and dragged the small boy away, snatching the hat from his head and replacing it on the chair. This is my earliest political memory: the sun-dappled lawn, the small boy and the bowler hat. It is my only memory of Mr, later Sir Robert, Grimston, who continued to represent Westbury until 1964, rising to become deputy speaker and later Lord Grimston of Westbury.
Political enthusiasm was not much in evidence in Chitterne. When Churchill finally got back in, in 1951, the group captain who lived at the Grange stuck a union flag pennant on the bonnet of his car and drove through the village honking his horn. This was thought to be going too far. It was Groupie, too, who, during the fuel shortages of 1947, complained to my father about “the damned miners starving us of coal”. But his was, I like to think, a minority voice.
The Westbury division began then and still begins in our village. As you come over Salisbury Plain from Stonehenge and down Shrewton Hill, you cross the constituency boundary. Samuel Pepys rode down the hill with his wife and family on the evening of 11 June 1668, having lost his way on the downs, and “with great difficulty come about 10 at night to a little inn, where we were fain to go into a room where a pedlar was in bed, and made him rise; and there wife and I lay, and in a truckle-bed Betty Turner and Willet”. The servant here referred to only by her surname was the delectable Deb Willet, whom Pepys was later that year to be caught fondling by Mrs Pepys in a manner so intimate that he recorded it in the diary in the cod-Italian which he used for sexual encounters. The diary does not record how the commercial traveller felt about being turfed out. But Pepys was so grateful for his rescue from this trackless wilderness that he roared with laughter at the landlord’s jokes about the henpecked sailors at Bristol. The next morning the Pepyses discovered that the beds they had thought good were in fact lousy. The great diarist was still so nervous about the wild country that he was relieved when the landlord of the White Hart volunteered to lead them the whole way across the constituency into Somerset.
Yet Pepys referred to this remote, almost inaccessible place as a “town”. Nor was he misled in the darkness. Chitterne, like other downland villages, had once been much larger. As late as the mid-19th century the population had been 800, as opposed to no more than 250 in my childhood. Yet even in the 1950s, the village possessed a primary school, a racing stable, two firms of builders, a blacksmith, two shops, a village policeman in his tied police cottage on the Green, Mr Withers’s fleet of two elderly buses, Graham Dean’s garage, which he diversified into a mink farm during the Suez petrol shortage, not to mention the White Hart where the Pepyses stayed, and a post office next to the Baptist chapel. The last two were both operated by the amazing Frank Maidment, the “Bishop of Salisbury Plain”, who preached the gospel and delivered the bread to even remoter villages for 75 years.
All gone now of course. I remember the White Hart closing after 300 years when I was in my teens, leaving only the King’s Head in business next to where the garage/mink farm had been. There used to be six dairy farms, none now, though the milkman still calls. The number of farmworkers has gone down from 29 to four. The population has recovered a little after a couple of the abandoned farmyards were turned into pleasant little housing estates for commuters to Warminster and Salisbury. The bells of All Saints church may still ring on Sundays, but, like so many other villages, Chitterne is a quieter place than it used to be, just as pretty as it always was, but a little frozen. I am sure there are plenty of homeworkers tapping away on their Macs. But the hum of the keyboard does not quite have the same resonance as the clang of Alf Burt’s hammer shoeing the steeplechasers of my youth.
As far back as 1893, the village schoolmaster Mr Brown recorded that “all the brightest boys look forward to getting away to the towns at the very first opportunity”. How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Trowbridge? The four smallish towns that dominate the constituency – Warminster, Westbury, Bradford-on-Avon (now ceded under boundary changes to the new Chippenham seat) and Trowbridge, surprisingly the county town rather than Salisbury, all have delectable old centres – tall churches built on wool money, flint-and-brick cottages and superb classical mansions in Bath stone. The sheep still share the downland with the tanks (the army has been training on the plain since before the Great War), but the fine big mills are all converted into heritage centres or Poundstretchers.
Warminster, our nearest town, looks on the surface much as it did 50 years ago. The Old Bell and the Bath Arms still stare across the Market Place at each other, and the stationers Coates and Parker still publishes the Warminster Journal , which was the first place I scraped into print, with a rather over-dramatic account of the Mendip farmers point-to-point. Down the hill below the golf course still stands the imposing Portway House where I used to go to have electric shocks for my flat feet. Yet, as in all town centres nowadays, there are charity shops where there used to be grocers and greengrocers, and most places need a lick of paint. Half the premises in these towns seem to be given over to raising money for Alzheimer’s sufferers and half the suburbs given over to homes for them. You begin to wonder whether short-term memory is somehow a casualty of modernity.
Politically, you might think that nothing much had changed in these parts. Ever since 1945, the Tory MP’s majority has usually hovered somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000. The present incumbent, Andrew Murrison, is a former surgeon-commander in the navy who served in the first Gulf war and then, remarkably, after being elected went out to serve again as a Territorial in the Iraq war – no lounging by moat or duck-house for him.
Yet there is a significant underlying change here, as elsewhere in Wiltshire and much of southern England. Where once the runner-up was always Labour, today he or she is invariably Liberal (or now Lib Dem). In many ways, the revival of the Liberals is a return to an older tradition in Wessex, where nonconformist chapels abound. In the lowland parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, where weaving has been the staple industry since the middle ages, you can trace the dissenting streak back to the Lollards.
But the immediate cause is the fading of Labour in the southern county constituencies of England. It is not so hard to explain. South-West Wiltshire, as the new constituency is called, is largely post-industrial, but Labour still is not quite. For the past half century, the party has been vainly struggling to extricate itself from the dominance of the trade unions – from Hugh Gaitskell’s struggle to junk clause IV, through Harold Wilson’s failure with In Place of Strife, to Tony Blair’s efforts to free the party of financial dependence on the unions. Now after the scandal of the millionaire donors, Labour is back where it started, reliant on the unions and knee-deep in sleaze as well. Pepys, whose later career was dogged by accusations of “cash for influence”, would have sympathised.
An exhibition of bygones was staged in the old village hall in the 1970s. It was held after 1971, but I don’t know exactly which year. The village school had been converted to a village hall and opened in 1971, it was replaced in 1999 by the present village hall.
The following photos of the 1970s exhibition are a recent addition to the archive collection thanks to AS, who tells me that many of the items on display came from 98 Chitterne, the home of the Feltham family.
Villagers and visitors at the exhibition in the main hall. The two gentlemen may be Philip Purle (leaning over) from the Village Shop and Brian Gorry of 29 Robin’s Rest. Could the lady in the bottom right corner be Joan Robertson of Glebe House? Winnie Spratt of 70 Bidden Lane by the window also appears in the next photo.
Here she is on the right running the raffle with Nora Feltham of 98 Codford Road.
Various old costumes were on display.
Containers and implements of all sorts.
A sale of the Chitterne estate poster of 1815 and various editions of newspapers, photographs and journals.
AS tells me that some of the items were so precious that he slept in the hall overnight to protect them. I came to the village in 1976 and I don’t remember this exhibition being staged so it may have been between 1971 and 1976 when colour photography was in its infancy. The photos have that kind of hue from those days, compared with the first photo of the hall which was taken a lot later.
If you recognise anyone else on these please let me know, and if anyone can date the exhibition exactly it would be good to know. I can be contacted via the menu in the top right corner or on facebook.
Amazing what you can find on the internet. GS spotted this photo and passed it on to his uncle in Chitterne who passed it to me saying, ‘I’m sure that’s Brook Cottage in the background.’
The photo was described as: ‘Chitterne Home Guard going through their paces on the 2 pounder Anti-Tank gun’, which looks like a publicity shot, but who are the men?
Here’s a photo of the Chitterne Home Guard outside Manor Farm, right next door to where the other photo might have been taken. Let’s give them names, left to right:
Top row: H Burton; Geoff Helps; John Patterson; Bert Bailey; Bert Diaper; Leslie Sheppard; George Gagen; Ernie Polden.
Second from top row: Les Mundy; Walt Herrington; Walt Ledbury; George Dowdell; John Lecocq; unknown; Don Wallis; Will Ashley; Alban Polden; Len Moore; Herbie Feltham; Bert Lush (not in uniform); Mr Fagg.
Third row: Fred Bowden (in flat cap); Rowland Pearce; Jack Beaumont; Douglas Piercy; George Diaper; Dickie Bailey; George Macey; ‘Pat’ Patterson; Burt Grant; Willie Ashley; William Poolman; Fred Feltham; Stan Waite; Frank Helps; Lewis Feltham; Frank Ashley.
Fourth row: Len Searchfield (seated on chair); Harry Sheppard; Percy Churchill; Cecil Windsor; Lewis Daniels; Sgt Blatch; unknown; William Limbrick (leader); Tom Limbrick; Mr Snelgrove; Ev Feltham; Jack Poolman; unknown; Bill Bartlett.
Front row: Cecil Saxby; Laurie Wallis; John George; Tony Bailey; Gerald Feltham; George Feltham; Billy Windsor; John Oakes; Gerald Polden; Bobby Gorry.
Could the man standing with arm outstretched behind the gun be William Limbrick, and the man squatting to the right of the case be his son Tom Limbrick?
We celebrated 20 years of Chitterne Village Hall here this summer with entertainment and a fantastic display of village history arranged by AC. My tatty collection of old photos provoked quite a bit of interest (I really must spend some time sorting and arranging them for public view), and as a result AS offered me this photo to add to it.
It must have been taken from the top of the church tower. At first I thought maybe at the opening of the new hall in 1999, but on reflection the trees wouldn’t have had leaves in February, so now I don’t know. Does anyone know what the occasion was?
I could hazard a guess from the age of the children present. Some who look to be pre-school age are now adults so it must be at least 15 years ago. Villagers Fred and Kath Babey, Doris Windsor, Peter Heaton-Ellis, Geoff Francis, Geoff Parker and James Carter have passed away in the meantime, and the Jubilee Tree and red telephone box have since gone. So when was it?
Here is another old photo from the early 1900s. It was taken when horses were still the main form of transport and farm work was still the main occupation in the village. In those days the locals called the road from the White Hart Inn to the Round House “Street”, the main street of old Chitterne St Mary.
Nowadays it has no name, which can lead to frustration when form-filling. Wiltshire Council planning lists it as “Unnamed road, Chitterne”. On roadmaps it’s the B390.
On the left we have three farm cottages, numbers 1, 2 and 3 Oak Terrace. In 1911 Sarah Williams née Parsons (1841-1937), widow of Joseph Williams (1840-1903), lived in 3. Joseph had been a gardener to the Wallis family of farmers at The Manor. Next door in 2 lived his daughter Bertha (1872-1928) who was married to Leonard Searchfield (1872-1963), a painter and decorator. Bertha and Leonard had two sons, Leonard George Wickham (1895-1976) and Gordon Leslie (1896-1963). I am pretty sure that they, and one of their sons, are the people standing at the gate. The third cottage was uninhabited in 1911. Oak Terrace is now St Mary’s Lodge.
Beyond Oak Terrace we have thatched Ivy Cottage, now replaced by number 104, and beyond that are 1 and 2 Vicarage Cottages, later known as 105 and 106 Glebe Farm Cottages and now Dolphin House. Lastly, on the left side, is Tower House, now 109 Round House.
On the right of the photo is a house marked with a cross by the sender of the postcard. It was two unnamed dwellings in 1911, now it’s 107/108 Glebe House.