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.
Over 400 years ago a date was chiselled into the stone surround of the front door of The Manor, which may mark the date the Manor was built.
The manor of Chitterne St Mary had been held by the Paulet family since 1547. After the dissolution of the monasteries King Edward VI granted the manor to William Paulet Lord St John, later created 1st Marquis of Winchester. If the date in the photograph refers to the building of the house, then it was built during the time of the 4th Marquis of Winchester, another William Paulet, who died in 1629.
William Paulet, 4th Marquis, Baron St John, lived at Basing, Hampshire where he entertained Queen Elizabeth I at Basing House. His shield of arms sported a trio of short swords or daggers beneath a coronet, indicating a member of the peerage.
You may see this distinctive shield if you ever visit the public house known as the Three Daggers at Edington, previously the Paulet Arms, but re-named by public preference.
Lastly, the Manor has a few more inscriptions on the outside. Most significant of these is this one, to be found on the extreme right at the front where a wing was demolished in the 1800s. C or G W was perhaps the author of the demolition? Could the W be for Wallis?
The last two marks, both to the left of the front door, are difficult to discern and even more difficult to explain, though the one on the right appears to be A I.
This concludes our look into inscriptions on buildings in Chitterne. Many of the inscriptions and dates on buildings chart the times when the Chitterne manors changed hands, The Manor representing the Paulets and Chitterne House the Michells. The Long family clearly had Chestnut Cottages and Pitts House built, and Richard Hayward Pitts Cottage, but what about the Methuen family and the Abbesses of Lacock Abbey? I suspect the Methuens were the builders of Clump House, and the nuns of the Great Manor (sportsfield site), the original Manor Farmhouse and the Gate House, but I wonder who had Chitterne Lodge built?
In an ideal world every house would have a datestone and at least the initials of the builder.
There is no date involved with the second windowpane engraving at The Manor, but investigating the words engraved caused great excitement as connections with past gentry and present villagers were revealed.
Hester Matravers was a Quaker born in Melksham in 1738 and married there in 1767 to Lord William Seymour of Easterton, son of the 8th Duke of Somerset, descendant of the Seymours of Wolf Hall. So why was she immortalised on a window in Chitterne and by whom?
There is a Seymour connection in the village in that Lord Francis Seymour, brother of William Seymour, presided at the marriage in Chitterne in 1759 of Charlotte Seymour of Wantage in Berkshire and Samuel Ferris, curate of both Chitterne parishes. Lord Francis had come from Wantage to marry the pair so presumably he stayed somewhere in the village for at least one night, perhaps at The Manor. Three years later in 1762 Charlotte’s sister Frances also married in Chitterne, and was said to be ‘of Chitterne’ at that time, so did she live at The Manor and entertain William Seymour there? Did he scratch his regard for Hester on the window?
So far this is pure speculation because we have yet to find a connection between the family of the Dukes of Somerset and Charlotte and Frances, but surely we must be on the right track?
A further connection to the present day has just turned up, which adds weight to my long-held theory that descendants of the old Chitterne families are somehow drawn back to the village. Hester Matravers’ and William Seymour’s daughter, Hester Maria Seymour, married Captain Peter Awdry, who turns out to be an ancestor, with his second wife, of our own EJH.
This is just a brief resumé of a longer article written by my sleuthing researcher friends J & RR, to whom I am greatly indebted. To read more about the investigation and findings go to: Who was Hester Matravers?
Following on from the last blog, and thanks to CL, I have taken some photographs of several engravings at The Manor in Chitterne. One of the two engraved window panes there revealed an unexpected find and a bit of a wow moment.
The Manor was owned and leased to tenants by a succession of Lords of the Manor, the Paulets, the Methuens and the Longs, until Frederick Buckeridge Wallis bought the buildings and land from the Long family at the end of WW1, as told to me by Lawrence Wallis. All I knew of the tenants of The Manor, before the Wallis family arrived there in about 1823, was gleaned from the recollections of William E Sanders, who says that the Sanders family leased The Manor up till c1800, when Christopher Fricker took it on. Christopher died in 1815 and is buried in St Mary’s graveyard.
Members of the Sanders family are buried in the same graveyard and remembered on memorial tablets on the quoins of St Mary’s Chancel. Their names also occur in the Parish Registers from the 1600s.
So the find on the window pane has slotted another piece into the jigsaw of The Manor.
The E. Morris engraved on the pane refers to Elizabeth Morris née Shurland who died on 21st December 1812 and was buried on the 28th under the floor of the Chancel. According to her tombstone Elizabeth was the widow of Jeremiah Morris of Mere, Wiltshire, who died in 1806, and the daughter of C. Shurland, a Senator of Barbados Island. Her son, Joseph Brown Morris, was curate of Imber, Wiltshire from 1808 to 1815. So perhaps Elizabeth moved to The Manor to be near her son, but that supposition begs a question: Did she live in Christopher Fricker’s house or take over the lease from him? Or, did Joseph take on the curacy of Imber to be near his mother? Joseph took on the lease of the Round House at some point around 1808, then sadly died young in 1815, whereupon his brother Charles Morris took on the lease and lived at the Round House until 1879. Hence my wow moment at seeing the engraving.
I have not discovered who Christopher Daniel was but there are other photographs from The Manor still to share, which will have to wait for another time.