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.

Graveyard Serendipity

Following my last blog, a piece of serendipitous news. All graveyards, churchyards and burial grounds in England will be surveyed in the next few years. The National Burial Grounds Survey (NBGS) is happening right now. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until recently.

Since I wrote the last paragraph I have attended a Webinar about the NBGS and found out more. AG Intl Ltd are doing the surveying, working their way around the country diocese by diocese. The survey of Salisbury Diocese, free to the church, went live on the 24th November 2022 as consent is being sought from each parish, hence the informative webinars held yesterday.

NBGS was launched last year with the aim of mapping and digitising burial grounds. It is funded by MyHeritage and enabled by FamilySearch (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons). They will recoup their investment by offering the information gathered to subscribers to their service.

The idea that all burial grounds will be searchable online in future is an exciting one, and will suit our needs here at Chitterne very well, but it needs qualifying. Not ALL burial grounds are included in this survey, only those of the Church of England. Burial grounds in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also not included in the survey.

And I do wonder how it will affect all you folk searching your ancestry the old way. Will you miss your days out visiting churches? Will you still want to visit once you’ve seen photographs and information from the comfort of your armchair? How about the archivists who offer their expertise free at the History Centre? Will it do them out of a job? But I guess it will provide them with another resource.

Despite these reservations we welcome the scheme. The software Dave uses for making and updating the graveyard maps is getting out of date now he’s retired, so that’s a relief.

Here is the link for more information:

https://agintl.org/burial-ground-management-survey/: Graveyard Serendipity

Mapping the Graveyards 20 years on

There are two graveyards in Chitterne that have been in use since medieval times. Neither is situated near the present church, which is on a site not suitable for burials, but both are some distance away where the two old churches of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary once stood.

Twenty years ago there were no plans of either of these graveyards. The lack of plans became a problem when the second partner of a couple died wishing to be buried in the same grave as the first partner and no-one could remember where the unmarked grave was. I think that grave plot was finally identified by referring to family photographs of the original burial. The photos included nearby grave markers that allowed the grave to be identified, but nevertheless the embarrassing episode nudged the churchwardens into action.

It was a two person job to survey the sites and to create the plans. I gathered and recorded the information and my husband Dave drew the plans, using software. We started with St Marys graveyard.

St Mary’s, pictured above, surrounds the remaining part of old St Mary’s Church (undergoing roof restoration at the moment), and is well kept and in constant use.

We used various old maps and internet maps to plan the shape and orientation of the site. Then plotted and numbered the graves. Numbers 1 -15 gravestones had been moved from their original positions and re-sited in a line alongside the path leading to The Manor, so we gave those a different shape on our plan. There are three burials within the chancel, these we gave dotted lines, and three memorials on the outside walls of the chancel, these just have numbers. Lists were made of the numbered graves and where possible annotated with the names of the occupiers and their dates. Illegible inscriptions were noted too. The latest version of the map of St Mary’s is pictured above.

St Mary’s proved to be a bit of a doddle when it came to mapping All Saints graveyard.

All Saints is not mowed but grazed by sheep. Even this is an improvement from 60 years ago, when it was overgrown with brambles and scrub before Alan Sprack cleared it, so at least we could move around the graveyard for our survey. Alan was the last person to be buried here; the graveyard is not as popular for burials as St Mary’s.

Our main problem with All Saints was the higgledy-piggledy layout of the graves, which apart from all facing the same direction, seemed to have no pattern. We resorted to GPS in the end, but this in itself was difficult as every time we stopped and started again we got a different reading from the satellites. Once we had our basic layout we followed the same procedure as St Mary’s. One grave of a suicide at All Saints is outside the boundary. Number 20 marks the underground vault containing the eleven coffins of the Michell-Onslow family. Number 48 (top centre) that of the Hitchcock family.

Eventually, after two years, in 2004, we finished All Saints graveyard map. This map is updated less frequently than St Mary’s, the latest version is pictured above.

All the information was passed to the churchwardens and the vicar, added to a Graveyard Search page on the village website and turned into an alphabetical Burial Guide placed in the current church for visitors. The map and lists are updated every year or so. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to update the search page on the website.

Paintings of old buildings 3: All Saints Church

All Saints Church, Chitterne painted by Robert Kemm in his youth in the 1850s – see first blog in this series for more on Robert Kemm. This church has been wholly demolished, only the graveyard remains alongside the old road to Imber. All Saints was a small building consisting of a chancel, nave, western tower, south porch and a chantry chapel on the north side, to which the Michell family added a pew containing a mausoleum in 1775. The chancel with priest’s door and the tower date from the 13th century Early English Period, whereas the east and nave windows are of the 15th century Perpendicular Style.

Two encaustic tiles were found in the chancel of this church. They are now in the Wiltshire Museum at Devizes. One bearing the arms of Simon Sydenham, Dean of Sarum 1418 to 1431, has two chevrons between three rams. The other bears the arms of William Alnswyke, Archdeacon of Sarum 1420 to 1426. These probably denote that alterations or enlargements were made to the church during their terms of office, perhaps the Perpendicular Style windows were inserted.

Apologies for blurred image

Inside, All Saints Church contained six hatchments and eight memorials to the Michell and Onslow families. The monuments were all removed to the new church in 1861 and may be seen on the walls of the entrance lobby. Giles de Bridport, Bishop of Sarum, acquired the right to Chitterne All Saints Church and 17 acres of glebe (land belonging to the Church) and gave it to his newly formed College de Vaux in 1270. The land continued to belong to the College until the dissolution of the college in 1545.

This final painting by Robert Kemm depicts several details from the interior of All Saints Church annotated by the artist. The annotations are as follows, top left to right: Window in Chapel; West window; W window S side of nave. Below left to right: Within the South doorway; Shields and …. in Chancel ….. and part of East window. The medieval glass in the east window painted by Kemm looks very similar to the small pieces of medieval glass preserved and still visible today in a window of St Mary’s Chancel pictured right.

The Robert Kemm paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs of the paintings and to MS for sending them to me.

Paintings of old buildings 2: St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church, Chitterne painted by Robert Kemm in his youth in the 1850s – see previous blog for more on Robert Kemm. Most of this church was pulled down in 1861, leaving just the chancel, which still exists today. The original building consisted of a chancel, nave, a small chantry chapel on the north side and a square tower over the south porch. The windows and priest’s doorway are in the 15th century Perpendicular Style.

The Rectory of Chitterne St Mary was appropriated to the Dean and Chapter of Sarum (Salisbury) before 1295, and remains in their possession today. The Manor of Chitterne St Mary formed part of the lands given by Countess Ela of Salisbury’s son to Lacock Abbey in 1246, see previous blog.

Robert Kemm’s watercolour painting of the church interior. The chancel and nave were divided by a fine 15th century stone rood screen.

A painting by Robert Kemm of a tomb in the chancel to the north of the altar, without figure or inscription, under a 14th century arch in the Decorated Style. This is interesting because the arch is still in the chancel today but the tomb has disappeared since the painting was done. I wonder who could have warranted such a memorial in Chitterne St Mary back in the 1300s?

The paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs and to MS for sending them to me.

Grange actor appears on London stage

100 years ago this month Earnshaw Twinkle from The Grange at Chitterne was making his first appearance in a play on a London stage.

The play, The Broken Wing, originally opened in 1920 in New York and, in England at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 15th August 1922, It was written by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard and described at the time as a ‘Colourful Comedy of Modern Mexico With a Sensational Aeroplane Crash’. The arrival of a plane through a living room window at the end of Act I was thought the best thing in the play.

Earnshaw was appearing alongside the lead actress Dorothy Mix, and spent some of his time in London at her flat. “Apparently he loved the glitter of floodlights so much that he had to be pulled off in one of the scenes instead of meekly following the hero and heroine, as the authors of the play intended.” reported the Warminster and Westbury Journal on Friday 18th of August 1922. So who was this mysterious player from Chitterne?

Earnshaw Twinkle was a dog, a pedigree setter from the kennels of Sidney Pownceby, who in 1922 lived at the Grange with his wife Marion. Who would have thought it?

With grateful thanks to the Warminster Journal for their endlessly fascinating snippets on the ‘Days of Yore’ page.

Elm Farm

The folks on this photo are Charles Herbert Stacey senior, his wife Minnie nee Deverill, their seven children and servant/nanny is most probably Gertrude Head from Wilsford, Wiltshire. She is with them on the 1911 census, when their youngest was one year old, so I think this photo was taken about then or thereabouts.

Charles was born in Chaffey Moore, Dorset in c.1873 and Minnie in Mere, Wiltshire also in c.1873. Charles was a farm bailiff for Miss Ida Collins. The Staceys definitely came to Chitterne before 1906 because the two youngest children, Winifred Isabella 1906 and Hilda Deverill 1909, were born here. The older children, all boys, were born in London. The Staceys were gone from Chitterne in 1916, they moved to Codford where they ran a general store.

Interesting aside: Charles and Minnie’s eldest son, Charles Herbert Stacey junior, married Ida Polden and moved to my home town of Westbury, Wiltshire. I knew them because they ran a grocery/general store a short walk from my childhood home where I bought sweets! Such a small world!

Here they are on their wedding day 10 January 1929, outside Ida’s home 47 The Poplars. Ida Polden was a daughter of Arthur Polden and Louisa Sheppard and a granddaughter of Abdon Polden.

Thanks again to TH for the marvellous photo of Elm Farm. Chitterne Now and Then may be quiet for a few weeks now as I concentrate on another project.

Who Lived in Your House in 1921?

Yew Tree Cottages, 43 and 44 Chitterne

Yew Tree Cottages stood beside the Green in 1921, between the village school and the county police house. They still stand, but are now combined into one dwelling called Bow House. By a stroke of good luck we have a photograph of Yew Tree Cottages taken a few months before the 1921 census, in December 1920.

Two things are striking about this old photo, the yew tree that gave its name to the cottages in the front garden of number 44, and 44’s thatched roof.

Who lived in the cottages? The 1921 census tells us that Edward and Maud Pain lived in number 43. Edward and Maud, both from Somerset, were newly weds. Edward was a baker, and he and Maud had a son, Norman Wilfred James, the following year. I have no record of them in the village after 1926. At one time the cottage had been a grocery shop run by Thomas Grant, when it was part of the Chitterne estate owned by Sir William Onslow in the 1880s.

Frank and Rosa Polden lived in number 44 in 1921. Frank, one of Abdon Polden’s sons, was a mason and a part of the Polden Brothers building company. In 1886 he married Rosa, the daughter of William Brown, the Chitterne schoolmaster from 1867-1906. Rosa was assistant mistress at the school in her father’s time as headmaster. Frank and Rosa had no children and took in lodgers. In 1921 Charles Bland lodged with them. Charles may have been a builder working with Polden Brothers because he later built a new house for himself at Townsend called Cotsmere, the one we know today as Red House, number 4 Townsend.

Two other Poldens are listed on the 1921 census at 44 Yew Tree Cottages, Wilfred Henry Polden from Herefordshire and Charlotte Mary Polden of Chitterne, but I have not been able to find out who they were.

Further research on the identity of Wilfred and Charlotte shows that there is a mistake on the census. Wilfred and Charlotte’s name is Pain, not Polden, and they are the parents of Edward Pain who lived next door. Charlotte Mary’s maiden name was Brown, she was another daughter of William Brown, and the younger sister of Rosa. She was always known as Polly. Polly had married Wilfred Pain in Reading, Berkshire in 1892. Wilfred came from Berrington, Herefordshire. Thank you very much J & RR for this new information.

The extension, just visible to the right of the photo was an old army hut, which contained a kitchen and a room. This was replaced much later by a new brick extension. The thatch was replaced with tiles by Archie Dean.

It appears from a parish map of Chitterne All Saints circa 1850 that the Green was once a village pond. In those days the cottages were called Pool Cottages, or The Pool.

Grateful thanks to TH for the photo.

Alfred Stokes 1839-1930 Gentleman of the Land

Here’s a real old Chitterne gent sat outside enjoying the sunshine and a quiet smoke on his 90th birthday. I am excited because this is the first local photo I have seen of someone smoking a clay pipe. You may remember my previous blogs on the subject of clay pipes and my collection of bits of them dug up in our garden and I wonder if this pipe was also made of clay from the old Clay Pits in Chitterne.

However, back to the gentleman, he is Alfred Stokes born in Chitterne on the 9th June 1839, pictured here on the 9th June 1929, outside number 31 Chitterne (Pitt’s House), at the home of Frank and Ellen Sheppard. Alfred did not live there, he had left his home in Bidden Lane in 1920 after a lifetime spent in the village, maybe to live with one of his ten children. So perhaps, in 1929, he was visiting Stephen Sheppard, Frank’s father, who was of a similar age to Alfred.

Alfred was the fourth generation of the Stokes family to live and work the land here since his ancestors arrived in Chitterne in the 1700s. His father Samuel had died aged 27 years in 1839, the same year Alfred was born, so it was just him and his mother Mary, nee Furnell, until she married again in 1845 to Daniel Feltham, but not for long because Daniel died in 1847. Mary was an unlucky woman, widowed three times, and Alfred her only living child.

In adulthood Alfred married Maria Wadhams and had a large family. They lived at New Barn field settlement to start with, then 104 Chitterne St Mary, before finally moving to 84 Bidden Lane. Maria died in 1921, just after she and Alfred had left the village. Alfred died in January 1930, six or seven months after these photos were taken, both are buried here in Chitterne St Mary graveyard.

There must have been hundreds, if not thousands of farm workers like Alfred in Chitterne in past centuries, yet we rarely get to see annotated portraits of them. So it’s especially good to see these great photographs of an ordinary working man, not forgetting his clay pipe, an added bonus!

My grateful thanks to TH for another set of treasures from the Feltham hoard, incidentally two of Alfred’s daughters, Alice and Rhoda, married local Felthams.

Who Lived in Your House in 1921?

After the first World war the old order changed rapidly as large landed estates, including Chitterne, were sold off and broken up as no longer viable. New housing was desperately needed and local councils stepped in with the first lot of council-built housing for rent.

1 – 4 Council Cottages

Chitterne’s council houses were renamed Abdon Close in the 1960s, but at census time in 1921 the first two semi-detached pairs had been completed and they were known as 1, 2, 3 and 4 Council Cottages. The third and fourth pairs in this phase were completed by 1925.

Here are numbers 1 and 2 pictured in the 1950s, just before the construction of the road in front of the houses and the name change to Abdon Close. In 1921 the old hump-backed bridge over the brook, just to the right of this photo, known as The Arch, would still have been in situ, but it had been flattened, and the road widened, during World War 2 by men who were either Italian prisoners of war, or conscientious objectors.

Two spinsters lived in number 1 in 1921. A common phenomenon at the time, as a result of the loss of so many young men in the war. The women were Muriel Watson from Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, and Maud New who came from Monmouth, Wales. Muriel, born in 1880, was the new headmistress of the local village school, having recently replaced the popular Florence Shayler. Muriel and Maud didn’t stay long in number 1, they were replaced by John and Florence Garland and their seven children. Muriel and Maud moved into number 8 Council Cottages as soon as it was built and stayed until 1929 when a new school headmistress was appointed.

Number 2 was occupied by the Stribling family in 1921. George and Louisa Stribling and their three children George, Leonard and Louise. George senior came from Windsor, Berkshire, Louisa from Leyton in Essex. They appear to have moved around a bit because the children were born in Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and they soon moved from Chitterne too, there was no sign of them by 1925, Arthur Smith had moved in.

Numbers 3 and 4 Council Cottages are pictured in the 1950s above. Number 3 was occupied by a single man in 1921, Percy Woodland who hailed from Hindon, Wiltshire. It’s interesting that so far none of the new houses have been occupied by Chitterne families.

Very little is known about Percy Woodland, he had left by 1925 and the 1921 census is the only mention of him I have come across. The vicar Rev John Canner makes no mention of him in his Visiting Book of 1925, instead he lists ‘Butler’ at number 3, but no means of further identification. This may be another case of a new resident moving on to yet another of the new council cottages.

The Woods family lived in number 4 in 1921. Harry and Mary Woods were not locals either, Harry was from Essex and Mary from Warwickshire. They didn’t stay long, by 1925 the cottage was occupied by a local family of Felthams, but which one? Impossible to say, there are so many of them.

This ‘Housing Chick’ cutting from the local paper dated 4th June 1920 shows that Chitterne was lucky in the competition to be the first to get the newly promised houses. In a nearby town residents were a little put out that Chitterne’s new council houses were built before any were provided in Warminster.

Since posting this blog I have been contacted by RF who filled me in with the Feltham family who lived in number 4:

“I’m pretty certain it was my branch of the Felthams that lived there. My Grandparents Eve and Marabini, of Feltham & Polden….later of 96 Chitterne.
I’d seen a picture of my father Alan James outside no 4, he was born in 1930. There were indeed “so many” Felthams!”

Thank you!