Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday cropped up in a village zoom quiz recently. He’s been one of my favourite wordsmiths since student days. A group of four of us travelled to Leicester in 1965 to see him live at the de Montfort Hall. How times change, but we move on.
Friday night quizzes were once a regular feature at the King’s Head before the pub closed. Now in the current restrictions we quiz via zoom instead. This has meant that non-villagers and ex-villagers are able to join in, bringing a whole other dimension to the experience. Things change, as they must if we don’t want the village to stagnate or die.
Folks move on or move in. Lately, we have lost one of our oldest villagers. Pam Jones, nee Poolman, who was born in the village, went to the village school and married in the village church. A lovely lady, a big loss. Probably the last Poolman in the village descended from John Poolman who married Betty Eyles at Chitterne All Saints Church on 20 May 1757, that’s 264 years that descendants of the Poolman family have lived in the village. Pam is also the last remaining connection to the Brown family, William Brown headmaster at the school from 1867 to 1906 and his son Bill Brown the Big 5 detective at Scotland Yard, who came back to Chitterne in retirement, and incidentally was the reason Pam’s parents moved from 48 Bidden Lane to Abdon Close. Bill bought up the row of cottages numbered 48 to 53, knocked most of them down, kept 53 where he’d lived as a child and turned it into his new home. Pam’s grandmother was Annie Brown, Bill’s sister.
We hear another big change is happening at Chitterne House, sold recently by the family who have owned it since 1947.
As Bob reminded us: Times they are a-changing. I don’t have any pictures of Pam, so here’s one of Bob.
Here are some photographs of the Chitterne Tennis Club in action in the late 1920s for your delight. If you recognise where the tennis court was, let me know.
This photo dated 1928. The man in the centre facing the camera is Evelyn Feltham.
Mixed doubles 1929 same court.
They appear to be playing on a court outside the village. This is not the court at the Gate House or the one that used to be in the grounds of the Vicarage, so where?
Ladies of the tennis club 1920s.
Evelyn Feltham back left, Nora Feltham back third left, Ernie Polden standing back far right, in front of him seated is Arthur Williams and to the left of him seated on the ground is his future wife Polly Polden.
Grateful thanks to TH for this fascinating glimpse into the local tennis scene almost 100 years ago. Copyright and ownership remain with TH.
The second amazing find from the Feltham hoard of photographs is a tintype of Maria with possibly Constance Hamilton. I am inclined to agree with TH, this must be Maria. Tintype photos were popular from about 1856 to 1867. Maria was hired by Constance Hamilton as a nurse to her two young daughters in 1867. The woman with Maria here looks very like the elder of her two daughters in another identified photograph taken later.
TH found another photo to clinch the matter; a fabulous cabinet portrait of a very definitely identified Maria taken in London, at a studio just around the corner from where the Hamiltons and Maria stayed in Kensington in the 1870s.
So here we have another of Chitterne’s stalwart womenfolk of yesteryear. Who’d have thought it? These photos of Maria have been stashed away in the attic at 98 Codford Road for over a hundred years and just now come to light. Almost as if waiting for the right moment when her story could be told and her portrait shared.
I’ve had some great news! More treasure from Ray Feltham’s old home has come to light. Who says hoarding isn’t rewarding!
Thousands of photographs found at 98 Codford Road by his family are now being carefully catalogued and preserved. Given that Ray’s family had occupied the same building for over 100 years, this is very good news for anyone interested in village history.
TH, Raymond’s great nephew, has taken on the task and is kindly allowing me to share some of the photos with you in future blogs. I found the first samples to come my way astonishing. Photos of two Chitterne women I’ve longed to find are among them, the first is Annie Compton.
When Ann Compton died in 1931, aged 91, the Warminster Journal described her as “A unique Chitterne character” and “England’s Oldest Councillor”.
The Local Government Act of 1894 had vested control of the village under the new Warminster Rural District Council. Of its 25 members, Ann Compton, who represented Chitterne St. Mary, was the only woman. She was one of only 140 lady councillors in England and Wales. Her role as a councillor also made her a member of the Board of Guardians of the Warminster Workhouse. Serving with her were Miss Maxfield and Lady Pelly, elected from the Warminster Parish. These indomitable ladies were 3 of only 875 Women Guardians, out of a total in England and Wales of 29 000.
The name of Compton appears for many centuries in the parish records, but Ann seems to be the last of her line in the village of Chitterne. She is buried with her parents, George and Elizabeth Compton, and a sister, Elizabeth Mary, in the churchyard of St. Mary’s.
Often referred to as Annie, she was still serving on the Board of Guardians when it was disbanded in 1930 and attended the final meeting in Warminster at the age of 90. At that time, she was living in Bridge Cottage, next door to the King’s Head Public House.
I am very grateful to TH for allowing me access to this long-sought-for photograph and for his careful preservation of the Feltham hoard. TH retains copyright and ownership.
DB has asked if this man can be identified. The photo belonged to his recently deceased aunt Muriel who was born in Chitterne in 1928. Her name before marriage was Muriel Evelyn Churchill, her father was Charles Churchill who worked at Clump Farm, Chitterne, her mother was Gladys Snook. The family later moved to Swindon and Muriel married John Cowley.
Muriel had previously named the man in the photo as her grandfather Isaac Churchill, but that has proved to be wrong when compared with other authenticated photos of Isaac.
The unknown man may of course be a Snook ancestor from Muriel’s mother’s side. Whatever the case, if you think you recognise this man please will you get in touch with me using the contact form in the menu, top right corner.
An extraordinary deposit of “the best clay in England for the making of clay pipes” is to be found above the chalk on Chitterne St Mary Down between the Codford and Shrewton roads. The hill is known as Clay Pit Hill. The almost pure white clay is mixed with round pebbles varying from small to about 5 inches across.
On a windy Wednesday in January 2007 I accompanied Rod and Dyana Fripp, from Perth, Western Australia, to Clay Pit Hill where, over 350 years ago, Rod’s ancestor, Edward Fripp, held a licence to dig clay for the manufacture of clay pipes.
Edward Fripp, Rod’s 12 x great grandfather, was born in Chitterne about 1616. He married Mary Merewether around 1650. Edward, and Mary’s brother, Christopher Merewether, were in business supplying clay from Chitterne to the Gauntlet family of tobacco pipe manufacturers in Amesbury.
The site of the old clay pits are on private land and covered in trees that shelter pheasant rearing pens. Before venturing out we had gained permission to visit the site.
At Clay Pit Hill the pits are deep craters, some with steep sides, some shallow, one filled with water, but all very obvious despite the undergrowth. I was astonished, as we had been led to believe that there wasn’t much to see, but we found the white clay and pebbles exposed near the wet pit, where the leaf mold had been washed away. Unfortunately the conditions for photography were poor.
Some years ago I came across a document at the Record Office (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre) that mentioned the licence granted in 1651 to Edward Fripp and Christopher Merewether by Henry Paulet, Lord of the Manor. As part of their agreement they were licenced to dig for one year and permitted to remove 30 loads of clay and cart them to Amesbury. But it is obvious that many more than 30 loads of the clay have been dug from the pits, as some of them are deeper than a man is tall, even after 350 years of erosion and filling by leaf mulch. So presumably the clay pits were in use long before tobacco was ever brought to England. The clay is said to have been used in the building of Chitterne St Mary Manor, and the round pebbles decorate many a Chitterne garden, but it would be interesting to know who thought of using the clay to make tobacco pipes.
Fripp and Merewether also agreed to pay Henry Paulet £10 for the licence and give him 8 gross of pipes. That makes 1,152 pipes if my reckoning is correct. Lord Paulet must have been a heavy smoker.
The fragments of clay pipes in this photograph were dug up in the Round House garden. None of them have the Gauntlet identification mark so I suspect they are of later manufacture, but I like to think that they are made of Chitterne clay. Traditionally clay tobacco pipes are associated with curates and one Joseph Brown Morris, curate of Imber 1808-1815, lived at the Round House so perhaps he smoked these pipes.
The old village hall records have me wondering where Chitterne villagers celebrated in large numbers before we had the first hall in 1921. There was the reading room, but that was tiny, or the school was handy, but inconvenient with two classrooms and tiered seating, so where? My guess is that they gathered in one of the huge barns at the two manor farms, as below.
Celebration supper in a village barn
But I digress, where were we, oh yes, the second village hall, converted from the old village school that closed in 1967. I don’t want to repeat myself again, like the last blog, so here is the link to my earlier hall history:
Now, for the extra detail I’ve recently discovered on what went on behind the scenes at the second hall.
After its closure, the school was in the hands of Wiltshire County Council who planned to sell the site, but it did not belong to them. The site was still owned by the heirs of Lord Long who had originally offered it to the villagers for the school building. But the village wanted the school for a new village hall, and the Long family agreed, but before this could happen the parish council and Lord Long needed to negotiate with the County Council. The negotiations took some time but happily led to the transfer of ownership from Richard Gerard 4th Viscount Long to the parish council in December 1970.
In the meantime the old school was standing empty and deteriorating. Urgent repairs were needed to the roof, gutters, walls and windows. Building costs were rising fast in the 1970s, and the price of houses booming. This meant that monies already raised in the village for the new hall were now inadequate. Eventually the hall was repaired and after more fund-raising was converted into a village hall, opened in December 1971 by Viscount Long and Rev. H T Yeomans.
As part of the agreement with the County Council a charitable trust for the hall was arranged at the same time as the transfer of ownership. This proved to be a bit of a problem in 1978 when two prominent members of the village hall committee were forced to resign because of the trust rules. Bill Windsor and Evelyn Potter were very valuable and committed members of the committee, but the problem was that both were paid from hall funds for the work they did. Bill for repairs to the hall and Evelyn for keeping it so clean. The trust rules stated that they could not be members of the committee that paid them. Committee secretary, T S-B, wrote to the Charity Commission begging for the two to be allowed to remain on the committee, but the reply was a definite No.
The site of the old village hall, the Hut in Bidden Lane, was finally sold by the parish council in 1976. Presumably it was purchased by the owner of the Well House (since renamed Well Cottage), Aubrey Miller, to enlarge his garden. Proceeds from the sale were distributed among the various organisations that used the hall for their meetings. Amongst the records there is a thank you note from the Chitterne W I for a donation received from the parish council after the sale.
The final piece of icing on the cake for future social gatherings in Chitterne came in 1977 when, as part of the Royal Jubilee celebrations, the parish council purchased the field opposite the new hall from the MoD for £800. To read more about the Sportsfield click below
100 years ago, in 1921 Chitterne’s first Village Hall was erected, and 50 years ago in 1971 the second Village Hall was opened. For those of you new to the village: the present village hall is the third.
After the end of the Great War the village community felt they lacked a social centre where all the family could go and enjoy themselves. There were two pubs of course but they were strictly for adults, and the school was available after lessons had finished for the day, and yet they didn’t quite fit the bill. Consequently various villagers put up the cost of purchasing an ex-military wooden hut to be erected and used as a village hall.
The Hut, as it came to be known, stood on a piece of ground in Bidden Lane owned by Jimmy Feltham. The Hut committee paid him £5 a year rent for the ground, but Jimmy donated £5 a year to the Hut funds in return, so in effect it was free. After his death the site became the property of the parish council as per his will.
For fifty years the hut was used by the village as the social hub, and representatives from each village organisation were on the committee. In the second world war the hut was requisitioned as a billet for soldiers for a time, and later used as a centre for many soldiers in the area. The frequent wartime dances held there took a toll on the furniture and fittings, and by 1948 urgent repairs were needed.
The Chairman of the Hut Committee, Ernest Moores, sent a leaflet to every house outlining the desperate need, pleading for funds. Funds of course were forthcoming and the hut carried on being the social hub for many more years until the village school closed and a new opportunity arose for a different venue. The site of the old hut was sold by the parish council in 1976 and now forms the part of Well Cottage garden that fronts Bidden Lane.
More on the second village hall in the next blog. With grateful thanks to AK.
DF carries on his memories of moving to Cotsmere, Townsend, Chitterne in 1944:
“Second Saga: Water supply to Cotsmere.
Having sought and given permission by the MOD to connect into the MOD Water supply that supplied the Stables in the back lane area, a farm building then that formed part of Mr Long’s farm, my father had to plan and decide the proposed route and of course what it would cost. It was decided to hand excavate a trench 75cm deep and 30cm wide from the rear area of the stables to the Cut (Chitterne Brook), then along the Cut to an area adjacent to Percy Churchill’s garden area, where a bungalow is now sited (Fieldview), across this area and the road to Cotsmere.
Having decided on this and then taken in consideration that the work would have to be carried out when the Cut was dry, the job was put on hold temporarily. In the meantime property holders along the route were approached to either help or pay towards the costs so that they could then connect to it. My dad needed to know who was interested as this would have determined the size of the pipe that he planned to install. Needless to say no-one was interested not even Percy Churchill!!!!!
Finally with the help of me, my Uncles Billy Collier and Harry Aston, the job was completed. On completion, believe it or not there were some householders who felt that as the supply was connected to the MOD service they had a right to connect to the new supply, unfortunately for them, this was just wishful thinking. They had no legal right.”
So, in the 1940s Cotsmere was one of the first houses in the village to have a piped water supply. Other properties relied on well water, or if they were lucky a piped farm supply. There were 6 wells in Townsend, which often ran dry in Summer, forcing the residents affected to use the deep well by Lodge gates, or fill their allocation of two buckets a day from the Chitterne Farm supply.
The water supply at Chitterne Farm (The Stables were part of Chitterne Farm at that time, as DF says) had been installed by the John Wallis Titt Company in the 1930s. The firm were contracted by the MOD to sink a borehole 300 feet deep in 1934 to carry out a pumping test and if successful install a pumped water supply.
Mains water came to the village before we came in 1976, although we were still using Glebe Farm supply at that time and for many years after. The Wessex Water Pumping Station on the Tilshead road was built in the 1980s and opened in 1988.
The people DF mentions are Mr Long the farmer: Robert William Long (1878-1953) was the farm manager for R J Farquharson at the Chitterne Farm Estate from 1906 to 1937, and carried on the same role from 1937 to 1955 as tenant of the MOD.
Percy Richard William Churchill (1909-1966) lived at 10 Townsend and was the father of the late Timothy Churchill.
Cotsmere was the name given to a house at Townsend when Charlie Bland built it in the 1920s to house his family. Charlie’s widow Elizabeth sold the house to DF’s parents in 1944.
DF has been reminiscing about the time he spent here before moving away in the 1960s. He recalls the house had few services at first, just a well, an earth closet and a bath you filled by hand, and how this was remedied by his father. First to deal with the sewage:
“When my father purchased Cotsmere, the garden area was limited and obviously this was where the Septic tank possibly needed to be constructed.
Taking this on board, my father approached the MOD about the possibility of purchasing the land area to the West of the Cotsmere boundary to the Eastern Boundary of No 1 Abdon Close. His request was considered by the MOD and approved, that’s the good news, unfortunately the MOD had one problem, their action to put the wheels in motion and get the deal done was dead slow and stop to say the least.
After what seemed ages, my father took it on his shoulders to go in person to Whitehall to get it resolved and this worked. From memory I believe he paid about £60 plus costs for the land.
At the same time he was given permission to connect to the water supply at the stables, however this is another story.
When the time came to start the Sewage disposal project, it was summer holidays for me, so I was given the task to excavate the hole by hand, approximately 4 metres long 2 metres wide and 2 metres deep with pick axe & shovel and a wheel barrow.
My father would not hire an Excavator with operator as the price then was about £2.50 an hour and he thought that was extortionate.
So the next move, was to dispose of the spoil removed. To this end, my father was aware that there was a disused well by the side of the road only a short distance from our property so he said, right we will fill it in it’s dangerous !!!! And that is exactly what I did, wheel barrow after wheel barrow, the well was dry at the time and was approx 7m deep x 1m wide, believe it or not, sufficient to accommodate all of the spoil that I removed.
When I started, there was a frog at the bottom of the well and as the well was filled in the frog gradually came up to the surface and when the spoil reached almost to the top, it hopped out and away.
Opposite the well lived Gladys Grant and when I started, she came out swearing. She claimed that when the spring waters came back, as the well could not fill up, all of that water would flood her cottage!!! What rubbish.”