Jubilee Project

I was asked to lead a History Walk around Chitterne on Thursday 2nd June for part of the village jubilee celebrations. The villagers who came along seem to have enjoyed it so I thought I would share here the printed-out additional notes and walk-map I provided on the day, for anyone who was unable to come.

First the map Dave made for the walk. The places highlighted in red are where the groups stopped, looked and listened. We started at the Village Hall car park, crossed the road to the Sports Field and then headed down the Tilshead Road, with a small detour to All Saints graveyard on Imber Road, turned right into Back Lane and followed it to the end, crossed the road and headed towards our last stop at the Chancel.

Jubilee History Walk

Introduction:

The village of Chitterne has existed for a little over a hundred years. Before that there were two villages: Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary. They joined civilly in 1907 and became Chitterne, although the two churches had shared one vicar since the 19th century.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 tells us that in Saxon times there were three villages, owned by three different persons, but only two manors in Norman times, when William the Conqueror allotted two of the holdings to the same man Edward of Salisbury.  Edward’s descendant Patrick was made Earl of Salisbury, his descendant Ela inherited and gave a large slice of Chitterne to the abbey she founded at Lacock in 13th century. From then until the dissolution of Lacock Abbey in 1539 the main source of the nun’s wealth came from their large flocks of sheep based at Chitterne.

The village has evolved from the prosperous sheep and corn economy of earlier times into the village of a single parish today. The many large houses, given the size of the village, are signs of the prosperity of earlier times.

Chitterne All Saints or Upper Chitterne – the nun’s domain

Sports Field site of Great Manor

A great house dating from medieval times once stood on this site. It is marked on the 1773 Andrews and Drury’s map of the village as being occupied by Robert Michell, (more of the Michells later). The main entrance was on the far side of the field marked by an avenue of lime trees and a pair of large stone pillars, which now grace the entrance of Cortington Manor Cottage, Corton. The Great House was demolished in the 1820s and all that remains is part of the perimeter wall, a pair of smaller pillars and the service quarters building we call the Coach House.

Coach House

After the demolition of the Great House the remaining service quarters were adapted to house six families of workers on the farm, gradually dwindling over the years to three families. These farm worker’s houses were always known to villagers as ‘great houses’ or more likely, ‘big ‘owse’s’. The building was finally sold off by the MOD to a private owner in the 1970s.

The Church – All Saints with St Marys

This church was built in the early 1860s when the population of the two villages exceeded 800 persons and neither of the two older churches of All Saints and St Marys could accommodate them. Note the many fancy memorials to the Michell family in the foyer, moved here from old All Saints church. Also noteworthy are the five bells, one of the two St Marys bells was cast by John Barbur of Salisbury and dates from before 1403 (his death).

The Gate House

One of the most ancient buildings in the village. From the 13th century, it was the Lacock nuns base in Chitterne All Saints. Old stone coffins and encaustic clay tiles from medieval times have been unearthed on the site. The present buildings date from the 1500s. The Chapel of St Andrew, pre-dating the nuns, once stood behind the outbuilding used as a garage. The nuns are said to have offered sustenance here to pilgrims travelling between monasteries.

Manor Farm

The present building dates from after the disastrous fire of 1852 that destroyed the original. That house was often referred to as Little Manor in old documents and probably means that this was the site of the farm attached to the Great Manor of All Saints.

All Saints Graveyard

The old medieval All Saints Church stood in the middle of this plot, now marked by the top of the Michell vault housing the remains of the people memorialised in the church. The first Michell, Charles, came to All Saints in the 1600s. His descendants finally quit the village in the 1800s. The Michell vault originally stood above ground under the Michell family pew in the church. When the church was demolished in the 1800s the vault was re-sited underground on the same spot, giving us a good pointer to where the church once stood. The vicarage was demolished at the same time. It may have stood near Brook Cottage.

Chitterne House

Probably built during the Michells time here in about 1680 and extended 100 years later. Another main entrance from Back Lane was once on the opposite side of the house. Most necessary in times of flood. Two generations of the Hayward family followed the Michells from 1830 to 1913, and then by Vice-Admiral Charles Napier and from 1926 by Lady Eva Dugdale.

Chitterne Lodge

This house has a varied history, originally a country retreat for sporting enthusiasts, and for the local MP Walter Long who owned it in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Then it became the home of a trainer of racehorses who was hired by the new owner Ronald Farquharson. Farquharson bought the house, Chitterne Farm and the land in 1906 after having made his fortune in rubber in India. He had the Racing Stables built and hired a succession of racehorse trainers to run them. After his death in 1937 the estate was acquired by the War Dept/MOD when that dept bought up much of All Saints, including all the farms. After the war It reverted to being the home of a racehorse trainer and a boarding house. The stables were converted to eight cottages in the 1990s.

Back Lane

Used to be named Back Road, but changed its name after a request to the council by owners of new houses built at the other end. Used by villagers to avoid the wet in times of flood. Note: an old entrance to Chitterne House from Back Lane and the chalk pit, source of chalk used locally to build cob walls. Spot some cob walls.

Syringa Cottage

This house was created from his old home by Chitterne’s famous detective, Bill ‘Farmer’ Brown of Scotland Yard, when he retired to Chitterne in the 1930s. He is most remembered for his capture of the notorious murderer Ronald True. William Fred Brown was the son of the school headmaster and village sub-postmaster, William Frederick Brown. The Post Office in those days was at 53 Bidden Lane, where the Brown family lived. The terraced cottage was the last one of six cottages, numbers 48-53 all fronting Bidden Lane, known as Steps Cottages due to the steep steps up to them from the road.

Elm Farm

Elm Farm land is now part of Chitterne Farm, and the house sold off by the MOD to private owners. Elm Farm was the childhood home of John Wallis Titt the engineer who made and erected wind operated water pumps, which he sold all over the world. From 1761-1871 the Amesbury Turnpike Road passed through Chitterne.  The toll gates stood outside Elm farm house and the Toll collectors booth was on the corner.

Bidden Lane

The divider of the two old parishes. Looking up the lane All Saints on the left, St Mary on the right. The dividing line ran down the centre of the lane, across the C22 and up the side of the sports field. Bidden Lane is the proper name of this road, but Shrewton Road is more commonly used nowadays. It was just a lane once, a turning off the main village throughfare, but since widening in the 1960s it is no longer narrow and twisty. Home to lots of farm workers in olden times.

Chitterne St Mary – the church’s domain, the manor granted to Paulet family by King Edward VI in 1547.

Baptist Chapel

There had been Methodist meetings in Chitterne, mostly amongst the farm Workers, since the 1700s, eventually leading to the building of a Methodist Chapel. The Baptists took it over when the Methodists failed to make it work. The chapel burnt down in 1903, except for the old schoolroom, and was rebuilt under the leadership of Frank Maidment who was dubbed the ‘Bishop of Salisbury Plain’ due to his powers of oratory taking him to preach in other plain villages.

The White Hart

Once a public house built in 1651, closed in 1955, now a private house. Samuel Pepys and party stayed here one night in 1668 when they became lost on the Plain travelling between Salisbury and Bath. The next day they hired the landlord to set them on the right track to their destination. Samuel reported in his diary that a merry time was had but the beds were lousy.

Clump Farm

Once one of three farms in St Mary, now private, and the farm yard opposite has been turned into a small housing estate. The house was probably built in about 1800, a previous farm house stood across the road next to the farmyard, which was accessed by the little bridge. The farmyard is now St Marys Close and a large old thatched barn which stood behind number 6 no longer exists.

Old Malt House

The malt house stood behind the wooden fence next door to Pine Cottage, but the name Malt House was adopted by the cottage after the malt house was taken down. When the Wallis family owned the Manor and the Kings Head they malted their own barley in this malt house, brewed beer and sold it in their pub. In 1903 Farmer Wallis allowed the Baptists to hold their services in the malt house while the new Baptist Chapel was being built.

Glebe (Church) Farm Stockyard site of

The church farm stockyard of Chitterne St Mary, and tithe barn stood on the site of Birch Cottage. The tithing field leading to the water meadows was opposite. Each farmer in the area had a section of the meadow for grazing sheep on the fresh spring grass.

St Marys Chancel

Old medieval St Marys church remains date from about 1450. The nave was demolished in the 1860s, the chancel kept as mortuary chapel. Note the part of a tomb monument dating from about 1500 that has been moved to the chancel near a window probably from the old nave. Several graves under the floor, one to Elizabeth Morris is notable. Her father was a Senator of Barbados and connected with the slave trade. Elizabeth had a black servant called Charles whose burial is recorded the day after hers in 1812. He is buried outside the graveyard boundary, near the top kissing gate. Grave marker has since disappeared.

The Manor

17th century manor house probably built by the Paulet family of Basingstoke. William Paulet, later 1st Marquis of Winchester, was granted the manor of Chitterne St Mary in 1547 by King Edward VI. The Paulets didn’t live in Chitterne, the house was let out. Rented by William Wallis (d.1884) in 1826 and purchased by Frederick Wallis c1918/19 from Lord Long. The two old black barns are early 1800s.

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.

Historic View of Lime Trees Set to Change

This well-known view in Chitterne is likely to change soon, as work starts in the next few days on the row of old lime trees bordering the Chitterne Brook.

I wondered how long the trees had been there and I found that limes can live for up to 400 years, but 200 years is more usual. Other village limes of a similar age form an avenue shaped in a cross in the field behind the Sportsfield. Perhaps they were planted at the same time as they appear to be in the same sad state, often tumbling down. If my supposition is correct, then the trees were planted by the family who owned the houses and land on the west side of Tilshead Road, from the Sportsfield to Manor Farm, the Michell-Onslow family, mainly Matthew Michell 1751-1817. Could this family have commissioned the planting?

Looking in the opposite direction

How many generations of villagers and visitors have loved the sight of these trees in Spring, the branches covered in pale green, heart-shaped leaves, gracefully sweeping down towards the Cut? Let’s hope some will survive to lift our spirits in the coming Spring.

Part of a public footpath follows the line of trees on the field side. The footpath, known to old villagers as The Walk, starts at Manor Farm bridge and ends at the old farm bridge near St Marys Close. The section behind the lime trees once passed between a double row of trees, as you can see from this old postcard from the early 1900s. The second row of trees, on the right above, have since been removed. Below is a recent photo of the same path.

The trees bordering the Cut have been falling more frequently lately, and blocking the road in the process, hence the need for the tree surgeons. This has happened many times in the past, sometimes to disastrous effect. The photo below shows a tree that fell on a traction engine, killing the driver, almost 100 years ago in 1923.

To orientate you: the grass in the foreground is the village green, the house to the left is Great House, (or big ‘ouses), before it was converted into one house and called Coach House, Grange wall curves away to the right of the photo. Opposite Grange wall are the lime trees.

This Valuable Sporting Estate

When there are twenty-odd partridges toddling about the garden every morning you know the game shooting season has arrived. Watching the birds got me thinking about our sporting heritage in Chitterne. About the many varied countryside sports that have been traditional here for many centuries. I’m thinking not only of game, but hunting with dogs and horses, even horse training at the old racing stables. Chitterne, surrounded by the vast space of Salisbury Plain was always known as a sporting village, as we can see from the next image.

This is how Chitterne was described in the title of an 1896 map offering the estate for sale by the Long family.

Chitterne Lodge was used by the Long family as a country retreat. Presumably they came to the village for the hunting and game shooting season. Bills and lists held in the archives from 1848 and 1870 show that the Longs redecorated and purchased new furnishings for the Lodge for the use of their family.

Lord Long, Walter Hume Long MP, kept Chitterne Lodge back from the sale in 1896. In the early years of the 20th century he used the Lodge as his country retreat before finally selling it in 1906. According to Coates Directory of 1903 he also had a home in London and in the 1901 census his caretaker at the Lodge was widow Harriet Furnell, who lived there with her three daughters, Louisa 16, Winifred 14 and Gertrude 11.

Chitterne Lodge estate, which included Chitterne Farm, was bought in 1906 by racehorse trainer Ron Farquharson. The following year he expanded the estate by purchasing Wroughton’s, a freehold and tithe-free sporting and agricultural property of 412 acres adjoining Chitterne Lodge.

1896 map showing Wroughton’s Wood near the Chitterne parish boundary (in blue) on the road to Shrewton

I have not been able to find out much about the Wroughton family, presumably named for the place called Wroughton near Swindon, but a quick Google search showed that some members of the family lived in Wiltshire near Broad Hinton in the distant past. One female Wroughton lived at Wilcot, which is connected to Chitterne from way back in the medieval times of the Earls of Salisbury, so who knows? How they came to own land in Chitterne I do not know, but the map of 1896 has a wood marked Wroughton’s Wood.

Farquharson died in 1934 and, after a brief hiatus during World War 2, racehorse training resumed in 1955 under trainer, John Ford. he was followed by Ian Dudgeon and lastly David Allen who finally wound up the enterprise in the early 1990s.

Here’s an early photo, possibly 1890s, of a shooting party in Chitterne proudly displaying their bag of hares, when hares were still hunted for sport. I think it may have been taken at Manor Farmhouse, owned at that time by the Onslow family, but leased to the Collins family.

Fox hunting, and latterly Drag hunting, is traditional in Chitterne, especially on Boxing Day. Here is a photo of the Wylye Valley Hunt passing the Sportsfield in the 1950s. This tradition still continues on Boxing Day with the Royal Artillery Hunt.

There are plans afoot for a new equestrian business in the village, how appropriate and welcome it would be in this very horsey village.

Old Chitterne Names 18: The Beak

This is the Beak, a field shown on the 1815 map of Chitterne near the parish boundary with Upton Lovell. The track to the left in the photo is part of the Imber Range Perimeter path as it heads towards Long Trees, which marks the boundary between the two parishes.

Here you see the field on the 1815 map sandwiched between the Imber Range path and old Clarken Lane (see last blog). The Beak belonged to Paul Methuen Esq. in 1815 and was leased to William Ingram whose listed tomb lies in Chitterne St Mary graveyard.

I know very little about William Ingram who farmed the land now part occupied by Valley Farm and behind the Vicarage grounds. He must have been connected to the well-known Ingram family of the Wylye Valley (there are many monuments in the Wylye Valley churches) but I don’t know how, as his tomb seems to show him ‘of Poulshot’, at least that’s how I interpreted the inscription years ago, now very worn.

Getting back to The Beak. If you were to walk there from Chitterne you would take the Imber Range perimeter path (IRPP) and, on reaching the crossing with the permissive bridleway, continue on the IRPP away from the village. The Beak is the first field on your right.

The crossing mentioned above with the IRPP heading away from the village towards Warminster.

Old Chitterne Names 17: Green Way or Clarken Lane

This is the first look at one of the ‘new’ old names discovered from the 1815 map of the parishes of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary: Green Way or Clarken Lane.

Part of the 1815 map featured in my last blog showing the lane marked Green Way or Clarken Lane crossing diagonally from top left to bottom right. To orientate you, the slightly wider road below it is The Hollow, or the old Salisbury to Warminster coach road. Notice the adjacent field called Clarken Lane Field bounded on the eastern side by Imber Road. To the north also notice two smaller fields, Great Penning and Little Penning, a Dry Pond and a Well, these must mark the site of Penning Barn field barn settlement. The fact that there was a well in 1815 suggests perhaps that the settlement already existed.

A screen grab from Google Earth showing Clarken Lane crossing from top left to bottom right in a wavy line between field boundaries.

Green Way or Clarken Lane is no longer a designated right of way, but it is still possible to see where it once was and to walk the part of it nearest the village.

Here we are looking north away from the village, this is the bit that is most difficult to walk, but it is still marked by a line of bushes and a ditch.

This photo was taken from the same spot as the previous one but looking south towards the village. The path is clearly defined and still regularly used.

Clarken Lane Field, pretty featureless.

Approaching the village. The field to the left was called The Tining on the old map.

Here we have reached the end of Clarken Lane and we are looking back, away from the village. Clarken Lane ends where it meets Churches Path (the path between the two old parish churches) behind Chitterne Farm West Barns.

I don’t know the origin of the name Clarken Lane, but several generations of a family called Clarke lived in Chitterne in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Two Old Maps 2: 1815 Map of the Parishes

You may remember an earlier series of blogs ‘Old Chitterne Names’? This latest map is interesting because it names more of the fields surrounding Chitterne from the time of the Methuen family ownership. The map is a large photocopy of an original held at the History Centre and a difficult subject to photograph, so we will look at small sections.

A section of the map showing the two parishes, Chitterne St Mary on the left and Chitterne All Saints on the right, before they were united as Chitterne. St Mary’s church (211) stands in front of The Manor (220), which still has its east wing, and in front of the church is the old Tithe Barn and stockyard (212 now site of Birch Cottage). To the right are the King’s Head (214), then Bridge Cottage (215), but no St Mary’s Close. Instead we have Clump Farm yard (216/217) abutting the parish boundary, with the old farmhouse behind two farm barns at right-angles to the road. Further west note there is no Vicarage (208), no St Mary’s House nor Little St Mary’s, just Glebe House (209), although there is an unidentified building next to Glebe House, but Gunville Cottages (204/205/206) at the bottom of the Hollow are shown. To the south the Chitterne Brook hugs the verge of the Codford Road, the malthouse (144) is shown next after the road junction, but not the new Clump Farmhouse. On the south side of Bidden Lane, the St Mary’s side, there are many more dwellings than exist today.

The properties held by the Michell family in All Saints are not shown on this map, so the large house owned by them on the Sportsfield site is missing, as is Chitterne House, which they also owned. Although it’s interesting to see that the original entrance to Chitterne House from Back Lane is shown. Opposite Chitterne House is Manor Farm yard and house, to the right is old All Saints Church and in front of it All Saints Vicarage, which was later demolished.

In All Saints parish the old field directly behind the Sportsfield, now known as Garston, was larger, and had three sections. In 1815, spelt Gaston, the sections were Home Gaston, Middle Gaston and Corn Gaston. Not only that, beyond Corn Gaston was another part of the ground called New Piece (top left of the map), which meant that Gaston in those days extended much further out from the village than it does today.

We looked at Garston before, see: Old Chitterne Names 5: St Mary’s Footpath and Garston

Here is a screen-grab from Google Earth for comparison purposes. It would appear that Garston once reached to the furthest edge of the green field to the right of the Hollow, top left of this 2021 map.

I hope to look at other new field names spotted on the 1815 map later, when time and weather allow.

Grateful thanks to VP for the copy of the 1815 map.

Two Old Maps: 1 Valuable Freehold Sporting Estate

Two interesting old maps have come my way lately that I haven’t seen before. The first is an original map for the sale of the Chitterne Sporting Estate. You may remember we had a look at the 1896 brochure for the estate houses and cottages offered for sale by the Long family in previous blogs.

“Plan of the Valuable Freehold Sporting Estate, Chitterne, Wilts.” Offered for sale by the Long family of Rood Ashton House, near Trowbridge sometime around the turn of the 19th century. The estate has been divided into three lots. (Sorry about the wonky photo and creases).

Lot 1: The largest lot which includes Chitterne Farm, Elms (sic) Farm, Middle Barn Farm, Bush Barn Farm and Breach Hill Farm. Also included near the village are Elm Farmhouse, the Smithy (The Poplars) and all the buildings on the right of the road from Pitts House to Chitterne Farmhouse and Chitterne Lodge. Chitterne Lodge is named as such but The Grange is called The Shooting Lodge. Field Barn settlements included in the lot are Two Barns, New Barn, Bush Barn, Middle Barn and Breach Hill cottages. Woodlands are Fox Covert and Wroughton’s Wood, both in green to the right of the map. I believe this whole lot was purchased by Ron Farquharson in 1906, the man who had Chitterne Stables built and also owned Tilshead Lodge.

On the back of the map are hand-written notes in pencil about the make-up of the Field Barn settlements. These are interesting in themselves and indicate what sizeable settlements the Field Barns were. When we look at the second map we will notice changes in some of the names of the Field Barns.

At Breach Hill Farm is a house with lawn back and front, 2 bedrooms, sitting room, scullery, kitchen with grate. Outside a brick and slate cart shed, a 6 horse stable, a chaff house, a brick, WB (?) and slate barn in a yard enclosed by a brick wall.

At Bush Barn are 2 cob and slate cart sheds, a very old timber and thatched shed, brick foundation WB and slate barn, granary and cow house, stable for 10 horses, chaff house. Cottage has 3 bedrooms, kitchen with oven, wash house, pantry and coal house.

At Two Barns is a very large WB (anyone know what that means?) barn and chaff house, a fine range of stables of brick foundations with corrugated iron roof (note: corrugated iron invented by Henry Robert Palmer in 1829). The rest of this section illegible but further on: Barn with brick foundations, WB and thatch, large cart shed of cob and tile and flint. Cob and slate farmhouse with 5 bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, pantry, 2 kitchens, wash house, bake house of red brick with slate over, cottages of thatched brick and cob with kitchen, sitting room and 2 bedrooms.

At New Barn are kitchen gardens, 2 detached cottages of brick, cob and slate with 3 bedrooms, kitchen with boiler and oven, wash house and pantry each, 2 more brick and slate with kitchens, wash house, pantry and 3 bedrooms each, a brick built and slate bake house with oven. At the end of the lane is a granary of WB, brick foundations with slate roof. Other buildings at New Barn are cob and tile cart shed, a WB brick foundation thatched barn, a WB cob and thatched cow house, stabling for 12 horses and a chaff house, enclosed in a yard are 2000 illegible on timber staging, an iron water mill with sails complete, machinery to wall for traction engine, steel winder on a frame. Outside 3 pits for storing waste.

The only settlement remaining of the old Field Barns is Middle Barn. The rest were removed by the War Department, after their purchase of Farquharson’s estate in 1937, to enable army training to take place unhindered.

Lot 2 consisted of Manor Farm, The Manor, Glebe House, St Mary’s Chancel, the Tithing field (opposite the King’s Head, now part of St Mary’s Lodge) and the water meadows along the north and west side of Codford Road. There are no associated Field Barn settlements. This was later (c.WW1) purchased with a mortgage by the Wallis family who were already the tenants and had been living in The Manor since 1823. After many years the Wallis family sold most of their land to the Harley family who renamed it Valley Farm.

Lot 3 is made up of two farms Clump Farm and Smith’s farm. I believe the Smith family referred to here are the very same Smiths who owned Chitterne Stores in Townsend. Lot 3 also included Clump Farm House, the Malthouse (now demolished) and associated Pine Cottage (now known as the Malt House). Again no associated Field Barns. This lot was purchased by William Robinson a builder of Salford, Manchester for his eldest son Harold to farm, unfortunately Harold was killed in WW1. Charles Bazell rented the farm from Robinson, who later sold to the Webster family who later still sold it to the Stratton family, who still own the land today.

The last part of the estate is the most intriguing. A patch of riverside meadow at Little Langford in the Wylye Valley. How odd! I have no idea how this came to be part of the Chitterne estate, but if anyone knows please tell all. Perhaps it’s not for sale at this time, as there is no thick line around it. On that mysterious note I finish with this map. Next up is a much earlier map, about 1815, with lots of the field names marked.

Who is this Man?

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.

Clay Pipes

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.

Clay Pit Hill the clump of trees covering the clay pits

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.

Clay pit filled with water

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.

Fragments of clay pipes

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.