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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.