Times are Changing

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.

Stable to Nest

As we start a new venture at the Round House I’ve been thinking about the ways we have used the old stable since we came here 45 years ago this month. Now I wish I had taken more photos of the building as it was, because the stable only appears in the background of a few early shots.

In 1976 the stable had a doorway, but no door, and three windows. Two downstairs and one in the gable-end, but no glass and no frames. Three of the sturdy stone walls were bricked outside and one was left as stone. The slate roof was good. Inside were three bays for horses and a cobbled flint floor with a hayloft high above of rotten elm boards. We first used it as storage space for our house renovating equipment.

An early photo taken summer 1976 showing the stable in the background. We were camping out at weekends in that very long, hot summer while renovating the house. My Dad, recently retired, in the foreground, was helping us. Kate was 4 and Jess 2.

A photo from 1981 and no change to the stable except for the beech hedge planting. This photo better shows the weak brickwork above the doorway, still no door! Jess and GT from the village enjoying the snow. Soon after this we started work to bring the building up to scratch.

My Dad’s health was deteriorating by 1982 so we briefly considered renovating the stable for him and my Mum to live in. Dave drew up plans but we didn’t follow it through. The space was very small for two people and on reflection it was a crazy idea to move two elderly people who had lived in a bungalow for 40 years into a two storey building. Dad died in 1985.

I love these old drawings in ink on drawing film.

In 1986 downstairs became a depository for some of my father’s engineering equipment, after my mother sold up and moved in with us later that year. We brought Dad’s huge bench, pillar drill and suchlike over from Westbury and installed it in the stable. Thank goodness his big metal-turning lathe was sold with the bungalow.

In 1988 Kate held her 16th birthday party upstairs in the stable. After the party I used the room for sewing for a few years and in 1990, when Dave gave up his day job and became self-employed, he used it for his drawing work. During the next 20 years drawing board and ink plotter gave way to computer and printer, until an accident in 2010 forced him to work downstairs in the house leaving the upstairs stable room empty.

In about 2012 Amy needed some space for silk screen printing and sewing. The upstairs room accommodated both, it became a studio for Christian to print and a sewing area for Amy to sew the printed items for sale.

In 2015 it was empty again. After several attempts to get planning permission for a conversion to accommodation for ourselves we finally succeeded in 2018, but with a much reduced extension. We were unsure whether the resulting conversion would be big enough for the two of us, but decided to go ahead with the project anyway. Building work started in June 2019 and was completed in January 2020. Fitting it out, with many interruptions due to the pandemic, took until September, by which time we had decided not to move in ourselves but to rent it out for holidays. The Nest at the Round House was born.

Before and after, the south facing end.

Before and after, east side.

Before the conversion the stable was a favourite nesting place for jackdaws and sparrows, hence the choice of name for the holiday cottage. Besides that, there was already a Stable Cottage and a Stables complex in the village so we had to choose something different!

Village Hall 2 – 50 years

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:

http://www.chitterne.com/history/villagehall

Now, for the extra detail I’ve recently discovered on what went on behind the scenes at the second hall.

Village School 1840-1967

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.

Chitterne’s second village hall 1971-1998

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

https://suerobinsonmeuk.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-sportsfield/

Thank you AK for the records of the two old halls and LM for pointing out my repetition!

Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

jubilee book 1887

This neat little exercise book was recently discovered in an attic in Townsend. As they say, you never know what you may discover in an old attic. Perhaps something like this fascinating gem, which records the meetings held in the village about the proposed celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee to be held on the 21st June 1887.

Most interesting are the lists of subscribers to the jubilee fund who must represent every family in the village at the time. These I will scan and include in this blog. I am sure some of you will find some ancestors listed, there are a lot of familiar names. But first to run through what was proposed and arranged for entertainment and memorial of the day.

school 2
The Chitterne School venue for the meetings

A meeting was held on 24th May 1887 in the National School Room, chaired by Rev. Charles Avery Pinhorn with the main village farmers supporting him: Messrs Cleverley of All Saints Manor Farm; Blake of Chitterne Farm; Burbidge of Clump Farm and Wallis of The Manor, St Mary. The schoolmaster William F Brown was secretary and a very legible one too. Other village worthies: Messrs W Candy, F Maidment; Abdon Polden; Augustus Polden; William James Feltham (Maria’s son); Frank Polden; Clement Polden; Frank Bartlett and others not listed.

Mr Cleverley proposed that “the parish be canvassed for subscriptions, and that according to the amount collected, it then be considered what form the rejoicings to commemorate the Queens Jubilee should take.” This was seconded by Mr Wallis and carried.

Cleverley, Samuel & Elizabeth
William Samuel and Elizabeth Cleverley outside Manor Farmhouse. The barn where the Jubilee Dinner was to be held can just be seen at the left edge of the photo

A committee was formed, of course, on June 2nd 1887 to collect subscriptions throughout the parish and Mr Cleverley was appointed treasurer. Mr Cleverley then moved “that the Jubilee Day June 21st shall be the day for the rejoicings at Chitterne.” This was seconded by Mr Brown.

The committee was later re-appointed as the Committee of Management and new names added: Wm Compton; Wm. Wish; A J Polden; Joseph Williams; Geo. Feltham; Geo. White; Stephen Sheppard; Herbert Feltham; Edward Ashley; Fredk. Carter; John Smith; James Day. The committee was to be left to carry out all details of the work. In the good old Chitterne tradition the rejoicings would involve food. A dinner for all parishioners over 12 years of age, and a tea for those under 12.

jubilee tree
An early photo of the 1887 Jubilee Tree

At a later meeting held on 7th June 1887 it was agreed that: “sufficient finds should be reserved to purchase and plant a tree on the Parish Green in memory of the Jubilee, and to procure a strong iron fence to protect the same.”

A sub-committee was formed of Messrs Cleverley, Maidment, Jacob Smith, Brown and Abdon Polden “to procure the requisites for the dinner and to provide for the cooking of the same.” Others were to arrange sports, to arrange tables and provide proper accommodation, to attend to the juveniles, and most important to attend to the beer. Mr Cleverley consented to the dinner being held in his Farm Buildings; the service in the Church was to begin at 12.30 and the dinner at 1.30 and and copies of a short narrative of the Queen’s life were to be distributed to each house.

jubillee expenditure estimate
Expenditure Estimate stuck into the book with the waste from sheets of postage stamps (the secretary’s wife, Sarah Brown, was postmistress)

On the back of the estimate we find who provided what. 160 lbs of Veal from Mr Cleverley; 40 lbs of Ham from Mr Maidment (General Stores at 93 Bidden Lane); 300 lbs of Boiled Beef and 240 lbs of Roast Beef from Mr Blackmore (Heytesbury); 35 lbs of Plum Cake from Mrs Bartlett (Grocer at 60 Bidden Lane) and another 35 lbs of same from Mr Maidment; Plum Puddings from Mrs Smith (General Stores at 17 Townsend); the two village landlords Mr Burr at the King’s Head and Mr Poolman at the White Hart provided 18 barrels of Ale each as well as Ginger Beer; plus various sundries, butter, sweets, sugar, calico, music etc.

On 14th June, the week before the celebrations, at a further committee meeting it was decided that: “no single young man shall be admitted to the dinner without having contributed at least 6d. to the expenses. That no outsider be admitted without having contributed at least 1s.6d. to the expenses. That the ringers be paid 10s. for ringing the church bells on Jubilee Day”.

jubilee subscribers 1
List of subscribers to the Jubilee Fund 1

Note the name W H Laverton. I was surprised to see a name from Westbury, my neck of the woods, on this list from Chitterne. He was the nephew of Abraham Laverton, of the A Laverton & Co. cloth mills in Westbury, who had succeeded his uncle at the mills in the 1880s. I have no idea what William Henry Laverton was doing contributing to the village fund. If anyone does know please contact me.

jubilee subscribers 2
Subscribers page 2

jubilee subscribers 3
page 3

jubilee subscribers 4
page 4

The subscriptions amounted to £54.18s.0d. Together with some sales of meat, calico, butter, bread and some discounts, the amount raised in total was £58.9s.10½d.

Several village business folk had made gifts as follows:

  • Mr Maidment 16 gallons of bread
  • Mrs Smith 12 gallons of bread
  • Mr C Ashley 4 gallons of bread
  • Mrs Bartlett 20lbs of cake
  • Mr Poolman 18 gallons of beer
  • Mr Burr 18 gallons of beer
  • Mr Bartlett 18 gallons of beer
  • Mr Blake 36 gallons of beer

So the final expenditure looked like this:

jubilee expenditure 1887
The page in the book listing actual expenditure

A few names here to comment on: Coates from Warminster we still find today at Coates and Parker the newsagents and stationers in the Market Place and Haden of Warminster was the predecessor of S L Corden at the hardware store in the High Street. Corden suceeded Haden in the late 1880s according to the ‘Warminster in the Twentieth Century’ book by Celia Lane and Pauline White.

A few weeks after the Jubilee Celebrations a final committee meeting was held on July 13th 1887. It was decided that: “£1.1s. of the balance be given to Mr Brown for his trouble as secretary, and that the remaining £1.5s. be retained to plant a tree (supplemented by any further subscriptions which may be given) in memory of the Jubilee.” Sadly, there is no description of how the celebrations went, so we must assume the day went off in the usual Chitterne fashion, with everyone catered for and enjoying themselves.

jubilee tree 2
Jubilee tree in its heyday, a horse chestnut planted 1887 on the Green

For more on the subsequent fate of the tree: 1887 Jubilee Tree

With grateful thanks to BJ for bringing the book to my doorstep.

 

 

 

St Mary’s Chancel

St Mary’s Chancel is all that’s left of Chitterne’s two old 15th century parish churches, making it one of the oldest buildings in the village. The nave of St Mary’s Church was demolished about 1861, leaving the chancel for use as a mortuary chapel. Nowadays it’s just used for occasional church services.

chancel st marys

Ivy covers the end wall in this photo dating from the early 1900s. Note the old thatched barn on the right where Birch Cottage is now. The barn belonged to the church when the vicar of St Marys parish received part of his pay from the tithes raised on the crops grown on church land. Typically a tenth of the value went to the vicar. ‘Glebe’ land was church land, so Glebe Farm was the church farm, and the barn stood in Glebe Farm’s stockyard.

chancel st marys 2

In this photo taken a little later the ivy has been removed and the site of the old nave has started to be used for burials. Note behind the chancel, in both photos, the old cob wall that once formed the boundary of the graveyard. The wall was knocked down and replaced by a fence in 1928 when Ushers Brewery, owners of the King’s Head Inn, gave a part of the inn’s land to enlarge the graveyard.

Recently, when a house the other side of that fence was sold, it was unclear who was responsible for maintaining the fence. A trip to the History Centre in Chippenham to see the original 1928 deed provided the answer: the fence is the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council.

st marys plan
Plan of old church, the chancel is the top section. Nave and side chapel were knocked down.

I admire the medieval builders of this church, they had the good sense to site it far enough away from the Chitterne Brook for the dead to be buried in dry ground.

st marys church south
Drawing of old church, the chancel on the right with steps to door now blocked

 

Polden & Feltham at the Round House

Winter is definitely here and it’s time I got back to Maria Cockrell’s story. When  I left her in 1879 I was hoping to find a reference in her letters to her son Jimmy’s business, Polden and Feltham, which he and his cousin Clement Polden had started in 1878, or so I understood. (Maria’s married name was Feltham of course, Cockrell was her maiden name). Maria often mentions Clement in her letters to Jimmy but not their business. Strange, you’d have thought Maria would have had something to say on the subject, but I have found nothing.

Whatever, Polden & Feltham did exist at Flint House until about 1972 and the company is the subject of this blog, with specific reference to a P & F ledger covering the years 1888 – 1897. Mercifully this ledger was saved from the bonfire by AS in the 1970s when P & F closed down. I have been hanging onto the ledger for a while so my grateful thanks to AS for his patience.

poldenfeltham ledgerIt is a weighty tome, beginning to crumble around the edges, but it records almost 10 years of work done by P & F, in the village and nearby. It starts with estimates for work, then hours of actual work done and by whom, lists of materials purchased and the settling of accounts. Most customers were well-to-do village folk, farmers, landlords, the vicar, the school managers etc. Besides mending farm implements and equipment P & F also repaired the interiors of houses. One of the houses renovated in 1897 was my house, the Round House, which had been bought from the Long family’s Chitterne Estate by Alice Mary Langford, spinster granddaughter of Frederick Wallis who farmed at The Manor.

poldenfeltham ledger entry 1897 wallis
First part of Round House entry

This page dated August 1897 gives the work carried out on the left, and list of materials used on the right (plus an unrelated entry in a different hand at the bottom of the left page). The main work done was to the two rooms in the round end, the parlor downstairs and bedroom above. This part of the house was originally built in Regency times about 1814 when the Morris family leased the property from the Methuens of Corsham. Charles Morris died aged 94 in 1879 and the house was afterwards let to the Wiltshire Constabulary to house the village policeman. Until, in 1896 Walter Hume Long of Rood Ashton decided to sell all his Chitterne properties, and it was bought by Alice Langford. Hence the refurbishment in 1897.

I was interested to see what remains today of the works done by P & F in 1897.

panel door
P & F panel door.

The floor boards and joists in the sitting room (parlor) were replaced and remain (under carpet). The sash windows were refurbished in both round rooms and the roadside sash windows are still mostly original. The skirting was replaced in both rooms, but only the bedroom skirting survives. The walls of the rooms were decorated using 12 yards of canvas stretched over battening, sized with 4lbs of glue and papered with 18 pieces (rolls?) of paper and 22 yards of border. None of this survives but I imagine it looked grand.

Three panel doors were replaced in the rest of the house, two of these remain with their white ceramic handles, locks and brass keyhole plates. They are much shorter than modern doors, only 6ft high, causing grief to tall people.

round house 1976
Round House in Summer 1976 the year we moved in

The outside earth closet was completely rebuilt of wood and was still here when we moved in, complete with wooden seat and soil bucket. It was demolished to make way for a car port. I wish I had been in the habit of taking photographs back in the 1970s, but that was before history took hold of me. The completely refurbished lean-to wash house went when the house was extended to accommodate my mother in 1986.

car port building 1982
By May 1982 we had plenty of helpers. Old wash house is the grey building extreme right. Note the tin sheets blocking the gateway in the wall behind, this was to be the entrance to the car port.

front door porch
Front door and porch

round guttering
Round cast iron guttering and replaced sash window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main things that have survived the last 120 years are the porch and the round cast-iron guttering. The porch was constructed with a curved sheet of iron held up by two iron brackets, bolted and screwed together costing 5 shillings 1½d. (25p). While the curved iron guttering cost 14 shillings (70p), plus £1. 0s. 6½d. for making the pattern and fixing. I wonder if this was made in the P & F forge by Alfred Burt the blacksmith.

All in all it was some undertaking, it cost Mr Wallis (if he was paying) £75. 11s. 7½d. It took 5 men to do the work:

Clement Polden, mason, 10 weeks, 5 days, 8 hours costing £11. 10s. 6d.

Jimmy Feltham, carpenter, 2½ weeks costing £2. 12s.

Alfred Burt, blacksmith, 2 weeks, 2 days, 2 hours at £2. 2s. 7d.

A worker named S who I haven’t identified 8½ weeks, 4½ hours at £7. 1s. 7d.

Percy, labourer, 12 Weeks, 5 days, 1 hour at £7. 14s.

When Alice Langford moved in she required more work from P&F. There is a further page in the ledger listing dates in September, October and November 1897 under Miss Langford’s name for work P&F did at the Round House.

They repaired a dresser, put up shelves, bells, stair eyes and blinds and later wardrobe hooks in the round room closet, coat and hat hooks in the passage and fitted a new tin plate to the fire. I remember this walk-in closet, it’s now a shower. The servant bells in the hallway were still in situ when we moved in. A row of brass bells on curly springs, connected to the upstairs rooms by wires. Again no photographs but one last bell hangs outside the front door.

For more on the Poldens of Flint House and Polden and Feltham see link below :

The Poldens of Flint House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Guard and Anti-Tank Gun

Chitterne Home Guard going through their paces on the 2 pounder Anti Tank gun

Amazing what you can find on the internet. GS spotted this photo and passed it on to his uncle in Chitterne who passed it to me saying, ‘I’m sure that’s Brook Cottage in the background.’

The photo was described as: ‘Chitterne Home Guard going through their paces on the 2 pounder Anti-Tank gun’, which looks like a publicity shot, but who are the men?

home guard

Here’s a photo of the Chitterne Home Guard outside Manor Farm, right next door to where the other photo might have been taken. Let’s give them names, left to right:

Top row: H Burton; Geoff Helps; John Patterson; Bert Bailey; Bert Diaper; Leslie Sheppard; George Gagen; Ernie Polden.

Second from top row: Les Mundy; Walt Herrington; Walt Ledbury; George Dowdell; John Lecocq; unknown; Don Wallis; Will Ashley; Alban Polden; Len Moore; Herbie Feltham; Bert Lush (not in uniform); Mr Fagg.

Third row: Fred Bowden (in flat cap); Rowland Pearce; Jack Beaumont; Douglas Piercy; George Diaper; Dickie Bailey; George Macey; ‘Pat’ Patterson; Burt Grant; Willie Ashley; William Poolman; Fred Feltham; Stan Waite; Frank Helps; Lewis Feltham; Frank Ashley.

Fourth row: Len Searchfield (seated on chair); Harry Sheppard; Percy Churchill; Cecil Windsor; Lewis Daniels; Sgt Blatch; unknown; William Limbrick (leader); Tom Limbrick; Mr Snelgrove; Ev Feltham; Jack Poolman; unknown; Bill Bartlett.

Front row: Cecil Saxby; Laurie Wallis; John George; Tony Bailey; Gerald Feltham; George Feltham; Billy Windsor; John Oakes; Gerald Polden; Bobby Gorry.

Could the man standing with arm outstretched behind the gun be William Limbrick, and the man squatting to the right of the case be his son Tom Limbrick?

 

Maria Cockrell Part 11: Jimmy Feltham finds his future wife

On 25th August 1877 we find Maria staying in hospital with the eldest of her charges, 13 year old Eva Hamilton. She writes to Jimmy from The Hospital, Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire, Scotland explaining why she hasn’t written for so long:

It is a very long time since I have written to or heard from you but now there is no fear of infection from the fever which Miss Eva has had and which she is better of now.

At the hospital, which opened in 1876 as Helensburgh Hospital and was renamed Victoria Infirmary in 1897, Maria finds herself in a very different situation from her earlier tour around the continent, and she is missing out on the Summer yatching:

This has been a very dreary time in the Hospital. I have been here 5 weeks today, but thank God I am very well. We had fearful storms here the beginning of last week, washed the potatoes out of the ground and flooded the Railways and did great damage. But it is fine now. The yacht and our people are away at Ardtornish in the north of Scotland. The dear child has not seen one belonging to her but me since she took ill, but I think now she will soon get up her strength.

Maria is concerned for her son Jimmy’s future after he finishes his apprenticeship with Mr Exton the wheelwright, and for the welfare of her newly widowed mother, who may move to Townsend from the bottom of Bidden Lane:

And your grandmother, has she thought any more about going to Townsend yet? I do not like to ask her and she has not said but the time is getting on. I do feel very worried and anxious but I trust, my dearest Boy, you will be kept in the right way.

The following month, on the 18th September 1877, Maria writes to Jimmy from 18 Bath Street, Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland:

I heard from your Grandmother that she is in hopes of getting Dick Parker’s House. I hope she will like it if she does go up there. (I have not been able to trace Dick Parker as a resident of Chitterne, so he may have been a landlord living elsewhere).

Our people have not returned from the North yet but we hope they will now very soon. Be sure and tell me when you hear of any situation. I do hope for my dear Mother’s sake you will be at home this winter at least. I should feel so much happier about her, but I feel you will do your very best and we must leave the rest in the hands of god. We don’t know what a day will bring forth.

Maria is back at Armadale on 7th October 1877 and writes to Jimmy:

The Yacht left for England yesterday the 6th. I hope they will have a safe and pleasant passage to England. We brought dear Miss Eva home to Armadale last Saturday the 29th. She is quite well and getting strong. It is so nice to feel at home again. Mr James (Dennistoun) is to sail for Australia on the 25th of this month. He has made me a very handsome present of a silk umbrella with a lovely Handle surmounted with Silver and my Monogram on it, and I got a china cup and saucer from the sister of Mercy, a handsome hand bag from the Captain and a necktie from the Mate, so I have had some handsome presents this last week.

I suppose your dear Grandmother will have to remain in the old house. It does not seem as if Dick Parker’s wife is going to move.

I am getting very anxious now about you. I hope all will turn out for the best but don’t throw yourself out of work, what ever you do.

The 22nd October 1877, in another lettter to Jimmy:

I have been looking over my memorandums and I find your time is up on the 21st of Nov. I do hope you will not go farther from home than Warminster, not this winter at least. Do write as soon as you have decided.

25th November 1877, Jimmy has finished his apprentice training as a wheelwright:

I am glad that we have been spared to see the accomplishment of your apprenticeship and hope now you will, by the blessing of God, be able to earn your living in a respectable manner. I am very glad you parted friendly and now I must ask you to be as careful as you can try and put some money away every week, if it’s only a little. You are in Warminster and it’s no trouble as I suppose you hope to take a wife some day, but I do most earnestly hope it will not be until you have saved up money enough to make a good home, so that you may begin the world free of debt, and if she is a sensible Girl, as I think she is, she will not mind waiting.

Feltham, Jimmy and Alma
Jimmy and Alma c1900

Jimmy has found the girl who he will eventually marry. Alma Charlesanna Polden was the eldest daughter of Abdon Polden 1835-1924 and Jane Hinton (1835-1919). Abdon was the builder who oversaw the building of the new Chitterne Church in 1861/62 and had a hand in building and repairing many more Chitterne houses. He built a house for his family at number 1 Townsend in 1856 and named it Alma Cottage after his first child who was born in 1855. He and his large family were influential in many areas of village life. He was a freeholder of Chitterne, bandmaster (Jimmy was a member of the band), organist at the church for over 50 years and he and Jane his wife were lifelong members of the choir. He is remembered for all time in the name Abdon Close, Chitterne, which was built on land he once owned.

alma cottage
Alma Cottage, 1 Townsend, Chitterne, built by Abdon Polden in 1856/7.

The influence of this man and his family on Jimmy Feltham should not be underestimated. I am sure Abdon provided the father-figure so sadly missing in Jimmy’s life and from the many mentions of him in Maria’s letters, I believe she knew it too. Jimmy and Abdon’s eldest son Clement Polden (1857-1929) would later form a business together called Polden and Feltham, but that’s in the future and another story.

poldenfamily
Extended Polden family outside Alma Cottage c1905. Abdon Polden is centre leaning on the barrel of beer

Back to Maria’s 25th November letter:

And another thing I should like is for you to attend some classes for improving your education. You don’t know what an incalculable benefit it may be some day and in a town like Warminster there must be many advantages you could not have in the country. It would be money well laid out, even if you had to pay some little for it.

Cockrell, William & Maria 1897
Jimmy’s uncle William Cockrell and his wife Maria, nee Coles, with a granddaughter in 1897

I shall be very anxious to get your next letter to hear how you like your new work, and what wages you will get, and how you like your lodgings.

 

In her last letter of the year, written on New Year’s Eve 1877, Jimmy is working with his uncle, presumably William Cockrell, Maria’s brother, who lived at Portway in Warminster. I am not sure what work Jimmy and William were engaged in but Maria says this to Jimmy:

You must write as soon as you can. I like to hear of you going to work with your Uncle and I am glad you like your work. I hope you will get on well.

The Malthouse and Clump Farm

Some old photographs of Chitterne have arrived from Wylye Valley Post Cards so I’m taking a break from the Maria Cockrell letters for a while. I was searching for an old photo of the bottom of Bidden Lane showing Maria’s mother’s home when I came across a site selling copies of photos I hadn’t seen. Sadly not what I was looking for, but worth sharing with you.

Here is the first, a view of Chitterne from the top of the hill behind the Old Malthouse. It dates from the early years of the 20th century when malting was still happening there.

malthouse view
View of Chitterne with Pine Cottage (Old Malthouse) and the malthouse buildings alongside

How I wish I’d had this photo when I wrote the blog on malting last year Malting Barley in Chitterne, early 1900s because it shows clearly the separate malthouse building alongside the house we know now as Old Malthouse, which was then called Pine Cottage. The malthouse building was probably demolished before 1938 and the site is now Old Malthouse driveway and garage complex.

Clump Farmhouse is just visible between the trees on the right. The first photo also shows, centre left, the extent of the Clump Farm buildings at that time on the opposite side of the road to the farmhouse. Clump House still exists but the farm buildings have been replaced by St Mary’s Close. Which leads nicely onto the second photo of the back of Clump Farmhouse.

clump stable view
View of Clump Farmhouse and stable from the back

Half of Clump farmhouse is visible on the left and the stable building, with an open door, is to the right of it. Depending on when the photo was taken either Charles Bazell was the tenant farmer or, after 1913, Clump Farm had been bought by William Robinson, father of the WW1 victim Harold Robinson.

The twin-roofed house just visible behind the stable is 96 Chitterne. 96 sits on a site known historically as Clear Spring and may have been built to house the bailiff of Clump Farm. The house was known as Bailiff’s Cottage in 1911 when James Churchill lived there. From 1916 to 1935 it was named Laurel Cottage by new owners Edward Polden and his wife Edith Mary Burgess. Since then it has had various names. It was 96 Chitterne under Evelyn and Marabini Feltham, Clear Spring House next, then Pear Tree Cottage.

Beyond 96 is the thatched White Hart Inn, dating from 1651. George Henry Livings was the tenant beer retailer from the early 1900s to 1928. Several landlords came and went until Charlie and Florence Mould took over in 1941 and stayed until 1955. The Moulds were the last innkeeper tenants. The Withers and Newton families who followed were carriers and ran a coach business from White Hart House until the 1970s when the house became a private residence.

Ironically Maria’s mother’s house is probably hidden behind those two trees on the right…

It’s thanks to Julian Frost of Wylye Valley Postcards, who collected and preserved these interesting old photos, that we are able to see them today.

 

 

Maria Cockrell – Part 5: in London

Row Gareloch lithograph
Lithograph of Row on the Gareloch from the top of one of Maria’s letters. She has marked places she frequents: the church, hotel, post office and grocer’s shop, also the school. Compare with the up-to-date photo of Rhu or Row in my last blog

Maria has at last found her safe haven. She remains with the Dennistoun-Hamilton family for the rest of her working life, bringing up the two girls until they are of marriageable age, treated almost as one of the family.

princes gate london sw7
Princes Gate London SW7

For the first few years when Eva and Beryl are small Maria stays with them almost continuously. The Hamilton family usually spend summer holidays sailing and the winter in London, where they take a fine house for the season in Kensington. Addresses such as Princes Gate, Queen’s Gate and Queensberry Place all appear at the top of Maria’s letters over the years. Maria shepherds the two young girls on the train from Scotland to London as she describes in one brief undated letter to her mother from 43 Princes Gate:

golfhill house
Golf Hill

I am sure you will feel thankful to know that we arrived here quite safe last night at a quarter to eleven. We left Golf Hill (the home of Alexander Dennistoun near Glasgow) at 9 in the morning, so we had a long day in the train, but the children were very good and we had a very pleasant journey. Baby is just asking who I am writing to and I told her, so she has sent 5 kisses and 5 loves to my Mother and a thousand kisses and a thousand loves to my little boy.

I have no time to say more, as I am busy unpacking and very tired, but very thankful that providence has brought me to my native land once more in peace and safety.

By January 1868 Maria hasn’t seen her son or mother for 9 months. She is writing from 64 Princes Gate to Jimmy on the 22nd for his 11th birthday the following day:

 

I trust this will find you in good health on your eleventh birthday. 11 years old, only think, you will soon grow up I do hope a good boy and, if you do, you will no doubt grow up a good man. I have sent you a British (illegible) again this year, as I believe from what I hear, you are trying to improve yourself and I hope you will like it and try and imitate the good men you read about, and be kind to animals, for they are God’s creatures as much as we. And I do hope you ask God to help you every day. Remember you are God’s servant as much as the King on his throne, and if you serve him faithfully here, you will wear a crown of Glory in eternity hereafter. And let me beg you to go to school as much as you can, both night and Sunday school and Church too. And if you try to do right, God will help you and bless you. And be careful not to tell a lie, nor be saucy to any one. Never mind about being laughed at if you are trying to do what is right. And be kind to your dear Grandmother and Isaac, and think of what they have done for you. And if you can do any thing to help them, do it cheerfully. You will then show at least that you love them and are willing to do all that lies in your power to repay them and it will comfort me very much if you do so.

I have not seen you now, nor your dear Grandmother, for 9 long months and I fear it will be a long time before I shall see you again, so that it will be a great comfort to know that you are trying to be good.

Maria sees some sights and goes to concerts in London. She writes this from Queensberry Place in the 1870s:

hyde park 1880
Hyde Park in Victorian times

I went out in the Carriage yesterday morning and saw the procession beautifully. We left at quarter past nine in the morning and did not get back till two, but met with no accident, thank God, and did not take cold. The children enjoyed it very much, although it was snowing. The royal party were in open carriages drawn by six horses each. The streets were lined with Soldiers. The Queen (Victoria) was looking very well and the Duchess pleasant but tired.

In the 1880s Maria sees Adelina Patti at the Royal Albert Hall:

 

adelina patti
Adelina Patti

I enjoyed myself very much at the Albert Hall. It was an Oratorio, “Israel in Egypt” (Handel). There was the great organ and a band of musicians with string and brass instruments and 3 drums and 400 singers, yet in that vast hall it was not a bit too much. It began with the words, “there arose another king in Egypt which knew not Joseph” and ended with the song of Miriam. The horse and his rider had (to) be thrown into the sea. Madame Patti (Adelina Patti, who was in her prime in the 1870s and 1880s) sang the solo “their land brought forth frogs even in their king’s chambers”, but what I thought most fine was the bass and tenor, singing “the Lord is a man of war, the Lord of Hosts is his name and he gave them hailstones for rain and flames of fire in their lands”. One tenor sang “the enemy said I will prevail, I will divide the spoils”. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed it very much. It lasted 2 hours and a half.

Maria explores Scotland too, as Constance Hamilton, who is fond of Maria and good to her, pays for her to go on excursions, as in this letter to her mother from 16th July 1868:

They (the adults in the family) went last Tuesday for a tour in the Highlands, and in the meantime I and the dear Children are with their Grandmama (the old Lady that engaged me at Torquay), (Frances Onslow Dennistoun) and of course she cannot be kind enough, since I have turned out so satisfactory. I expect them to be away a fortnight.

I am going on an excursion next week if all is well, to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, the Mountain called Ben Lomond and its Loch or Water called Loch Lomond. It’s at my mistress’s expense. She very kindly paid me my wages before she went away, so please tell me in your next what my boy wants, and I will send the money.

Loch lomond
Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond

Maria writes to her mother once or twice a month and once or twice a year to Jimmy himself. To her mother she sends money for Jimmy’s keep, unwanted clothes that have been passed on by the family to be altered for him, and words of advice or remedies, such as this one for her step-father Isaac:

If Isaac should be troubled with rheumatics again, wrap it up in Archangel Tar*, that they use for sheep, when he goes to bed. Our cook had been treated for months with it and the Doctor could do nothing for her, and an old woman advised her to do it and the second night she did it, she was completely cured. Just spread it on with a knife like Treacle and wrap it up in an old gown tail or something to keep it from the sheets.

This remedy evidently worked as Maria says to her mother some months later on 19th October 1868:

I am truly glad to hear Isaac’s arm is better and could persuade him to persevere in the Tar.

Next blog we will see what happens when Maria goes sailing.

*Pinewood tar, called Stockholm or Archangel tar has a long history as a wood preservative, as a wood sealant for maritime use, in roofing construction and maintenance, in soaps and in the treatment of carbuncles and skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.