We left Maria coming home to Chitterne in time to see the opening of the new church on 4th November 1862. Before she left Compton she had received an offer of a position in the laundry at Rood Ashton from her previous employer Lady Bisshopp, (wife of Lord Long), at a rate of £16 per year.
Lady Bisshopp was the second wife of Walter Long of Rood Ashton, MP for North Wiltshire from 1835-1865. She was born Lady Mary Anne Bickerton Hillyar, daughter of Rear Admiral Sir James Hillyar and widow of the Rev. Sir Cecil Augustus Bisshopp, 10th baronet of Parham, Sussex, but she continued to be known as Lady Bisshopp throughout her second marriage. The Longs had one son Walter Hillyar Colquhoun Long, born 1858.
We don’t know when Maria took up the job offer from Lady Bisshopp. However, the first letter written by Maria from Rood Ashton, which has no date, just ‘Tuesday night’, speaks of finishing a cake she had taken with her and of sending Jimmy, ‘the dearly beloved boy’, 2 new pinafores, 6 oranges and a prayer book. This all sounds very like Christmas so she may have gone to Rood Ashton before Christmas 1862. We get no inkling from her letters what has happened to her husband James.
From this time on her son Jimmy would live in Chitterne with his grandmother, Euphemia, and her second husband, Isaac Windsor, and Isaac’s younger children. Jimmy would see his mother only when she came home for short holidays. Maria is very conscious of the separation from her child and tells him via her first letter to her mother:
“Well, my dear boy, his Mother has sent him the Prayer Book for Walter and him to be good boys and not tease each other, and they must be very good at Church and sit quiet and listen to what Mr Richards says. Tell him he must pray for his Mother and Father.”
Walter was Walter Isaac Windsor born 1854, 3 years older than Jimmy, the youngest son of Isaac Windsor and his first wife Mary Ann Drewett, who died a few months after Walter’s birth. George Richards was the vicar at Chitterne.
Maria, who is employed to wash the Long’s body linen and house linen, says of herself:
“You will be glad to know that I am very well and comfortable. We have been washing this week. We are allowed a Woman one day a month to wash up the things we dirty in the house, so we wash ours at the same time. I never knew Rood Ashton so quick as it is now but I never was more comfortable in my life. I am sure I have very much to be thankful for.”
This is the only letter we have written by Maria to her mother from Rood Ashton. The rest of the Rood Ashton letters are all addressed to Jimmy. Presumably Maria was able to get home to see her mother fairly often, and her life was much more comfortable, so letters were unnecessary. The undated letters to Jimmy seem to have been written about once a year. Perhaps around Christmas or his birthday in January. The first, possibly written in 1863:
“My darling little son,
I hope these few lines will find you in good health, as I am happy to say it leaves us at present. Thank God for it. I thank you very much for your very kind letter and the pretty Hymn you sent me.
I am so pleased that you can write so well and I hope, if you go to work, you will be a good boy and do what you are told and be sure you do not say bad words or swear, and then God will bless you and you will grow up a good man and comfort to your dear Grandmother and Mother.
Give my kind love to your Aunt and Uncle and cousins and Walter and Isaac, and receive the same yourself, with lots of kisses, I remain your aff.t Mother.
Maria Feltham xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx God Bless you my Darling Boy
Maria’s next letter to Jimmy is slightly easier to date to 1864 as she asks Jimmy to kiss Harriett’s baby for her. Harriett was another of Isaac Windsor’s children, born in 1847, who gave birth to a child in November 1864 named William Windsor, future grandfather of the late Bill Windsor of Woodbine Cottage, Chitterne.
Maria says she is glad that Jimmy had done Harvest (another pointer to the date). She also tells Jimmy she will come and see him before they go to Torquay. The Longs usually spent the winter in Torquay, Devon, and took Maria with them.
The last Jimmy letter from Maria’s time with the Longs is from Torquay, and is actually dated, January 26th, but no year, although Maria mentions Jimmy’s 8th birthday, so that makes it 1865.
“I hope you take pains at school and learn all you can. As you are 8 years old now, you must try and improve yourself all that you can. As you know, my dear Boy, it is a great comfort to me to think that my dear Boy is trying to be good, and you must pray to God to help you remember what you learn and store it up in your mind as the little Bees store up their honey for the Winter. And then, if it should please God to preserve you to grow up a Man, you will think of what you learned when you were a little Boy at School, and it will help you, with God’s grace to be a good man.”
After 1865 there is a gap of two years in the series of letters. Walter Long died in January 1867 at Torquay and was buried near Rood Ashton, and soon Maria was working for a different family as we shall see.
Rood Ashton House no longer exists as it was. Most of the 46 bedroom mansion was demolished in the 1970s, but the 8 bedroom servants wing, where Maria must have slept, remains and has been turned into a private residence.
For more information on Rood Ashton and the Long family I recommend Cheryl Nicol’s book “Inheriting the Earth”, a history of the Long family’s 500 year reign in Wiltshire.
We left Maria in November 1857 recently married to James Feltham, with their 10 month old son, William James Cockrell Feltham, known as Jimmy. Two more mis-matched people it would be hard to find, but I will let Maria tell you her story in her own words mostly, so you may need to sit down, it will take some time.
Putting a date to Maria’s letters has been tricky as she rarely gives us the year, but they appear to start in late 1860 or early 1861. From comments in these letters we know that Maria obtained a position working for Walter Long’s wife Lady Bisshopp until 1860. On 11th April 1862 Maria wrote:
“Just two years ago today I parted with kind Lady B to go to my birthplace and thence to this place of trial.”
Walter Long owned much of Chitterne and lived at Rood Ashton House, near Trowbridge. Lady Bisshopp turned out to be a very good friend to Maria and wrote to her often. We don’t know what happened to James from 1857 to 1860. He does not appear to be with Maria, perhaps he was back in Chitterne with his parents. In later letters Maria mentions having left him once before, maybe it was during this time. Maria’s mother Euphemia looked after Jimmy while Maria was at Rood Ashton.
However, by early 1861 Maria, James and Jimmy are living together as a family at Compton, near Enford, Wiltshire, 10 miles east across the Salisbury Plain from Chitterne. James has a coal hauling business, they have two horses, a cart, some pigs and chickens and grow cereal crops. James is illiterate and relies on Maria to keep the business accounts. Maria is also a needlewoman and nurses the elderly.
Maria’s early letters are all addressed to her mother back in Chitterne. At first all appears to go well:
“I am happy to say our business is steadily on the increase and sometimes I seem to have more than I can do, for I have no one to put a helping hand or go on an errand or anything.”
Her troubles start in April 1861 after she has been home to Chitterne for her brother William’s wedding to Maria Coles on the 4th April:
“James has such a very bad place on his thigh and really his temper is like that, that I am almost at my wit’s end. He almost gnaws me to death.”
In May 1861 we get an inkling of earlier trouble:
“James has two more boils coming on his behind. I am happy to say he has not given me the least trouble since he last took money.”
The death of James’s father is the catalyst for yet more trouble, on 3rd September 1861, Maria writes:
“James has been so very rough lately. He served me worse since his fathers’ death than he did before, and last Tuesday, a week ago today, he went out drinking in the morning and returned home at 11 o’clock and went to mowing and I got the dinner ready and went and called him, and he sent the child in to tell me to bring it up to him. I did so and spread it out before him, when he began throwing the knives and forks about and ordered me indoors with it. And then he began throwing it at me and broke everything there was on the table, 2 dishes, 3 plates, vinegar bottle and salt cellar. Fortunately only one piece of one of the dishes caught me and that did not hurt me, as my stays prevented it. The child went up to Mr Martin’s (farmer at Compton Farm) and told them and I ran and hid in a garden. Jane (servant friend at Compton Farm) came down and shamed him and told him she would give me any money I like to name to leave him and go in and help me pack my traps. He said he would help too but it would be a job to part us. Mr Martin and the Reverend have both given the policeman orders to be about there, and the next time he is found ill using me, to take him up. He will be at Chitterne next Saturday but pray don’t say that I have written to you as you value my life.”
Following this episode Maria’s cousin Dorcas came to Compton as live-in help, and Maria received a letter from Lady Bisshopp dated 23rd September 1861 saying she was deeply grieved to hear that Maria had been ill-used again. Lady B offered Maria the situation of 3rd housemaid at Rood Ashton, which was vacant if Maria would like it, and send Jimmy back to her parents again. Maria read the letter to James and told him if he did not continue to be good to her she would take up the offer.
Over the next year, as his behaviour worsens, Maria is frequently torn between staying with James, or leaving him. On 19th October 1861 she tells her mother:
“…a week ago last Monday he went to Honeystreet and afterwards to the Swan (Swan Inn, a mile from Compton) as usual and after the turn out, got up to a fight with another man and some say James kicked, but James denies it. However, the other man’s ankle bone is completely smashed and it is in such a state that it can’t be set yet, and they are taking him to the Infirmary this morning. He has 4 children and is unable to work. James was also very abusive to Mr Baden, Lord of the manor at Enford, that was passing at the time and told him to go home. So how it will be settled, God only knows, but it is generally thought here the parish will county court James and make him pay all expenses, and if they do, I don’t know what will become of us.”
Maria took up an offer to go and stay with Lady Bisshopp for a week in November with young Jimmy, a favourite of the Rood Ashton servants. But on returning home she found:
“…two summonses, one for fighting at Upavon a week ago last Saturday and the other for allowing the horse to stand exposed to the severity of the weather so many hours. James came home a week ago with two black eyes, as the men of Upavon served him dreadfully. Lady Bisshopp begged me if I found at any time it was more than I could bear, to come and take it as a home, as she could always find me employment. It seems good to know that even in this world there is someone caring for me, and I feel that I have not driven my husband from his home, but he is a slave to drink.”
Maria’s letters are full of thankfulness despite her troubles, which she blames on herself for much of the time:
“The Lord has given me friends and mercies. May he give me a thankful heart, that I may be kept from despairing at my lot, for I know full well that the path of sorrow and that path alone, leads to that land where sorrow is unknown.”
But no peace yet for Maria. On 11th April 1862 she reports her latest trouble to her mother:
“And now my dear Mother, I must tell you of events of last Thursday. I went up in the morning to go for coals, and I did my washing, and as I was coming in about 3 o’clock I saw the house was cracking opposite the wall and something seemed to tell me I would make a late job of it if I started towards Upavon, thinking I would meet him with his load. But I soon heard he had been drinking at Upavon all the morning, and was just started on, so I overtook him about halfway to Honeystreet with the empty cart stopped at the Woodbridge Inn. The landlord and him had been quarreling and James attempted to kick the landlord’s behind, and the landlord threw James down but did not hurt him much. I called him out and told him what I thought of the house and begged him to turn around and come back with me, but he would not, but began fisting at the window and at last smashed it with his fist.
I could not get him away. It was about 5 o’clock and then took the empty cart and horse home and left him there. It was the kicking one so I got William Eyre to unharness it and then put the poor child to bed, and Dorcas and me got all the things out of our bedroom, except the bedstead and chest, but we did not take anything downstairs. Then we sat up till a little past 12 listening to the whitewash dropping, in horrible suspense, when James came in, one eye quite closed, his clothes torn and covered with blood. After I left him he came back to Upavon and insulted the landlord there, till it provoked him to take the law into his own hands and serve him as he did.”
James had been home about 20 minutes when the whole side wall of the house fell down filling the well, which meant they had to use the river water. Thanks to Maria’s earlier actions no furniture was damaged.
“We have no place to be in. James sleeps in the straw. I and Dorcas and child sleep at Chisenbury. Our things are in the barn. Pray for us.”
Next is a letter from Maria’s friend Jane Hobbs of Compton Farm to Maria’s mother who had just paid a visit to Maria’s home. Jane wrote on 7th May 1862:
“Dear Friend, I take the liberty to write to you. I am very sorry to tell you the sad accident of your dear daughter Maria for she come tonight and drink tea with me and very much wished me to write and tell you of her husband’s ill treatment to her Sunday night. Before you was gone out of sight, he began abusing her most awfully and on Monday morning he held the gun to her head and swore he would shoot her and she fainted from the fright and today he has been fighting and has got his face cut open dreadfully and what the end of it will be we can’t tell. We hope the almighty will be with her and preserve her from such a brute of a husband, for we feel very much for the dear innocent creature. Poor Maria I think she is very bad and you need not be surprised to see her at any time.”
James calms down again for a bit and on 22nd May 1862 Maria tells her mother she is much better than when Jane Hobbs wrote her letter, but also adds:
“People seem to blame me very much for staying here, but what am I to do? I have a friend in Lady B as she offered to get me a situation now in London and receive me into her own family again in July. But what am I to do with my dear boy? He is not near well and if I was to leave him with you, it is uncertain how long they (presumably James’ family in Chitterne) would let him stay with you, so I must stay as long as please God.
Maria’s respite from trouble is not long, for in June 1862 James is summoned to Pewsey for driving and whipping his two horses whilst riding on the shafts in a drunken state. Maria writes the following day of what happened to her when he returned home:
“As soon as he came home and I went out to him, he horsewhipped me with a large whalebone whip and almost fetched the blood on the fleshy part of my arm. It is all colours now, as well as my shoulders and back.
In the same letter dated 14th June 1862 she tells her mother what happened at the court:
“At Pewsey yesterday he was fined £10 or one month’s imprisonment and he told the bench he should not pay the money. He should go to prison for he had been before and he knew where to hang his hat. So he was locked up with the prisoners about 2 hours, till the business of the day was settled and then I went and paid the magistrates the fine, and had him released.
For what could I do? A month here at this time of year with the two horses and haymaking all about, and I know he could earn that over and over again if he liked, but instead of being any better for it, he began spending again and got drunk before he got home. I got him as far as Chisenbury (The Red Lion) and then left him and went home and cried myself to sleep.”
Maria soon regrets she had paid James’ fine when James takes exception to her new things. Little Jimmy, now 5 years old, had been to stay with his grandmother. As Maria writes on 8th July 1862:
“We have been as rough as possible since we went to Pewsey. I have regretted ever since that he was not sent to prison. I only had my clothes off one night, and I had a new bonnet and cap, trimmed with white, and he burnt the lot, box and all. He was mad drunk and came home about 7 o’clock in the evening, and locked himself in and took the key out of the door and burnt it. And we were outside, we smelled it, and Dorcas saw the blaze, but we did not know what it was.
He then the same night stuffed all his clothes into a sack and put it into the cart and swore he would go to London, and off he went. This was before the dear boy got home, and he went off somewhere till about 9 o’clock in the morning, and then he came back and tried the door, and we were afraid to come down, so he climbed up the trigger that supported the roof and flew through the room where we were standing, and downstairs and took the loaded gun off the nail and shot it up the chimney. I thought it was at the boards as it shook the place so, but I found when I came downstairs that the soot was all over the place.
He then came upstairs and began talking to the child and asking him what you did say about him. The child said nothing that I can mind.
Last week it was rather better, but Tuesday he threw a butter tub at me and knocked me down under the white horse, but the poor thing looked at me and never moved. Had it been the black one, I might not now be in the land of the living. It bruised my hip, thigh and arm on the left side, but not of much consequence, and he has begun this week the same, for he went for a load of faggots yesterday, Monday, and returned this morning after daylight, without horse or wagon, and we went up the field and left him in bed, and now when we came down he is fled. When he will come again I know not for I am out of patience with him. But I shall try and rub it (put up with it) till Christmas and I don’t think we shall hold out much longer.”
On 25th October 1862 their house is still in a damaged state as the landlord has refused to rebuild the wall. Since the wall fell down Maria sleeps at the house of an elderly couple, and helps them until about 10 o’clock in the morning, before going to Compton. Dorcas and Jimmy sleep at Mr Eyre’s house. Maria supposes they will winter at Chitterne. Mr Martin, the farmer at Compton Farm, helps by looking after Maria’a hens and little chickens, and by offering to ask a lawyer if James will be sent to prison again or not. He has also recommended Maria for a situation at Lake Farm near Salisbury where they need a trustworthy person to supervise the other servants in the morning and do needlework in the afternoon. Mr Martin is very keen for Maria to take it in preference to a situation at Chitterne:
“as he thinks I should always be an eyesore to James’ family, and no doubt that they would do all in their power to annoy one.”
Maria has also heard from Lady B who would be pleased to take Maria as a laundry maid in July, but advises her to take another situation for the present.
“I hope I shall be able to come home for a week and I should be so glad if Isaac (Maria’s stepfather) would consent for the child to stay with you. If not, I must try to place him somewhere else, as I should have so much better opportunity of supporting him.”
Maria also writes to her aunt and uncle, Dorcas’ parents, on the 25th October 1862 and this letter seems to herald the end Maria’s time at Compton as she speaks of items being sold. We get no inkling of what has happened to James, is he in prison? Maria says:
“I don’t know how long I may be here but I do hope not more than another week, and I am much obliged to you for letting Dorcas stay with me. I shall come to Chitterne, and Dorcas with me. (Maria planned to attend the opening of the new Church, Chitterne All Saints with St Mary’s, on 4th November 1862).
I expect it will all be sold off by auction. I will write again when I know how it’s going to be.”
That is the last letter we have of Maria’s sent from Compton, ‘this place of trial’ as she once described it. Soon her fortunes will change, as we shall see in the next blog….
The entry for Chitterne in ‘Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorsetshire 1915’ 14th edition is below with grateful thanks to AS.
Kelly’s directories are useful to historians as they provide a snapshot of a particular place in a particular time. The books were heavy tomes, this particular one had almost 2000 pages, including maps of each county, topographical accounts of each town, parish or village, descriptions of the principal buildings and objects of interest. Plus information on councils, courts, religious institutions, landowners, hospitals, charities, acreage, markets and fairs and transport.
Note on page 1 that William James C Feltham was the parish clerk in 1915. More on his mother Maria Cockrell Feltham soon I hope, when I have read all her 200-odd letters, which tell of an unusual life for a Chitterne woman in the 19th century.
At Lacock Abbey the National Trust currently have an installation to mark the site of the 13th century convent church founded by Ela (pronounced eelah) of Salisbury.
Chitterne was part of the large area of southern England inherited by Ela following the death of her father William Longespee in 1226. Soon after this she donated her Chitterne lands and farm to her newly founded abbey at Lacock, and the thousands of sheep kept at Chitterne became the Lacock nuns’ main source of revenue.
The installation consists of three panes of glass depicting a stone arch, scenes of abbey life in medieval times and Ela’s seal. These are positioned on the grass that now covers the convent church site.
I was expecting a little more than these when I visited, but all inside the abbey was as usual, there were no new items concerning Ela on display.
This is the last part of the 1896 Sale Brochure. Lots 10, Meadow Cottage, 11 the Malthouse, and 12 Well Cottage. Meadow Cottage at first appeared in error in the last part of this series, but is now in its correct place here.
Lot number 10: 99 Chitterne, Meadow Cottage
Three cottages stood on this site in 1826. Presumably two of them are the “building” mentioned in the particulars above, but no longer inhabited by 1896. This lot was withdrawn from the auction.
George and Elizabeth Poolman (nee Ashley) lived here in 1896. The same George Poolman who bought the Round House in 1917. Frederick and Doll White (nee Meaden) occupied Meadow Cottage in the 1930s, and Ernest and Leonettie Moores next until the early 1960s. They were followed by Stephen and Lilian Adkins. Lilian died in 1968 and Stephen married Hilda, they both died in the late 1970s.
Lot number 11: The Malthouse
This is a listed building, built in the 18th century. The house adjoining the malthouse has had several names over the years. In 1891 it was known as Chestnut Villa, from 1901 to 1925 it was Pine Cottage, and now as the Old Malthouse. The house and malthouse were withdrawn from sale at the auction, but at some stage the house was purchased by a Miss Woodley, who sold it for £900 to Robin and Julia Mount in 1938. I have not been able to discover who Miss Woodley was. The Mounts expanded the size of the house, planted the yew hedge in front, and in the 1960s, sold the house for £4000 to Francis and Hester Gyngell. I am not sure when the malthouse building was demolished, I am told a building once stood near the road, to the left of the present drive, but I am not sure if that was the malthouse, nor am I sure when the house became known as the Old Malthouse.
Looking back further into the history we see that in 1826 Charles Baker leased the malthouse, house and garden, and Hand’s Close (site of Inholmes next door) from the Methuen family. Later in the 1800s, under the Longs ownership, the Wallis family of The Manor leased the malthouse for many years when they were growing and malting their own barley, and running the King’s Head. This ceased when it became uneconomic in the early years of the 20th century, although Frederick Wallis still described himself as a maltster in 1911. In 1903 he had offered the malthouse to the Baptists for their meetings after their chapel was destroyed by fire.
So, back in 1896 the house (Chestnut Villa) was occupied by Mrs George (possibly Ann George nee Whittaker, widow of Thomas George), while Frederick Wallis kept the malthouse. By 1901 Mary Bartlett, a relative of Frederick’s wife Ann, lived in the house (Pine Cottage) with her nephew William Mark Wallis. In 1911 the house was unoccupied. Tom Wilkins lived there in 1925, perhaps he was the dairyman at Clump Farm who I have been told lived in the house in those days. There were still cattle-milking sheds behind the house in the 1970s. After purchasing the house in 1938 Robin and Julia Mount raised their two children there. Their son has written affectionately of his time growing up in Chitterne in his autobiographical book ‘Cold Cream’, which is well worth reading to get the feel of the village in those days.
Lot number 12: 94 Chitterne, Well Cottage
This is another ancient house, listed grade two, which may have its origins in the 16th century, although the listing details say late 18th century. It was purchased at the auction by Frank Polden for £38, when it was known as Clematis Cottages, so it may have housed more than one family. The Polden family and their descendants, the Downs, lived there until 1950. It was purchased by Mr Shippam, of Shippams paste fame, in the 1950s according to Bill Windsor, but Lily Poolman gave number 94 as her address on the Church Electoral Roll of 1955. Incidentally, Lily’s parents were Mark and Maltese Mary Poolman of Ivy Cottage in part 3. Under the ownership of Aubrey and Barbara Miller in the 1970s it was a single dwelling known as Well House. After the Millers died it was sold in 2002 and re-named Well Cottage. Sadly, I have no old photograph of this property.
The Edward Fry (see below for more on this) mentioned in the particulars above is a bit of a mystery. He may have been the son of a Martha Fry who was a schoolmistress in Chitterne in 1841, and he was probably only living in a part of the house in 1896, because according to the 1891 records it was Augustus Polden’s home. Augustus Polden was Frank Polden’s uncle, he was married to Ann, nee Lucas, and they appear to have lived at the cottage for many years, perhaps since they married in 1859. Both Augustus and Frank were masons/bricklayers and part of the Polden building family. Augustus and Ann’s eldest daughter, Frances married James Down, but was widowed early when James died of smallpox in 1894, consequently Augustus and Ann took in Frances’s three youngest sons, Leslie, Douglas and Bertie, which is why the Downs were still living at Clematis Cottage until 1950.
That concludes our look at the properties put up for sale in 1896 by Walter Hume Long. The sale started the final break-up of his estate and the the end of an era. This estate had been owned since the 17th century by a succession of wealthy and titled families, the Paulets, the Methuens and the Longs. By the beginning of the 20th century much had changed. There were no big estate owners in Chitterne St Mary, and soon the War Department would acquire the other large estate in Chitterne All saints.
Whizz researchers J & R have looked into Edward Fry and discovered that he was not the same person as I thought but somehow connected to Augustus Polden.The connection between Edward and Augustus is tentative. Edward (1832-1910) was a shepherd from Pitton, Wiltshire. Augustus’ father, James Polden (Parish Clerk), was the witness at the marriage of a William James Fry (1825-1881) and Ann Grant in Chitterne in 1852. We have yet to find a connection bewteen Edward and William James, but they both hailed from south Wiltshire. William James never lived in Chitterne but Edward Fry lived at Clematis Cottage from 1893 to 1900 and ended his days at a cottage in Pitt’s Lane, attached to Pitt’s House, where his daughter Ellen and her husband Frank Sheppard lived.
Part two of the auction of properties in Chitterne held on 12 September 1896.
Lot number 4: The Grange (known as The Lodge in 1896) and Holmrooke House.
The annotation alongside lots 4 and 5 tells us that in 1896 both lots were withdrawn from the sale. The estate may not have been sold until Lt. Col. Richard Morse bought it in about 1918. Walter Hume Long had kept this estate for his own use and let it to his relatives in the 1880s, and then to the Misses Hitchcock, formerly of All Saints Manor Farm, in the early 1890s, but by 1896 the tenant was William Beak, previously a landlord tenant of the King’s Head Inn.
Besides The Grange itself, the estate included another substantial building which housed the coaches, stables and servants quarters. The estate has had a few name changes over the years. In 1896 it was The Lodge, as we have seen, by 1901 it was known as The Old Lodge, presumably because by then the present Chitterne Lodge had been so named by Walter Hume Long, who used it as his country retreat in the early 1900s. By 1911 it was being called The Grange. In October 1924 it was renamed Holmrook Grange by the new owner Ernest Lowthorpe-Lutwidge after his birthplace Holme Rook Hall. The name stuck during Miss Margaret Frances Awdry’s ownership from 1932 to 1949 and Group Capt. Leo Maxton’s from 1949 to 1973. It was after the Maxtons died that the outbuilding was separated from the Grange. Allan Fair purchased The Grange and the outbuilding was bought by Paddy O’Riordan and converted by 1975 to the Long House, now renamed Holmrooke House by the present owners. For more on Holmrook Grange:
Lot number 5: The paddock behind the Church, Village Hall and Bow House.
This paddock was withdrawn from the auction, it was being used by Mr Beak, the tenant of lot number 4, in 1896. The measurement equates to almost three quarters of an acre and stretched from the back of the church to the back of Bow House. GD told me that Leo Maxton sold the part of the paddock behind Bow House to his father in the 1950s, so perhaps the whole paddock was owned by the person who owned the Grange estate up to that point.
Lot number 6: The Round House.
This is my house. It was not sold at the auction but purchased the following year for £70 by Miss Alice Mary Langford, niece of Frederick Wallis of The Manor. Alice was a tutor, she lived here for the next 20 years. Before that, from 1880 onwards, the Round House was being used by the constabulary to house the local village policeman. I am not going into more of the house history here, it’s available on the web, but according to recently discovered letters at 98 Chitterne, it seems that there was some thought to demolish the house after the death of Charles Morris in 1879.
Following on from my last blog here are the details of the properties that were offered for sale by Walter Hume Long in 1896 from a copy of the auction particulars found at 98 Chitterne. Most of the properties were in St Mary’s parish, apart from a couple in All Saints. Some were sold, some were not, and some were withdrawn from the sale.
Lot number 1: The White Hart Inn.
The tenant at the time was William Poolman, a member of the very large Poolman family that had lived in Chitterne since at least 1737. He is usually known as William Meade Poolman to distinguish him from other Williams in the family. In 1865 he married Sarah George, niece of Thomas George previous tenant of the inn, and ran the White Hart Inn from then until Sarah died in 1906. He was a carrier and landlord of cottages as well as an innkeeper and owned quite a few cottages scattered around the village. He has appeared in my blogs before as landlord of 8 cottages in Bidden Lane. As the village carrier he ran a regular service to the local towns and markets.
The inn was purchased at auction for £2000 by Margant Bladworth (or Margan & Bladworth, it is not clear) according to the pencilled note on the excerpt above. I have not been able to find out who that was. It may have been an agent for a brewery as the same person/s also purchased the King’s Head Inn.
Lot number 2: The King’s Head Inn.
The tenant of the King’s Head in 1896 was George Brown. I have very little idea who he was. His name appears in the Pig Club ledger for providing a Pig Club supper in 1895, 1896 and 1897, but not in any parish records, neither does he appear to be related to the Browns who taught at the school at that time.
The King’s Head was purchased for £1350 at auction by the same person/s who bought the White Hart Inn, Margant Bladworth or Margan & Bladworth, possibly agents for a brewery.
Lot number 3: Bridge Cottage.
The sitting tenant, Miss Annie Compton, purchased Bridge Cottage for £55 at auction. She had been living there since before 1891, and stayed until her death in 1931. She was one of the first women in the country to be elected to serve on a council. In 1894 she was elected to the Rural District Council representing Chitterne, and remained so for almost 40 years. She was also a member of the Board of Guardians of Warminster Workhouse until she was 90 years old.
Bridge Cottage is named for the bridge over the Chitterne Brook, which it fronts. The bridge was always known as Compton’s Bridge by the locals in those days. It was hump-backed until the second World War, when it was flattened to allow for easier movement of military transport. American troops who were billeted in Chitterne made use of the Bridge Café run by Henry Slater and Lily Poolman at Bridge Cottage during the war.
Some time before World War II the Defence Land Commission of the War Department (WD) of the British government bought up a lot of land and properties in Chitterne including Chitterne Farm, the Racing Stables and Manor Farm. Manor Farm was run by a tenant farmer under WD ownership for about 60 years. In the 1980s the land and barns were amalgamated with Chitterne Farm and the farmhouse sold off. So today we have Chitterne Farm West, owned by the Ministry of Defence, and Manor Farmhouse privately owned.
By 1939 the Limbrick family ran Manor Farm and lived in the farmhouse. The tenant, William Isaac Hatherill Limbrick, was born in Gloucestershire, but he and his wife Emma Annie née Cave had spent several years farming in Canada before coming to Chitterne. Their children, Tom and May, were born and grew up in the wilds of Saskatchewan.
According to BL, who paid a visit to Chitterne a short while ago, his father Tom and aunt May were almost feral by the time they set out for England. But Tom ran the farm here and appears to have been well-liked in the village. He offered the re-formed Cricket Club a field to play on in February 1939, married Marguerite Willcox of Tytherington, Gloucestershire in 1941 and lived in Brookside (Brook Cottage) with her. Their three children were baptised in Chitterne Church. Tom joined Wiltshire Flying Club and gained his flying certificate in 1946. May married Ralph Carey of Potterne in 1942 at Chitterne Church.
The Limbrick family left Chitterne after the war in about 1948 and returned to their roots in Gloucestershire. William died in Sherborne, Gloucestershire in 1964, Tom died only 5 years later, aged 52 in Cheltenham.
On a hot Saturday in June this year our village dwellings were photographed from a helicopter flying at 800 feet. Last week, like many other villagers, I was offered a copy of the digital photograph of my house and garden. This is it.
The photographer had done his homework and spun a good yarn to effect a sale, but there was no need from my point of view, I was a willing customer. But some of his information was worth telling.
Do you know, he said, that in 1994 Chitterne and Shrewton were the last two villages in the UK to be photographed from the air using the wet film method? No, I didn’t. Do you have a copy of the photo taken then? Yes, I have, and showed it to him. Here it is.
A bit faded from sunlight after 23 years hanging opposite the front door, but now I know why. It was taken using film later developed in a dark room. Your two villages, he said, are quite famous in the aerial photography world.
Chitterne has one church but three churchyards. The present church, All Saints cum St Mary’s, was built in 1861-62 to replace the two old medieval churches of All Saints and St Mary’s. Lord Long gave a patch of land in the centre of the village for the new church. Unfortunately, the land he gave is too waterlogged to allow for burials. It’s ironic, to my mind, that the church builders of the 14th century had a better sense of local topography than the ground-breaking Victorians!
So, the new church has an empty churchyard, apart from the war memorial, and the two old churchyards on higher land are still used for burials. This often confuses visitors to the village searching for the graves of their ancestors. To solve the problem a Burial Guide was created 13 years ago and placed in the new church. The guide lists all the known graves with numbered plans, which had been created using GPS two years before, as none previously existed.
The guide and plans of the two graveyards have just been updated.