Yew Tree Cottages stood beside the Green in 1921, between the village school and the county police house. They still stand, but are now combined into one dwelling called Bow House. By a stroke of good luck we have a photograph of Yew Tree Cottages taken a few months before the 1921 census, in December 1920.
Two things are striking about this old photo, the yew tree that gave its name to the cottages in the front garden of number 44, and 44’s thatched roof.
Who lived in the cottages? The 1921 census tells us that Edward and Maud Pain lived in number 43. Edward and Maud, both from Somerset, were newly weds. Edward was a baker, and he and Maud had a son, Norman Wilfred James, the following year. I have no record of them in the village after 1926. At one time the cottage had been a grocery shop run by Thomas Grant, when it was part of the Chitterne estate owned by Sir William Onslow in the 1880s.
Frank and Rosa Polden lived in number 44 in 1921. Frank, one of Abdon Polden’s sons, was a mason and a part of the Polden Brothers building company. In 1886 he married Rosa, the daughter of William Brown, the Chitterne schoolmaster from 1867-1906. Rosa was assistant mistress at the school in her father’s time as headmaster. Frank and Rosa had no children and took in lodgers. In 1921 Charles Bland lodged with them. Charles may have been a builder working with Polden Brothers because he later built a new house for himself at Townsend called Cotsmere, the one we know today as Red House, number 4 Townsend.
Two other Poldens are listed on the 1921 census at 44 Yew Tree Cottages, Wilfred Henry Polden from Herefordshire and Charlotte Mary Polden of Chitterne, but I have not been able to find out who they were.
Further research on the identity of Wilfred and Charlotte shows that there is a mistake on the census. Wilfred and Charlotte’s name is Pain, not Polden, and they are the parentsof Edward Pain who lived next door. Charlotte Mary’s maiden name was Brown, she was another daughter of William Brown, and the younger sister of Rosa. She was always known as Polly. Polly had married Wilfred Pain in Reading, Berkshire in 1892. Wilfred came from Berrington, Herefordshire. Thank you very muchJ & RR for this new information.
The extension, just visible to the right of the photo was an old army hut, which contained a kitchen and a room. This was replaced much later by a new brick extension. The thatch was replaced with tiles by Archie Dean.
It appears from a parish map of Chitterne All Saints circa 1850 that the Green was once a village pond. In those days the cottages were called Pool Cottages, or The Pool.
Porch Cottage was once the name of the little cottage squashed between 17 Townsend and the back of 19 Townsend. It has an interesting past.
When this 1950s photo was taken, the cottage was numbered 18 Townsend and still looked like a separate dwelling. Now it is part of 17 Townsend and looks like this.
In 1771 this cottage was leased by John Till for 99 years from the owners of the Chitterne estate, the Methuen family of Corsham. In 1826 the cottage was offered for sale along with the rest of the Methuen’s estate in Chitterne. It was acquired by Warminster Union, who ran the Warminster workhouse for poor people in need, and stayed under their ownership until 1905, when William Chant bought it from them.
Earlier, widower Robert Wansborough, lived here in 1861 with his son Thomas, who was deaf and dumb. Robert died aged 77 years in 1888 but Thomas continued to live in the cottage with his sister Ann Dewey until at least 1901. He eventually moved to the Warminster Workhouse and died there in 1915 aged 82 years.
Going back to William Chant. Willie Chant was a grocer from Shrewton, who lived in Tilshead and ran a shop there. He married Maggie Smith, of the Chitterne Smith family, at the Baptist Chapel in Bidden Lane in 1905. Maggie’s parents, Jacob and Elizabeth, were also shopkeepers who already owned both 16 and 17 Townsend, and had built the grocers at number 17 between 1871 and 1881. Now the cottage came under the control of the same family, albeit owned particularly by Willie Chant, although Willie and Maggie continued living and working in Tilshead and brought up their family there.
In 1911 our cottage, number 18, was occupied by yet another member of the extended Smith family. Willie had let the cottage to Maggie’s sister, Florence Sainsbury and her husband William, who was a groom at the Racing Stables. Florence died in 1915 and the cottage does not appear in the 1921 census, nor is it mentioned by Rev Canner in his vicar’s visiting book of 1925, so maybe it became absorbed into the shop premises at that time.
However, we do know that Willie Chant sold number 18 for £50 to grocers Francis and Alice Perrett in 1932. Francis also bought numbers 16 and 17 Townsend from Henry John Smith, eldest son of Jacob and Elizabeth. So, definitely, from 1932 the little cottage has been part of the house next door.
With grateful thanks to EE who allowed me access to the deeds of her house, which informed much of this blog.
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?
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.
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!
An extraordinary deposit of “the best clay in England for the making of clay pipes” is to be found above the chalk on Chitterne St Mary Down between the Codford and Shrewton roads. The hill is known as Clay Pit Hill. The almost pure white clay is mixed with round pebbles varying from small to about 5 inches across.
On a windy Wednesday in January 2007 I accompanied Rod and Dyana Fripp, from Perth, Western Australia, to Clay Pit Hill where, over 350 years ago, Rod’s ancestor, Edward Fripp, held a licence to dig clay for the manufacture of clay pipes.
Edward Fripp, Rod’s 12 x great grandfather, was born in Chitterne about 1616. He married Mary Merewether around 1650. Edward, and Mary’s brother, Christopher Merewether, were in business supplying clay from Chitterne to the Gauntlet family of tobacco pipe manufacturers in Amesbury.
The site of the old clay pits are on private land and covered in trees that shelter pheasant rearing pens. Before venturing out we had gained permission to visit the site.
At Clay Pit Hill the pits are deep craters, some with steep sides, some shallow, one filled with water, but all very obvious despite the undergrowth. I was astonished, as we had been led to believe that there wasn’t much to see, but we found the white clay and pebbles exposed near the wet pit, where the leaf mold had been washed away. Unfortunately the conditions for photography were poor.
Some years ago I came across a document at the Record Office (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre) that mentioned the licence granted in 1651 to Edward Fripp and Christopher Merewether by Henry Paulet, Lord of the Manor. As part of their agreement they were licenced to dig for one year and permitted to remove 30 loads of clay and cart them to Amesbury. But it is obvious that many more than 30 loads of the clay have been dug from the pits, as some of them are deeper than a man is tall, even after 350 years of erosion and filling by leaf mulch. So presumably the clay pits were in use long before tobacco was ever brought to England. The clay is said to have been used in the building of Chitterne St Mary Manor, and the round pebbles decorate many a Chitterne garden, but it would be interesting to know who thought of using the clay to make tobacco pipes.
Fripp and Merewether also agreed to pay Henry Paulet £10 for the licence and give him 8 gross of pipes. That makes 1,152 pipes if my reckoning is correct. Lord Paulet must have been a heavy smoker.
The fragments of clay pipes in this photograph were dug up in the Round House garden. None of them have the Gauntlet identification mark so I suspect they are of later manufacture, but I like to think that they are made of Chitterne clay. Traditionally clay tobacco pipes are associated with curates and one Joseph Brown Morris, curate of Imber 1808-1815, lived at the Round House so perhaps he smoked these pipes.
DF carries on his memories of moving to Cotsmere, Townsend, Chitterne in 1944:
“Second Saga: Water supply to Cotsmere.
Having sought and given permission by the MOD to connect into the MOD Water supply that supplied the Stables in the back lane area, a farm building then that formed part of Mr Long’s farm, my father had to plan and decide the proposed route and of course what it would cost. It was decided to hand excavate a trench 75cm deep and 30cm wide from the rear area of the stables to the Cut (Chitterne Brook), then along the Cut to an area adjacent to Percy Churchill’s garden area, where a bungalow is now sited (Fieldview), across this area and the road to Cotsmere.
Having decided on this and then taken in consideration that the work would have to be carried out when the Cut was dry, the job was put on hold temporarily. In the meantime property holders along the route were approached to either help or pay towards the costs so that they could then connect to it. My dad needed to know who was interested as this would have determined the size of the pipe that he planned to install. Needless to say no-one was interested not even Percy Churchill!!!!!
Finally with the help of me, my Uncles Billy Collier and Harry Aston, the job was completed. On completion, believe it or not there were some householders who felt that as the supply was connected to the MOD service they had a right to connect to the new supply, unfortunately for them, this was just wishful thinking. They had no legal right.”
So, in the 1940s Cotsmere was one of the first houses in the village to have a piped water supply. Other properties relied on well water, or if they were lucky a piped farm supply. There were 6 wells in Townsend, which often ran dry in Summer, forcing the residents affected to use the deep well by Lodge gates, or fill their allocation of two buckets a day from the Chitterne Farm supply.
The water supply at Chitterne Farm (The Stables were part of Chitterne Farm at that time, as DF says) had been installed by the John Wallis Titt Company in the 1930s. The firm were contracted by the MOD to sink a borehole 300 feet deep in 1934 to carry out a pumping test and if successful install a pumped water supply.
Mains water came to the village before we came in 1976, although we were still using Glebe Farm supply at that time and for many years after. The Wessex Water Pumping Station on the Tilshead road was built in the 1980s and opened in 1988.
The people DF mentions are Mr Long the farmer: Robert William Long (1878-1953) was the farm manager for R J Farquharson at the Chitterne Farm Estate from 1906 to 1937, and carried on the same role from 1937 to 1955 as tenant of the MOD.
Percy Richard William Churchill (1909-1966) lived at 10 Townsend and was the father of the late Timothy Churchill.
Cotsmere was the name given to a house at Townsend when Charlie Bland built it in the 1920s to house his family. Charlie’s widow Elizabeth sold the house to DF’s parents in 1944.
DF has been reminiscing about the time he spent here before moving away in the 1960s. He recalls the house had few services at first, just a well, an earth closet and a bath you filled by hand, and how this was remedied by his father. First to deal with the sewage:
“When my father purchased Cotsmere, the garden area was limited and obviously this was where the Septic tank possibly needed to be constructed.
Taking this on board, my father approached the MOD about the possibility of purchasing the land area to the West of the Cotsmere boundary to the Eastern Boundary of No 1 Abdon Close. His request was considered by the MOD and approved, that’s the good news, unfortunately the MOD had one problem, their action to put the wheels in motion and get the deal done was dead slow and stop to say the least.
After what seemed ages, my father took it on his shoulders to go in person to Whitehall to get it resolved and this worked. From memory I believe he paid about £60 plus costs for the land.
At the same time he was given permission to connect to the water supply at the stables, however this is another story.
When the time came to start the Sewage disposal project, it was summer holidays for me, so I was given the task to excavate the hole by hand, approximately 4 metres long 2 metres wide and 2 metres deep with pick axe & shovel and a wheel barrow.
My father would not hire an Excavator with operator as the price then was about £2.50 an hour and he thought that was extortionate.
So the next move, was to dispose of the spoil removed. To this end, my father was aware that there was a disused well by the side of the road only a short distance from our property so he said, right we will fill it in it’s dangerous !!!! And that is exactly what I did, wheel barrow after wheel barrow, the well was dry at the time and was approx 7m deep x 1m wide, believe it or not, sufficient to accommodate all of the spoil that I removed.
When I started, there was a frog at the bottom of the well and as the well was filled in the frog gradually came up to the surface and when the spoil reached almost to the top, it hopped out and away.
Opposite the well lived Gladys Grant and when I started, she came out swearing. She claimed that when the spring waters came back, as the well could not fill up, all of that water would flood her cottage!!! What rubbish.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s an early 20th century shot of Bidden Lane (Shrewton Road) photographed by Marrett of Shrewton sourced from Wylye Valley Photos.
It shows a very different scene from today as the cottages on the right were knocked down to widen the road in the 1960s. The cottages on the left still exist. Where once the inhabitants of the demolished cottages grew vegetables and dried their washing there is now only a sloping chalky bank.
Twelve cottages were demolished, they were known collectively as Red House. In 1936 the end wall of the first cottage collapsed, as reported in the Warminster Journal on Friday 17 January 1936:
“As a result of the heavy weather experienced for some weeks previously, and during the middle of last Thursday’s gale, the end of a house in Chitterne collapsed. The house was that tenanted by Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Grant, who were married last August. Ominous cracks had appeared in the end wall of the house – which is at the end of a rank of cottages – and at the height of the storm the entire wall collapsed, completely exposing the scullery and one of the bedrooms, and leaving a great gap under the roof. The cottage is the property of Mr. Wilfred Dean, and is situated opposite the home of Mr. W.F. Brown, a former chief of the ‘Big Five’ at Scotland Yard.”
Wilfred Dean was the eldest son of Joseph Dean of Imber who had lived and farmed at Chitterne Farm in 1890. William Fred Brown lived at Syringa Cottage.
Stan Grant (1906-1997), the village lengthsman (Parish Steward), had married Hilda Knight in August 1935. He and Hilda moved to 5 Council Houses (Abdon Close) after the collapse of the wall. There is a paragraph in Ferdinand Mount’s book ‘Cold Cream’ that sums up Stan very well:
“By then (September) Stan Grant will have scythed the roadside banks. He does this scything in a smart white collarless shirt and grey waistcoat and trousers. He inclines slightly to finish each stroke and the sun catches the silken sheen of his waistcoat backing. It is as though he came down the road in his immaculate three-piece suit and suddenly took it into his head to take off his jacket and hang it on a branch and do a little scything. He is equally nonchalant when fielding at cover point for the village cricket team which my father captains for a couple of seasons. I remember him standing there in his waistcoat, kneeling gracefully to stop the ball and return it to the keeper, all as though he is not actually part of the team but just happens to be passing when the ball comes his way – but this must be nonsense because now I think harder Stan wears flawless whites, is famous for them in fact, and anyway the pitch is tucked high up on the sloping field some way from the road.”
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.
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 :