Cotsmere 2

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.

Townsend c1930. Percy Churchill’s garden was behind the hedge on right.

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

Townsend early 20th century

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.”

To be continued…

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

 

Chitterne’s Lost Cottages

Here’s an early 20th century shot of Bidden Lane (Shrewton Road) photographed by Marrett of Shrewton sourced from Wylye Valley Photos.

bidden lane 8

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.

grant, stanley
Stan Grant 1940s

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bygones Exhibition

An exhibition of bygones was staged in the old village hall in the 1970s. It was held after 1971 and since this was written a blog reader has suggested 1975. The village school had been converted to a village hall and opened in 1971, it was replaced in 1999 by the present village hall.

village hall from tower
The old village hall from the church tower

The following photos of the 1970s exhibition are a recent addition to the archive collection thanks to AS, who tells me that many of the items on display came from 98 Chitterne, the home of the Feltham family.

bygones exhib 1970s 1

Villagers and visitors at the exhibition in the main hall. The two gentlemen may be Philip Purle (leaning over) from the Village Shop and Brian Gorry (hands in pockets) of 29 Robin’s Rest. CB has identified more of the group studying the exhibits at the back, from the left: Christine Sprack (wearing green top); Maureen Sprack; possibly Bert Bailey; possibly Marilyn Wood; Philip Purle; Phyllis Stevenson. Could the lady in the bottom right corner be Joan Robertson of Glebe House? Winnie Spratt of 70 Bidden Lane by the window also appears in the next photo.

bygones exhib 1970s 4

Here she is on the right running the raffle with Nora Feltham of 98 Codford Road.

Various old costumes were on display.

bygones exhib 1970s 5

Containers and implements of all sorts.

bygones exhib 1970s 6

A sale of the Chitterne estate poster of 1815 and various editions of newspapers, photographs and journals.

AS tells me that some of the items were so precious that he slept in the hall overnight to protect them. I came to the village in 1976 and I don’t remember this exhibition being staged so it may have been between 1971 and 1976 when colour photography was in its infancy. The photos have that kind of hue from those days, compared with the first photo of the hall which was taken a lot later.

If you recognise anyone else on these please let me know, and if anyone can date the exhibition exactly it would be good to know. I can be contacted via the menu in the top right corner or on facebook.

Peace Celebration Sale 1919

On the 3rd of May 1919 a sale in aid of the Peace Celebration Fund was held in Chitterne. A little book recording the sale was amongst the treasures discovered in Raymond Feltham’s house after his death. It gives a fascinating insight to village life 100 years ago.

Each of the 101 items donated for the sale is listed, alongside every buyer and what they paid. We would recognise many of the sale items such as the cakes, preserves, eggs, vegetables and books.  But rabbits, cockrells, barley meal, fowl’s corn, wings and tips and a boudoir cap? (The wings and tips went to Mr Hinton for 1s.6d and the cap went to Waddington and Dunn for 7s.)

Sidney Smith paid the most, £3 for a wagonette. Other items that caught my eye were: a flock mattress bought by Frank Polden for 6s, a model engine by Mr Brown for 12s, a pair of puttees by F Ashley for 1s.6d, a milk churn by Farmer Wallis for 17s, a wheelbarrow wheel by Farmer Collins for 5s.6d, a dog trough bought by Mr Daniels for 3s, a pony carriage by Mark Wallis for 12s.6d and a tricycle bought by Mr Shipham for £2.7s.6d. Altogether the sale raised £37.12s. for the Peace Fund.

Added to this total were subscriptions collected by the ladies of the village. Mrs Wallis and Miss Canner raised £22.15s.11d; Mrs Long and Miss Collins £33.6s.6d; Mrs H J Smith and Miss Feltham £14.13s.4d; Mrs S G Polden and Miss Robberts £1.9s; Miss Robberts also raised 6s.1d with a mystery box. Altogether £111.4s.4d was secured and signed off by chairman Frederick Wallis and treasurer Charles Collins on the 9th of May 1919.

memorial cross stonemason receipt
Bill for the War Memorial

The little book makes no mention of how the money was to be used for the Peace Celebration. The pages beyond the details of the sale are blank, but between them are two receipts pinned together concerning the War Memorial dated 1920. So perhaps that’s where the money was spent.

School c1919
Chitterne School c1919 with headmistress Florence Shayler on the left and assistant mistress Beryl Feltham on the right

Another possibility is the purchase of peace mugs and beakers for the village children. There is a photograph which shows the children after the presentation in 1919. At least one of the beakers has survived, and was kindly brought back to the village by DS some years ago.

ww1 mug

Passion for Nicknames

frank bailey
Pimple Bailey

 

I first heard of the village passion for nicknames from my mother who told me a tale about two good-looking footballer boys from Chitterne who regularly came to Warminster to play when she was a teenage football supporter. They were ‘Pont’ and ‘Pimp’ Bailey (this was the 1920s before ‘pimp’ had seedy connotations!) It wasn’t until I came to live in Chitterne that I found out that ‘Pont’ was short for ‘Ponton’ and ‘Pimp’ was short for ‘Pimple’ and that their real names were George (born 1896) and Frank (born 1904, killed in WW2). Frank was the youngest of the Bailey tribe hence the nickname ‘Pimple’ but I still have no clue where George Bailey’s nickname ‘Ponton’ came from.

george bailey
Ponton

 

The nicknames, for men only as far as I know, were so commonly used that sometimes the man’s original name was unknown, even by his children or his relatives, as in this story told to me by the late Raymond Poolman.

One day Ray was stopped by a stranger to the village who asked Ray if he knew where he might find Alfred Charles Poolman. Ray had no idea and replied: “Never heard of him.” But later discovered it was his own uncle, who, to all and sundry was known as ‘Bob’ and lived less than 100 yards away.

gunner poolman
Gunner Poolman

In another tale gleaned from the Poolman family, Anthony George Poolman (born 1925) always thought that his father was using a nickname when he called his wife ‘Minnie Matilda’. He said it was a shock when at her funeral the vicar intoned “Minnie Matilda Poolman” over her body, as he at last realised it was his mother’s real name. She was born Minnie Matilda Bachelor (1885-1968). Anthony’s father did have a nickname though, he was Harry ‘Gunner’ Poolman (1880-1971). I have no idea why ‘Gunner’, as he was a cowman, perhaps he was good shot.

This Anthony Poolman is not to be confused with another Anthony Poolman (1933-2000), who would ever be known as ‘Pip’ Poolman, thanks to a comment made by his grandmother. On seeing him for the first time she said: ” What a little Pip!”

The reason behind some of the nicknames is very clear, as in the case of Fred ‘Bammer’ Poolman, (1883-1969 below left), a good batsman; Ray ‘Tunnox’ Poolman (1933-2017), a well built chap; Burt ‘Chirpy’ Grant (1890-1966 below centre left), a cheerful character and George ‘Spriggy’ Dowdell (born 1899 below centre right), who was never still. Frank Maidment (1861-1952) had two nicknames depending on which hat he was wearing, ‘Crummy’ when a baker and ‘Daddy’ when a Baptist Preacher; Reg ‘Tippy’ Billet (1897-1965), the postman, wore large steel tips on his hobnailed boots and William ‘Tec’ Brown (1872-1941 below right) was a real Scotland Yard detective.

Some nicknames were almost cruel and you wonder if the men were actually called that to their face. Was Alfred ‘Crabby’ Burt (1885-1957 below centre), the blacksmith, really crabby? And Frederick ‘Duffy’ Paterson (1885-1952), the shepherd, a duffer? And what prompted Hubert ‘Starchy’ Burton’s (1908-1995 below right) nickname?

Other names echoed the surname, Walter Henry ‘Sugary’ Sweet (1878-1918), or John ‘Chippy’ Oakes (above left) for instance, but some didn’t, ‘Snowy’ wasn’t called White, he was Charles Gordon Goodenough!

If any blog-readers know of more Chitterne nicknames, I would be glad to hear of them. I can be contacted via ‘Contact’ on the menu in the top right corner of this page.

Maria Cockrell Part 12: Maria in the Channel Islands and Normandy

At Whitsun in June 1878 Maria went home to see her family in Chitterne and Imber. In Chitterne in those days Whitsun was the big summer festival of the year and everyone would be on holiday from work for a day to celebrate with music, dancing and other amusements. No doubt Maria’s son Jimmy would have been playing in the Chitterne Brass Band.

A week later Maria is aboard the Hamilton family’s favourite Yacht Diana. She writes to Jimmy on the 16th June 1878 from aboard the yacht anchored in Portland Bay, Dorset:

Here we are in the midst of the Channel Fleet. They left Spithead on Friday last. We left Portsmouth Harbour about ½ past 12 on Saturday and anchored at ½ past 9 in the evening, a splendid run of 60 miles. It has been a lovely day here and we hope to leave tomorrow morning, if all is well for Guernsey, on our way to Jersey.

You would be much interested if you were here, as there are 9 ships of the line and four or five turret ships and some Gun Boats and a training ship. I should think such a fleet of heavy armour was never seen in Portland before.

I suppose all your Whitsuntiding is over now and you are settling down to work in good earnest.

channel islands map

She writes to Jimmy again on the 20th June from the yacht anchored in St Malo Bay, France:

We left Guernsey last Monday and went to Jersey, but the heat! I never felt any thing like it, not even in Italy. We had a splendid sail across and lay in the Harbour close to the Pier, which was not at all pleasant, there being so many Steamboats constantly loading with the produce of Jersey, one going every day to Covent Garden in London.

I am so glad you have got your Pig and hope it will do well and that you will always be able to get one. I am glad you go to see poor George Feltham (died aged 22 years in June 1878), and what a comfort he is ready to go. May we all be ready when the time shall come.

Many villagers at the time kept a pig or two to provide them with bacon and pork. Jimmy was no exception. He was a member of the Pig Club from 1891 until 1928 when it folded. For more on this see my blog Chitterne Pig Club.

Maria describes Guernsey to her mother in a letter dated 21st June:

guernsey coin
Guernsey 8 Doubles coin

We left Portland last Monday and were rolling about all night in a dead calm and a heavy swell, but a little breeze sprung up and we arrived quite safe on Tuesday afternoon. This is the most lovely place I have seen out of Italy, a sort of half French half English place. They have a different coinage to ours, a penny is called 8 doubles and they call the Queen the Duchess of Guernsey. But such Fruit, Flowers and Vegetables! Geraniums grow like Nettles and Fuchsias every where and such Roses! Mrs Hamilton hired a Carriage and Pair and took the Captain and I a beautiful drive yesterday. I do like seeing new places. The sky and water are intensely blue, and there is plenty of Fish. The town itself (St Peter Port) reminds me of Dieppe in France.

Maria wrote again to her mother from Yacht Diana anchored at Portsmouth on 11th July 1878. Meantime the yacht had sailed the party to France as Maria explains:

I have enjoyed my trip to France very much. We went to Cherbourg from St Malo, had a splendid sail. At Cherbourg we were most hospitably entertained at the English Consulate. Very nice people, distant relations of the Lapgary (?) Hamiltons. On Monday we left Cherbourg about 20 minutes past ten and anchored in Portsmouth harbour at quarter past 6. The dear little “Diana” just flew over the waves, sometimes going 12 knots or 12 miles an hour. It was glorious, although the decks were one sheet of water, as going so swiftly made her throw the spray proudly over her. We passed closer to the “Eurydice” than I have ever been before, and I must confess, going at such speed at such a place made me feel a little nervous. I fear here is not much hope of her ever being raised.

HMS_Eurydice
HMS Eurydice sinking 1878 from the Illustrated London News

HMS Eurydice was a 26-gun Royal Navy corvette, the victim of one of Britain’s worst peacetime naval disasters when she sank on 24th March 1878 off the Isle of Wight. The wreck was refloated later that same year but had been so badly damaged during her submersion that she was then subsequently broken up. So it appears that Maria saw the ship during the short time after it had been raised but before it was salvaged and broken up that same year. This enabled us to accurately date the year of these letters of Maria’s to 1878. As usual she hadn’t bothered to add a year.

normandy headress
Headdress of Normandy, France

Maria goes on:

I wish you could see how quaint and funny the people dress in the part of France where we have been. The maidens about 14 wear close fitting muslin caps and the married women thick muslin caps without Borders, the crowns about a foot high. I should think they must be starched and then dried in a shape. And short petticoats of course. No Bonnets either to Church or Market, and all wear wooden shoes, the toes pointed and curled up, but very clean looking. So you see, they are not like us, change the dress with every Breath of Fashion.

I hope you will be able to read this, but I am writing on deck and the wind seems very much inclined to toss it to the waves for a plaything.

I don’t know where we are bound to next, but I think towards Scotland, calling at most of the ports on our way. I expect we shall be here for some days.

Maria Cockrell Part 7: Sailing around this ‘sea girt’ isle

7 queens gate
Queen’s Gate, Kensington

Maria spends winters in London as usual. From Christmas 1870 to Easter 1871 she is with the Hamilton family who have taken a house at 7 Queen’s Gate, Kensington.  She spends Summer 1871 and 1872 in Scotland at Armadale, Row.

Summer 1872 turns out to be terrible as Maria says to Jimmy on 11th July:

…a great many people ill here…it’s the wet cold summer. It pours with rain nearly every day. There has not been such a wet summer known in this part of Scotland for thirty years.

During Summer 1873 Maria goes sailing around the western coast of England, Wales and Scotland aboard the Yacht “Julia”, from Gosport on the south coast. I’ll let Maria tell the story of the trip with extracts from her letters written between late June and November:

I am sure Jimmy and you will be glad to get a line from me now that I have been a week at sea. In the first place, tell Mrs George she was quite right about my being bilious, for I do not think I ever had it worse. It began Friday night and lasted me till Sunday morning. The worst of it was we were in a heavy sea a great part of the time. We got to Southampton Saturday night and I went on shore to Church twice on Sunday. Monday morning we left for Torquay but did not reach it till Wednesday morning.  We were lying off Portland, where they send the transports, for a day and a night in a heavy swell without a breath of wind so we saw plenty of it; more than I hope to see again or any one that belongs to me*.

*Was Maria thinking of James Feltham, her wayward husband, here? Although the transport of convicts had been reduced since the passing of the Penal Servitude Act of 1857, the last transports reached Australia in 1868.

I saw a good bit of the Isle of Wight and now I have seen a good many miles of our own sea girt isle, and the more I see, the more I love her.

Torquay was delightful. I went ashore both days we were there and called on some old friends and as usual was much warmly received. I went over some of the walks and went to see the house where I had lived*, and I could not help feeling very thankful for the mercies of the past six years.

*The house Maria had lived in with Lady Bisshopp and Walter Long.

We went from Torquay to Dartmouth, a very pretty place where there is an old church, 5 hundred years old, also some very old buildings, so I spent a very pleasant day in Dartmouth. From thence we went to Plymouth, where we spent Sunday. A very large place, full of Soldiers and Sailors, and very strong fortifications. They seem to be building very strong fortifications all round the coast, but I trust they will not be used in real combat in our day.

This is what the Sailors call a dirty day, raining and blowing hard, so I am very glad we are anchored here. We are taking in water and provisions to going round the Lands End, as we are now very near it in Cornwall.

I was able to keep on deck till we passed the Lizard, but I did not see the Lands End as I was too sea sick. When the wind is against us, instead of keeping straight on, we are obliged to tack about like a horse with a heavy load behind him would do going to Ansty (Chitterne Ansty – a reference to the hill on the B390 there).

I am very well and very comfortable and have got every thing into my own way again, and every one is very kind. The Captain is a Baptist and I believe every one of the crew are Dissenters. It must cost a pretty penny as there are twenty of us altogether. The lowest sailor gets 25/- (shillings) per week and two suits of clothes, and the Mate, Captain and Steward much more.

Wales is very pretty. I went to Church in the morning and Chapel in the evening at Milford and went into several shops. The women’s high hats looked very funny. When we arrived at Holyhead on Wednesday morning, there was not a single vessel in the harbour, but it soon began to blow a gale, so that by Thursday middday there were more than 50 ships had put in for shelter. It was very grand and it shows what traffic there is on the sea.

There is a beautiful breakwater 2 miles long, which makes it very snug, for as soon as the vessels get inside, the water is comparatively smooth. It abated a little on Friday and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we left for Scotland and before ten at night I could just discern the Irish coast on the one hand and the Isle of Man on the other. It was a nice night and we had a fair wind and kept on and dropped anchor at half past 1 on Saturday at Stranraer.

Then I packed, took the train at 5 o’clock and came through quite a new part of Scotland, to us very wild and mountainous. We got off the train at 9 at night and then had 9 miles to drive. So you may think we were all very tired. We expect to remain here till Thursday and then join the yacht and go back to Armadale, which we hope to reach by next Sunday.

I did not go ashore till Sunday morning as the dear Children were in bed and asleep before we got in sight of Armadale. We were only there 8 nights after being away so long, and 1 day I was in Glasgow and 2 days in Helensburgh, so there is no rest for me.

Yesterday was a pouring wet day and heavy squalls of wind, but in spite of this we left home and were just driven to Rothesay, where we anchored for the night. And this morning we came on to Lamlash. We had a dreadful sea this morning, her bows under water at times and 3 or 4 times a big wave dashed right over her stern completely, drenching us as we sat on deck.

There were grand doings at Oban, Highland Games, of which you would not understand, but the dancing was very nice. Gentlemen dancing for prizes, the Sword Dance, Scotch Reels and Highland, all dressed in Kilts and no music but the Bagpipes, and no Ladies allowed to compete. All the yachts in harbour were dressed from stem to stern. The “Julia” looked beautiful. And, a grand display of fireworks from the yachts, answered by those on shore at night. It was really very pretty.