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.”
A look back at how the village once was. We have seen many changes in the last 30 years, like the conversion of the old school to the new Village Hall and the loss of some village amenitites. Here are a few examples of how Chitterne once looked, caught on camera by DR in 1988.
Who remembers this wooden fence alongside the Cut from Bridge Cottage to the junction? It was replaced some years ago with the tubular metal rails and concrete posts of today.
The Sportsfield minus cricket pitch but fitted out for football and minimal children’s play equipment. Less trees back then too, but more moles! The Cricket Club was yet to be formed and to take charge of the upkeep.
The junction of Back Road with Pitts Lane. Back Road became Back Lane at the request of residents in the early 2000s. Some older village residents protested at the name change and pointed out that it had been called Back Road for generations.
Still in Back Road, Chitterne Farm building MoD number 15 was on the corner where Back Road meets Farm Hill and Linches Path. It has since been sold and converted to a dwelling.
The Racing Stables before the 1990s conversion to eight dwellings around a courtyard.
Not a great deal of change in Townsend at first glance. The biggest change is the loss of Chitterne Post Office Stores (the white building to the left of Honeysuckle Cottage) the last village shop, which closed in 2000. It’s now a private dwelling. On the right Arch Cottages before renovation.
Bridge Cottage opposite the Codford Road junction with the kiosk building still in place on the left where you paid for your petrol or bought sweets once upon a time. The petrol pumps stood to the left of the kiosk alongside the pavement, but had been removed by 1988.
The petrol pumps, kiosk, Bridge Cottage and Bridge Garage were all under the same ownership in 1988. Bridge Garage was the place for your car repairs and servicing back then, now another lost amenity. Bridge Cottage was sold in 1996 and the garage closed when the proprietor retired in 1999, the building is now part of Hengistbury Cottage.
I thought you might like to see this fascinating article from January 1887 in the Warminster & Westbury Journal. Discovered recently when friends were looking for an old newspaper article about the village 1887 Jubilee Celebrations.
The church was only 25 years old in 1887, someone had been neglecting to service the coke stove!
The father of the gassed boy, Joseph Dean 1846-1927, one of the Imber Deans, farmed at Chitterne Farm (now known as Chitterne Farm East). His wife was Louise Chisman from Stockton 1846-1932. There’s a field known as Chisman’s Field alongside the B390 to Warminster.
Joseph and Louise had three sons, any one of them could have been the victim. Edgar Wilfred born in 1878, George Leslie in 1880 and Joseph Percy in 1881. I have written in detail about Joseph Percy re the Scout Motor Company for an entry in the Chitterne history timeline here: Percy Dean
Wilfred who went on to have a long life died in 1958. He lived in Chitterne until at least 1903 and inherited some cottages in Bidden Lane in 1895.
George Leslie however died quite young, aged 47 years in January 1928, so perhaps he suffered the worst of the gassing as a young lad.
This neat little exercise book was recently discovered in an attic in Townsend. As they say, you never know what you may discover in an old attic. Perhaps something like this fascinating gem, which records the meetings held in the village about the proposed celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee to be held on the 21st June 1887.
Most interesting are the lists of subscribers to the jubilee fund who must represent every family in the village at the time. These I will scan and include in this blog. I am sure some of you will find some ancestors listed, there are a lot of familiar names. But first to run through what was proposed and arranged for entertainment and memorial of the day.
A meeting was held on 24th May 1887 in the National School Room, chaired by Rev. Charles Avery Pinhorn with the main village farmers supporting him: Messrs Cleverley of All Saints Manor Farm; Blake of Chitterne Farm; Burbidge of Clump Farm and Wallis of The Manor, St Mary. The schoolmaster William F Brown was secretary and a very legible one too. Other village worthies: Messrs W Candy, F Maidment; Abdon Polden; Augustus Polden; William James Feltham (Maria’s son); Frank Polden; Clement Polden; Frank Bartlett and others not listed.
Mr Cleverley proposed that “the parish be canvassed for subscriptions, and that according to the amount collected, it then be considered what form the rejoicings to commemorate the Queens Jubilee should take.” This was seconded by Mr Wallis and carried.
A committee was formed, of course, on June 2nd 1887 to collect subscriptions throughout the parish and Mr Cleverley was appointed treasurer. Mr Cleverley then moved “that the Jubilee Day June 21st shall be the day for the rejoicings at Chitterne.” This was seconded by Mr Brown.
The committee was later re-appointed as the Committee of Management and new names added: Wm Compton; Wm. Wish; A J Polden; Joseph Williams; Geo. Feltham; Geo. White; Stephen Sheppard; Herbert Feltham; Edward Ashley; Fredk. Carter; John Smith; James Day. The committee was to be left to carry out all details of the work. In the good old Chitterne tradition the rejoicings would involve food. A dinner for all parishioners over 12 years of age, and a tea for those under 12.
At a later meeting held on 7th June 1887 it was agreed that: “sufficient finds should be reserved to purchase and plant a tree on the Parish Green in memory of the Jubilee, and to procure a strong iron fence to protect the same.”
A sub-committee was formed of Messrs Cleverley, Maidment, Jacob Smith, Brown and Abdon Polden “to procure the requisites for the dinner and to provide for the cooking of the same.” Others were to arrange sports, to arrange tables and provide proper accommodation, to attend to the juveniles, and most important to attend to the beer. Mr Cleverley consented to the dinner being held in his Farm Buildings; the service in the Church was to begin at 12.30 and the dinner at 1.30 and and copies of a short narrative of the Queen’s life were to be distributed to each house.
On the back of the estimate we find who provided what. 160 lbs of Veal from Mr Cleverley; 40 lbs of Ham from Mr Maidment (General Stores at 93 Bidden Lane); 300 lbs of Boiled Beef and 240 lbs of Roast Beef from Mr Blackmore (Heytesbury); 35 lbs of Plum Cake from Mrs Bartlett (Grocer at 60 Bidden Lane) and another 35 lbs of same from Mr Maidment; Plum Puddings from Mrs Smith (General Stores at 17 Townsend); the two village landlords Mr Burr at the King’s Head and Mr Poolman at the White Hart provided 18 barrels of Ale each as well as Ginger Beer; plus various sundries, butter, sweets, sugar, calico, music etc.
On 14th June, the week before the celebrations, at a further committee meeting it was decided that: “no single young man shall be admitted to the dinner without having contributed at least 6d. to the expenses. That no outsider be admitted without having contributed at least 1s.6d. to the expenses. That the ringers be paid 10s. for ringing the church bells on Jubilee Day”.
Note the name W H Laverton. I was surprised to see a name from Westbury, my neck of the woods, on this list from Chitterne. He was the nephew of Abraham Laverton, of the A Laverton & Co. cloth mills in Westbury, who had succeeded his uncle at the mills in the 1880s. I have no idea what William Henry Laverton was doing contributing to the village fund. If anyone does know please contact me.
The subscriptions amounted to £54.18s.0d. Together with some sales of meat, calico, butter, bread and some discounts, the amount raised in total was £58.9s.10½d.
Several village business folk had made gifts as follows:
Mr Maidment 16 gallons of bread
Mrs Smith 12 gallons of bread
Mr C Ashley 4 gallons of bread
Mrs Bartlett 20lbs of cake
Mr Poolman 18 gallons of beer
Mr Burr 18 gallons of beer
Mr Bartlett 18 gallons of beer
Mr Blake 36 gallons of beer
So the final expenditure looked like this:
A few names here to comment on: Coates from Warminster we still find today at Coates and Parker the newsagents and stationers in the Market Place and Haden of Warminster was the predecessor of S L Corden at the hardware store in the High Street. Corden suceeded Haden in the late 1880s according to the ‘Warminster in the Twentieth Century’ book by Celia Lane and Pauline White.
A few weeks after the Jubilee Celebrations a final committee meeting was held on July 13th 1887. It was decided that: “£1.1s. of the balance be given to Mr Brown for his trouble as secretary, and that the remaining £1.5s. be retained to plant a tree (supplemented by any further subscriptions which may be given) in memory of the Jubilee.” Sadly, there is no description of how the celebrations went, so we must assume the day went off in the usual Chitterne fashion, with everyone catered for and enjoying themselves.
Something AC said recently set me off thinking about how I could update the village history pages on chitterne.com. The old-style look of them certainly needs updating, but does the content need updating too?
Over the years I have neglected constructing the history pages in HTML for the ease of writing in wordpress format. In fact I am not sure I remember how to write using HTML, or even upload content if I could write it. Everything changes so often and so quickly my brain can’t keep up. Where are you now Mandy when I need you?
Mandy had the ‘Robinson maths brain’ so she could master computer code no problem. I wrote the content, she converted it to code, perfect pairing. Together we made the first version of chitterne.com almost 20 years ago, yes really! MS had asked us to create a website for the new village hall to fulfill part of the grant agreement. We agreed on condition we could make it a whole village website and that’s how it came into being.
I eventually learned for myself how to write code and upload, but it never sank into my non-maths brain permanently, I always found it difficult. The village history kept me interested especially after Mandy died and I sank my grief into writing the book.
In 2012 I was lucky, AC offered to take over the website lock, stock and barrel, including the host package, and a brilliant job he’s made of it. For the past 20 years chitterne.com has been hosted by MP of Tusker Technology who recently announced he is retiring. This brings me back to the beginning, AC has found a new host and chitterne.com has been successfully transferred, including the out-of-date (no pun intended) history pages, hence the mention of updating them….which is still under consideration.
“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 there is not much hope of her ever being raised.”
We now know that Maria’s first cousin Arthur Cockrell had been one of the victims of the disaster. Arthur was a Royal Marine based at Gosport, Hampshire. He was born in Warminster on 24th April 1843, the son of James Cockrell of Chitterne All Saints (1811-1857 brother of Maria’s father William) and Mary Ann King of Bishopstrow, Warminster. He would have been 28 years old when he went down with the HMS Eurydice off the Isle of Wight on 24th March 1878.
The phrase “than I have ever been before” also suggests that this wasn’t the first time Maria had been at that spot. Perhaps she had previously seen the wreck from the coast or from the Isle of Wight, but this time her employers had purposely sailed quite close to it for a better view. No wonder she took such an interest in the wreck and wrote with so much feeling to her family back in Chitterne.
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.
I went to see 1917 the film the other evening. I was interested to see how the film-making activity we all witnessed hereabouts last spring and summer translated to the big screen. So was my daughter who lives near another of the locations on the Plain. But at the cinema, as the film unfolded, all my initial intentions went by the board as I was grabbed and completely mesmerised by the sheer force and brilliance of the story-telling.
That said, in calmer moments we were both able to spot the locations we knew. First came the location for the French farmhouse scene which was built about a kilometer outside the Chitterne parish boundary near Maddington Down.
Near the end of the film the location my daughter had seen and photographed at Pear Tree Hill between Erlestoke and little Cheverell appeared.
There were many other locations around the Plain last summer but I don’t have photos of those. So if you go and see the film, which I recommend, look out for the Salisbury Plain in all its glory.
A blast from the past, taken from the church tower by AS, some time before Clockhouse, Hawthorn and Merlin Cottages were built, as they are missing, but when we still had the red telephone box on the Green and the Jubilee Tree.
Clockhouse Cottages were built in 1998/9, Hawthorn and Merlin in 2001. Here the land behind White Hart House and Elm Farm has yet to be developed. The sheds used by the MoD’s property services agency are still in situ on the old Elm Farmyard.
A For Sale notice is just about visible on The Poplars railings, so that could point to around 1989 or 1998 when the Poplars changed owners.
Note the Cut is full of vegetation and the Sportsfield rather rough, so this was before the Parish Council took the Cut clearing in hand and the Cricket Club kept the field well-mown. The hardstanding under the swings in the Sportsfield is just about visible in this photo. The swings were already there when the Sportsfield was purchased by the village from the MoD in 1977/78 for £800.
Not too many clues there, so I’m guessing this photo was taken in the late 1980s.
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.”