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.
Our first season of holiday letting is over, the last guests have gone and it’s been a revelation, a lesson in human psychology and a steep learning curve for us, but an enjoyable venture nonetheless. (See earlier blog Stable to Nest for more background).
I felt a bit scared at first to be honest, a feeling echoed by one of our grandsons who said, in a slightly horrified voice: “You’re going to let strangers come and stay there?” But back in April this year we were novices on the whole art of self-catering accommodation, and pestered everyone we knew in that field for advice, now we are pleased with how well it’s turned out.
We chose Sykes Cottages as our agents and through them to offer whole weeks only, no short breaks, to minimise the amount of changeover washing and cleaning, although a few guests booked to stay less than the seven days. Of the twenty-one bookings we have had over the spring and summer, most were couples, two were singles, and seven couples brought their dog. The dogs varied as much as their owners, mostly designer breeds, a puggle, two cockapoos and another poodle-cross mutt that looked like a teddy bear. A conventional standard Poodle, with an unconventional haircut, a greyhound and a black labrador. The guests hailed from a wide variety of locations, as far as Cumbria and as near as Dorset, several from the home counties, the midlands, Yorkshire and Durham. Most stayed for a whole week, a few just for a weekend or a short week.
It was interesting to see if new guests wanted to interact with us or not. As hosts to strangers you tread a fine line between being over friendly or not friendly enough. Dave was much keener than me to strike up a conversation with them. I tended to hang back after the initial welcome until I had grasped how they expected to be treated. Very few ignored us completely, most were glad to have local advice available, and some enjoyed longer chats. You soon learn to get a sense of how they will be.
About half of the guests were walkers and sightseers, a few hoping to spot a tank on the ranges, the rest purely sightseeing members of National Trust and English Heritage. One pair were house-hunting, another pair were cottage-hopping and two pairs were celebrating anniversaries. Stonehenge was a favourite destination, also Stourhead, Avebury, Caen Hill Locks, Westbury White Horse and Shearwater. We provided copies of Dave’s local annotated walking maps, ranging from a couple of miles to 16 miles in length, and one energetic walker tried to fit all ten walks into her seven days! She almost succeeded with only one not attempted. Given the mention in our Sykes blurb of Dave’s interest in cycling, only one guest brought a bicycle, a very sturdy brand new electric bike.
Inevitably we had disasters, a run of three, as my mother would have predicted! First, our drains were blocked after only two sets of guests. Luckily, a lovely man from Beales came out like a shot and cleared it in time for the next guests. But, it was obvious that we needed to remind city visitors more forcibly about our sensitive septic systems out here in the country, a mention in the welcome pack to flush only the three ‘P’s, would not suffice. We remedied this by printing out a polite notice, framing it, and placing it strategically in the en suite. It worked like a charm, no more problems, but we do check the drains every week.
A week or so later we collided with a guest’s car on the driveway! Again, we were very lucky in that their car was undamaged, ours sustained a crease in the rear paintwork. It happened when we failed to see them reversing out at the same time as us. That was very embarrassing, but gave us a valuable reminder that we were now sharing the driveway.
Thirdly, one Friday morning the postman delivered two parcels, addressed to an unknown woman at our address. We didn’t recognise the name, I checked it was not the name of the booked guests arriving later that day, so postie took the parcels away to return to sender. You can guess what happened! As soon as we were introduced to the new guest’s partner later that afternoon, I knew that the parcels had been hers. Lesson number three learned.
On the whole the successes have far out-weighed the disasters. Two couples were so impressed with the mattress in the Nest that they ordered one for themselves. We were asked for a few things that we had failed to provide, a masher, a toast rack, larger wine glasses and two extra pillows. As Dave said: “Who uses a toast rack? You take it out of the toaster and put it on the plate!” But the positive verbal comments were heartwarming and encouraging:
“The bread is superb, we’ve eaten it already and had to go and buy some more.”
“Can I move in?”
“I feel I want to pack it all up and take it home.”
“If you ever want to sell it, let me know.”
So we must have got something right, and now look forward to next season with a greater understanding of the art of self-catering.
This is the Beak, a field shown on the 1815 map of Chitterne near the parish boundary with Upton Lovell. The track to the left in the photo is part of the Imber Range Perimeter path as it heads towards Long Trees, which marks the boundary between the two parishes.
Here you see the field on the 1815 map sandwiched between the Imber Range path and old Clarken Lane (see last blog). The Beak belonged to Paul Methuen Esq. in 1815 and was leased to William Ingram whose listed tomb lies in Chitterne St Mary graveyard.
I know very little about William Ingram who farmed the land now part occupied by Valley Farm and behind the Vicarage grounds. He must have been connected to the well-known Ingram family of the Wylye Valley (there are many monuments in the Wylye Valley churches) but I don’t know how, as his tomb seems to show him ‘of Poulshot’, at least that’s how I interpreted the inscription years ago, now very worn.
Getting back to The Beak. If you were to walk there from Chitterne you would take the Imber Range perimeter path (IRPP) and, on reaching the crossing with the permissive bridleway, continue on the IRPP away from the village. The Beak is the first field on your right.
The crossing mentioned above with the IRPP heading away from the village towards Warminster.
You may remember an earlier series of blogs ‘Old Chitterne Names’? This latest map is interesting because it names more of the fields surrounding Chitterne from the time of the Methuen family ownership. The map is a large photocopy of an original held at the History Centre and a difficult subject to photograph, so we will look at small sections.
A section of the map showing the two parishes, Chitterne St Mary on the left and Chitterne All Saints on the right, before they were united as Chitterne. St Mary’s church (211) stands in front of The Manor (220), which still has its east wing, and in front of the church is the old Tithe Barn and stockyard (212 now site of Birch Cottage). To the right are the King’s Head (214), then Bridge Cottage (215), but no St Mary’s Close. Instead we have Clump Farm yard (216/217) abutting the parish boundary, with the old farmhouse behind two farm barns at right-angles to the road. Further west note there is no Vicarage (208), no St Mary’s House nor Little St Mary’s, just Glebe House (209), although there is an unidentified building next to Glebe House, but Gunville Cottages (204/205/206) at the bottom of the Hollow are shown. To the south the Chitterne Brook hugs the verge of the Codford Road, the malthouse (144) is shown next after the road junction, but not the new Clump Farmhouse. On the south side of Bidden Lane, the St Mary’s side, there are many more dwellings than exist today.
The properties held by the Michell family in All Saints are not shown on this map, so the large house owned by them on the Sportsfield site is missing, as is Chitterne House, which they also owned. Although it’s interesting to see that the original entrance to Chitterne House from Back Lane is shown. Opposite Chitterne House is Manor Farm yard and house, to the right is old All Saints Church and in front of it All Saints Vicarage, which was later demolished.
In All Saints parish the old field directly behind the Sportsfield, now known as Garston, was larger, and had three sections. In 1815, spelt Gaston, the sections were Home Gaston, Middle Gaston and Corn Gaston. Not only that, beyond Corn Gaston was another part of the ground called New Piece (top left of the map), which meant that Gaston in those days extended much further out from the village than it does today.
Here is a screen-grab from Google Earth for comparison purposes. It would appear that Garston once reached to the furthest edge of the green field to the right of the Hollow, top left of this 2021 map.
I hope to look at other new field names spotted on the 1815 map later, when time and weather allow.
Grateful thanks to VP for the copy of the 1815 map.
Two interesting old maps have come my way lately that I haven’t seen before. The first is an original map for the sale of the Chitterne Sporting Estate. You may remember we had a look at the 1896 brochure for the estate houses and cottages offered for sale by the Long family in previous blogs.
“Plan of the Valuable Freehold Sporting Estate, Chitterne, Wilts.” Offered for sale by the Long family of Rood Ashton House, near Trowbridge sometime around the turn of the 19th century. The estate has been divided into three lots. (Sorry about the wonky photo and creases).
Lot 1: The largest lot which includes Chitterne Farm, Elms (sic) Farm, Middle Barn Farm, Bush Barn Farm and Breach Hill Farm. Also included near the village are Elm Farmhouse, the Smithy (The Poplars) and all the buildings on the right of the road from Pitts House to Chitterne Farmhouse and Chitterne Lodge. Chitterne Lodge is named as such but The Grange is called The Shooting Lodge. Field Barn settlements included in the lot are Two Barns, New Barn, Bush Barn, Middle Barn and Breach Hill cottages. Woodlands are Fox Covert and Wroughton’s Wood, both in green to the right of the map. I believe this whole lot was purchased by Ron Farquharson in 1906, the man who had Chitterne Stables built and also owned Tilshead Lodge.
On the back of the map are hand-written notes in pencil about the make-up of the Field Barn settlements. These are interesting in themselves and indicate what sizeable settlements the Field Barns were. When we look at the second map we will notice changes in some of the names of the Field Barns.
At Breach Hill Farm is a house with lawn back and front, 2 bedrooms, sitting room, scullery, kitchen with grate. Outside a brick and slate cart shed, a 6 horse stable, a chaff house, a brick, WB (?) and slate barn in a yard enclosed by a brick wall.
At Bush Barn are 2 cob and slate cart sheds, a very old timber and thatched shed, brick foundation WB and slate barn, granary and cow house, stable for 10 horses, chaff house. Cottage has 3 bedrooms, kitchen with oven, wash house, pantry and coal house.
At Two Barns is a very large WB (anyone know what that means?) barn and chaff house, a fine range of stables of brick foundations with corrugated iron roof (note: corrugated iron invented by Henry Robert Palmer in 1829). The rest of this section illegible but further on: Barn with brick foundations, WB and thatch, large cart shed of cob and tile and flint. Cob and slate farmhouse with 5 bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, pantry, 2 kitchens, wash house, bake house of red brick with slate over, cottages of thatched brick and cob with kitchen, sitting room and 2 bedrooms.
At New Barn are kitchen gardens, 2 detached cottages of brick, cob and slate with 3 bedrooms, kitchen with boiler and oven, wash house and pantry each, 2 more brick and slate with kitchens, wash house, pantry and 3 bedrooms each, a brick built and slate bake house with oven. At the end of the lane is a granary of WB, brick foundations with slate roof. Other buildings at New Barn are cob and tile cart shed, a WB brick foundation thatched barn, a WB cob and thatched cow house, stabling for 12 horses and a chaff house, enclosed in a yard are 2000 illegible on timber staging, an iron water mill with sails complete, machinery to wall for traction engine, steel winder on a frame. Outside 3 pits for storing waste.
The only settlement remaining of the old Field Barns is Middle Barn. The rest were removed by the War Department, after their purchase of Farquharson’s estate in 1937, to enable army training to take place unhindered.
Lot 2 consisted of Manor Farm, The Manor, Glebe House, St Mary’s Chancel, the Tithing field (opposite the King’s Head, now part of St Mary’s Lodge) and the water meadows along the north and west side of Codford Road. There are no associated Field Barn settlements. This was later (c.WW1) purchased with a mortgage by the Wallis family who were already the tenants and had been living in The Manor since 1823. After many years the Wallis family sold most of their land to the Harley family who renamed it Valley Farm.
Lot 3 is made up of two farms Clump Farm and Smith’s farm. I believe the Smith family referred to here are the very same Smiths who owned Chitterne Stores in Townsend. Lot 3 also included Clump Farm House, the Malthouse (now demolished) and associated Pine Cottage (now known as the Malt House). Again no associated Field Barns. This lot was purchased by William Robinson a builder of Salford, Manchester for his eldest son Harold to farm, unfortunately Harold was killed in WW1. Charles Bazell rented the farm from Robinson, who later sold to the Webster family who later still sold it to the Stratton family, who still own the land today.
The last part of the estate is the most intriguing. A patch of riverside meadow at Little Langford in the Wylye Valley. How odd! I have no idea how this came to be part of the Chitterne estate, but if anyone knows please tell all. Perhaps it’s not for sale at this time, as there is no thick line around it. On that mysterious note I finish with this map. Next up is a much earlier map, about 1815, with lots of the field names marked.
I’ve just taken a walk up the newly surfaced Hollow. What bliss to walk on the flat without fear of breaking ankles. It has been many years since I have been able to do that. The by-way had even lost its status as part of the Imber Range Perimeter Path as a result of its parlous state. So, well done the council and thank you!
For those of you who may not know its local name, I am referring to part of the old Sarum to Warminster coach road, which leaves the B390 on the western edge of the village and meanders up Breakheart Hill towards Warminster.
The resurfacing ends at another junction with farm tracks almost at the top of Breakheart Hill, but the by-way carries on straight ahead towards an old British settlement north of Quebec Farm and Knook Barrow, and eventually reaches Sack Hill, Warminster. Here I turned around and headed back the way I had come.
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.
It all started last December when he overheard LC say she had a target to run 20 miles every week in the coming year. It sounded like a good plan, not the running, but setting a weekly target for the whole year. A year when he would retire from his desk job after 55 years of work. He went for the idea, but what was his target to be?
Previously, in a good week, he would do three cycle rides of 30-40 miles each, so the weekly figure of 100 miles, rounding to 5000 miles for the whole year, seemed do-able barring work, illness and family circumstances.
He set his Garmin GPS bike computer to zero on January 1st 2019 and by the end of the month had averaged 121.5 miles a week. After retiring at the end of March he really got into the swing of regular cycling and was clocking up 500-600 miles a month.
Halfway through 2019 he was over 700 miles ahead of his target, and ignoring well-meant advice to take it easy for the rest of the year (typical Taurus), he raised his annual target to 6000 miles or 120 miles a week.
Currently (November 24th) his total mileage this year is 6192 miles with 5 weeks of 2019 still to go! He didn’t quite reach 100 miles on a single ride but came close with rides of 97, 95 and 91 miles. His favourite long-distance route is through Longleat, Frome, Radstock and the two tunnels to Bath and back via the canal towpath at 73 miles.
As a result of his efforts he finds hills much easier, and after working out what clothes to wear to suit the conditions, iffy weather doesn’t bother him. He lost 10kg in the first 6 months but has stayed at his new weight since, despite extra carbs at mealtimes and coffee and cake stops on rides. Suitable stops for coffee, cake and safe bike parking are a must, his favourite is the cafe at Fairfield College in Dilton Marsh.
He says he enjoys having a target, it encourages him to get out on the bike and now he is starting to think of a new target for next year. One idea was to try to ride every single day, but he’s convinced that would be doomed to failure. Perhaps a plan for next year would be to do one century ride per month?
Clay Pit Hill is the highest hill in Chitterne parish at 178 metres. It lies south of the village between Chitterne and Codford and from the top you can see the hills beyond the Wylye Valley. The hill is named for the place where clay was dug in the 17th century and carted to Amesbury to be made into clay tobacco pipes. More about this here: Clay Pits
There are two public paths to reach Clay Pit Hill from the village: via a bridleway off Shrewton Hill and via the old Warminster to Sarum road at the top of Shrewton Hill. Both of these eventually join in with the old cart track between Maddington (Shrewton) and Codford that forms the southern part of the Chitterne Parish boundary.
The bridleway starts from the B390 to Shrewton, just outside the 30 mph limit, and cuts south across a field. Usually the path is cleared by the farmer if a crop is being grown, but when I walked it recently the path was unmarked.
Set off across the field heading toward the left end of a line of trees and come to the first bend of the bridleway dog leg, a left then a right.
At the line of trees the bridleway turns left and becomes a well-defined gravel track for some way before taking a right turn. Follow the bends of the track until you see a finger post on your left marking Codfod Drove.
The track bears right but in fact you are leaving the bridleway and joining Codford Drove.
The Codford Drove marks the boundary between Codford Parish on your left and Chitterne Parish on your right. Before you get to Clay Pit Clump you will come across the trig point on the right of the track.
I carried on from the trig point toward Clay Pit Clump. This patch of trees covers the old clay pits and is private land. If you wish to see the clay pits you will need the permission of the farmer at East Farm, Codford.
Turn left at Clay Pit Clump and you are entering Codford Parish. Straight on follows the parish boundary and takes you across fields in Codford parish to emerge eventually on the Codford Road. I turned around at this point and retraced my steps.
The other way to get to Clay Pit Hill starts at the top of Shrewton Hill almost opposite the water tower, where the old Warminster to Sarum road heads off toward Yarnbury Castle. Follow this track for several hundred metres until you reach a finger post on your right. This point is known as Oram’s Grave. It marks a junction of two parish boundaries, between Chitterne, Maddington and Codford. In the old days suicides were buried where the parish boundaries met in order to confuse the spirits of the dead. More about Oram here: Oram’s Grave
If you head from here toward Clay Pit Hill on Codford Drove you will eventually come to the same junction with the bridleway that I mentioned earlier, and so to the top of Clay Pit Hill. This track is most probably the track taken by the carters who carted the clay from the clay pits to Amesbury.