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.
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.
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.
We left Maria coming home to Chitterne in time to see the opening of the new church on 4th November 1862. Before she left Compton she had received an offer of a position in the laundry at Rood Ashton from her previous employer Lady Bisshopp, (wife of Lord Long), at a rate of £16 per year.
Lady Bisshopp was the second wife of Walter Long of Rood Ashton, MP for North Wiltshire from 1835-1865. She was born Lady Mary Anne Bickerton Hillyar, daughter of Rear Admiral Sir James Hillyar and widow of the Rev. Sir Cecil Augustus Bisshopp, 10th baronet of Parham, Sussex, but she continued to be known as Lady Bisshopp throughout her second marriage. The Longs had one son Walter Hillyar Colquhoun Long, born 1858.
We don’t know when Maria took up the job offer from Lady Bisshopp. However, the first letter written by Maria from Rood Ashton, which has no date, just ‘Tuesday night’, speaks of finishing a cake she had taken with her and of sending Jimmy, ‘the dearly beloved boy’, 2 new pinafores, 6 oranges and a prayer book. This all sounds very like Christmas so she may have gone to Rood Ashton before Christmas 1862. We get no inkling from her letters what has happened to her husband James.
From this time on her son Jimmy would live in Chitterne with his grandmother, Euphemia, and her second husband, Isaac Windsor, and Isaac’s younger children. Jimmy would see his mother only when she came home for short holidays. Maria is very conscious of the separation from her child and tells him via her first letter to her mother:
“Well, my dear boy, his Mother has sent him the Prayer Book for Walter and him to be good boys and not tease each other, and they must be very good at Church and sit quiet and listen to what Mr Richards says. Tell him he must pray for his Mother and Father.”
Walter was Walter Isaac Windsor born 1854, 3 years older than Jimmy, the youngest son of Isaac Windsor and his first wife Mary Ann Drewett, who died a few months after Walter’s birth. George Richards was the vicar at Chitterne.
Maria, who is employed to wash the Long’s body linen and house linen, says of herself:
“You will be glad to know that I am very well and comfortable. We have been washing this week. We are allowed a Woman one day a month to wash up the things we dirty in the house, so we wash ours at the same time. I never knew Rood Ashton so quick as it is now but I never was more comfortable in my life. I am sure I have very much to be thankful for.”
This is the only letter we have written by Maria to her mother from Rood Ashton. The rest of the Rood Ashton letters are all addressed to Jimmy. Presumably Maria was able to get home to see her mother fairly often, and her life was much more comfortable, so letters were unnecessary. The undated letters to Jimmy seem to have been written about once a year. Perhaps around Christmas or his birthday in January. The first, possibly written in 1863:
“My darling little son,
I hope these few lines will find you in good health, as I am happy to say it leaves us at present. Thank God for it. I thank you very much for your very kind letter and the pretty Hymn you sent me.
I am so pleased that you can write so well and I hope, if you go to work, you will be a good boy and do what you are told and be sure you do not say bad words or swear, and then God will bless you and you will grow up a good man and comfort to your dear Grandmother and Mother.
Give my kind love to your Aunt and Uncle and cousins and Walter and Isaac, and receive the same yourself, with lots of kisses, I remain your aff.t Mother.
Maria Feltham xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx God Bless you my Darling Boy
Maria’s next letter to Jimmy is slightly easier to date to 1864 as she asks Jimmy to kiss Harriett’s baby for her. Harriett was another of Isaac Windsor’s children, born in 1847, who gave birth to a child in November 1864 named William Windsor, future grandfather of the late Bill Windsor of Woodbine Cottage, Chitterne.
Maria says she is glad that Jimmy had done Harvest (another pointer to the date). She also tells Jimmy she will come and see him before they go to Torquay. The Longs usually spent the winter in Torquay, Devon, and took Maria with them.
The last Jimmy letter from Maria’s time with the Longs is from Torquay, and is actually dated, January 26th, but no year, although Maria mentions Jimmy’s 8th birthday, so that makes it 1865.
“I hope you take pains at school and learn all you can. As you are 8 years old now, you must try and improve yourself all that you can. As you know, my dear Boy, it is a great comfort to me to think that my dear Boy is trying to be good, and you must pray to God to help you remember what you learn and store it up in your mind as the little Bees store up their honey for the Winter. And then, if it should please God to preserve you to grow up a Man, you will think of what you learned when you were a little Boy at School, and it will help you, with God’s grace to be a good man.”
After 1865 there is a gap of two years in the series of letters. Walter Long died in January 1867 at Torquay and was buried near Rood Ashton, and soon Maria was working for a different family as we shall see.
Rood Ashton House no longer exists as it was. Most of the 46 bedroom mansion was demolished in the 1970s, but the 8 bedroom servants wing, where Maria must have slept, remains and has been turned into a private residence.
For more information on Rood Ashton and the Long family I recommend Cheryl Nicol’s book “Inheriting the Earth”, a history of the Long family’s 500 year reign in Wiltshire.
We left Maria in November 1857 recently married to James Feltham, with their 10 month old son, William James Cockrell Feltham, known as Jimmy. Two more mis-matched people it would be hard to find, but I will let Maria tell you her story in her own words mostly, so you may need to sit down, it will take some time.
Putting a date to Maria’s letters has been tricky as she rarely gives us the year, but they appear to start in late 1860 or early 1861. From comments in these letters we know that Maria obtained a position working for Walter Long’s wife Lady Bisshopp until 1860. On 11th April 1862 Maria wrote:
“Just two years ago today I parted with kind Lady B to go to my birthplace and thence to this place of trial.”
Walter Long owned much of Chitterne and lived at Rood Ashton House, near Trowbridge. Lady Bisshopp turned out to be a very good friend to Maria and wrote to her often. We don’t know what happened to James from 1857 to 1860. He does not appear to be with Maria, perhaps he was back in Chitterne with his parents. In later letters Maria mentions having left him once before, maybe it was during this time. Maria’s mother Euphemia looked after Jimmy while Maria was at Rood Ashton.
However, by early 1861 Maria, James and Jimmy are living together as a family at Compton, near Enford, Wiltshire, 10 miles east across the Salisbury Plain from Chitterne. James has a coal hauling business, they have two horses, a cart, some pigs and chickens and grow cereal crops. James is illiterate and relies on Maria to keep the business accounts. Maria is also a needlewoman and nurses the elderly.
Maria’s early letters are all addressed to her mother back in Chitterne. At first all appears to go well:
“I am happy to say our business is steadily on the increase and sometimes I seem to have more than I can do, for I have no one to put a helping hand or go on an errand or anything.”
Her troubles start in April 1861 after she has been home to Chitterne for her brother William’s wedding to Maria Coles on the 4th April:
“James has such a very bad place on his thigh and really his temper is like that, that I am almost at my wit’s end. He almost gnaws me to death.”
In May 1861 we get an inkling of earlier trouble:
“James has two more boils coming on his behind. I am happy to say he has not given me the least trouble since he last took money.”
The death of James’s father is the catalyst for yet more trouble, on 3rd September 1861, Maria writes:
“James has been so very rough lately. He served me worse since his fathers’ death than he did before, and last Tuesday, a week ago today, he went out drinking in the morning and returned home at 11 o’clock and went to mowing and I got the dinner ready and went and called him, and he sent the child in to tell me to bring it up to him. I did so and spread it out before him, when he began throwing the knives and forks about and ordered me indoors with it. And then he began throwing it at me and broke everything there was on the table, 2 dishes, 3 plates, vinegar bottle and salt cellar. Fortunately only one piece of one of the dishes caught me and that did not hurt me, as my stays prevented it. The child went up to Mr Martin’s (farmer at Compton Farm) and told them and I ran and hid in a garden. Jane (servant friend at Compton Farm) came down and shamed him and told him she would give me any money I like to name to leave him and go in and help me pack my traps. He said he would help too but it would be a job to part us. Mr Martin and the Reverend have both given the policeman orders to be about there, and the next time he is found ill using me, to take him up. He will be at Chitterne next Saturday but pray don’t say that I have written to you as you value my life.”
Following this episode Maria’s cousin Dorcas came to Compton as live-in help, and Maria received a letter from Lady Bisshopp dated 23rd September 1861 saying she was deeply grieved to hear that Maria had been ill-used again. Lady B offered Maria the situation of 3rd housemaid at Rood Ashton, which was vacant if Maria would like it, and send Jimmy back to her parents again. Maria read the letter to James and told him if he did not continue to be good to her she would take up the offer.
Over the next year, as his behaviour worsens, Maria is frequently torn between staying with James, or leaving him. On 19th October 1861 she tells her mother:
“…a week ago last Monday he went to Honeystreet and afterwards to the Swan (Swan Inn, a mile from Compton) as usual and after the turn out, got up to a fight with another man and some say James kicked, but James denies it. However, the other man’s ankle bone is completely smashed and it is in such a state that it can’t be set yet, and they are taking him to the Infirmary this morning. He has 4 children and is unable to work. James was also very abusive to Mr Baden, Lord of the manor at Enford, that was passing at the time and told him to go home. So how it will be settled, God only knows, but it is generally thought here the parish will county court James and make him pay all expenses, and if they do, I don’t know what will become of us.”
Maria took up an offer to go and stay with Lady Bisshopp for a week in November with young Jimmy, a favourite of the Rood Ashton servants. But on returning home she found:
“…two summonses, one for fighting at Upavon a week ago last Saturday and the other for allowing the horse to stand exposed to the severity of the weather so many hours. James came home a week ago with two black eyes, as the men of Upavon served him dreadfully. Lady Bisshopp begged me if I found at any time it was more than I could bear, to come and take it as a home, as she could always find me employment. It seems good to know that even in this world there is someone caring for me, and I feel that I have not driven my husband from his home, but he is a slave to drink.”
Maria’s letters are full of thankfulness despite her troubles, which she blames on herself for much of the time:
“The Lord has given me friends and mercies. May he give me a thankful heart, that I may be kept from despairing at my lot, for I know full well that the path of sorrow and that path alone, leads to that land where sorrow is unknown.”
But no peace yet for Maria. On 11th April 1862 she reports her latest trouble to her mother:
“And now my dear Mother, I must tell you of events of last Thursday. I went up in the morning to go for coals, and I did my washing, and as I was coming in about 3 o’clock I saw the house was cracking opposite the wall and something seemed to tell me I would make a late job of it if I started towards Upavon, thinking I would meet him with his load. But I soon heard he had been drinking at Upavon all the morning, and was just started on, so I overtook him about halfway to Honeystreet with the empty cart stopped at the Woodbridge Inn. The landlord and him had been quarreling and James attempted to kick the landlord’s behind, and the landlord threw James down but did not hurt him much. I called him out and told him what I thought of the house and begged him to turn around and come back with me, but he would not, but began fisting at the window and at last smashed it with his fist.
I could not get him away. It was about 5 o’clock and then took the empty cart and horse home and left him there. It was the kicking one so I got William Eyre to unharness it and then put the poor child to bed, and Dorcas and me got all the things out of our bedroom, except the bedstead and chest, but we did not take anything downstairs. Then we sat up till a little past 12 listening to the whitewash dropping, in horrible suspense, when James came in, one eye quite closed, his clothes torn and covered with blood. After I left him he came back to Upavon and insulted the landlord there, till it provoked him to take the law into his own hands and serve him as he did.”
James had been home about 20 minutes when the whole side wall of the house fell down filling the well, which meant they had to use the river water. Thanks to Maria’s earlier actions no furniture was damaged.
“We have no place to be in. James sleeps in the straw. I and Dorcas and child sleep at Chisenbury. Our things are in the barn. Pray for us.”
Next is a letter from Maria’s friend Jane Hobbs of Compton Farm to Maria’s mother who had just paid a visit to Maria’s home. Jane wrote on 7th May 1862:
“Dear Friend, I take the liberty to write to you. I am very sorry to tell you the sad accident of your dear daughter Maria for she come tonight and drink tea with me and very much wished me to write and tell you of her husband’s ill treatment to her Sunday night. Before you was gone out of sight, he began abusing her most awfully and on Monday morning he held the gun to her head and swore he would shoot her and she fainted from the fright and today he has been fighting and has got his face cut open dreadfully and what the end of it will be we can’t tell. We hope the almighty will be with her and preserve her from such a brute of a husband, for we feel very much for the dear innocent creature. Poor Maria I think she is very bad and you need not be surprised to see her at any time.”
James calms down again for a bit and on 22nd May 1862 Maria tells her mother she is much better than when Jane Hobbs wrote her letter, but also adds:
“People seem to blame me very much for staying here, but what am I to do? I have a friend in Lady B as she offered to get me a situation now in London and receive me into her own family again in July. But what am I to do with my dear boy? He is not near well and if I was to leave him with you, it is uncertain how long they (presumably James’ family in Chitterne) would let him stay with you, so I must stay as long as please God.
Maria’s respite from trouble is not long, for in June 1862 James is summoned to Pewsey for driving and whipping his two horses whilst riding on the shafts in a drunken state. Maria writes the following day of what happened to her when he returned home:
“As soon as he came home and I went out to him, he horsewhipped me with a large whalebone whip and almost fetched the blood on the fleshy part of my arm. It is all colours now, as well as my shoulders and back.
In the same letter dated 14th June 1862 she tells her mother what happened at the court:
“At Pewsey yesterday he was fined £10 or one month’s imprisonment and he told the bench he should not pay the money. He should go to prison for he had been before and he knew where to hang his hat. So he was locked up with the prisoners about 2 hours, till the business of the day was settled and then I went and paid the magistrates the fine, and had him released.
For what could I do? A month here at this time of year with the two horses and haymaking all about, and I know he could earn that over and over again if he liked, but instead of being any better for it, he began spending again and got drunk before he got home. I got him as far as Chisenbury (The Red Lion) and then left him and went home and cried myself to sleep.”
Maria soon regrets she had paid James’ fine when James takes exception to her new things. Little Jimmy, now 5 years old, had been to stay with his grandmother. As Maria writes on 8th July 1862:
“We have been as rough as possible since we went to Pewsey. I have regretted ever since that he was not sent to prison. I only had my clothes off one night, and I had a new bonnet and cap, trimmed with white, and he burnt the lot, box and all. He was mad drunk and came home about 7 o’clock in the evening, and locked himself in and took the key out of the door and burnt it. And we were outside, we smelled it, and Dorcas saw the blaze, but we did not know what it was.
He then the same night stuffed all his clothes into a sack and put it into the cart and swore he would go to London, and off he went. This was before the dear boy got home, and he went off somewhere till about 9 o’clock in the morning, and then he came back and tried the door, and we were afraid to come down, so he climbed up the trigger that supported the roof and flew through the room where we were standing, and downstairs and took the loaded gun off the nail and shot it up the chimney. I thought it was at the boards as it shook the place so, but I found when I came downstairs that the soot was all over the place.
He then came upstairs and began talking to the child and asking him what you did say about him. The child said nothing that I can mind.
Last week it was rather better, but Tuesday he threw a butter tub at me and knocked me down under the white horse, but the poor thing looked at me and never moved. Had it been the black one, I might not now be in the land of the living. It bruised my hip, thigh and arm on the left side, but not of much consequence, and he has begun this week the same, for he went for a load of faggots yesterday, Monday, and returned this morning after daylight, without horse or wagon, and we went up the field and left him in bed, and now when we came down he is fled. When he will come again I know not for I am out of patience with him. But I shall try and rub it (put up with it) till Christmas and I don’t think we shall hold out much longer.”
On 25th October 1862 their house is still in a damaged state as the landlord has refused to rebuild the wall. Since the wall fell down Maria sleeps at the house of an elderly couple, and helps them until about 10 o’clock in the morning, before going to Compton. Dorcas and Jimmy sleep at Mr Eyre’s house. Maria supposes they will winter at Chitterne. Mr Martin, the farmer at Compton Farm, helps by looking after Maria’a hens and little chickens, and by offering to ask a lawyer if James will be sent to prison again or not. He has also recommended Maria for a situation at Lake Farm near Salisbury where they need a trustworthy person to supervise the other servants in the morning and do needlework in the afternoon. Mr Martin is very keen for Maria to take it in preference to a situation at Chitterne:
“as he thinks I should always be an eyesore to James’ family, and no doubt that they would do all in their power to annoy one.”
Maria has also heard from Lady B who would be pleased to take Maria as a laundry maid in July, but advises her to take another situation for the present.
“I hope I shall be able to come home for a week and I should be so glad if Isaac (Maria’s stepfather) would consent for the child to stay with you. If not, I must try to place him somewhere else, as I should have so much better opportunity of supporting him.”
Maria also writes to her aunt and uncle, Dorcas’ parents, on the 25th October 1862 and this letter seems to herald the end Maria’s time at Compton as she speaks of items being sold. We get no inkling of what has happened to James, is he in prison? Maria says:
“I don’t know how long I may be here but I do hope not more than another week, and I am much obliged to you for letting Dorcas stay with me. I shall come to Chitterne, and Dorcas with me. (Maria planned to attend the opening of the new Church, Chitterne All Saints with St Mary’s, on 4th November 1862).
I expect it will all be sold off by auction. I will write again when I know how it’s going to be.”
That is the last letter we have of Maria’s sent from Compton, ‘this place of trial’ as she once described it. Soon her fortunes will change, as we shall see in the next blog….
You may remember an earlier blog about Gallybagger Corner from April 2016: Old Chitterne Names 11: Gallybagger Corner and how the scarecrows made by Don Poolman were included in a book on Salisbury Plain. Now it appears that the scarecrows also inspired an author of children’s books to write a story for young adults called The Scarecrows.
Robert Westall, a very successful medal-winning author of books for young adults, was passing through Chitterne in the late 1960s when he spotted Don Poolman’s scarecrows on the corner at the western end of the village. He was so impressed by them that he turned around and went back to get a good look and take a photograph.
Westall, an art teacher by profession, treasured that photograph for years and eventually the scarecrow picture inspired him to write a novel. We know this from a letter he wrote to Don Poolman in 1979 praising the scarecrows and asking many questions about them.
The novel, published in 1981 by Chatto & Windus, won the Carnegie Medal. The edition in our picture was published by Puffin in 1983. The book is still in print today.
Chitterne is surrounded by the gentle rolling hills of Salisbury Plain. To leave the village and strike out across the countryside you have to climb a hill, except if you take the road to Codford following the course of the Chitterne Brook.
Breach Hill is the hill you encounter if you leave the village via Townsend and head towards Tilshead. The road up the hill starts and ends with a set of double bends and, in the old days, with two field barn settlements, (outlying groups of farm buildings and dwellings for farm workers). The double bends mark the passage of the old London road at the bottom of the hill and the old Bath to Sarum road at the top. Middle Barn settlement at the bottom of the hill still exists but Breach Hill Farmstead is no longer at the top.
Strictly speaking Breach Hill Farmstead was just a few yards inside the Tilshead parish boundary, where it stood on the left of the road immediately after the second of the double bends at the top of the hill, but Chitterne was nearer than Tilshead.
In broad Wiltshire dialect the farmstead was pronounced ‘Braitchill’. It comprised a barn, cartshed, stable, and cottages. Frank Ashley and family lived in the cottages in 1915 when their four-year-old son Norman was lost on the downs overnight and died from exposure. The Ashley children all attended Chitterne School, but the only time Breach Hill cottage appears on any census for Chitterne All Saints is in 1881. That may have been a mistake or because the Ashleys were originally from Chitterne. By 1921 they had moved to 11 Townsend and Herbert Coleman and William Nash lived at Breach Hill.
The entire settlement was demolished sometime after 1937 and the War Department (MOD) erected Vedette Post number 4 in its place. This remained until the army’s Copehill Down training village and range road were constructed in 1988 and 2000, and the Vedette Post was moved a few hundred yards nearer to Tilshead.
Bidden Lane is the original name of the road that divides the two old Chitterne parishes of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary. The civil parish of Chitterne did not exist until the two were united in 1907. Before that such was the fierce rivalry between the two that inhabitants of one parish referred to their near neighbours across the lane as ‘vurriners’*. Bidden Lane was the one and only ‘Lane’ to old Chitterne folk and for that reason some strongly objected to Back Road being changed to Back Lane a few years ago, but I digress.
Sadly the use of Bidden Lane as the name of the road has declined in the last 100 years. The less poetic Shrewton Road is more widely used now, but for this blog I have been looking into the origin of Bidden Lane.
An old map of both parishes dated 1822 names some of the fields. On this map a field on the St Mary side of the lane, lying between Chitterne Dairy road and Harvest Road, is called Betham Lane Field. Could Betham have become Bidden?
In 1841 the lane is noted on the census of that year as Biden Lane. In 1871 it is Bidden, in 1881 Bitten and from 1891 to 1911 Bitton Lane. The census takers, who were not always locals, would have spelt the name used by the villagers phonetically, hence the different recorded spellings, and Wiltshire folk pronounce their Ts and Ds almost identically by swallowing the hard sound when it occurs in the middle of a word, hence Bidden or Bitten.
By 1925 Rev. John Canner referred to the lane as Shrewton Road in his Church Visiting Book. Since then Bidden Lane has been gradually superceded by Shrewton Road, and yet Bidden Lane is named on up-to-date Ordnance Survey maps of the village.
We are in old Chitterne All Saints. Back Path runs behind the houses on the All Saints side of Bidden Lane, from the Dring to Back Lane, and Conyger Dean is the field alongside Back Path.
Dring is an old word meaning a narrow passageway. Our Dring passes between numbers 67 and 68 Bidden Lane.
Back Path, no need of an explanation, leads off from the Dring through a gateway on the left and heads downhill between the back gardens of Bidden Lane and Conyger Dean.
Conyger Dean is mentioned twice in historical records, which means we can actually identify the particualr field referred to, a rare occurrence! It crops up in the Glebe Terrier for Chitterne All Saints of 1588, (Glebe Terriers were annual inventories of land belonging to the church), and again in the Sale of the Chitterne Estate particulars of 1826. In the sale particulars the field is described as 9 acres of pasture in the tenure of Thomas Gibbs*. The Gibbs family, Thomas from Imber and his son Edward, born in Chitterne All Saints, farmed Chitterne Farm from about 1812 to 1879. Under their tenure the farm almost doubled in size from 685 to 1300 acres. Conyger Dean is still part of Chitterne Farm today and, it may seem unbelievable but, cricket matches were held on it at one time! Nowadays winter sports are more likely, if we have enough snow!
Conyger means rabbit or coney warren. Dean means a small valley. We shall encounter another place in Chitterne with ‘Dean’ as part of its name later on.
Thomas Gibbs born 1777 Imber, died 1832 Chitterne, married Hannah Dean, sister of Matthew Dean who was held up by highwaymen at Gore Cross in 1839 on his way home to Imber from Devizes market. An event marked by two stone monuments, one at Gore Cross and the other on Chitterne Down, erected to deter other would-be highwaymen. After Thomas and Hannah’s son Edward died in 1879 the tenancy of Chitterne Farm passed to Joseph Dean, a relative of Hannah’s from Imber.
Don Poolman put up scarecrows on his allotment near the Warminster Road and the name Gallybagger Corner was born. Gallybagger being a local name for a scarecrow. Don’s gallybaggers became quite a local feature, standing prominently at the entrance to the village. They were even photographed and put in a book: ‘Salisbury Plain – second selection’.
Back in the gallybagger days the area was given over to village allotments, this was before the grain dryer and Valley Farm existed.
Don Poolman 1920-2009 was born and brought up in Chitterne at the Round House and worked for Farmer Stratton. He and his wife Betty lived at Ivy Cottage, 104 Chitterne, after WW2 but when Betty was expecting their first child they were flooded and had to move out. Don carried Betty on his back through the flood to the Round House over some sheep hurdles he’d laid down.
Tuesday 3 May 2016
Follow-up from Don Poolman’s brother RP, who tells me that their father, William Poolman, started the tradition of the scarecrows on the allotment. Don carried it on and improved on his father’s efforts. Don’s scarecrows were considered to be the best.