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me back to the beginning, AC has found a new host and chitterne.com has been successfully transferred, including the out-of-date (no pun intended) history pages, hence the mention of updating them….which is still under consideration.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.”
Winter is definitely here and it’s time I got back to Maria Cockrell’s story. When I left her in 1879 I was hoping to find a reference in her letters to her son Jimmy’s business, Polden and Feltham, which he and his cousin Clement Polden had started in 1878, or so I understood. (Maria’s married name was Feltham of course, Cockrell was her maiden name). Maria often mentions Clement in her letters to Jimmy but not their business. Strange, you’d have thought Maria would have had something to say on the subject, but I have found nothing.
Whatever, Polden & Feltham did exist at Flint House until about 1972 and the company is the subject of this blog, with specific reference to a P & F ledger covering the years 1888 – 1897. Mercifully this ledger was saved from the bonfire by AS in the 1970s when P & F closed down. I have been hanging onto the ledger for a while so my grateful thanks to AS for his patience.
It is a weighty tome, beginning to crumble around the edges, but it records almost 10 years of work done by P & F, in the village and nearby. It starts with estimates for work, then hours of actual work done and by whom, lists of materials purchased and the settling of accounts. Most customers were well-to-do village folk, farmers, landlords, the vicar, the school managers etc. Besides mending farm implements and equipment P & F also repaired the interiors of houses. One of the houses renovated in 1897 was my house, the Round House, which had been bought from the Long family’s Chitterne Estate by Alice Mary Langford, spinster granddaughter of Frederick Wallis who farmed at The Manor.
This page dated August 1897 gives the work carried out on the left, and list of materials used on the right (plus an unrelated entry in a different hand at the bottom of the left page). The main work done was to the two rooms in the round end, the parlor downstairs and bedroom above. This part of the house was originally built in Regency times about 1814 when the Morris family leased the property from the Methuens of Corsham. Charles Morris died aged 94 in 1879 and the house was afterwards let to the Wiltshire Constabulary to house the village policeman. Until, in 1896 Walter Hume Long of Rood Ashton decided to sell all his Chitterne properties, and it was bought by Alice Langford. Hence the refurbishment in 1897.
I was interested to see what remains today of the works done by P & F in 1897.
The floor boards and joists in the sitting room (parlor) were replaced and remain (under carpet). The sash windows were refurbished in both round rooms and the roadside sash windows are still mostly original. The skirting was replaced in both rooms, but only the bedroom skirting survives. The walls of the rooms were decorated using 12 yards of canvas stretched over battening, sized with 4lbs of glue and papered with 18 pieces (rolls?) of paper and 22 yards of border. None of this survives but I imagine it looked grand.
Three panel doors were replaced in the rest of the house, two of these remain with their white ceramic handles, locks and brass keyhole plates. They are much shorter than modern doors, only 6ft high, causing grief to tall people.
The outside earth closet was completely rebuilt of wood and was still here when we moved in, complete with wooden seat and soil bucket. It was demolished to make way for a car port. I wish I had been in the habit of taking photographs back in the 1970s, but that was before history took hold of me. The completely refurbished lean-to wash house went when the house was extended to accommodate my mother in 1986.
The main things that have survived the last 120 years are the porch and the round cast-iron guttering. The porch was constructed with a curved sheet of iron held up by two iron brackets, bolted and screwed together costing 5 shillings 1½d. (25p). While the curved iron guttering cost 14 shillings (70p), plus £1. 0s. 6½d. for making the pattern and fixing. I wonder if this was made in the P & F forge by Alfred Burt the blacksmith.
All in all it was some undertaking, it cost Mr Wallis (if he was paying) £75. 11s. 7½d. It took 5 men to do the work:
When Alice Langford moved in she required more work from P&F. There is a further page in the ledger listing dates in September, October and November 1897 under Miss Langford’s name for work P&F did at the Round House.
They repaired a dresser, put up shelves, bells, stair eyes and blinds and later wardrobe hooks in the round room closet, coat and hat hooks in the passage and fitted a new tin plate to the fire. I remember this walk-in closet, it’s now a shower. The servant bells in the hallway were still in situ when we moved in. A row of brass bells on curly springs, connected to the upstairs rooms by wires. Again no photographs but one last bell hangs outside the front door.
For more on the Poldens of Flint House and Polden and Feltham see link below :
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?
Thanks to LW, who sent in this photo of a postcard featuring Chitterne Church, I have had fun looking into the identity of the sender and receiver.
I’ve seen this postcard of our church before, it’s one of a series published by Frank Maidment, Post Office Stores, 93 Chitterne, but what’s really interesting for me is the message in pencil on the reverse. Mostly postcards that come my way are blank on the back, I rarely see an old Chitterne postcard that’s been written on and posted.
Here is what the message addressed to Mr L G Found, 83 Radcliffe Road, Fortham, Southampton, Hants says:
Dear old bean
Just a card hoping you are all well as it leaves everybody here. I hope Ethel is feeling better. We had it fine here yesterday for a wonder. Give my love to all ….. Frank sends his love to you all
Mr L G was Leslie George Found, the youngest son of George Found and Harriet Haines, both of Chitterne. The Found family lived at 65 Bidden Lane and Haines family a few doors away at 71, but George had found work on the railway and he and Harriet moved to Southampton after their children, Ethel, Lilian, Minnie and Leslie were born.
I think the postcard was written by Leslie’s sister Minnie who married Frank Grant in 1927 – so Frank sends his love makes sense – and I think the Ethel mentioned is Leslie and Minnie’s older sister. Ethel was born in 1894, Minnie in 1897 but I don’t know when Leslie was born.
Minnie was the mother of Connie Grant, later Gorry, who lived for 60 years at Robin’s Rest, 29 Chitterne (now called Apple Tree Cottage) on the Tilshead Road. Connie was born and lived at Southampton until World War 2, but was evacuated here during the war and married Brian Gorry in 1952. Sadly Minnie died aged 35 in 1933 when Connie was about 4 years old.