Abdon Close Centenary

A hundred years ago this month a plan by Warminster Urban Council to build new houses at Chitterne was celebrated with an official ceremony. We know those houses as Abdon Close, but that name was not adopted until 40 years later. At first the houses were known as Council Houses or Council Cottages.

1950s postcard of Council Houses showing footpath in front of the houses

In 1920 Housing Schemes were a modern idea that came about as a result of a statement made by David Lloyd George, leader of the parliamentary coalition, in a speech the day after Armistice Day. He said the government would facilitate the building of: “Habitations fit for heroes who have won the war.” Later interpreted by the media as the more famous: “Houses fit for heroes.” Thus Council houses were born out of the need to house troops returning from foreign battlefields.

1950s photo showing the access footpath from Townsend

The first few houses in Chitterne were built on a spare patch of land on the opposite side of the Cut from Chitterne Lodge. They were approached by a footpath from Townsend and had long front gardens. Building started 1923/4 and by 1925 all eight houses were occupied.

1928 photo of number 7. Ellen Burnett and her son Reg in the doorway.

The first residents of Number 1 were teachers, not returning servicemen at all. Mary Watson and Maud New taught at the village school.

Doris Poolman with Kenneth and Richard Brown, two evacuees in world war 2 outside number 7. Her mother-in-law Bertha and sister-in-law Kathleen stand behind.

After the second world war another pair of semi-detached houses were built, and in 1962/3 Warminster & Westbury Rural District Council added the eight flats. At the same time the footpath was widened into a road for vehicles and the new name Abdon Close was adopted after local builder, Abdon Polden, who had once owned the land.

Scots pipers on the road in Abdon Close September 1987

Abdon Close Centenary

Farm Workers 1928

Leslie, Spriggy, Alb, Beat, Reg and Mrs Burnett in 1928
Leslie, Spriggy, Alb, Beat, Reg and Mrs Burnett in 1928

A group of farm workers from Manor Farm, Chitterne enjoying their ‘nammit’ at the roadside in 1928. They are left to right: Leslie Jay, George ‘Spriggy’ Dowdell, Albert Dowdell, his wife Beatrice, Reginald Burnett and his mother Ellen Burnett.

Leslie and George lived at Great House, which is now Coach House, but in those days it was divided up into separate cottages for workers on the farm. George lived with his widowed mother Eliza Dowdell nee Jay, and Leslie lodged with them.

Albert was George’s older brother who’d married Beatrice Blake a couple of years earlier. He was a carter, like his father, for Farmer Collins at Manor Farm. Manor Farm is now a part of Chitterne Farm and known as Chitterne Farm East.

Albert Dowdell and his daughter Doreen in 1930
Albert Dowdell and his daughter Doreen in 1930

The Burnetts, Ellen and Frederick, and their son Reginald lived at 7 Abdon Close.

Ellen, Reginald and Frederick Burnett in 1928
Ellen, Reginald and Frederick Burnett in 1928

Originally a nammit was a woven straw basket used by farmworkers to carry food and drink to the field for the midday break, but nammit also came to be used for the food itself. So perhaps Beatrice and Ellen had brought nammit for Reginald who may have been helping the men out.

Farm Workers 1928