Church Organ

The Willis Organ in Chitterne Church

The Willis organ in Chitterne Church has recently been tuned, cleaned and updated by an organ-builder who was trained by the original designer of the instrument.

Our organ was built in 1968 for Laleham Abbey Convent, Middlesex. The secondhand organ was offered to Chitterne Church in 1993, installed, and dedicated on 26 February 1995 by the then Bishop of Ramsbury, the Rt Rev Peter Vaughan.

This Willis Junior Development Plan Organ was designed by Henry Willis 4, the fourth Henry of the Willis family of organ builders.  I know very little about organs so here I will quote AC who carried out the recent work and let him explain what the name means:

” “Junior” because they (the organs) were designed by Henry Willis, 4, who was then Junior to his father who was running the firm up until 1968.  “Development Plan” because they were a series of models which started as a one manual organ with two stops and no pedals, and could be developed in stages to a two manual organ, a little larger than the Chitterne instrument, as and when funds became available. The Willis nameplate on the console IV-LVII denotes Henry Willis, 4, then the Opus Number. Opus 57 started as a one manual and pedal instrument.  It gained the Swell organ, which I worked on in the early 1980s. “

Members of the Willis family of organ builders

The Chitterne Willis organ has been updated with a computer that enables recordings to be made. The recordings can be used at future services when no organist is available. I have heard a recording of AC playing the instrument and it sounded beautiful.

Gassing in the Church

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.


church gassing Warminster Petty Sessions Warminster & Westbury Journal 8 January 1887

The church was only 25 years old in 1887, someone had been neglecting to service the coke stove!

church pre war memorial
All Saints with St Marys Church Chitterne taken from Great House (now Coach House) gardens before the War Memorial was erected

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.

Church Postcard

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.

church postcard face
All Saints with St Marys Church Chitterne, note the newly erected war memorial, which means the photo was taken in 1921 or 1922

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.

church postcard reverse
Reverse of the postcard stamped 1922

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

Min xxxx

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.

Chitterne Kneelers Priests’ Cushions

One of the new priests' seat cushions featuring the Salisbury Plain Benefice symbol
One of the new priests’ seat cushions featuring the Salisbury Plain Benefice symbol

The Chitterne Kneelers project is gradually winding down. During the last 5 years the Chitterne Kneelers group have stitched new altar rail kneelers and about 40 individual kneelers, with about 6 of those still in the pipeline. Besides these we made two wedding kneelers and recovered two priests’ stools. The last scheme we had was to stitch two cushions for the priests’ seats near the choir stalls. These cushions have recently been completed and installed in the chuirch. They were beautifully stitched by Sarah and Rowena Gooch and are well worth having a look at.