Cottages at Chalk Hill

I like to get the facts right, so after my last blog about Georges Terrace, which I admit I got wrong, I have been wondering where the cottages referred to in Bill Windsor’s information were.

An 1882 Conversion of Corn Rents Map and Schedule for Chitterne All Saints was recently discovered in the church vestry. It shows that the cottages owned by the Atkins family were further up the part of Bidden Lane once known as Chalk Hill. It was when I studied this map and schedule that I realised I was mistaken about Georges Terrace.

Here is a section of the 1882 map showing the plots and houses on the All Saints side of Bidden Lane (to orientate you: Number 159 at the top is Elm Farm). Notice halfway down a turning off to the right, which is the Dring, a track that nowadays leads to the allotments and the back path behind the houses. Below the Dring are two plots numbered 146 and 147, these plots are now the site of Georges Terrace, but in 1882 they were ‘gardens’, not owned by anyone called Atkins, but by Lord Long and rented from him by Benjamin Carter and John George. 68, 69 and 70 Bidden Lane did not exist in 1882.

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Part of the 1882 map showing Bidden Lane, All Saints side

John Atkins’ plot in 1882 was number 140 a little further out of the village and described as a house and 24 perches of land, rent 10 pence per annum, occupied by Thomas Grant and others.

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The part of the schedule that refers to John Atkins house and land at 140 on the map

Below, in italics, is the section I have cut from the original Georges Terrace blog that perhaps refers to number 140:

Thanks to some old documents shown to me by the late Bill Windsor we know quite a lot about the history of these cottages. One cottage in the centre was built first, date unknown, but before 1851. The old documents dating from 1871 described it as:

Cottage with 25 perches of land E of the road from Chitterne to Shrewton. Bounded on the E by garden formerly of William Whatley, but now of John Parham, N by garden formerly in the occupation of James Noyes but now of James Dyer, W by garden in occupation of John Polton (Polden).

Ann Payne (1812-1855) owned one cottage in 1851 and lived there with her three children and lodger Joseph Poolman. Ann was a dressmaker. In 1852 Ann and Joseph had a daughter together named Lucy Green, and Ann sold the cottage to Henry Atkins of Warminster for £35. The following year Joseph and Ann married and bought the cottage back from Henry Atkins.

Joseph Poolman, who was also known as Joseph Green, was born in 1827. He was an engine driver on a farm. Between marrying Ann in 1853 and her death on 31 January 1855, Joseph had built two more cottages on the site, one each side of the original building. On 17 March 1855 he sold the: “three cottages at Chalk Hill, Chitterne All Saints” to Joseph Miles for £140.

Joseph Miles, a shopkeeper from Corton, let the properties out to tenants Betty Feltham, Thomas Grant and Mary Ann Dewey. He sold the cottages to John Atkins, auctioneer of Warminster, for £80 on 25 March 1871.

One of the cottages was found to be on fire by some men working in the fields on 22 March 1884. A report in the Warminster Journal said:

Efforts were made to extinguish the flames, but it being thatched and no water near, it was a hopeless task. By the united exertions of the villagers, two adjoining cottages were saved. The cottages belonged to Mrs. Atkins of Warminster. The property is insured. The cause of the fire is unknown and will probably remain a mystery.

The mention of John Atkins in 1871 and Mrs Atkins in 1884 clinches the identification for me. The only problem left is identifying the building or site today. Where was plot 140? I believe Chalk Hill was the part of Bidden Lane from numbers 71 to 80. Comparing the 1882 map with a current planning map of Bidden Lane, plot 140 appears to have been in the area of numbers 75 – 78. Looking at the 1881 census for this area Thomas Grant, who is mentioned in the schedule as occupying plot 140, in the census lives seven houses from the top of the lane. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing if some old houses have been demolished and replaced with new, apart from numbers 77 and 78 which are definitely missing. So the answer eludes me at the moment.

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Part of Bidden Lane formerly known as Chalk Hill?

If anyone has any thoughts on where plot 140 might have been, please comment, your information would be welcome. If someone from Bidden Lane has the Atkins family mentioned in their deeds that would be perfect.

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Cottages at Chalk Hill

Jacob Smith – entrepreneur

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Jacob Smith, centre, threshing with some of his sons in 1897, said to be at Glebe Farm. Arthur Smith extreme left, Jack Smith third from left with jacket and cap, Sidney Smith extreme right.

Jacob Smith, the man behind the shop at 17 Townsend, arrived in Chitterne with 16 shillings in his pocket, a basket of carpenter’s tools and an ambition to better himself. This is how he worked his way towards his goal.

He was born in 1837 at Bushton, north Wiltshire, and came to Chitterne sometime before 1860, because that’s when he married assistant school mistress Elizabeth Holloway at her home village of Erlestoke.

In 1861 Jacob and Elizabeth were living in Bidden Lane, Chitterne St Mary, next door to James Polden, a mason and the Parish Clerk. Jacob was working as a carpenter, so he may have been working with James Polden on the new church. We know that Jacob helped install the church clock in the tower. Elizabeth was a new mother to one-month-old baby Herbert at the time of the census.

By the 1871 census Jacob and Elizabeth had moved to Flint House in Chitterne All Saints, and Jacob had taken over the carpenter and wheelwright’s business from the Abery family.  This business was later run by the family of Jacob’s daughter Alice’s husband, Frederick Carter, and then by Polden and Feltham. The Smiths established a grocer’s shop at Flint House and Elizabeth was listed as a shopkeeper. The couple had their four children and an apprentice carpenter living with them.

10 years later in 1881 the Smith family have moved up again and are living at number 17 Townsend with seven of their eight children. Jacob, 43, is a wheelwright and grocer, Elizabeth, 44, is a ‘grocer’s wife’ and their second son John, or H J Smith later known as Jack Smith, 17, is a baker. Jack Smith, as we saw in the last blog, went on to own the shop and bakehouse after his parents’ deaths. The two cottages next door, on the site of number 16 Townsend, are listed as uninhabited in 1881. The couple’s eldest son Herbert was apprenticed to a grocer at Maldon in Essex and later emigrated to British Columbia, Canada.

In the 1891 census Jacob is said to be a wheelwright, grocer, baker and farmer, so he has added yet another string to his bow, farming. He may have been leasing Glebe Farm from the church by this time, as we are told he did by the time our photo was taken in 1897, but he was still living at Townsend with Elizabeth in the Grocer’s Shop, though by this time his children were helping out. Two daughters, Jeanette and Margaret, were shop assistants and son Sidney was assistant  wheelwright, whereas son Jack had branched out on his own as a carrier and dealer.

Jacob seems to have been able to create businesses at the drop of a hat. He and Elizabeth bred a family of entrepreneurs, to start with anyway. Son Herbert became a grocer in a new land, daughter Alice married a wheelwright and was set up at Flint House, son Jack became a dealer, a carrier and later a farmer, and daughter Margaret married and ran a grocer’s shop in Tilshead. The only children who didn’t follow this trend were the youngest two unmarried sons, Sidney and Arthur, who were left running the shop and bakery business. According to Jacob’s great grandson PD, Sidney fell in with a bad crowd and lost the lot. Is this when Jack Smith stepped in, bought the business and paid off the mortgage? We may never know.

 

Jacob Smith – entrepreneur

Old Chitterne Names 15: Back Path and Conyger Dean

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.

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The Dring from Bidden Lane

Dring is an old word meaning a narrow passageway. Our Dring passes between numbers 67 and 68 Bidden Lane.

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The start of Back Path from the Dring

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.

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Back Path on the left and Conyger Dean with a crop of beans on the right

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!

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Sledging on Conyger Dean

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.

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Back Path at the Back Lane end
  • 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.
Old Chitterne Names 15: Back Path and Conyger Dean