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!

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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.

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.