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.
Our local pub the Kings Head is to close at the end of this week. Like many local pubs its fortunes have been stormy since the clamp down on drinking and driving and the ban on smoking in public places, but it has survived until now. Who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I thought I would take a look at the pub’s past.
The first reference to an inn here comes from the 18th century when the inn was part of the Chitterne estate owned by a series of wealthy landowning families. The George Inn burnt down in Chitterne St Mary when Thomas Bennet was the tenant and the Paulet family were the owners. James Wheeler took on the tenancy in 1742 and presumably changed the inn’s name because the Wheeler family were still there in 1826 when another James Wheeler was the copyholder of the “King’s Head Inn, outbuildings, garden, yard etc.” which he held for the lives of Mary Huntley 62, Mary Wheeler 32, and William Huntley Wheeler 10 (mother-in-law, wife and son). By then the owners were the Methuen family who had bought the Chitterne estate from the Paulets in the 1770s. Wheeler and Huntley memorials are still visible on the outside walls of the chancel.
The Long family bought the Chitterne estate from the Methuens in 1830. The Wallis family of Chitterne St Mary Manor were their tenants and William Wallis’s mother-in-law Ann White was the innkeeper. The Wallis family continued to be associated with the inn until they gave up malting their own barley around 1910. In 1896 the Longs auctioned the estate and the inn sold for £1350 to ‘Marjant? Bladworth’ (pencilled none too clearly alongside the inn details on the auction catalogue) who could be agents for a brewer. Bartletts brewery in Warminster were supplying the inn with beer in the early 20thC before they went bust in 1920.
Landlords of the inn changed frequently after Ann White. Henry Hull 1841; John Whatley 1851; William Compton, saddler and innkeeper in 1861 and 1871. Then the 3 Bs: James Burr 1880-1887, William Beak 1888-1894, George Brown 1895-1897. By 1901 Sidney and Alice Daniels were landlords followed by another B, George Burgess during World War 1.
Ushers Brewery of Trowbridge acquired the inn after the demise of Bartletts brewery. Joseph and Kate Robberts ran the pub in 1925, George Turner in 1927 and Thomas Burbidge 1928-1932. William and Florence Jones in wartime and in 1945 Mick and Winifred Benson took over and stayed until 1954. Their daughter Jeanne married Ernie George, a Chitterne lad, and settled in Townsend. Ernie made a drawing of the pub yard as it looked in 1948.
Cecil and Doris Newton took over as innkeepers from the Bensons in 1954 and stayed until Cecil’s sudden death in 1980. The other pub in the village, the White Hart Inn closed permanently in the mid-1950s, so that gave Cecil and Doris a boost and they made the most of it. During their time the pub Cribbage team won the league in 1974 and the darts team played in the Till Darts League in 1977, winning against the Royal Oak at Shrewton, but then losing to the Catherine Wheel 10-9.
The Kings Head was still an Ushers pub in 1980, but before 1990 it was up for sale and brewers Gibbs Mew bought it.
After the Newtons 26 year tenure landlords came and went with alarming frequency, none staying more than four years despite the pub winning the Bulmers and Gibbs Mew competition for the best display of flowers in 1995. From 1980 to 2002 the pub had eleven different landlords and then changed owners once again.
Gibbs Mew sold the pub around 2002 to Enterprise Inns. The new owners revamped the bar area considerably, replacing the optics with shelves and updating the floor surface and eating area. The pub re-opened on the 29th November 2002, but despite these efforts the pub’s fortunes didn’t improve, the final straw was the closure of the road outside the pub for bridge works, which lasted several months in 2005.
Four more landlords came and went, the optics came back, and closures in 2008 and 2009 led to Enterprise Inns offering the pub for sale in September 2010. They were heading to auction in February 2011, but at the last moment agreed to sell to the current landlord. The pub opened as a Free House on 1st April 2011, and has been open now for eight and a half years, the longest serving landlord since the Newtons.
Now Saturday night will see the pub close once again. What will the future bring?
Recently JM shared with the village a transcription of a newspaper article from 2010 written by Ferdinand Mount, former resident of Chitterne. I am sure ex-Chitternites would like to see it too so I am sharing the transcription and the original newspaper article here.
Ferdinand Mount is currently our most famous past resident. He is a writer, journalist and political commentator, writing for The Times and Daily Telegraph, former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, author of several novels and “Cold Cream” an autobiography.
Cold Cream has wonderfully evocative passages describing Mount’s childhood in Chitterne. He lived here from birth in 1939 to adulthood. His parents had bought the small two-up-two-down cottage adjacent to the former malt house in 1938. Before that in 1925 the cottage was known as Pine Cottage and the malt house still stood next door. The malt house was later demolished and the cottage took on the name Malt House. The Mounts added an extra wing with a sitting room and two bedrooms, and planted the yew hedge at the front.
Going back to the article. Mount describes his first brush with politics as a young boy attending the Conservative Party fete held at Chitterne Lodge “by kind permission of Mrs Payne”. Mrs Payne was Gwen Payne, wife of Lt Col. L H H Payne R A, resident of the War Department’s Chitterne Lodge. The War Dept. had purchased the Chitterne Lodge estate in 1937, which included Chitterne Farm east and the Racing Stables. The Paynes lived at the Lodge from about 1940 to 1949.
Here is the transcription:
The Conservative party fête was held at Chitterne Lodge by kind permission of Mrs Payne. As our MP, Mr Grimston, got up to speak, he put down his bowler hat, not on the table beside him which was draped with the union flag but on the chair behind him. He spoke about the need to support Mr Churchill in the struggle that lay ahead. Mr Grimston had been our MP since 1931. He had a thin moustache and a general air of severity. As he warmed to his theme, I noticed a small boy, smaller than I was myself, about four years old perhaps, crawling through the flowerbeds immediately behind Mr Grimston’s chair, which was right at the edge of the sunlit lawn. The small boy took hold of the bowler hat with one hand, then got a firmer grip on it with both hands and rather slowly, almost ceremoniously, put it on his head so that it came down over his ears. It was impossible for any adult to reach him without crashing through Mrs Payne’s flowerbeds. I do not know in what direction Mr Grimston’s remarks were now turning, possibly the perils of socialism, but like the rest of his audience, I was gripped by what the small boy would do next. To our vast disappointment, at that moment a woman in a flowery dress risked her high heels on the rosebed and dragged the small boy away, snatching the hat from his head and replacing it on the chair. This is my earliest political memory: the sun-dappled lawn, the small boy and the bowler hat. It is my only memory of Mr, later Sir Robert, Grimston, who continued to represent Westbury until 1964, rising to become deputy speaker and later Lord Grimston of Westbury.
Political enthusiasm was not much in evidence in Chitterne. When Churchill finally got back in, in 1951, the group captain who lived at the Grange stuck a union flag pennant on the bonnet of his car and drove through the village honking his horn. This was thought to be going too far. It was Groupie, too, who, during the fuel shortages of 1947, complained to my father about “the damned miners starving us of coal”. But his was, I like to think, a minority voice.
The Westbury division began then and still begins in our village. As you come over Salisbury Plain from Stonehenge and down Shrewton Hill, you cross the constituency boundary. Samuel Pepys rode down the hill with his wife and family on the evening of 11 June 1668, having lost his way on the downs, and “with great difficulty come about 10 at night to a little inn, where we were fain to go into a room where a pedlar was in bed, and made him rise; and there wife and I lay, and in a truckle-bed Betty Turner and Willet”. The servant here referred to only by her surname was the delectable Deb Willet, whom Pepys was later that year to be caught fondling by Mrs Pepys in a manner so intimate that he recorded it in the diary in the cod-Italian which he used for sexual encounters. The diary does not record how the commercial traveller felt about being turfed out. But Pepys was so grateful for his rescue from this trackless wilderness that he roared with laughter at the landlord’s jokes about the henpecked sailors at Bristol. The next morning the Pepyses discovered that the beds they had thought good were in fact lousy. The great diarist was still so nervous about the wild country that he was relieved when the landlord of the White Hart volunteered to lead them the whole way across the constituency into Somerset.
Yet Pepys referred to this remote, almost inaccessible place as a “town”. Nor was he misled in the darkness. Chitterne, like other downland villages, had once been much larger. As late as the mid-19th century the population had been 800, as opposed to no more than 250 in my childhood. Yet even in the 1950s, the village possessed a primary school, a racing stable, two firms of builders, a blacksmith, two shops, a village policeman in his tied police cottage on the Green, Mr Withers’s fleet of two elderly buses, Graham Dean’s garage, which he diversified into a mink farm during the Suez petrol shortage, not to mention the White Hart where the Pepyses stayed, and a post office next to the Baptist chapel. The last two were both operated by the amazing Frank Maidment, the “Bishop of Salisbury Plain”, who preached the gospel and delivered the bread to even remoter villages for 75 years.
All gone now of course. I remember the White Hart closing after 300 years when I was in my teens, leaving only the King’s Head in business next to where the garage/mink farm had been. There used to be six dairy farms, none now, though the milkman still calls. The number of farmworkers has gone down from 29 to four. The population has recovered a little after a couple of the abandoned farmyards were turned into pleasant little housing estates for commuters to Warminster and Salisbury. The bells of All Saints church may still ring on Sundays, but, like so many other villages, Chitterne is a quieter place than it used to be, just as pretty as it always was, but a little frozen. I am sure there are plenty of homeworkers tapping away on their Macs. But the hum of the keyboard does not quite have the same resonance as the clang of Alf Burt’s hammer shoeing the steeplechasers of my youth.
As far back as 1893, the village schoolmaster Mr Brown recorded that “all the brightest boys look forward to getting away to the towns at the very first opportunity”. How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Trowbridge? The four smallish towns that dominate the constituency – Warminster, Westbury, Bradford-on-Avon (now ceded under boundary changes to the new Chippenham seat) and Trowbridge, surprisingly the county town rather than Salisbury, all have delectable old centres – tall churches built on wool money, flint-and-brick cottages and superb classical mansions in Bath stone. The sheep still share the downland with the tanks (the army has been training on the plain since before the Great War), but the fine big mills are all converted into heritage centres or Poundstretchers.
Warminster, our nearest town, looks on the surface much as it did 50 years ago. The Old Bell and the Bath Arms still stare across the Market Place at each other, and the stationers Coates and Parker still publishes the Warminster Journal , which was the first place I scraped into print, with a rather over-dramatic account of the Mendip farmers point-to-point. Down the hill below the golf course still stands the imposing Portway House where I used to go to have electric shocks for my flat feet. Yet, as in all town centres nowadays, there are charity shops where there used to be grocers and greengrocers, and most places need a lick of paint. Half the premises in these towns seem to be given over to raising money for Alzheimer’s sufferers and half the suburbs given over to homes for them. You begin to wonder whether short-term memory is somehow a casualty of modernity.
Politically, you might think that nothing much had changed in these parts. Ever since 1945, the Tory MP’s majority has usually hovered somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000. The present incumbent, Andrew Murrison, is a former surgeon-commander in the navy who served in the first Gulf war and then, remarkably, after being elected went out to serve again as a Territorial in the Iraq war – no lounging by moat or duck-house for him.
Yet there is a significant underlying change here, as elsewhere in Wiltshire and much of southern England. Where once the runner-up was always Labour, today he or she is invariably Liberal (or now Lib Dem). In many ways, the revival of the Liberals is a return to an older tradition in Wessex, where nonconformist chapels abound. In the lowland parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, where weaving has been the staple industry since the middle ages, you can trace the dissenting streak back to the Lollards.
But the immediate cause is the fading of Labour in the southern county constituencies of England. It is not so hard to explain. South-West Wiltshire, as the new constituency is called, is largely post-industrial, but Labour still is not quite. For the past half century, the party has been vainly struggling to extricate itself from the dominance of the trade unions – from Hugh Gaitskell’s struggle to junk clause IV, through Harold Wilson’s failure with In Place of Strife, to Tony Blair’s efforts to free the party of financial dependence on the unions. Now after the scandal of the millionaire donors, Labour is back where it started, reliant on the unions and knee-deep in sleaze as well. Pepys, whose later career was dogged by accusations of “cash for influence”, would have sympathised.