Breakheart Hill

Breakheart Hill lies northwest of Chitterne and divides the village from the Imber Range live firing area. There are two public ways up the hill from the village. Via Imber Road or via The Hollow, otherwise known as the old Salisbury to Warminster coach road.

breakheart imber road (2)
The old road to Imber heading up Breakheart Hill

Imber Road starts from the Tilshead Road in the village, crosses Chitterne Brook, passes between Manor Farm and old All Saints churchyard, through Chitterne Farm West farm buildings and continues on up the hill. It is a hard surfaced road until the crest of the hill, where it suddenly stops as you reach the firing range danger area. At this point, looking ahead, you can see Breakheart Bottom, a dry valley within the danger area. (Incidentally, E M Forster mentions walking through Breakheart Bottom on page 171 of his book called “The Creator as Critic and other Writings”).

breakheart bottom
Looking towards Breakheart Bottom from the by-way

Before the land was taken for military training the road to Imber crossed the valley and passed the site of yet another Field Barn settlement called Penning Barn. A reminiscence of Penning Barn from a 1992 copy of Chitterne Chat, edited by Jeanne George says:

“A stable of 10 carthorses used to graze the large paddock on Penning bank behind the barn …and pigs, saddlebacks and large whites, were bred there and free-ranged in the paddock.”

breakheart byway (2)
The gravelled by-way on Breakheart Hill looking west. Breakheart bottom is to the right.

At the top of Imber Road a gravelled restricted by-way extends to the left and right, almost following the crest of Breakheart Hill. Turning left the by-way brings you eventually to the top of the Hollow and from it you can see for miles across the Imber Range in one direction and back towards the village in the other direction.

 

breakheart hollow (2)

The Hollow starts at the western end of the village in a part of Chitterne once known as Gunville. Although the by-way was originally the stone-paved coach road to Warminster it is now a muddy uneven track much loved by 4 x 4 drivers and trail bikers. It is now in such a poor state for walkers that it has almost lost its status as part of the Imber Range Perimeter path. Walkers following that route are warned and directed toward the easier path via Imber Road.

breakheart hollow (1)

However, if you brave the series of puddly dips and rises and climb up the western end of Breakheart Hill, at the top you will be rewarded with a view across the Wylye Valley towards the hills beyond. On the way up if you look carefully on your left you may even spot one of the original coach road milestones hiding in the bank behind a small tree: Warminster 8 Sarum 14.

It must have been a sight 250 years ago to see a laden coach and horses struggling up out of the village via this route, perhaps after a night spent at the White Hart Inn. No wonder it was known as Breakheart Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakheart Hill

Breach Hill

Chitterne is surrounded by the gentle rolling hills of Salisbury Plain. To leave the village and strike out across the countryside you have to climb a hill, except if you take the road to Codford following the course of the Chitterne Brook.

breach hill
Breach Hill with Middle Barn on the right

Breach Hill is the hill you encounter if you leave the village via Townsend and head towards Tilshead. The road up the hill starts and ends with a set of double bends and, in the old days, with two field barn settlements, (outlying groups of farm buildings and dwellings for farm workers). The double bends mark the passage of the old London road at the bottom of the hill and the old Bath to Sarum road at the top. Middle Barn settlement at the bottom of the hill still exists but Breach Hill Farmstead is no longer at the top.

Strictly speaking Breach Hill Farmstead was just a few yards inside the Tilshead parish boundary, where it stood on the left of the road immediately after the second of the double bends at the top of the hill, but Chitterne was nearer than Tilshead.

breach hill farm 1921
Sketch by the late ErnieGeorge

In broad Wiltshire dialect the farmstead was pronounced ‘Braitchill’. It comprised a barn, cartshed, stable, and cottages. Frank Ashley and family lived in the cottages in 1915 when their four-year-old son Norman was lost on the downs overnight and died from exposure. The Ashley children all attended Chitterne School, but the only time Breach Hill cottage appears on any census for Chitterne All Saints is in 1881. That may have been a mistake or because the Ashleys were originally from Chitterne. By 1921 they had moved to 11 Townsend and Herbert Coleman and William Nash lived at Breach Hill.

breach hill famiy 1925
A family at Breach Hill farm in 1925, sadly I don’t know who they are.

The entire settlement was demolished sometime after 1937 and the War Department (MOD) erected Vedette Post number 4 in its place. This remained until the army’s Copehill Down training village and range road were constructed in 1988 and 2000, and the Vedette Post was moved a few hundred yards nearer to Tilshead.

 

Breach Hill

Sutton Veny Book

A very good new local history book was published recently about Sutton Veny, a village not too far from Chitterne, in the Wylye Valley. I have just finished reading it and it has some excellent chapters including some on the early history of the area, as well as useful maps of the village. I am envious of these. They were lacking in the Chitterne book!

sutton veny book

The book is a joint effort by the members of the Sutton Veny History Group and is for sale on the village website. I found the link on the blog page. I recommend it if you enjoy reading local history, or if you have a friend who does, it would make a great present. It is already being reprinted. I had one of the last of the first imprint.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Gold Cup - Cheltenham Racecourse
Gay Donald being ridden by Tony Grantham

I’m sure there are many more connections with our village, but one I spotted straight away was Gay Donald, the racehorse who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1955. He was owned by a Sutton Veny farmer named Philip Burt and trained by Jim Ford, who in 1957 came to live and train horses in Chitterne, bringing Gay Donald with him.

Jeanne George told me that everyone loved Gay Donald, he was such a friendly horse. One of his huge iron shoes hung for many years outside the King’s Head, where Jeanne’s parents had been landlords.

Sutton Veny Book

Aerial View of Village

Can you help pinpoint the year this aerial photo was taken? The pumping station is there and so is the old Village Hall, so sometime between 1988 and 1998. Glebe Farmhouse appears to be newly constructed, but I don’t know when that was built, and St Mary’s House doesn’t exist. Any ideas anyone?

village 199-
Aerial view of Chitterne of unknown date

Thanks to AS for the picture.

Aerial View of Village

Raymond Poolman 1933-2017

One of our old time villagers, Raymond Poolman, sadly passed away today, the 19th November 2017, aged 84 years.

ray poolman
Raymond Poolman

Ray had lived his whole life in Chitterne apart from a brief spell of National Service in Germany in the early 1950s. He was born at The Round House, the youngest son of William Poolman and Elsie, née Drewitt. Like his father he worked in farming at The Manor for the Wallis family, until he was made redundant, and then for the REME at Warminster.

Ray was a lifelong Baptist and met his wife Freda through Baptist connections in Dorset. They were married at Alderholt Congregational Church in 1962, and moved into their new bungalow, in Chitterne, next door to Ray’s parents, in January 1963.

Both Freda and Ray played the piano and organ. Ray had been taught to play the piano by Olive Burt née Polden, as a child. He played for Baptist services at the chapel in Bidden Lane and when that chapel closed he and Freda held Baptist services themselves at the Village Hall in Chitterne for many years. Ray represented the Baptist Church on the Village Hall Committee. Later, the couple attended and played for services in Tilshead until that chapel also closed.

Ray and Freda have been our neighbours for the last 41 years. In all that time their garden has never looked less than immaculate. They were both great gardeners and grew many vegetables and flowers. Freda does still. After he retired Ray took up gardening for other villagers, and was often to be seen mowing the grass at Chitterne House.

There have been Poolmans living in Chitterne since the 18th century, all descended from John Poolman who married Betty Eyles at Chitterne All Saints Church in 1757. Ray was one of the last descendants living here, but not quite the last.

 

Raymond Poolman 1933-2017

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

manor farm (1)
The Limbricks thrashing at Manor Farm

Some time before World War II the Defence Land Commission of the War Department (WD) of the British government bought up a lot of land and properties in Chitterne including Chitterne Farm, the Racing Stables and Manor Farm. Manor Farm was run by a tenant farmer under WD ownership for about 60 years. In the 1980s the land and barns were amalgamated with Chitterne Farm and the farmhouse sold off. So today we have Chitterne Farm West, owned by the Ministry of Defence, and Manor Farmhouse privately owned.

manor farm (2)
The reverse of the photo above – William Limbrick’s written description

By 1939 the Limbrick family ran Manor Farm and lived in the farmhouse. The tenant, William Isaac Hatherill Limbrick, was born in Gloucestershire, but he and his wife Emma Annie née Cave had spent several years farming in Canada before coming to Chitterne. Their children, Tom and May, were born and grew up in the wilds of Saskatchewan.

According to BL, who paid a visit to Chitterne a short while ago, his father Tom and aunt May were almost feral by the time they set out for England. But Tom ran the farm here and appears to have been well-liked in the village. He offered the re-formed Cricket Club a field to play on in February 1939, married Marguerite Willcox of Tytherington, Gloucestershire in 1941 and lived in Brookside (Brook Cottage) with her. Their three children were baptised in Chitterne Church.  Tom joined Wiltshire Flying Club and gained his flying certificate in 1946. May married Ralph Carey of Potterne in 1942 at Chitterne Church.

manor farm (3)
William Limbrick’s invoice

The Limbrick family left Chitterne after the war in about 1948 and returned to their roots in Gloucestershire. William died in Sherborne, Gloucestershire in 1964, Tom died only 5 years later, aged 52 in Cheltenham.

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

Chitterne from the Air

On a hot Saturday in June this year our village dwellings were photographed from a helicopter flying at 800 feet. Last week, like many other villagers, I was offered a copy of the digital photograph of my house and garden. This is it.

round house 2017

The photographer had done his homework and spun a good yarn to effect a sale, but there was no need from my point of view, I was a willing customer. But some of his information was worth telling.

Do you know, he said, that in 1994 Chitterne and Shrewton were the last two villages in the UK to be photographed from the air using the wet film method? No, I didn’t. Do you have a copy of the photo taken then? Yes, I have, and showed it to him. Here it is.

round house 1994

A bit faded from sunlight after 23 years hanging opposite the front door, but now I know why. It was taken using film later developed in a dark room. Your two villages, he said, are quite famous in the aerial photography world.

Chitterne from the Air