Great House

In the days when the Michell family lived in Chitterne there were two parishes and two manor houses, one for Chitterne All Saints and one for Chitterne St Mary. St Mary’s manor house still exists and is known today as The Manor, but All Saints manor house, which stood in the present sportsfield, has gone.

All Saints manor house owned by Matthew Michell 1751-1817 disappeared in the 1820s, it is said after a disatrous fire, but I have seen no evidence of this. However, the coach house of the manor survived and was converted into six farm worker’s dwellings that became known as Great House, or colloquially big ‘ouses; perhaps because of the height of the building, or a reference to Chitterne Great Farm (Chitterne Farm and Chitterne Lodge estate), or to the demolished Great Manor, since All Saints Manor Farm was once known as Little Manor. Whatever the source of the name, it appears to have been used from the 1800s until the 1970s when the MoD sold the building.

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Sketch of Great House by Ernie George

Six families lived in the converted dwellings numbered 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42 at Great House until at least 1925, but by 1939 the six had been altered again to provide three dwellings numbered 38, 39 and 41. This alteration may have coincided with the construction of the first council houses in the 1920s. By 1955 the dwellings were renumbered yet again under the War Department’s numbering system when the Brennan family lived in 967 and the Burch family in 968.

The building became a single dwelling in the 1970s, when owned by Peter and Pru Heaton-Ellis, who lived there for almost 40 years. It was re-named The Coach House and numbered 37.

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The Coach House in 2012
Great House

The Village Hut in Wartime

The old First World War corrugated iron hut acquired by the village in 1921 to serve as a village hall was again pressed into use by the services in the Second World War.

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Village Hut in Bidden Lane, no longer exists, the site is part of Well Cottage garden

In 1940 the Village Hut Committee planned for the hut to be used purely as a recreation facility by 225 Squadron RAF billeted in the village, but by October that year the RAF had commandeered the large room in the hut for use as sleeping quarters.

The committee were shocked to discover the state of the hut in June 1941 after the servicemen had left.  Two chairs were missing and several damaged, the platform extension and music stool were missing, the stove was broken and the hut was in a mess. The RAF officers summoned to examine the damage promised to send and fit a new stove. They offered 14/6d (73p) in compensation for the broken and missing chairs and for timber to make a new platform extension, and promised to send a fatigue party to remove the ashes and rubbish from the rear of the hut and to clean up generally. The committee accepted this offer, the new stove arrived and the fatigue party cleaned up.

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Chitterne Lodge

In August 1941 225 Squadron borrowed the hut piano for use in the Officers quarters at Chitterne Lodge for three weeks. The Committee were relieved to see that it was returned still in good condition.

Lectures were held in the hut in 1941 by the Home Guard and the Pioneer Corps. On 4th May 1942 members of the Officers Training Corps were billeted in the hut overnight and paid a 6/8d fee. The Men’s Club at the hut asked the committee for physical training classes and were able to obtain the services of an instructor from the Welsh Guards stationed at Codford.

Later in 1942 the Royal Army Medical Corps, billeted at Chitterne Lodge, were selling a gramophone and offered it to the hut committee for £20. The committee decided their budget would not stretch to this, but they did agree to loan the hut platform to the RAMC for a show at their billet. In May 1943 the RAMC were allowed free use of the hut for an ENSA concert, to which the village were invited. By October 1943 the RAMC were holding Whist Drives and Dances regularly in the hut, but not charged because they had transported the hut piano to and from the piano repairer in Warminster for free.

In 1944 the Engineers, stationed at Chitterne Lodge, asked to use the hut for entertainment on Sundays. The committee agreed to this as long as the use didn’t coincide with religious services.

Lastly, in January 1945 Major Baddeley of the 3rd Wilts Cadet Battalion asked to use the hut for cadet meetings. The committee agreed and charged 2/6d per session. Could this be the same man who lived in Chitterne for many years at Syringa Cottage?

The Village Hut in Wartime

Arch Cottages

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Recent photo of 20 and 22 Townsend, formerly 20, 21, 22 and 23 Arch Cottages

The Arch was the hump-backed bridge over the Cut (Chitterne Brook) in Townsend. Arch Cottages were the four terraced cottages numbered 20, 21, 22 and 23 alongside the Arch.

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The Arch bridge with the cottages far left in 2017

During the second World War the bridge was flattened and the narrow road widened either by Italian prisoners of war (Chitterne Chat May 1992) or by conscientious objectors (see blog: Who Lined The Cut? dated 23 Jan 2017). Unfortunately I have no photograph of the old bridge, but it looks, from this old map, as if the road at that time made a sharp bend where it crossed the bridge.

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Map of about 1850 shows the Arch bridge passing over the Cut with Arch Cottages centre. Note the path in front of the cottages. Apologies for the photo, this is only a small part of a huge original map

The cottages appear on maps as far back as 1826. In 1882 the four cottages were owned by Joseph Dean of Chitterne Farm, but the gardens behind and alongside were part of the Chitterne estate owned by Walter Hume Long of Rood Ashton. According to a schedule of Corn Rents dated 1882 Joseph Dean was letting the cottages to shepherd Henry Farley, and others, but the schedule is probably out of date because Henry Farley had left Chitterne by 1881. The census that year has Thomas Coles, William Grant, Frederick Grant and John Furnell and families living there. Thomas and Frederick were shepherds, and William and John were agricultural labourers, most likely employed at Chitterne Farm.

The four cottages continued to be occupied by farm workers in 1891. By 1901 and 1911 one cottage was uninhabited. The vicar, Rev. John Canner, recorded Sidney and Ellen Parrett and Harry and Ellen Beaumont living in two of the cottages in 1925; and then we have no further information as the names of the occupants in the 1939 register are redacted. Presumably the cottages, as part of Chitterne Farm, were under War Department ownership by then.

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20 Townsend in 2012

By the time George and Jessie Clarke came to live here in 1966 some of the cottages were condemned. The Clarks bought number 20 first and later the other three when they came up for sale. They made 20 and 21 into one dwelling for themselves, moving in 1971, and 22 and 23 into another to rent out. George Clark died in 1976 and Jessie in 2005. The two cottages, 20 and 22, remained in the same family until quite recently and have since been renovated again.

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22 Townsend before recent renovations
Arch Cottages

Admiral Napier’s Gift

Admiral Charles Lionel Napier of Chitterne House was leaving the village and, as president of the Hut committee, wanted to give something to the Hut as a momento of the happy time he and his wife had spent in the village. He offered, on 3rd September 1926 if the committee was agreeable, to have a wireless set installed in the Hut for the use of the villagers.

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The Village Hut by Ernie George

For newcomers to the village, the Village Hut was an ex- army World War One wooden hut that was erected by the villagers in 1921-22 for use as a Village Hall. It stood in Bidden Lane behind the White Hart Inn on what is now part of Well Cottage garden.

 

The committee accepted the offer gratefully and by 15th October had an agreement with Ushers Brewery Limited (who owned the White Hart) to erect an aerial in their field, at a fee of sixpence a year, (this was probably the field where Clockhouse Cottages now stand), with the proviso that the pole was to be removed at seven days notice from the brewery.

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An example of a wireless set of 1926

The committee also decided that: “Two members were to be on duty each week to facilitate the use of the wireless by the villagers. At least two performances to be open to the general public and one for children each week. Members on duty to arrange the programme to be given.” Wireless terminology had yet to catch up with the science!

“One of the days should be Sunday for the religious service, and the Men’s Club should have the use of the set when not otherwise required on condition that they provide light and heat on the occasions when used by the public.” By the following year the conditions were more relaxed: “any person wishing to listen to any particular item at any time should make application to the member on duty.”

All this extra footfall at the hut meant that the cleaner was to be paid 1 shilling per week during the winter months for the extra work caused by the use of the wireless. “It was decided to hold a Whist Drive and Dance at an early date to provide funds for the upkeep of the wireless and other hut expenses.”

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Accumulator 1926

“Members of the committee reported that the wireless was become faint, and it was thought that a new H.T. Battery was required.” This was in December 1926 and the secretary was asked to look into the matter and purchase another if needed. The Men’s Club took the matter into their own hands and purchased an Exide H.T. accumulator for the wireless.

Power for the wireless came at first from dry H.T. batteries, but these needed replacing every 2 months at athe cost of £1. Later on the committee realised that accumulators would be cheaper as they could be re-charged every 3 months at a cost of 2 shillings and 6 pence (12½p) . An accumulator was an early type of battery containing acid. These needed to be transported very carefully and charged very slowly or dire results would ensue. The accumulators were taken to the Warminster Motor Company for charging at first but that soon proved too difficult and by 1928 they were being re-charged in Wylye.

In 1927 the wireless was  “not very satisfactory” and the Warminster Motor Company were asked to put it in order. The following year 1928 the set had broken down and been examined and repaired by Mr. H. Down. It was not working again in 1929 and the committee must have been wondering if they had been offered a poisoned chalice! A sub-committee was formed to consider the question of having the set rebuilt.This was done and the set was re-installed in March 1929 and “appeared to be satisfactory.” But the “bills in respect of same had not yet been received.” The treasurer reported that the balance in the kitty was 18 shillings and 2 pence. It was decided to hold a Whist Drive and Dance at an early date in aid of the funds.

After renewing the wireless licence in 1930 there is no mention in the Village Hut Committee Minute Book of  Admiral Napier’s gift until 1934, when it was decided not to renew the licence, and to notify Ushers Brewery Limited that the aerial pole would be removed.

 

 

Admiral Napier’s Gift

19 Townsend

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Honeysuckle Cottage, 19 Townsend

This cottage has a horsey history. A farmer’s groom lived here in 1871, he was Joseph Mabbitt and his boss was Edward Gibbs of Chitterne Farm. Joseph lived in the cottage until he died in 1888 aged 58 years and his wife Elizabeth lived here until at least 1901.

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1882 Corn Rents map, 19 Townsend is plot number 200, Joseph Mabbitt is listed as tenant on the schedule

By 1911 things had changed a little, Elizabeth Mabbitt had moved out to live with her niece a few doors away and Chitterne Farm had a new owner, but still with horses, racehorses.

Ronald Farquharson, bought the Chitterne Farm estate, which included Chitterne Lodge, from lord of the manor, Walter Hume Long in 1906. Farquharson, having made his fortune in rubber, now fancied a new career training and breeding racehorses. His plan was to breed horses at Tilshead Lodge, which he bought at the same time, and train them at Chitterne. His new estate in Chitterne included 19 Townsend, the groom’s cottage.

By 1911 Farquharson had installed (no pun intended!) nine of his workers at Chitterne Racing Stables in 19 Townsend. They were all young men and came from far and wide:

  • John Henry Hemming aged 21, straper, from Leamington, Warwickshire
  • James Walsh aged 19, stableman, birth place unknown
  • William Every aged 18, stableman, from Chester
  • Herman Trathen 21, jockey, from Yorkshire, birth place unknown
  • L Clever aged 17, stable lad, from Birmingham
  • John Gilly aged 28, stableman, from Bigbury
  • Walter Winn aged 38, stableman, from Rochdale, Lancashire
  • Robert Arnold aged 15, stable lad, from Earls Court, London
  • Harry Bond aged 24, stableman, from Bath, Somerset

Farquharson’s enterprise lasted until 1937 when the War Department (MoD) bought the whole of his estate including 19 Townsend, bringing an end to the horse connection. Troops replaced the horses at the stables in the second World War, and widower Ernest Ayres and his six children replaced the stable workers at 19 Townsend, followed by Walter and Florrie Lacey a couple evacuated from Imber in 1943.

I wonder what happened to all those stable workers? And how on earth did they all fit into number 19?

19 Townsend

Chitterne Barn

For over 200 years, until July 1983, Chitterne Barn stood in a hollow on the Plain to the east of the village, alongside the old Bath to Sarum road. It was part of the Field Barn Settlement known as Two Barns or Twain Barns, about 2.5 km from Chitterne village. Two Barns belonged to Chitterne Farm. In 1871 all five cottages at Two Barns were inhabited but by 1901 only shepherd Charles Munday and carter Job Tilley and families lived there, while three cottages lay uninhabited. Two Barns came into the possession of the Ministry of Defence in the 1930s.

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A shearing gang at Chitterne in 1895  (Institute of Agriculture, University of Reading)

The barn was a huge thatched oak structure dating from the 1700s, when sheep and corn farming was in its heyday. It had been described as “an agricultural masterpiece” and, rather than destroy it in 1983 to make way for the proposed army training village, the MoD chose to preserve it.

The subsequent loss of the building in 1993 has already been covered in the Chitterne website history pages; this blog concerns the dismantling of the barn in 1983. New information has come to light recently, which, along with some wonderful photographs taken by AS during the dismantling process, needs to be in the public domain.

The following two photos were taken by DR in March 1983 before any dismantling took place. The barn had been used by the army as a briefing shelter for some time.

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Chitterne Barn interior March 1983
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Part of the barn roof structure March 1983

The next three photos were taken by AS during July 1983 as the barn was being dismantled in stages by the Dundry Slopes project. Project staff included a bricklayer, a plasterer, a civil engineer and a carpenter. The well qualified team were to carefully dismantle the barn ready for re-erection at Bristol.

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Stage 1: After colour coding and labelling each timber in the structure, the corrugated iron roof covering the old thatch has been removed and the remains of the thatch is being stripped off
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Stage 2: The rafters and wall section of aisles have been removed
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Stage 3: The purlins and second rafters are being lowered using ropes. The main posts were shored up while the tie beams were raised and then lowered

To read what happened to the barn later go to: chitterne.com/history/barn.html

I am very grateful to volunteer librarian CB at the Weald & Downland Museum, Singleton, Chichester, West Sussex for prompting this blog by kindly sending me a copy of the Chitterne Barn report written in March 1983 by Dave Richards; to AS of Chitterne for donating the photos he took in July 1983, and to DR who photographed the barn before its removal.

Chitterne Barn