The Robbers’ Stone

robber's stone1
The Robbers’ Stone at Chitterne as it once looked. Postcard from Rev. Canner’s History of Chitterne

The highway robbery of Matthew Dean in 1839 led to the erection of two monuments, which still exist. The first is alongside the A360 between Gore Cross and West Lavington and marks the spot where the robbery took place. The second stone is just inside the Chitterne parish boundary at Chapperton Down. It marks the spot where one of the fleeing robbers, Benjamin Colclough, fell down and died.

robberstone2
The same stone as it looks now.

The Chitterne Robber’s Stone is inside the Minstry of Defence’s Imber Range Danger Area, where live firing takes place during military exercises and public access is generally prohibited. A recent exchange of emails about the Chitterne stone with a keen photographer led to his disappointment. Not necessarily because of the Salisbury Plain by-laws – he could have chosen a quiet time to visit the stone – but because the photo of the stone on the history pages is out-of-date. Since the photo was taken a protective fence has been erected around the monument, rendering it less appealing for atmospheric photography. The text of the article about the robbery on the history pages needs up-dating too. Here is a better version:

Matthew Dean, an Imber farmer, was making his way home on horseback from Devizes market to Imber on 21st October 1839 when he was attacked at Gore Cross by four men. They pulled him off his horse and robbed him of three £20 pound notes from North Wilts Bank, a sovereign and a half in gold, £2 in silver and his hat. His horse ran off and after recovering Dean followed them on foot.

Nearby he came across James Morgan, a farmer from Chitterne, who rode after the four men and saw one of them discard his smock.  Meanwhile Dean enlisted the help of John Baish, carter, and James Kite, the farmer at Gore Cross farm. They joined the pursuit on horseback with Morgan, but losing sight of one robber, carried on chasing the other three.

Eventually the three robbers sat down exhausted and Morgan left to get more help leaving Baish and Kite to guard them. William Hooper, a farmer, came to help with a loaded gun and a faster horse, but after threats and retorts the robbers made off again and ran for about a mile and a half. One robber fell and they left him and chased after the other two. Hooper’s brother James joined the others and when he confronted the two robbers they threw down their sticks and surrendered.

But Kite and Baish were reluctant to take hold of the robbers and yet another argument broke out. James Hooper went to get more help and the two robbers made off again with William Hooper, Morgan, Kite and Baish in chase, now joined by Hooper’s shepherd and his son. After about a mile the robbers were exhausted but still armed with large fold sticks. They threatened Mr W Sainsbury who came to assist with the arrest, but upon being threatened in return with Sainsbury’s whip and two pistols, they surrendered. While the shepherd was sent to Imber for a horse and cart the whole company headed towards West Lavington. The robbers gave up their arms when the cart arrived and rode in it to the Lamb at the bottom of Rutts Lane, West Lavington, where they were handed over to the constables. Deans pocket book with the £20 notes was found intact on the downs.

Next morning James Morgan found the body of Benjamin Colclough on the downs. Colclough had been a hawker, thirty-five years old, and had died from a ruptured vessel in his brain. At his inquest the jury gave a verdict of felo-de-se, ‘one who deliberately puts an end to his own existence, or commits an unlawful act, the consequence of which is death.’ His body was buried at Chitterne All Saints without funeral rites.

The fourth robber, Harris, was caught soon after and detained for further examination. He had been seen with the other three at various times near the site of the robbery and was found near a hayrick where he had probably spent the night. Dean swore he was one of the robbers, so he was kept in Devizes prison with the two others pending trial.

At the trial the three, Thomas Saunders, George Waters and Richard Harris, were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, present day Tasmania.

The stone monuments, built by Mr Sheppard of Bath, were erected by public subscription on the same day in August 1840, as a warning to those ‘who presumptuously think to escape the punishment God has threatened against thieves and robbers’. The ceremony was attended by many, and refreshments were provided at Tilshead Lodge by ladies of the locality.

This update is thanks to more recent research about the robbery and its aftermath by Lyn Dyson and Quentin Goggs. Their book, ‘The Robbers’ Stone’, is a mine of information and has much more on the trial and what became of the robbers. If you want to know more I recommend getting hold of a copy. It was published in aid of West Lavington Youth Club in 2012 and is available online.

Be aware that the map reference for this grade 2 listed stone monument quoted on the Historic England website is wrong! The correct OS Grid reference is 006477 Sheet 184 Salisbury. Thanks to PT for this information.

 

 

 

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The Robbers’ Stone

1930 Wedding

Grant-Nottage wedding
Note the bridegroom’s spats!

Alice Grant married Donald Nottage in the village in 1930 and the reception was held at the King’s Head where this photo was taken. Behind the wedding guests you can see the old thatched skittle alley and function room, which once stood at the back of the present car park.

Alice was the daughter of James Grant and his wife Elizabeth née Poolman. She and Donald lived in London after their marriage, but Alice and her daughters came back to Chitterne for the duration of World War 2.

grant-nottage wedding guests
 I have tried to identify the wedding guests, any additional help with names welcome.
1930 Wedding

Dates at the Manor 2: Who was Hester Matravers?

There is no date involved with the second windowpane engraving at The Manor, but investigating the words engraved caused great excitement as connections with past gentry and present villagers were revealed.

manor hester matravers

Hester Matravers was a Quaker born in Melksham in 1738 and married there in 1767 to Lord William Seymour of Easterton, son of the 8th Duke of Somerset, descendant of the Seymours of Wolf Hall. So why was she immortalised on a window in Chitterne and by whom?

Matravers, Hester
Portrait of Hester Matravers

There is a Seymour connection in the village in that Lord Francis Seymour, brother of William Seymour, presided at the marriage in Chitterne in 1759 of Charlotte Seymour of Wantage in Berkshire and Samuel Ferris, curate of both Chitterne parishes. Lord Francis had come from Wantage to marry the pair so presumably he stayed somewhere in the village for at least one night, perhaps at The Manor. Three years later in 1762 Charlotte’s sister Frances also married in Chitterne, and was said to be ‘of Chitterne’ at that time, so did she live at The Manor and entertain William Seymour there? Did he scratch his regard for Hester on the window?

So far this is pure speculation because we have yet to find a connection between the family of the Dukes of Somerset and Charlotte and Frances, but surely we must be on the right track?

A further connection to the present day has just turned up, which adds weight to my long-held theory that descendants of the old Chitterne families are somehow drawn back to the village. Hester Matravers’ and William Seymour’s daughter, Hester Maria Seymour, married Captain Peter Awdry, who turns out to be an ancestor, with his second wife, of our own EJH.

This is just a brief resumé of a longer article written by my sleuthing researcher friends J & RR, to whom I am greatly indebted. To read more about the investigation and findings go to: Who was Hester Matravers?

 

 

Dates at the Manor 2: Who was Hester Matravers?

Dates at The Manor 1

Following on from the last blog, and thanks to CL, I have taken some photographs of several engravings at The Manor in Chitterne. One of the two engraved window panes there revealed an unexpected find and a bit of a wow moment.

the manor
The Manor, Chitterne St Mary

The Manor was owned and leased to tenants by a succession of Lords of the Manor, the Paulets, the Methuens and the Longs, until Frederick Buckeridge Wallis bought the buildings and land from the Long family at the end of WW1, as told to me by Lawrence Wallis. All I knew of the tenants of The Manor, before the Wallis family arrived there in about 1823, was gleaned from the recollections of William E Sanders, who says that the Sanders family leased The Manor up till c1800, when Christopher Fricker took it on. Christopher died in 1815 and is buried in St Mary’s graveyard.

Members of the Sanders family are buried in the same graveyard and remembered on memorial tablets on the quoins of St Mary’s Chancel. Their names also occur in the Parish Registers from the 1600s.

So the find on the window pane has slotted another piece into the jigsaw of The Manor.

E Morris died 1812
Marks and engravings etched into the glass window pane at The Manor, Chitterne

The E. Morris engraved on the pane refers to Elizabeth Morris née Shurland who died on 21st December 1812 and was buried on the 28th under the floor of the Chancel. According to her tombstone Elizabeth was the widow of Jeremiah Morris of Mere, Wiltshire, who died in 1806, and the daughter of C. Shurland, a Senator of Barbados Island. Her son, Joseph Brown Morris, was curate of Imber, Wiltshire from 1808 to 1815.  So perhaps Elizabeth moved to The Manor to be near her son, but that supposition begs a question: Did she live in Christopher Fricker’s house or take over the lease from him? Or, did Joseph take on the curacy of Imber to be near his mother? Joseph took on the lease of the Round House at some point around 1808, then sadly died young in 1815, whereupon his brother Charles Morris took on the lease and lived at the Round House until 1879. Hence my wow moment at seeing the engraving.

I have not discovered who Christopher Daniel was but there are other photographs from The Manor still to share, which will have to wait for another time.

 

 

Dates at The Manor 1

Dated Buildings

The Dated Buildings Project currently being undertaken by Wiltshire Buildings Record led me to think of the dated buildings we have in Chitterne. Off the top of my head there are at least six in the village, ranging from the elaborate dated inscription to the lowly scratched in plaster type.

Last weekend’s open gardens provided a good opportunity to photograph a few of them. Chitterne House has more than one. Over the front door is a square stone tablet.

chitterne house datestone
HEALTH AND PEACE THIS HOUSE INCREASE 1635 GD

This stone tablet is thought to have been re-sited from its previous position, perhaps when the entrance was moved from Back Lane to the Tilshead Road? I have no idea who GD was.

Other dates have been scratched in the stones either side of the front door at Chitterne House.

chitterne house 1686
1686 to the left of the front door of Chitterne House
chitterne house 1752
1752 below the 1686
chitterne house 1783
1783 to the right of the front door

The stable at Chitterne House also has an inscribed datestone.

chitterne house stable
This stable was built by Robt Michell Eq 1774

Near Chitterne House, and built on part of the garden, is Pitts Cottage. This cottage is thought to have housed the Chitterne House gardener in days gone by. It was built by Richard Hayward, owner of Chitterne House in 1870. It also has a datestone.

pitts cottage 1870
Richard Hayward’s Pitts Cottage dated 1870

The Long family left their mark on the village. Just across Pitts Lane from Pitts Cottage is Pitts House, built by Walter Hume Long in 1891.

pitts house 1891
Walter Hume Long’s Pitts House 1891

An earlier member of the Long family, Richard Penruddocke Long, left his mark on Chestnut Cottages in Bidden Lane in 1874.

chestnut cottages 1874
Richard Penruddocke Long’s Chestnut Cottages, an early example of building entirely in concrete, see my archived blog  “Researching Concrete Houses in Chitterne” dated 23 Sept 2014

The Old Baptist Chapel has quite a large stone memorial tablet.

baptist chapel 1903
The Baptist Chapel burnt down and was rebuilt in 1903

Inscriptions can be a lot less fancy than those above, but be just as interesting and useful. A name and date scratched in the plaster of the chimney breast in the loft at my house was probably done when the roof was renewed or changed in 1882 by Poldens, the builders.

round house 1882
Polden the builder signed his work in 1882 at the Round House

It was some time before we spotted this simple 1880 scratched on a brick at the entrance to the old stable at the Round House. What could it signify? A rebuild, a repair?

stable 1880
1880 scratched in red brick on the stable door jamb at the Round House

If your house in Chitterne has a date inscription, please leave a comment, or contact me on the ‘About’ page.

 

Dated Buildings

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.

Great House
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.

coach house1
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.

hut small
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.

chitternelodge
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