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

Farm Workers 1928

Leslie, Spriggy, Alb, Beat, Reg and Mrs Burnett in 1928
Leslie, Spriggy, Alb, Beat, Reg and Mrs Burnett in 1928

A group of farm workers from Manor Farm, Chitterne enjoying their ‘nammit’ at the roadside in 1928. They are left to right: Leslie Jay, George ‘Spriggy’ Dowdell, Albert Dowdell, his wife Beatrice, Reginald Burnett and his mother Ellen Burnett.

Leslie and George lived at Great House, which is now Coach House, but in those days it was divided up into separate cottages for workers on the farm. George lived with his widowed mother Eliza Dowdell nee Jay, and Leslie lodged with them.

Albert was George’s older brother who’d married Beatrice Blake a couple of years earlier. He was a carter, like his father, for Farmer Collins at Manor Farm. Manor Farm is now a part of Chitterne Farm and known as Chitterne Farm East.

Albert Dowdell and his daughter Doreen in 1930
Albert Dowdell and his daughter Doreen in 1930

The Burnetts, Ellen and Frederick, and their son Reginald lived at 7 Abdon Close.

Ellen, Reginald and Frederick Burnett in 1928
Ellen, Reginald and Frederick Burnett in 1928

Originally a nammit was a woven straw basket used by farmworkers to carry food and drink to the field for the midday break, but nammit also came to be used for the food itself. So perhaps Beatrice and Ellen had brought nammit for Reginald who may have been helping the men out.

Farm Workers 1928