Gassing in the Church

I thought you might like to see this fascinating article from January 1887 in the Warminster & Westbury Journal. Discovered recently when friends were looking for an old newspaper article about the village 1887 Jubilee Celebrations.

 

church gassing Warminster Petty Sessions Warminster & Westbury Journal 8 January 1887

The church was only 25 years old in 1887, someone had been neglecting to service the coke stove!

church pre war memorial
All Saints with St Marys Church Chitterne taken from Great House (now Coach House) gardens before the War Memorial was erected

The father of the gassed boy, Joseph Dean 1846-1927, one of the Imber Deans, farmed at Chitterne Farm (now known as Chitterne Farm East). His wife was Louise Chisman from Stockton 1846-1932. There’s a field known as Chisman’s Field alongside the B390 to Warminster.

Joseph and Louise had three sons, any one of them could have been the victim. Edgar Wilfred born in 1878, George Leslie in 1880 and Joseph Percy in 1881. I have written in detail about Joseph Percy re the Scout Motor Company for an entry in the Chitterne history timeline here: Percy Dean

Wilfred who went on to have a long life died in 1958. He lived in Chitterne until at least 1903 and inherited some cottages in Bidden Lane in 1895.

George Leslie however died quite young, aged 47 years in January 1928, so perhaps he suffered the worst of the gassing as a young lad.

Gassing in the Church

Arch Cottages

arch cotts (2) small
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.

arch 2 small
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.

arch 1850
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.

20townsend 2012
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.

arch cottages
22 Townsend before recent renovations
Arch Cottages