Kings Head to Close

Our local pub the Kings Head is to close at the end of this week. Like many local pubs its fortunes have been stormy since the clamp down on drinking and driving and the ban on smoking in public places, but it has survived until now. Who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I thought I would take a look at the pub’s past.

kings head interior

The first reference to an inn here comes from the 18th century when the inn was part of the Chitterne estate owned by a series of wealthy landowning families. The George Inn burnt down in Chitterne St Mary when Thomas Bennet was the tenant and the Paulet family were the owners. James Wheeler took on the tenancy in 1742 and presumably changed the inn’s name because the Wheeler family were still there in 1826 when another James Wheeler was the copyholder of the “King’s Head Inn, outbuildings, garden, yard etc.” which he held for the lives of Mary Huntley 62, Mary Wheeler 32, and William Huntley Wheeler 10 (mother-in-law, wife and son). By then the owners were the Methuen family who had bought the Chitterne estate from the Paulets in the 1770s. Wheeler and Huntley memorials are still visible on the outside walls of the chancel.

The Long family bought the Chitterne estate from the Methuens in 1830. The Wallis family of Chitterne St Mary Manor were their tenants and William Wallis’s mother-in-law Ann White was the innkeeper. The Wallis family continued to be associated with the inn until they gave up malting their own barley around 1910. In 1896 the Longs auctioned the estate and the inn sold for £1350 to ‘Marjant? Bladworth’ (pencilled none too clearly alongside the inn details on the auction catalogue) who could be agents for a brewer. Bartletts brewery in Warminster were supplying the inn with beer in the early 20thC before they went bust in 1920.

Landlords of the inn changed frequently after Ann White. Henry Hull 1841; John Whatley 1851; William Compton, saddler and innkeeper in 1861 and 1871. Then the 3 Bs: James Burr 1880-1887, William Beak 1888-1894, George Brown 1895-1897. By 1901 Sidney and Alice Daniels were landlords followed by another B, George Burgess during World War 1.

kings head burgess
The Kings Head flanked by shop and store with George Burgess standing outside

Ushers Brewery of Trowbridge acquired the inn after the demise of Bartletts brewery. Joseph and Kate Robberts ran the pub in 1925, George Turner in 1927 and Thomas Burbidge 1928-1932. William and Florence Jones in wartime and in 1945 Mick and Winifred Benson took over and stayed until 1954. Their daughter Jeanne married Ernie George, a Chitterne lad, and settled in Townsend. Ernie made a drawing of the pub yard as it looked in 1948.

kings head yard
Kings Head Inn yard 1948, the skittle alley top left, carport, and stables on the right.

Cecil and Doris Newton took over as innkeepers from the Bensons in 1954 and stayed until Cecil’s sudden death in 1980. The other pub in the village, the White Hart Inn closed permanently in the mid-1950s, so that gave Cecil and Doris a boost and they made the most of it. During their time the pub Cribbage team won the league in 1974 and the darts team played in the Till Darts League in 1977, winning against the Royal Oak at Shrewton, but then losing to the Catherine Wheel 10-9.

kings head newton
The Kings Head 1950/60s, Doris Newton talking to Vic Diaper with Clifford Mould and Peter Newton near the bike.

The Kings Head was still an Ushers pub in 1980, but before 1990 it was up for sale and brewers Gibbs Mew bought it.

kings head gibbs mew 1
The pub decked in Gibbs Mew black and gold livery around 1988

After the Newtons 26 year tenure landlords came and went with alarming frequency, none staying more than four years despite the pub winning the Bulmers and Gibbs Mew competition for the best display of flowers in 1995. From 1980 to 2002 the pub had eleven different landlords and then changed owners once again.

kings head gibbs mew 2
Gibbs Mew blue livery in later years

Gibbs Mew sold the pub around 2002 to Enterprise Inns. The new owners revamped the bar area considerably, replacing the optics with shelves and updating the floor surface and eating area. The pub re-opened on the 29th November 2002, but despite these efforts the pub’s fortunes didn’t improve, the final straw was the closure of the road outside the pub for bridge works, which lasted several months in 2005.

Four more landlords came and went, the optics came back, and closures in 2008 and 2009 led to Enterprise Inns offering the pub for sale in September 2010. They were heading to auction in February 2011, but at the last moment agreed to sell to the current landlord. The pub opened as a Free House on 1st April 2011, and has been open now for eight and a half years, the longest serving landlord since the Newtons.

Now Saturday night will see the pub close once again. What will the future bring?


Kings Head to Close

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

An early 1900s view of the area of Chitterne St Mary affected by the fire. The Manor is top centre, Glebe House can just be seen far left centre. The church farm buildings are to the left of the King’s Head, fronted by a wall.

A newspaper report of a fire in a Chitterne St Mary farmyard describes in great detail just how easily fire can spread once it takes hold. The farmyard belonged to the lord of the manor and was leased from him by William Wallis, who lived at The Manor, while his widowed mother, Mary Buckeridge Wallis, lived in what is now Glebe House.  When the fire was first spotted it was no more than a small blaze in a rick. The date was 26th February 1831.

Report of the fire from the Evening Mail of 1st March 1831

Some explanations seem necessary. The ricks of wheat and barley were kept in an enclosed yard known as a rick-barton. The house and cottage that were burned on the other side of the road would have been in the vicinity of present day St Mary’s Lodge, number 104 and Glebe Farmhouse. The farm mentioned “to the leeward” of the fire was George Parham’s Clump Farm, a site now occupied by St Mary’s Close. Other farm buildings owned by the church stood on the site of present day Birch Cottage.

The “late disturbances” refer to the Swing Riots of 1830. When groups of farm workers worried for their livelihoods travelled around the neighbourhood wrecking the new threshing machines. There had been no wrecking in Chitterne, unlike in Heytesbury, Upton Lovell, Knook and Corton where several machines were wrecked and as a consequence 20 men transported to Australia for terms of seven years.

Thanks to the eagle eyed J & R for this, who spotted it when looking for something else!

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

1896 Sale of Chitterne Properties: part 1

Following on from my last blog here are the details of the properties that were offered for sale by Walter Hume Long in 1896 from a copy of the auction particulars found at 98 Chitterne. Most of the properties were in St Mary’s parish, apart from a couple in All  Saints. Some were sold, some were not, and some were withdrawn from the sale.

Lot number 1: The White Hart Inn.

white hart inn sale 1896
The inn is now White Hart House

The tenant at the time was William Poolman, a member of the very large Poolman family that had lived in Chitterne since at least 1737. He is usually known as William Meade Poolman to distinguish him from other Williams in the family. In 1865 he married Sarah George, niece of Thomas George previous tenant of the inn, and ran the White Hart Inn from then until Sarah died in 1906. He was a carrier and landlord of cottages as well as an innkeeper and owned quite a few cottages scattered around the village. He has appeared in my blogs before as landlord of 8 cottages in Bidden Lane. As the village carrier he ran a regular service to the local towns and markets.

The White Hart Inn under William Poolman’s tenancy, note his name above the door

The inn was purchased at auction for £2000 by Margant Bladworth (or Margan & Bladworth, it is not clear) according to the pencilled note on the excerpt above. I have not been able to find out who that was. It may have been an agent for a brewery as the same person/s also purchased the King’s Head Inn.

Lot number 2: The King’s Head Inn.

kings head sale 1896
Part of the King’s Head’s ground is a part of the St Mary’s graveyard and 101 Chiiterne

The tenant of the King’s Head in 1896 was George Brown. I have very little idea who he was. His name appears in the Pig Club ledger for providing a Pig Club supper in 1895, 1896 and 1897, but not in any parish records, neither does he appear to be related to the Browns who taught at the school at that time.

kings head thatch
The King’s Head at the turn of the century

The King’s Head was purchased for £1350 at auction by the same person/s who bought the White Hart Inn, Margant Bladworth or Margan & Bladworth, possibly agents for a brewery.

Lot number 3: Bridge Cottage.

bridge cottage sale 1896

The sitting tenant, Miss Annie Compton, purchased Bridge Cottage for £55 at auction. She had been living there since before 1891, and stayed until her death in 1931. She was one of the first women in the country to be elected to serve on a council. In 1894 she was elected to the Rural District Council representing Chitterne, and remained so for almost 40 years. She was also a member of the Board of Guardians of Warminster Workhouse until she was 90 years old.

Bridge Cottage is centre behind the horse and cart

Bridge Cottage is named for the bridge over the Chitterne Brook, which it fronts. The bridge was always known as Compton’s Bridge by the locals in those days. It was hump-backed until the second World War, when it was flattened to allow for easier movement of military transport. American troops who were billeted in Chitterne made use of the Bridge Café run by Henry Slater and Lily Poolman at Bridge Cottage during the war.



1896 Sale of Chitterne Properties: part 1

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

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

Chitterne Pig Club

Books donated by the family of the late Raymond Feltham

Thanks to the generosity of the Feltham family the village history archive has acquired several old ledgers and note books recently. Two of these, a ledger and a savings bank book, relate to the Chitterne Pig Club. I had no idea what a Pig Club was and the ledger bore neither name, nor a description of its function, but luckily a Savings Bank Book in the collection had Chitterne Pig Club written inside, otherwise it would have been a complete mystery. How secretive they were; but at last it’s all becoming clearer, with a little help from my sleuth friends.

First page of the Pig Club ledger dated 1876 showing list of members

In 1876, the first year recorded in the ledger, the Pig Club had 66 members paying in 6d or 9d quarterly. The following year all members paid 9d and some 1/6d. The payments appear to be per pig, so 9d for one pig, 1/6d for two pigs. Why?

It appears that the Pig Club was an insurance scheme, where each member of the club who owned a pig or two, paid in to insure their pigs against sudden death or disease. At least this is what happened in other Wiltshire villages, such as Fovant, where the club was not so secret. Also the Chitterne Pig Club hired the services of a butcher occasionally and paid him 1 shilling. In those days butchers could kill animals as well as cut them up.

Receipts and Expenditure pages for 1877 with bill for Supper attached

The payments to the butcher are recorded at the back of the ledger under ‘Expenditure’. In August 1876 the club paid out £1.12s to Thomas Fricker plus beer 1s.5½d, in September £2 to Jacob Feltham plus beer 1s.5½d and in December £1.18s to Isaac Feltham plus two lots of beer at 1s.5½d. Presumably these payments were for dead pigs, but why the beer? Did the owner of the pig need cheering up? The clerk was paid 5 shillings and beer 1s.5½d. A further 6 ‘opts’ of beer at 12s.6d and ‘ditto 3 for each member’ at 15 shillings were paid out in December. There seems to be a lot of beer being bought in the early days, but it’s not until 29 November 1916 that there is mention of ‘Killing and Burying pig’, 3 shillings under: H. Poolman £2.18s., so presumably it was his pig and no mention of beer.

In the ‘Receipts’ column for 1876 the first entry is ‘Balance: £5.18.1d’, so the Pig Club must have existed before 1876, then ‘Contributions: £7.7s.6d’, the sum of the quarterly payments from the members.

Pig Club Savings Bank book last page

The club’s bank account was held in the ‘Warminster Bank for Savings’ later called ‘Somerset & Wilts Savings Bank’. The bank book dates from 1878. In January that year £6 was invested, and on 20 November every year the interest was added. £34 was invested in total: £10 in 1879, £5 in 1883, £4 in 1888, £6 in 1891 and lastly, £9 in 1905. Very occasionally £4 or £5 was withdrawn so that the biggest balance in the account was £38.11s.3d. in 1907. When the club closed the account 50 years later in 1928 the final balance of £30.1s.8d. was distributed among the last six club members.


Westbury & Warminster Journal 1892

Now the really interesting thing to me is the annual Pig Club Supper which took place in the function room at the King’s Head Inn usually on New Years Day. Several bills for this meal are attached on the relevant pages in the ledger under Expenditure and they make interesting reading. In January 1877 Mr Perrett of the King’s Head charged £3.17s.7d all told for 61 lbs of beef, 3lbs cheese, 7 loaves, 6 gallons of ale and 61 pints of beer! There were 66 club members in January 1877 so if 61 members turned up for the supper, then that’s one pound of beef for each person!  Beer was 2½d per pint, ale 1 shilling a gallon, beef 10d a pound, cheese 8d a pound and loaves 7½d each! The bill was addressed to Mr Brown.

William Frederick Brown

William Frederick Brown, to give him his full name, was the village schoolmaster and also the Pig Club secretary for 22 years. We know this from a newspaper report of the Pig Club Supper in 1892 when W F Brown was presented with a gift in recognition of his long service as Pig Club secretary from 1868 to 1890. He was succeeded as secretary by Frank Polden. We do not know when Chitterne Pig Club was first formed but another newspaper report from 1905 states that it was one of the oldest in the county.

The annual Pig Club Supper must have been a jolly occasion if the newspaper reports are to be believed. A big feast of roast and boiled beef with plenty of beer was followed by speeches, entertainment from a band from Tilshead and singing by several male villagers, the whole thing was wrapped up at 10 o’clock by the singing of the National Anthem.

Membership of the Pig Club gradually dwindled from the heady heights of the 1870s. The club had 59 members in 1878, 47 in 1888, 22 in 1898, 21 in 1908, 7 in 1918 and 6 by its close in 1928. The last detailed club supper bill is dated 1891, after that the cost of the supper is merely listed each year under ‘Expenditure’, until January 1915 when it says: ‘Paid to members in lieu of Supper £1.2s’. Understandably club activities closed down during the first World War and there are no more suppers, or payments in lieu of supper after 1915. On the last two pages of the ledger dated 1927 and 1928 we have the following:

At a meeting held on Feb 9th all the Members were present & decided to wind up the Club, owing to lack of numbers, & divide the Assets standing to their credit as follows

  • W S Feltham   2 Shares
  • Mrs E Titt  1½ Shares
  • W J Feltham 1 Share
  • J Penny 1 Share
  • W Windsor 1 Share
  • A Polden 1 Share

On March 10th 1928 the members assembled to receive Cash due as decided, & signed their names on receipt as follows.

William S Feltham £8.12s.6d

Edwin Titt £6.9s.4½d

W J Feltham, James Penny, William Windsor and A Polden £4.6s.3d each.

My grateful thanks to J & RR for researching Pig Clubs and the newspaper archives.

For those not familiar with old style pounds, shillings and pence:

1 pound = 20 Shillings or 240 old pence = 1 decimal pound or 100 pence

1 shilling = 12 old pence = 5 decimal pence





Chitterne Pig Club