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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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