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.
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.
St Mary’s footpath, Right of Way number 7, was the usual path across Garston field between the old parishes of Chitterne All Saints to Chitterne St Mary. In the past it was flanked by horse chestnut trees, those are mostly gone now, but it is still the most used path across Garston.
The path starts at the kissing gate near the old footbridge opposite The Grange wall and crosses a corner of Manor Farmhouse paddock towards a pair of gates to enter Garston.
Garston straddles the boundary that once divided the two old Chitterne parishes. It was shared by farmers in both parishes at one time, but now it is part of the Ministry of Defence estate leased to Chitterne Farm. I have not been able to discover the origin of the name, which was always pronounced ‘Gasson’ by old time villagers, but the ‘ton’ part usually means ‘farm’. ‘Gars’ could be someone’s name, or it may mean triangular or spear-shaped. The name is not unique to Chitterne, there is a Garston area of Liverpool, and a Garston at Great Cheverell.
Garston must have been part of the estate originally owned by Lacock Abbey when the main drive to the Great House passed through it, but by the 1820s, when the house fell or was burnt down, it was owned by the Michell family. There is a reference to the Great House estate as ‘Milbournes’ in the 1400s and Sir Thomas Milbourne held land in Chitterne at that time, so this may well have been the land he held from the nuns of Lacock. Sir Thomas was attainted for treason by Richard III, fought at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 on the Lancastrian side, and was made Constable of Old Sarum Castle by Henry VII, he died in 1492.
Back to the footpath that passes through this ancient field. It passes by the site of an old barn that belonged to Chitterne St Mary Church farm or Glebe Farm. This is what Ernie George had to say about the barn:
The Chitterne great barn in great, great grandafther Thomas’s time, was on tithe land, farmed by Glebe Farm, as also, was the stockyard and large meadow which lay below. All in the twentieth century has disappeared. The lower walls and foundations of the great barn were still there beside St Mary’s footpath in the 1920s, by the 1940s overgrown with grass but still discernible. In the 1950s the farmers of All Saints Manor Farm broke up the ground all around and amongst the trees for cereal sowing, and so all signs of the barn disappeared, so also did some of the trees (at this time the land was owned by the War Department, and controlledy Durrington Land Agents). The boundary wall and main entrance gateway of the great walled estate were taken down. The stone pillars surmounted with large decorative stone globes were re-erected at the Duchess of Newcastle’s estate in the Wylye Valley.
The site of great barn in Garston is marked by the flat area of ground behind the garden of number 6 St Mary’s Close. Glebe Farm stockyard was directly in front of St Mary’s Church, on the site now occupied by Birch Cottage. The cob wall fronting the stockyard can still be seen. The large meadow on the other side of the road stretched from the B390, alongside Codford Road, to Spot’s Pool in Codford parish. The entrance gate to the meadow was directly opposite the entrance to the stockyard, this led into the triangular part of the meadow known as Tithing Field, now part of St Mary’s Lodge grounds.
St Mary’s footpath joins Churches Path (see last blog) at the pair of gates to St Mary’s Chancel churchyard.