Historic View of Lime Trees Set to Change

This well-known view in Chitterne is likely to change soon, as work starts in the next few days on the row of old lime trees bordering the Chitterne Brook.

I wondered how long the trees had been there and I found that limes can live for up to 400 years, but 200 years is more usual. Other village limes of a similar age form an avenue shaped in a cross in the field behind the Sportsfield. Perhaps they were planted at the same time as they appear to be in the same sad state, often tumbling down. If my supposition is correct, then the trees were planted by the family who owned the houses and land on the west side of Tilshead Road, from the Sportsfield to Manor Farm, the Michell-Onslow family, mainly Matthew Michell 1751-1817. Could this family have commissioned the planting?

Looking in the opposite direction

How many generations of villagers and visitors have loved the sight of these trees in Spring, the branches covered in pale green, heart-shaped leaves, gracefully sweeping down towards the Cut? Let’s hope some will survive to lift our spirits in the coming Spring.

Part of a public footpath follows the line of trees on the field side. The footpath, known to old villagers as The Walk, starts at Manor Farm bridge and ends at the old farm bridge near St Marys Close. The section behind the lime trees once passed between a double row of trees, as you can see from this old postcard from the early 1900s. The second row of trees, on the right above, have since been removed. Below is a recent photo of the same path.

The trees bordering the Cut have been falling more frequently lately, and blocking the road in the process, hence the need for the tree surgeons. This has happened many times in the past, sometimes to disastrous effect. The photo below shows a tree that fell on a traction engine, killing the driver, almost 100 years ago in 1923.

To orientate you: the grass in the foreground is the village green, the house to the left is Great House, (or big ‘ouses), before it was converted into one house and called Coach House, Grange wall curves away to the right of the photo. Opposite Grange wall are the lime trees.

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