Pics of Pam

This village is amazing! I only had to mention that I had no photos of Pam Jones in my last blog and within a few days some appear on my doorstep. Pam is the lady in pink in the centre with the lovely smile. I think this pic was taken at the King’s Head one Christmas as there are crackers on the table and you can just see the fireplace on the right. Could it be the previous Women’s Institute members, under the chairmanship of Kath Babey? No doubt someone will let me know.

The ladies are from the left AC, ex-villager RF, Pam Jones, AP, the late Jeanne George, the late Kath Babey and VR. One lady missing.

Here she is, the photographer, the late Val Henry. With thanks to the anonymous donor of the photos.

Times are Changing

Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday cropped up in a village zoom quiz recently. He’s been one of my favourite wordsmiths since student days. A group of four of us travelled to Leicester in 1965 to see him live at the de Montfort Hall. How times change, but we move on.

Friday night quizzes were once a regular feature at the King’s Head before the pub closed. Now in the current restrictions we quiz via zoom instead. This has meant that non-villagers and ex-villagers are able to join in, bringing a whole other dimension to the experience. Things change, as they must if we don’t want the village to stagnate or die.

Folks move on or move in. Lately, we have lost one of our oldest villagers. Pam Jones, nee Poolman, who was born in the village, went to the village school and married in the village church. A lovely lady, a big loss. Probably the last Poolman in the village descended from John Poolman who married Betty Eyles at Chitterne All Saints Church on 20 May 1757, that’s 264 years that descendants of the Poolman family have lived in the village. Pam is also the last remaining connection to the Brown family, William Brown headmaster at the school from 1867 to 1906 and his son Bill Brown the Big 5 detective at Scotland Yard, who came back to Chitterne in retirement, and incidentally was the reason Pam’s parents moved from 48 Bidden Lane to Abdon Close. Bill bought up the row of cottages numbered 48 to 53, knocked most of them down, kept 53 where he’d lived as a child and turned it into his new home. Pam’s grandmother was Annie Brown, Bill’s sister.

We hear another big change is happening at Chitterne House, sold recently by the family who have owned it since 1947.

As Bob reminded us: Times they are a-changing. I don’t have any pictures of Pam, so here’s one of Bob.

Anyone for Tennis?

Here are some photographs of the Chitterne Tennis Club in action in the late 1920s for your delight. If you recognise where the tennis court was, let me know.

This photo dated 1928. The man in the centre facing the camera is Evelyn Feltham.

Mixed doubles 1929 same court.

They appear to be playing on a court outside the village. This is not the court at the Gate House or the one that used to be in the grounds of the Vicarage, so where?

Ladies of the tennis club 1920s.

Evelyn Feltham back left, Nora Feltham back third left, Ernie Polden standing back far right, in front of him seated is Arthur Williams and to the left of him seated on the ground is his future wife Polly Polden.

Grateful thanks to TH for this fascinating glimpse into the local tennis scene almost 100 years ago. Copyright and ownership remain with TH.

Stable to Nest

As we start a new venture at the Round House I’ve been thinking about the ways we have used the old stable since we came here 45 years ago this month. Now I wish I had taken more photos of the building as it was, because the stable only appears in the background of a few early shots.

In 1976 the stable had a doorway, but no door, and three windows. Two downstairs and one in the gable-end, but no glass and no frames. Three of the sturdy stone walls were bricked outside and one was left as stone. The slate roof was good. Inside were three bays for horses and a cobbled flint floor with a hayloft high above of rotten elm boards. We first used it as storage space for our house renovating equipment.

An early photo taken summer 1976 showing the stable in the background. We were camping out at weekends in that very long, hot summer while renovating the house. My Dad, recently retired, in the foreground, was helping us. Kate was 4 and Jess 2.

A photo from 1981 and no change to the stable except for the beech hedge planting. This photo better shows the weak brickwork above the doorway, still no door! Jess and GT from the village enjoying the snow. Soon after this we started work to bring the building up to scratch.

My Dad’s health was deteriorating by 1982 so we briefly considered renovating the stable for him and my Mum to live in. Dave drew up plans but we didn’t follow it through. The space was very small for two people and on reflection it was a crazy idea to move two elderly people who had lived in a bungalow for 40 years into a two storey building. Dad died in 1985.

I love these old drawings in ink on drawing film.

In 1986 downstairs became a depository for some of my father’s engineering equipment, after my mother sold up and moved in with us later that year. We brought Dad’s huge bench, pillar drill and suchlike over from Westbury and installed it in the stable. Thank goodness his big metal-turning lathe was sold with the bungalow.

In 1988 Kate held her 16th birthday party upstairs in the stable. After the party I used the room for sewing for a few years and in 1990, when Dave gave up his day job and became self-employed, he used it for his drawing work. During the next 20 years drawing board and ink plotter gave way to computer and printer, until an accident in 2010 forced him to work downstairs in the house leaving the upstairs stable room empty.

In about 2012 Amy needed some space for silk screen printing and sewing. The upstairs room accommodated both, it became a studio for Christian to print and a sewing area for Amy to sew the printed items for sale.

In 2015 it was empty again. After several attempts to get planning permission for a conversion to accommodation for ourselves we finally succeeded in 2018, but with a much reduced extension. We were unsure whether the resulting conversion would be big enough for the two of us, but decided to go ahead with the project anyway. Building work started in June 2019 and was completed in January 2020. Fitting it out, with many interruptions due to the pandemic, took until September, by which time we had decided not to move in ourselves but to rent it out for holidays. The Nest at the Round House was born.

Before and after, the south facing end.

Before and after, east side.

Before the conversion the stable was a favourite nesting place for jackdaws and sparrows, hence the choice of name for the holiday cottage. Besides that, there was already a Stable Cottage and a Stables complex in the village so we had to choose something different!

Feltham Hoard: Maria Cockrell Feltham

Maria Feltham (right) with possibly Constance Dennistoun Hamilton c.1867. Constance was widowed the previous year, both women appear in mourning dress.

The second amazing find from the Feltham hoard of photographs is a tintype of Maria with possibly Constance Hamilton. I am inclined to agree with TH, this must be Maria. Tintype photos were popular from about 1856 to 1867. Maria was hired by Constance Hamilton as a nurse to her two young daughters in 1867. The woman with Maria here looks very like the elder of her two daughters in another identified photograph taken later.

Beryl (left) and Eva Hamilton, Maria’s two charges

TH found another photo to clinch the matter; a fabulous cabinet portrait of a very definitely identified Maria taken in London, at a studio just around the corner from where the Hamiltons and Maria stayed in Kensington in the 1870s.

Maria Feltham nee Cockrell c.1870

So here we have another of Chitterne’s stalwart womenfolk of yesteryear. Who’d have thought it? These photos of Maria have been stashed away in the attic at 98 Codford Road for over a hundred years and just now come to light. Almost as if waiting for the right moment when her story could be told and her portrait shared.

See my previous series of blogs on Maria Cockrell’s story Maria Cockrell – Part 1: a life of extremes

With thanks to TH, who retains copyright and ownership of the photos.

Feltham Hoard – Annie Compton

I’ve had some great news! More treasure from Ray Feltham’s old home has come to light. Who says hoarding isn’t rewarding!

Thousands of photographs found at 98 Codford Road by his family are now being carefully catalogued and preserved. Given that Ray’s family had occupied the same building for over 100 years, this is very good news for anyone interested in village history.

TH, Raymond’s great nephew, has taken on the task and is kindly allowing me to share some of the photos with you in future blogs. I found the first samples to come my way astonishing. Photos of two Chitterne women I’ve longed to find are among them, the first is Annie Compton.

Annie Compton 8 June 1929 aged 90

When Ann Compton died in 1931, aged 91, the Warminster Journal described her as “A unique Chitterne character” and “England’s Oldest Councillor”.

The Local Government Act of 1894 had vested control of the village under the new Warminster Rural District Council. Of its 25 members, Ann Compton, who represented Chitterne St. Mary, was the only woman. She was one of only 140 lady councillors in England and Wales. Her role as a councillor also made her a member of the Board of Guardians of the Warminster Workhouse. Serving with her were Miss Maxfield and Lady Pelly, elected from the Warminster Parish. These indomitable ladies were 3 of only 875 Women Guardians, out of a total in England and Wales of 29 000.

The name of Compton appears for many centuries in the parish records, but Ann seems to be the last of her line in the village of Chitterne. She is buried with her parents, George and Elizabeth Compton, and a sister, Elizabeth Mary, in the churchyard of St. Mary’s.

Often referred to as Annie, she was still serving on the Board of Guardians when it was disbanded in 1930 and attended the final meeting in Warminster at the age of 90. At that time, she was living in Bridge Cottage, next door to the King’s Head Public House.

I am very grateful to TH for allowing me access to this long-sought-for photograph and for his careful preservation of the Feltham hoard. TH retains copyright and ownership.

Who is this Man?

DB has asked if this man can be identified. The photo belonged to his recently deceased aunt Muriel who was born in Chitterne in 1928. Her name before marriage was Muriel Evelyn Churchill, her father was Charles Churchill who worked at Clump Farm, Chitterne, her mother was Gladys Snook. The family later moved to Swindon and Muriel married John Cowley.

Muriel had previously named the man in the photo as her grandfather Isaac Churchill, but that has proved to be wrong when compared with other authenticated photos of Isaac.

The unknown man may of course be a Snook ancestor from Muriel’s mother’s side. Whatever the case, if you think you recognise this man please will you get in touch with me using the contact form in the menu, top right corner.

New Hollow

I’ve just taken a walk up the newly surfaced Hollow. What bliss to walk on the flat without fear of breaking ankles. It has been many years since I have been able to do that. The by-way had even lost its status as part of the Imber Range Perimeter Path as a result of its parlous state. So, well done the council and thank you!

For those of you who may not know its local name, I am referring to part of the old Sarum to Warminster coach road, which leaves the B390 on the western edge of the village and meanders up Breakheart Hill towards Warminster.

Starting to climb
Before this was a very mucky junction with two field entrances

The resurfacing ends at another junction with farm tracks almost at the top of Breakheart Hill, but the by-way carries on straight ahead towards an old British settlement north of Quebec Farm and Knook Barrow, and eventually reaches Sack Hill, Warminster. Here I turned around and headed back the way I had come.

Looking back down Breakheart Hill towards Chitterne
Reaching the B390 at the bottom of Breakheart Hill

Clay Pipes

An extraordinary deposit of “the best clay in England for the making of clay pipes” is to be found above the chalk on Chitterne St Mary Down between the Codford and Shrewton roads. The hill is known as Clay Pit Hill. The almost pure white clay is mixed with round pebbles varying from small to about 5 inches across.

Clay Pit Hill the clump of trees covering the clay pits

On a windy Wednesday in January 2007 I accompanied Rod and Dyana Fripp, from Perth, Western Australia, to Clay Pit Hill where, over 350 years ago, Rod’s ancestor, Edward Fripp, held a licence to dig clay for the manufacture of clay pipes.

Edward Fripp, Rod’s 12 x great grandfather, was born in Chitterne about 1616. He married Mary Merewether around 1650. Edward, and Mary’s brother, Christopher Merewether, were in business supplying clay from Chitterne to the Gauntlet family of tobacco pipe manufacturers in Amesbury.

The site of the old clay pits are on private land and covered in trees that shelter pheasant rearing pens. Before venturing out we had gained permission to visit the site.

At Clay Pit Hill the pits are deep craters, some with steep sides, some shallow, one filled with water, but all very obvious despite the undergrowth. I was astonished, as we had been led to believe that there wasn’t much to see, but we found the white clay and pebbles exposed near the wet pit, where the leaf mold had been washed away. Unfortunately the conditions for photography were poor.

Clay pit filled with water

Some years ago I came across a document at the Record Office (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre) that mentioned the licence granted in 1651 to Edward Fripp and Christopher Merewether by Henry Paulet, Lord of the Manor. As part of their agreement they were licenced to dig for one year and permitted to remove 30 loads of clay and cart them to Amesbury. But it is obvious that many more than 30 loads of the clay have been dug from the pits, as some of them are deeper than a man is tall, even after 350 years of erosion and filling by leaf mulch. So presumably the clay pits were in use long before tobacco was ever brought to England. The clay is said to have been used in the building of Chitterne St Mary Manor, and the round pebbles decorate many a Chitterne garden, but it would be interesting to know who thought of using the clay to make tobacco pipes.

Fripp and Merewether also agreed to pay Henry Paulet £10 for the licence and give him 8 gross of pipes. That makes 1,152 pipes if my reckoning is correct. Lord Paulet must have been a heavy smoker.

Fragments of clay pipes

The fragments of clay pipes in this photograph were dug up in the Round House garden. None of them have the Gauntlet identification mark so I suspect they are of later manufacture, but I like to think that they are made of Chitterne clay. Traditionally clay tobacco pipes are associated with curates and one Joseph Brown Morris, curate of Imber 1808-1815, lived at the Round House so perhaps he smoked these pipes.

Village Hall 2 – 50 years

The old village hall records have me wondering where Chitterne villagers celebrated in large numbers before we had the first hall in 1921. There was the reading room, but that was tiny, or the school was handy, but inconvenient with two classrooms and tiered seating, so where? My guess is that they gathered in one of the huge barns at the two manor farms, as below.

Celebration supper in a village barn

But I digress, where were we, oh yes, the second village hall, converted from the old village school that closed in 1967. I don’t want to repeat myself again, like the last blog, so here is the link to my earlier hall history:

http://www.chitterne.com/history/villagehall

Now, for the extra detail I’ve recently discovered on what went on behind the scenes at the second hall.

Village School 1840-1967

After its closure, the school was in the hands of Wiltshire County Council who planned to sell the site, but it did not belong to them. The site was still owned by the heirs of Lord Long who had originally offered it to the villagers for the school building. But the village wanted the school for a new village hall, and the Long family agreed, but before this could happen the parish council and Lord Long needed to negotiate with the County Council. The negotiations took some time but happily led to the transfer of ownership from Richard Gerard 4th Viscount Long to the parish council in December 1970.

In the meantime the old school was standing empty and deteriorating. Urgent repairs were needed to the roof, gutters, walls and windows. Building costs were rising fast in the 1970s, and the price of houses booming. This meant that monies already raised in the village for the new hall were now inadequate. Eventually the hall was repaired and after more fund-raising was converted into a village hall, opened in December 1971 by Viscount Long and Rev. H T Yeomans.

Chitterne’s second village hall 1971-1998

As part of the agreement with the County Council a charitable trust for the hall was arranged at the same time as the transfer of ownership. This proved to be a bit of a problem in 1978 when two prominent members of the village hall committee were forced to resign because of the trust rules. Bill Windsor and Evelyn Potter were very valuable and committed members of the committee, but the problem was that both were paid from hall funds for the work they did. Bill for repairs to the hall and Evelyn for keeping it so clean. The trust rules stated that they could not be members of the committee that paid them. Committee secretary, T S-B, wrote to the Charity Commission begging for the two to be allowed to remain on the committee, but the reply was a definite No.

The site of the old village hall, the Hut in Bidden Lane, was finally sold by the parish council in 1976. Presumably it was purchased by the owner of the Well House (since renamed Well Cottage), Aubrey Miller, to enlarge his garden. Proceeds from the sale were distributed among the various organisations that used the hall for their meetings. Amongst the records there is a thank you note from the Chitterne W I for a donation received from the parish council after the sale.

The final piece of icing on the cake for future social gatherings in Chitterne came in 1977 when, as part of the Royal Jubilee celebrations, the parish council purchased the field opposite the new hall from the MoD for £800. To read more about the Sportsfield click below

https://suerobinsonmeuk.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-sportsfield/

Thank you AK for the records of the two old halls and LM for pointing out my repetition!