Breakheart Hill

Breakheart Hill lies northwest of Chitterne and divides the village from the Imber Range live firing area. There are two public ways up the hill from the village. Via Imber Road or via The Hollow, otherwise known as the old Salisbury to Warminster coach road.

breakheart imber road (2)
The old road to Imber heading up Breakheart Hill

Imber Road starts from the Tilshead Road in the village, crosses Chitterne Brook, passes between Manor Farm and old All Saints churchyard, through Chitterne Farm West farm buildings and continues on up the hill. It is a hard surfaced road until the crest of the hill, where it suddenly stops as you reach the firing range danger area. At this point, looking ahead, you can see Breakheart Bottom, a dry valley within the danger area. (Incidentally, E M Forster mentions walking through Breakheart Bottom on page 171 of his book called “The Creator as Critic and other Writings”).

breakheart bottom
Looking towards Breakheart Bottom from the by-way

Before the land was taken for military training the road to Imber crossed the valley and passed the site of yet another Field Barn settlement called Penning Barn. A reminiscence of Penning Barn from a 1992 copy of Chitterne Chat, edited by Jeanne George says:

“A stable of 10 carthorses used to graze the large paddock on Penning bank behind the barn …and pigs, saddlebacks and large whites, were bred there and free-ranged in the paddock.”

breakheart byway (2)
The gravelled by-way on Breakheart Hill looking west. Breakheart bottom is to the right.

At the top of Imber Road a gravelled restricted by-way extends to the left and right, almost following the crest of Breakheart Hill. Turning left the by-way brings you eventually to the top of the Hollow and from it you can see for miles across the Imber Range in one direction and back towards the village in the other direction.

 

breakheart hollow (2)

The Hollow starts at the western end of the village in a part of Chitterne once known as Gunville. Although the by-way was originally the stone-paved coach road to Warminster it is now a muddy uneven track much loved by 4 x 4 drivers and trail bikers. It is now in such a poor state for walkers that it has almost lost its status as part of the Imber Range Perimeter path. Walkers following that route are warned and directed toward the easier path via Imber Road.

breakheart hollow (1)

However, if you brave the series of puddly dips and rises and climb up the western end of Breakheart Hill, at the top you will be rewarded with a view across the Wylye Valley towards the hills beyond. On the way up if you look carefully on your left you may even spot one of the original coach road milestones hiding in the bank behind a small tree: Warminster 8 Sarum 14.

It must have been a sight 250 years ago to see a laden coach and horses struggling up out of the village via this route, perhaps after a night spent at the White Hart Inn. No wonder it was known as Breakheart Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakheart Hill

Breach Hill

Chitterne is surrounded by the gentle rolling hills of Salisbury Plain. To leave the village and strike out across the countryside you have to climb a hill, except if you take the road to Codford following the course of the Chitterne Brook.

breach hill
Breach Hill with Middle Barn on the right

Breach Hill is the hill you encounter if you leave the village via Townsend and head towards Tilshead. The road up the hill starts and ends with a set of double bends and, in the old days, with two field barn settlements, (outlying groups of farm buildings and dwellings for farm workers). The double bends mark the passage of the old London road at the bottom of the hill and the old Bath to Sarum road at the top. Middle Barn settlement at the bottom of the hill still exists but Breach Hill Farmstead is no longer at the top.

Strictly speaking Breach Hill Farmstead was just a few yards inside the Tilshead parish boundary, where it stood on the left of the road immediately after the second of the double bends at the top of the hill, but Chitterne was nearer than Tilshead.

breach hill farm 1921
Sketch by the late ErnieGeorge

In broad Wiltshire dialect the farmstead was pronounced ‘Braitchill’. It comprised a barn, cartshed, stable, and cottages. Frank Ashley and family lived in the cottages in 1915 when their four-year-old son Norman was lost on the downs overnight and died from exposure. The Ashley children all attended Chitterne School, but the only time Breach Hill cottage appears on any census for Chitterne All Saints is in 1881. That may have been a mistake or because the Ashleys were originally from Chitterne. By 1921 they had moved to 11 Townsend and Herbert Coleman and William Nash lived at Breach Hill.

breach hill famiy 1925
A family at Breach Hill farm in 1925, sadly I don’t know who they are.

The entire settlement was demolished sometime after 1937 and the War Department (MOD) erected Vedette Post number 4 in its place. This remained until the army’s Copehill Down training village and range road were constructed in 1988 and 2000, and the Vedette Post was moved a few hundred yards nearer to Tilshead.

 

Breach Hill

Walter Sweet’s WW1 Grave

As part of the World War 1 centenary the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) have been erecting new signs and replacing old WW1 headstones around the country as well as encouraging communities to write up the stories of their war dead.

GD has written up and spoken about our WW1 War Dead in Chitterne, including one, Walter Henry Sweet, who is not buried here in the village, nor on the battlefields abroad, he is buried in a Welsh village called Bryngwyn in Monmouthshire.

bryngwyn church
Bryngwyn St Peter church and graveyard

The Parish Council of Bryngwyn has also been trying to piece together Walter Sweet’s story. It has not proved to be an easy task for either our parish or theirs, as Walter is quite an elusive character. The entry in the Bryngwyn burial register states that he was a soldier who died ‘on the road’ and was buried on Sunday August 25th 1918.

Sweet, Walter Henry burial 1918

There are questions that immediately arise from this entry: What was Walter doing in Wales, how exactly did he die and why was his body not brought back to Chitterne?

Walter was a farrier by trade who worked shoeing horses at Chitterne Racing Stables in 1911, and in WW1 as a driver in the 2nd Reserve Horse Transport (RHT) section of the Army Service Corps based at Woolwich. Sadly his army records appear to have been lost, at least, they have not come to light, but presumably as a serving soldier he was in Wales on a mission. H of Bryngwyn PC has suggested that he was acquiring horses for the army, which sounds a reasonable assumption especially as he was staying at Little Cross Farm in Bryngwyn.

As to how he actually died, again H has asked around her community and says that:

CWGC could not help in the circumstances of his death but one of the Grand Dames of the village recalls from her youth (which would have been 20/30 years after his death) that he had been walking along the road and had been hit by a car which killed him (I knew there was a car accident but not how it caused his death).  I can only presume he was in the area on war business (obtaining horses).

The third question of why his body was not brought back is probably a question of economics and the time of year when his death occurred. He and his second wife Emma, whom he married in 1911, lived at 10 Townsend, with Emma’s two children, Harry and Gladys, by her first husband Henry Grant. Emma lived for another 20 years, she passed away in 1938. Walter was survived by his two sons John Harold and Walter Henry Sweet from his first marriage in 1899 to Alice Elizabeth Prince in Bromley, they remained in Kent. Walter’s local nickname was ‘Sugary’ for obvious reasons. It was the fashion in Chitterne in those days for the men of the village to be nicknamed, but that’s another story.

White, Edith; Smith, Elsie; Sweet, Emma; Smith, Isabel & Pearce, Sophia 1927
Emma Sweet, Walter’s widow is the woman in the centre of this photo taken in Townsend in 1927. The others are L to R: Edith White, Elsie Smith (on the horse), Emma Sweet, Isabel Smith and Sophia Pearce.

The good news is that CWGC are to replace Walter’s old headstone in Bryngwyn, which wrongly named him as W A Sweet, with a brand new one in the next 9 to 12 months.

 

 

 

Walter Sweet’s WW1 Grave

Aerial View of Village

Can you help pinpoint the year this aerial photo was taken? The pumping station is there and so is the old Village Hall, so sometime between 1988 and 1998. Glebe Farmhouse appears to be newly constructed, but I don’t know when that was built, and St Mary’s House doesn’t exist. Any ideas anyone?

village 199-
Aerial view of Chitterne of unknown date

Thanks to AS for the picture.

Aerial View of Village

Raymond Poolman 1933-2017

One of our old time villagers, Raymond Poolman, sadly passed away today, the 19th November 2017, aged 84 years.

ray poolman
Raymond Poolman

Ray had lived his whole life in Chitterne apart from a brief spell of National Service in Germany in the early 1950s. He was born at The Round House, the youngest son of William Poolman and Elsie, née Drewitt. Like his father he worked in farming at The Manor for the Wallis family, until he was made redundant, and then for the REME at Warminster.

Ray was a lifelong Baptist and met his wife Freda through Baptist connections in Dorset. They were married at Alderholt Congregational Church in 1962, and moved into their new bungalow, in Chitterne, next door to Ray’s parents, in January 1963.

Both Freda and Ray played the piano and organ. Ray had been taught to play the piano by Olive Burt née Polden, as a child. He played for Baptist services at the chapel in Bidden Lane and when that chapel closed he and Freda held Baptist services themselves at the Village Hall in Chitterne for many years. Ray represented the Baptist Church on the Village Hall Committee. Later, the couple attended and played for services in Tilshead until that chapel also closed.

Ray and Freda have been our neighbours for the last 41 years. In all that time their garden has never looked less than immaculate. They were both great gardeners and grew many vegetables and flowers. Freda does still. After he retired Ray took up gardening for other villagers, and was often to be seen mowing the grass at Chitterne House.

There have been Poolmans living in Chitterne since the 18th century, all descended from John Poolman who married Betty Eyles at Chitterne All Saints Church in 1757. Ray was one of the last descendants living here, but not quite the last.

 

Raymond Poolman 1933-2017

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

manor farm (1)
The Limbricks thrashing at Manor Farm

Some time before World War II the Defence Land Commission of the War Department (WD) of the British government bought up a lot of land and properties in Chitterne including Chitterne Farm, the Racing Stables and Manor Farm. Manor Farm was run by a tenant farmer under WD ownership for about 60 years. In the 1980s the land and barns were amalgamated with Chitterne Farm and the farmhouse sold off. So today we have Chitterne Farm West, owned by the Ministry of Defence, and Manor Farmhouse privately owned.

manor farm (2)
The reverse of the photo above – William Limbrick’s written description

By 1939 the Limbrick family ran Manor Farm and lived in the farmhouse. The tenant, William Isaac Hatherill Limbrick, was born in Gloucestershire, but he and his wife Emma Annie née Cave had spent several years farming in Canada before coming to Chitterne. Their children, Tom and May, were born and grew up in the wilds of Saskatchewan.

According to BL, who paid a visit to Chitterne a short while ago, his father Tom and aunt May were almost feral by the time they set out for England. But Tom ran the farm here and appears to have been well-liked in the village. He offered the re-formed Cricket Club a field to play on in February 1939, married Marguerite Willcox of Tytherington, Gloucestershire in 1941 and lived in Brookside (Brook Cottage) with her. Their three children were baptised in Chitterne Church.  Tom joined Wiltshire Flying Club and gained his flying certificate in 1946. May married Ralph Carey of Potterne in 1942 at Chitterne Church.

manor farm (3)
William Limbrick’s invoice

The Limbrick family left Chitterne after the war in about 1948 and returned to their roots in Gloucestershire. William died in Sherborne, Gloucestershire in 1964, Tom died only 5 years later, aged 52 in Cheltenham.

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

Chitterne from the Air

On a hot Saturday in June this year our village dwellings were photographed from a helicopter flying at 800 feet. Last week, like many other villagers, I was offered a copy of the digital photograph of my house and garden. This is it.

round house 2017

The photographer had done his homework and spun a good yarn to effect a sale, but there was no need from my point of view, I was a willing customer. But some of his information was worth telling.

Do you know, he said, that in 1994 Chitterne and Shrewton were the last two villages in the UK to be photographed from the air using the wet film method? No, I didn’t. Do you have a copy of the photo taken then? Yes, I have, and showed it to him. Here it is.

round house 1994

A bit faded from sunlight after 23 years hanging opposite the front door, but now I know why. It was taken using film later developed in a dark room. Your two villages, he said, are quite famous in the aerial photography world.

Chitterne from the Air