Don’s Inspirational Scarecrows

scarecrows by robert westall
Photo of Don Poolman’s three scarecrows on his allotment in Chitterne taken by Robert Westall in the 1960s

You may remember an earlier blog about Gallybagger Corner from April 2016: Old Chitterne Names 11: Gallybagger Corner and how the scarecrows made by Don Poolman were included in a book on Salisbury Plain. Now it appears that the scarecrows also inspired an author of children’s books to write a story for young adults called The Scarecrows.

scarecrows book
Puffin Plus edition of the book. The cover artist has based his three scarecrows on those in Westall’s photograph

Robert Westall, a very successful medal-winning author of books for young adults, was passing through Chitterne in the late 1960s when he spotted Don Poolman’s scarecrows on the corner at the western end of the village. He was so impressed by them that he turned around and went back to get a good look and take a photograph.

Poolman, Donald from Westall, Robert 9 Apr 1979
Letter from Robert Westall to Don Poolman

Westall, an art teacher by profession, treasured that photograph for years and eventually the scarecrow picture inspired him to write a novel. We know this from a letter he wrote to Don Poolman in 1979 praising the scarecrows and asking many questions about them.

The novel, published in 1981 by Chatto & Windus, won the Carnegie Medal. The edition in our picture was published by Puffin in 1983. The book is still in print today.

With grateful thanks to MP for this.

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Don’s Inspirational Scarecrows

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

An early 1900s view of the area of Chitterne St Mary affected by the fire. The Manor is top centre, Glebe House can just be seen far left centre. The church farm buildings are to the left of the King’s Head, fronted by a wall.

A newspaper report of a fire in a Chitterne St Mary farmyard describes in great detail just how easily fire can spread once it takes hold. The farmyard belonged to the lord of the manor and was leased from him by William Wallis, who lived at The Manor, while his widowed mother, Mary Buckeridge Wallis, lived in what is now Glebe House.  When the fire was first spotted it was no more than a small blaze in a rick. The date was 26th February 1831.

Report of the fire from the Evening Mail of 1st March 1831

Some explanations seem necessary. The ricks of wheat and barley were kept in an enclosed yard known as a rick-barton. The house and cottage that were burned on the other side of the road would have been in the vicinity of present day St Mary’s Lodge, number 104 and Glebe Farmhouse. The farm mentioned “to the leeward” of the fire was George Parham’s Clump Farm, a site now occupied by St Mary’s Close. Other farm buildings owned by the church stood on the site of present day Birch Cottage.

The “late disturbances” refer to the Swing Riots of 1830. When groups of farm workers worried for their livelihoods travelled around the neighbourhood wrecking the new threshing machines. There had been no wrecking in Chitterne, unlike in Heytesbury, Upton Lovell, Knook and Corton where several machines were wrecked and as a consequence 20 men transported to Australia for terms of seven years.

Thanks to the eagle eyed J & R for this, who spotted it when looking for something else!

Fire at Chitterne St Mary 1831

Calling all Salisbury Plain villagers past and present – Where is this house?

Two persons have asked me if this Police House of 1918 is in Chitterne. It is not, but I’m wondering if we can solve the mystery by sharing this post around the Plain villages.

The photo postcard is marked ‘Police House 1918’ on the back and inscribed ‘I was born here’ on the front. The notices on the side of the house show the Salisbury Rifle and Artillery Range  Bye-Laws and a reference to Wild Bird Protection Act.

The History Centre at Chippenham has been tried but no luck there. Please share this post if you have access to other Plain village facebook pages. If you can identify this location please contact me using the menu contact form, or by posting a reply on facebook.

Calling all Salisbury Plain villagers past and present – Where is this house?

Ela of Salisbury’s Convent Church at Lacock

At Lacock Abbey the National Trust currently have an installation to mark the site of the 13th century convent church founded by Ela (pronounced eelah) of Salisbury.

The glass panels on the site of Ela’s convent church

Chitterne was part of the large area of southern England inherited by Ela following the death of her father William Longespee in 1226. Soon after this she donated her Chitterne lands and farm to her newly founded abbey at Lacock, and the thousands of sheep kept at Chitterne became the Lacock nuns’ main source of revenue.

The installation consists of three panes of glass depicting a stone arch, scenes of abbey life in medieval times and Ela’s seal. These are positioned on the grass that now covers the convent church site.

The second glass panel depicting scenes of convent life
The last panel with Ela’s personal seal

I was expecting a little more than these when I visited, but all inside the abbey was as usual, there were no new items concerning Ela on display.

Ela of Salisbury’s Convent Church at Lacock

Malting Barley in Chitterne, early 1900s

Early 1900s photo of a flood in Chitterne shows the malt house to the left of the house now known as the Old Malt House. The bridge centre left is Clump Farm bridge, which now leads to St Mary’s Close and the Sportsfield.

In the early 1900s Frederick Wallis (1858-1941), the farmer at The Manor, Chitterne St Mary, grew barley and malted it in Chitterne. He leased the 10 quarter malthouse in Chitterne St Mary from Sir Walter Hume Long for this, as we know from the brochure for the 1896 sale of the Chitterne estate. Recently I have been looking at Frederick Wallis’ farm account book and in particular at his record of malt sales from 1906 to 1914, when it appears he gave up malting altogether.

His main customers for the malt he produced were Joseph Lewis at the Dragon Brewery, Barford St Martin and Charles Price of West Street Brewery behind The Cock Inn, Warminster. The two establishments still exist, although The Dragon at Barford is now called The Barford Inn.

The Barford Inn, Barford St Martin, formerly The Green Dragon, and before that The Dragon.

Joseph Lewis at Barford bought up to 280 bushels of Chitterne malt per year, between 1906 and 1914, in lots of 100 or 80 bushels at an average of 5 shillings (25p) per bushel. Part of his payment to Frederick Wallis was in beer, presumably made using Chitterne malt. (A bushel is  a measure of capacity equal to 8 gallons or 36.4 litres).

The Cock Inn, West Street, Warminster

Charles Price at West Street, Warminster bought upwards of 800 bushels each year between 1907 and 1912 at 4 shillings and 9 pence per bushel to start with, rising to 5 shillings in 1908. Charles Price died in 1912 but Frederick Wallis was still selling malt to the executors of his estate after his death. The Cock Inn was my maternal grandfather’s local, so he must have known Charles Price and supped beer brewed with Chitterne malt. Charles and my grandfather, Albert Frank Reynolds, may even have been related as Albert’s mother was Louisa Price.

When I started looking into malting I was unsure what the process involved, so in case you are equally baffled, malting is done by immersing the barley in water to encourage the grains to sprout, then drying the barley to halt the progress when the sprouting begins.

I am grateful to CJW for the loan of her great grandfather’s Farm Accounts Book.

 

 

 

 

 

Malting Barley in Chitterne, early 1900s

Chitterne Lending Library

60 years ago you could borrow books from The Stores in Townsend, Chitterne for 3d. per week. If you kept the book for longer it would cost you an extra 1d. per day.

The P.O. stores at Townsend in 2000

This village facility was offered by John Brown and his wife Eileen, who ran the shop for 20 years from about 1954. In those days the village Post Office was at 65 Bidden Lane and the Browns shop at 17 Townsend mainly sold groceries and lent out books. So you could pick up a western with your Weetabix, or take home a romance with your root veg. I guess it’s not such a strange idea as the same could happen today at some supermarkets, except you’d have to buy the book outright of course.

We don’t know how well used the Chitterne lending library was, but at least one western book has survived called “Night Riders” by Abel Short: “The tale of special officer big Joe Gannon who rode into Maddox and into a living death.” It retailed for 5 shillings (25 pence). Some things do change!

Thank you AS for keeping this copy and passing it on to me.

Chitterne Lending Library

1896 Sale of Properties: Part 4

This is the last part of the 1896 Sale Brochure. Lots 10, Meadow Cottage, 11 the Malthouse, and 12 Well Cottage. Meadow Cottage at first appeared in error in the last part of this series, but is now in its correct place here.

Lot number 10: 99 Chitterne, Meadow Cottage

99 Chitterne, Meadow Cottage

Three cottages stood on this site in 1826. Presumably two of them are the “building” mentioned in the particulars above, but no longer inhabited by 1896. This lot was withdrawn from the auction.

99 Chitterne, Meadow Cottage from the rear about 1916

George and Elizabeth Poolman (nee Ashley) lived here in 1896. The same George Poolman who bought the Round House in 1917. Frederick and Doll White (nee Meaden) occupied Meadow Cottage in the 1930s, and Ernest and Leonettie Moores next until the early 1960s. They were followed by Stephen and Lilian Adkins. Lilian died in 1968 and Stephen married Hilda, they both died in the late 1970s.

Lot number 11: The Malthouse

The Malthouse

This is a listed building, built in the 18th century. The house adjoining the malthouse has had several names over the years. In 1891 it was known as Chestnut Villa, from 1901 to 1925 it was Pine Cottage, and now as the Old Malthouse. The house and malthouse were withdrawn from sale at the auction, but at some stage the house was purchased by a Miss Woodley, who sold it for £900 to Robin and Julia Mount in 1938. I have not been able to discover who Miss Woodley was. The Mounts expanded the size of the house, planted the yew hedge in front, and in the 1960s, sold the house for £4000 to Francis and Hester Gyngell. I am not sure when the malthouse building was demolished, I am told a building once stood near the road, to the left of the present drive, but I am not sure if that was the malthouse, nor am I sure when the house became known as the Old Malthouse.

The Malthouse 1938 (from ‘Cold Cream’ by Ferdinand Mount)

Looking back further into the history we see that in 1826 Charles Baker leased the malthouse, house and garden, and Hand’s Close (site of Inholmes next door) from the Methuen family. Later in the 1800s, under the Longs ownership, the Wallis family of The Manor leased the malthouse for many years when they were growing and malting their own barley, and running the King’s Head. This ceased when it became uneconomic in the early years of the 20th century, although Frederick Wallis still described himself as a maltster in 1911. In 1903 he had offered the malthouse to the Baptists for their meetings after their chapel was destroyed by fire.

So, back in 1896 the house (Chestnut Villa) was occupied by Mrs George (possibly Ann George nee Whittaker, widow of Thomas George), while Frederick Wallis kept the malthouse. By 1901 Mary Bartlett, a relative of Frederick’s wife Ann, lived in the house (Pine Cottage) with her nephew William Mark Wallis. In 1911 the house was unoccupied. Tom Wilkins lived there in 1925, perhaps he was the dairyman at Clump Farm who I have been told lived in the house in those days. There were still cattle-milking sheds behind the house in the 1970s. After purchasing the house in 1938 Robin and Julia Mount raised their two children there. Their son has written affectionately of his time growing up in Chitterne in his autobiographical book ‘Cold Cream’, which is well worth reading to get the feel of the village in those days.

Lot number 12: 94 Chitterne, Well Cottage

94 Chiiterne, Well Cottage

This is another ancient house, listed grade two, which may have its origins in the 16th century, although the listing details say late 18th century. It was purchased at the auction by Frank Polden for £38, when it was known as Clematis Cottages, so it may have housed more than one family. The Polden family and their descendants, the Downs, lived there until 1950. It was purchased by Mr Shippam, of Shippams paste fame, in the 1950s according to Bill Windsor, but Lily Poolman gave number 94 as her address on the Church Electoral Roll of 1955. Incidentally, Lily’s parents were Mark and Maltese Mary Poolman of Ivy Cottage in part 3. Under the ownership of Aubrey and Barbara Miller in the 1970s it was a single dwelling known as Well House. After the Millers died it was sold in 2002 and re-named Well Cottage. Sadly, I have no old photograph of this property.

Cover of the 1896 auction sale brochure

The Edward Fry (see below for more on this) mentioned in the particulars above is a bit of a mystery. He may have been the son of a Martha Fry who was a schoolmistress in Chitterne in 1841, and he was probably only living in a part of the house in 1896, because according to the 1891 records it was Augustus Polden’s home.  Augustus Polden was Frank Polden’s uncle, he was married to Ann, nee Lucas, and they appear to have lived at the cottage for many years, perhaps since they married in 1859. Both Augustus and Frank were masons/bricklayers and part of the Polden building family. Augustus and Ann’s eldest daughter, Frances married James Down, but was widowed early when James died of smallpox in 1894, consequently Augustus and Ann took in Frances’s three youngest sons, Leslie, Douglas and Bertie, which is why the Downs were still living at Clematis Cottage until 1950.

That concludes our look at the properties put up for sale in 1896 by Walter Hume Long. The sale started the final break-up of his estate and the the end of an era. This estate had been owned since the 17th century by a succession of wealthy and titled families, the Paulets, the Methuens and the Longs. By the beginning of the 20th century much had changed. There were no big estate owners in Chitterne St Mary, and soon the War Department would acquire the other large estate in Chitterne All saints.

Whizz researchers J & R have looked into Edward Fry and discovered that he was not the same person as I thought but somehow connected to Augustus Polden.The connection between Edward and Augustus is tentative. Edward (1832-1910) was a shepherd from Pitton, Wiltshire. Augustus’ father, James Polden (Parish Clerk), was the witness at the marriage of a William James Fry (1825-1881) and Ann Grant in Chitterne in 1852. We have yet to find a connection bewteen Edward and William James, but they both hailed from south Wiltshire. William James never lived in Chitterne but Edward Fry lived at Clematis Cottage from 1893 to 1900 and ended his days at a cottage in Pitt’s Lane, attached to Pitt’s House, where his daughter Ellen and her husband Frank Sheppard lived.

1896 Sale of Properties: Part 4