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.
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!