Clay Pit Hill

Clay Pit Hill is the highest hill in Chitterne parish at 178 metres. It lies south of the village between Chitterne and Codford and from the top you can see the hills beyond the Wylye Valley. The hill is named for the place where clay was dug in the 17th century and carted to Amesbury to be made into clay tobacco pipes. More about this here: Clay Pits

There are two public paths to reach Clay Pit Hill from the village: via a bridleway off Shrewton Hill and via the old Warminster to Sarum road at the top of Shrewton Hill. Both of these eventually join in with the old cart track between Maddington (Shrewton) and Codford that forms the southern part of the Chitterne Parish boundary.

clay pit hill harvest road path start
The finger post marking the start of the bridleway

The bridleway starts from the B390 to Shrewton, just outside the 30 mph limit, and cuts south across a field. Usually the path is cleared by the farmer if a crop is being grown, but when I walked it recently the path was unmarked.

clay pit hill view village
Looking to the right toward Chitterne from the bridleway

Set off across the field heading toward the left end of a line of trees and come to the first bend of the bridleway dog leg, a left then a right.

clay pit hill harvest road corner
This is where you meet the line of trees and the bridleway turns left. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo but the sun was directly ahead

At the line of trees the bridleway turns left and becomes a well-defined gravel track for some way before taking a right turn. Follow the bends of the track until you see a finger post on your left marking Codfod Drove.

clay pit hill harvest road meets codford drove
The junction of the bridleway with Codford Drove

The track bears right but in fact you are leaving the bridleway and joining Codford Drove.

clay pit hill from turning of harvest road
At the same junction looking right toward Clay Pit Hill Clump. The Clay Pit Hill trig point is just visible on the horizon to the left of the clump of trees

The Codford Drove marks the boundary between Codford Parish on your left and Chitterne Parish on your right. Before you get to Clay Pit Clump you will come across the trig point on the right of the track.

clay pit hill trig point
Clay Pit Hill trig point 178 metres

I carried on from the trig point toward Clay Pit Clump. This patch of trees covers the old clay pits and is private land. If you wish to see the clay pits you will need the permission of the farmer at East Farm, Codford.

clay pit hill clump
Finger post at Clay Pit Clump pointing the way to Codford

Turn left at Clay Pit Clump and you are entering Codford Parish. Straight on follows the parish boundary and takes you across fields in Codford parish to emerge eventually on the Codford Road. I turned around at this point and retraced my steps.

The other way to get to Clay Pit Hill starts at the top of Shrewton Hill almost opposite the water tower, where the old Warminster to Sarum road heads off toward Yarnbury Castle. Follow this track for several hundred metres until you reach a finger post on your right. This point is known as Oram’s Grave. It marks a junction of two parish boundaries, between Chitterne, Maddington and Codford. In the old days suicides were buried where the parish boundaries met in order to confuse the spirits of the dead. More about Oram here: Oram’s Grave

clay pit hill maddington to codford drove orams grave
Looking west along Codford Drove from the junction

If you head from here toward Clay Pit Hill on Codford Drove you will eventually come to the same junction with the bridleway that I mentioned earlier, and so to the top of Clay Pit Hill. This track is most probably the track taken by the carters who carted the clay from the clay pits to Amesbury.

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Clay Pit Hill

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Breakheart Hill

The Robbers’ Stone

robber's stone1
The Robbers’ Stone at Chitterne as it once looked. Postcard from Rev. Canner’s History of Chitterne

The highway robbery of Matthew Dean in 1839 led to the erection of two monuments, which still exist. The first is alongside the A360 between Gore Cross and West Lavington and marks the spot where the robbery took place. The second stone is just inside the Chitterne parish boundary at Chapperton Down. It marks the spot where one of the fleeing robbers, Benjamin Colclough, fell down and died.

robberstone2
The same stone as it looks now.

The Chitterne Robber’s Stone is inside the Minstry of Defence’s Imber Range Danger Area, where live firing takes place during military exercises and public access is generally prohibited. A recent exchange of emails about the Chitterne stone with a keen photographer led to his disappointment. Not necessarily because of the Salisbury Plain by-laws – he could have chosen a quiet time to visit the stone – but because the photo of the stone on the history pages is out-of-date. Since the photo was taken a protective fence has been erected around the monument, rendering it less appealing for atmospheric photography. The text of the article about the robbery on the history pages needs up-dating too. Here is a better version:

Matthew Dean, an Imber farmer, was making his way home on horseback from Devizes market to Imber on 21st October 1839 when he was attacked at Gore Cross by four men. They pulled him off his horse and robbed him of three £20 pound notes from North Wilts Bank, a sovereign and a half in gold, £2 in silver and his hat. His horse ran off and after recovering Dean followed them on foot.

Nearby he came across James Morgan, a farmer from Chitterne, who rode after the four men and saw one of them discard his smock.  Meanwhile Dean enlisted the help of John Baish, carter, and James Kite, the farmer at Gore Cross farm. They joined the pursuit on horseback with Morgan, but losing sight of one robber, carried on chasing the other three.

Eventually the three robbers sat down exhausted and Morgan left to get more help leaving Baish and Kite to guard them. William Hooper, a farmer, came to help with a loaded gun and a faster horse, but after threats and retorts the robbers made off again and ran for about a mile and a half. One robber fell and they left him and chased after the other two. Hooper’s brother James joined the others and when he confronted the two robbers they threw down their sticks and surrendered.

But Kite and Baish were reluctant to take hold of the robbers and yet another argument broke out. James Hooper went to get more help and the two robbers made off again with William Hooper, Morgan, Kite and Baish in chase, now joined by Hooper’s shepherd and his son. After about a mile the robbers were exhausted but still armed with large fold sticks. They threatened Mr W Sainsbury who came to assist with the arrest, but upon being threatened in return with Sainsbury’s whip and two pistols, they surrendered. While the shepherd was sent to Imber for a horse and cart the whole company headed towards West Lavington. The robbers gave up their arms when the cart arrived and rode in it to the Lamb at the bottom of Rutts Lane, West Lavington, where they were handed over to the constables. Deans pocket book with the £20 notes was found intact on the downs.

Next morning James Morgan found the body of Benjamin Colclough on the downs. Colclough had been a hawker, thirty-five years old, and had died from a ruptured vessel in his brain. At his inquest the jury gave a verdict of felo-de-se, ‘one who deliberately puts an end to his own existence, or commits an unlawful act, the consequence of which is death.’ His body was buried at Chitterne All Saints without funeral rites.

The fourth robber, Harris, was caught soon after and detained for further examination. He had been seen with the other three at various times near the site of the robbery and was found near a hayrick where he had probably spent the night. Dean swore he was one of the robbers, so he was kept in Devizes prison with the two others pending trial.

At the trial the three, Thomas Saunders, George Waters and Richard Harris, were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, present day Tasmania.

The stone monuments, built by Mr Sheppard of Bath, were erected by public subscription on the same day in August 1840, as a warning to those ‘who presumptuously think to escape the punishment God has threatened against thieves and robbers’. The ceremony was attended by many, and refreshments were provided at Tilshead Lodge by ladies of the locality.

This update is thanks to more recent research about the robbery and its aftermath by Lyn Dyson and Quentin Goggs. Their book, ‘The Robbers’ Stone’, is a mine of information and has much more on the trial and what became of the robbers. If you want to know more I recommend getting hold of a copy. It was published in aid of West Lavington Youth Club in 2012 and is available online.

Be aware that the map reference for this grade 2 listed stone monument quoted on the Historic England website is wrong! The correct OS Grid reference is 006477 Sheet 184 Salisbury. Thanks to PT for this information.

 

 

 

The Robbers’ Stone

Maps marvellous Maps

If you are wondering where the maps I’ve been using recently come from, they were adapted by my other half from maps he drew in 2010 when convalescing from a pelvic injury. His rehabilitation required lots of walking so he devised a series of walking routes of increasing length for himself based on Chitterne. We both love maps and we thought the walks would make a good addition to the village website and so the map idea was born.

You can find Dave’s walking routes on http://www.chitterne.com if you click on the link below then ‘Village Life’ and ‘Walking’.

Village Website

village-map

 

parish-map
These two maps are available from me or Dave as pdfs for printing at A3 size
Maps marvellous Maps