Ferdinand Mount Article

Recently JM shared with the village a transcription of a newspaper article from 2010 written by Ferdinand Mount, former resident of Chitterne.  I am sure ex-Chitternites would like to see it too so I am sharing the transcription and the original newspaper article here.

Mount, Ferdy 10-4-2010 page 1
From the Review section of the Saturday Guardian dated 10 April 2010

Ferdinand Mount is currently our most famous past resident. He is a writer, journalist and political commentator, writing for The Times and Daily Telegraph, former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, author of several novels and “Cold Cream” an autobiography.

Cold Cream has wonderfully evocative passages describing Mount’s childhood in Chitterne. He lived here from birth in 1939 to adulthood. His parents had bought the small two-up-two-down cottage adjacent to the former malt house in 1938. Before that in 1925 the cottage was known as Pine Cottage and the malt house still stood next door. The malt house was later demolished and the cottage took on the name Malt House. The Mounts added an extra wing with a sitting room and two bedrooms, and planted the yew hedge at the front.

Mount, Ferdy 10-4-2010 page 2
Remainder of the article

Going back to the article. Mount describes his first brush with politics as a young boy attending the Conservative Party fete held at Chitterne Lodge “by kind permission of Mrs Payne”. Mrs Payne was Gwen Payne, wife of Lt Col. L H H Payne R A, resident of the War Department’s Chitterne Lodge.  The War Dept. had purchased the Chitterne Lodge estate in 1937, which included Chitterne Farm east and the Racing Stables. The Paynes lived at the Lodge from about 1940 to 1949.

Here is the transcription:

The Conservative party fête was held at Chitterne Lodge by kind permission of Mrs Payne. As our MP, Mr Grimston, got up to speak, he put down his bowler hat, not on the table beside him which was draped with the union flag but on the chair behind him. He spoke about the need to support Mr Churchill in the struggle that lay ahead. Mr Grimston had been our MP since 1931. He had a thin moustache and a general air of severity. As he warmed to his theme, I noticed a small boy, smaller than I was myself, about four years old perhaps, crawling through the flowerbeds immediately behind Mr Grimston’s chair, which was right at the edge of the sunlit lawn. The small boy took hold of the bowler hat with one hand, then got a firmer grip on it with both hands and rather slowly, almost ceremoniously, put it on his head so that it came down over his ears. It was impossible for any adult to reach him without crashing through Mrs Payne’s flowerbeds. I do not know in what direction Mr Grimston’s remarks were now turning, possibly the perils of socialism, but like the rest of his audience, I was gripped by what the small boy would do next. To our vast disappointment, at that moment a woman in a flowery dress risked her high heels on the rosebed and dragged the small boy away, snatching the hat from his head and replacing it on the chair. This is my earliest political memory: the sun-dappled lawn, the small boy and the bowler hat. It is my only memory of Mr, later Sir Robert, Grimston, who continued to represent Westbury until 1964, rising to become deputy speaker and later Lord Grimston of Westbury.

Political enthusiasm was not much in evidence in Chitterne. When Churchill finally got back in, in 1951, the group captain who lived at the Grange stuck a union flag pennant on the bonnet of his car and drove through the village honking his horn. This was thought to be going too far. It was Groupie, too, who, during the fuel shortages of 1947, complained to my father about “the damned miners starving us of coal”. But his was, I like to think, a minority voice.

The Westbury division began then and still begins in our village. As you come over Salisbury Plain from Stonehenge and down Shrewton Hill, you cross the constituency boundary. Samuel Pepys rode down the hill with his wife and family on the evening of 11 June 1668, having lost his way on the downs, and “with great difficulty come about 10 at night to a little inn, where we were fain to go into a room where a pedlar was in bed, and made him rise; and there wife and I lay, and in a truckle-bed Betty Turner and Willet”. The servant here referred to only by her surname was the delectable Deb Willet, whom Pepys was later that year to be caught fondling by Mrs Pepys in a manner so intimate that he recorded it in the diary in the cod-Italian which he used for sexual encounters. The diary does not record how the commercial traveller felt about being turfed out. But Pepys was so grateful for his rescue from this trackless wilderness that he roared with laughter at the landlord’s jokes about the henpecked sailors at Bristol. The next morning the Pepyses discovered that the beds they had thought good were in fact lousy. The great diarist was still so nervous about the wild country that he was relieved when the landlord of the White Hart volunteered to lead them the whole way across the constituency into Somerset.

Yet Pepys referred to this remote, almost inaccessible place as a “town”. Nor was he misled in the darkness. Chitterne, like other downland villages, had once been much larger. As late as the mid-19th century the population had been 800, as opposed to no more than 250 in my childhood. Yet even in the 1950s, the village possessed a primary school, a racing stable, two firms of builders, a blacksmith, two shops, a village policeman in his tied police cottage on the Green, Mr Withers’s fleet of two elderly buses, Graham Dean’s garage, which he diversified into a mink farm during the Suez petrol shortage, not to mention the White Hart where the Pepyses stayed, and a post office next to the Baptist chapel. The last two were both operated by the amazing Frank Maidment, the “Bishop of Salisbury Plain”, who preached the gospel and delivered the bread to even remoter villages for 75 years.

All gone now of course. I remember the White Hart closing after 300 years when I was in my teens, leaving only the King’s Head in business next to where the garage/mink farm had been. There used to be six dairy farms, none now, though the milkman still calls. The number of farmworkers has gone down from 29 to four. The population has recovered a little after a couple of the abandoned farmyards were turned into pleasant little housing estates for commuters to Warminster and Salisbury. The bells of All Saints church may still ring on Sundays, but, like so many other villages, Chitterne is a quieter place than it used to be, just as pretty as it always was, but a little frozen. I am sure there are plenty of homeworkers tapping away on their Macs. But the hum of the keyboard does not quite have the same resonance as the clang of Alf Burt’s hammer shoeing the steeplechasers of my youth.

As far back as 1893, the village schoolmaster Mr Brown recorded that “all the brightest boys look forward to getting away to the towns at the very first opportunity”. How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Trowbridge? The four smallish towns that dominate the constituency – Warminster, Westbury, Bradford-on-Avon (now ceded under boundary changes to the new Chippenham seat) and Trowbridge, surprisingly the county town rather than Salisbury, all have delectable old centres – tall churches built on wool money, flint-and-brick cottages and superb classical mansions in Bath stone. The sheep still share the downland with the tanks (the army has been training on the plain since before the Great War), but the fine big mills are all converted into heritage centres or Poundstretchers.

Warminster, our nearest town, looks on the surface much as it did 50 years ago. The Old Bell and the Bath Arms still stare across the Market Place at each other, and the stationers Coates and Parker still publishes the Warminster Journal , which was the first place I scraped into print, with a rather over-dramatic account of the Mendip farmers point-to-point. Down the hill below the golf course still stands the imposing Portway House where I used to go to have electric shocks for my flat feet. Yet, as in all town centres nowadays, there are charity shops where there used to be grocers and greengrocers, and most places need a lick of paint. Half the premises in these towns seem to be given over to raising money for Alzheimer’s sufferers and half the suburbs given over to homes for them. You begin to wonder whether short-term memory is somehow a casualty of modernity.

Politically, you might think that nothing much had changed in these parts. Ever since 1945, the Tory MP’s majority has usually hovered somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000. The present incumbent, Andrew Murrison, is a former surgeon-commander in the navy who served in the first Gulf war and then, remarkably, after being elected went out to serve again as a Territorial in the Iraq war – no lounging by moat or duck-house for him.

Yet there is a significant underlying change here, as elsewhere in Wiltshire and much of southern England. Where once the runner-up was always Labour, today he or she is invariably Liberal (or now Lib Dem). In many ways, the revival of the Liberals is a return to an older tradition in Wessex, where nonconformist chapels abound. In the lowland parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, where weaving has been the staple industry since the middle ages, you can trace the dissenting streak back to the Lollards.

But the immediate cause is the fading of Labour in the southern county constituencies of England. It is not so hard to explain. South-West Wiltshire, as the new constituency is called, is largely post-industrial, but Labour still is not quite. For the past half century, the party has been vainly struggling to extricate itself from the dominance of the trade unions – from Hugh Gaitskell’s struggle to junk clause IV, through Harold Wilson’s failure with In Place of Strife, to Tony Blair’s efforts to free the party of financial dependence on the unions. Now after the scandal of the millionaire donors, Labour is back where it started, reliant on the unions and knee-deep in sleaze as well. Pepys, whose later career was dogged by accusations of “cash for influence”, would have sympathised.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/apr/10/writers-election-memories

 

 

Ferdinand Mount Article

Sale of Cottages 1905

Lord of the Manor, Walter Hume Long, sold off most of his Chitterne properties in 1896, including the two public houses, but he kept hold of a few cottages in Chitterne All Saints. In 1905 he sold these remaining cottages to Harman Bros, estate agents and surveyors, of Cheapside, London. This last sale finally severed the link between the Long family and Chitterne, which had lasted 75 years.

1905 Sale of Cottages cover
Cover of the 1905/6 brochure. Note the reference to hare coursing, a legal activity in those days!

Harman Bros offered the cottages for sale and a copy of their brochure has recently been found amongst the effects of the late Raymond Feltham. The brochure is interesting for its descriptions of the cottages and the photographs.

1905 Sale of Cottages Rose Cottages
In 1906 The Post Office was at 53 Bidden Lane (Syringa Cottage)

As far as I can tell Rose Cottages were demolished to make way for 58 and 59 Bidden Lane by Polden brothers, builders. Eric Polden lived in 58 and Gerald Polden in 59.

1905 Sale of Cottages Flint House
The garden stretched to Back Lane in 1905

Flint House was purchased by Clement Polden and became home to Polden & Feltham, wheelwrights, carpenters and farriers. The Feltham part of the outfit was Jimmy Feltham, Raymond’s grandfather. Clement and Jimmy were succeeded by Clement’s sons, Owen and Alban Polden. When they retired and sold up Alban built the Walnut Tree bungalow on the back half of the garden for himself and his wife.

1905 Sale of Cottages Pitt's House
In 1905 Pitt’s House had two cottages attached at the rear, alongside Pitt’s Lane

Frank Sheppard bought Pitt’s House and ran his business from there. He started out as a carpenter, but later he mended clocks and mechanical devices, charged accumulators, repaired and sold bicycles and was an agent for motor vehicles.

1905 Sale of Cottages Woodbine Cottages
45 and 46 Chitterne

2 Woodbine Cottages became the home of the village policeman until the 1960s. The County Police bought the properties for £332.9s.2d. in 1906.

1905 Sale of Cottages Poplar Cottage
The Poplars looks quite different

The Poplars was the village smithy from at least the early 1800s. Clement Polden rented and lived here before purchasing Flint House. I do not know who purchased the cottage in 1905/6 but in about 1924 Arthur Polden bought it and gave it the look we see today. He demolished the smithy and raised the roof of the single storey part of the building nearest Woodbine Cottages, moving the front door to the centre at the same time.

1905 Sale of Cottages Chestnut Cottages
60 and 61 Bidden Lane

Chestnut Cottages were built at the request of one of Walter Hume Long’s predecessors, Richard Penruddocke Long. I have written about the unusual construction of these cottages in an earlier blog, “Researching Concrete Houses” on 23 September 2014, to be found in my old blog archive. Number 60 was built as a grocery store or ale house with a storage cellar beneath. It was run by the Bartlett family before the sale, but I do not know who purchased the cottages in 1905/6.

With special thanks to SH and JF for the copy of the brochure.

Sale of Cottages 1905

Dates at the Manor 2: Who was Hester Matravers?

There is no date involved with the second windowpane engraving at The Manor, but investigating the words engraved caused great excitement as connections with past gentry and present villagers were revealed.

manor hester matravers

Hester Matravers was a Quaker born in Melksham in 1738 and married there in 1767 to Lord William Seymour of Easterton, son of the 8th Duke of Somerset, descendant of the Seymours of Wolf Hall. So why was she immortalised on a window in Chitterne and by whom?

Matravers, Hester
Portrait of Hester Matravers

There is a Seymour connection in the village in that Lord Francis Seymour, brother of William Seymour, presided at the marriage in Chitterne in 1759 of Charlotte Seymour of Wantage in Berkshire and Samuel Ferris, curate of both Chitterne parishes. Lord Francis had come from Wantage to marry the pair so presumably he stayed somewhere in the village for at least one night, perhaps at The Manor. Three years later in 1762 Charlotte’s sister Frances also married in Chitterne, and was said to be ‘of Chitterne’ at that time, so did she live at The Manor and entertain William Seymour there? Did he scratch his regard for Hester on the window?

So far this is pure speculation because we have yet to find a connection between the family of the Dukes of Somerset and Charlotte and Frances, but surely we must be on the right track?

A further connection to the present day has just turned up, which adds weight to my long-held theory that descendants of the old Chitterne families are somehow drawn back to the village. Hester Matravers’ and William Seymour’s daughter, Hester Maria Seymour, married Captain Peter Awdry, who turns out to be an ancestor, with his second wife, of our own EJH.

This is just a brief resumé of a longer article written by my sleuthing researcher friends J & RR, to whom I am greatly indebted. To read more about the investigation and findings go to: Who was Hester Matravers?

 

 

Dates at the Manor 2: Who was Hester Matravers?

Dated Buildings

The Dated Buildings Project currently being undertaken by Wiltshire Buildings Record led me to think of the dated buildings we have in Chitterne. Off the top of my head there are at least six in the village, ranging from the elaborate dated inscription to the lowly scratched in plaster type.

Last weekend’s open gardens provided a good opportunity to photograph a few of them. Chitterne House has more than one. Over the front door is a square stone tablet.

chitterne house datestone
HEALTH AND PEACE THIS HOUSE INCREASE 1635 GD

This stone tablet is thought to have been re-sited from its previous position, perhaps when the entrance was moved from Back Lane to the Tilshead Road? I have no idea who GD was.

Other dates have been scratched in the stones either side of the front door at Chitterne House.

chitterne house 1686
1686 to the left of the front door of Chitterne House
chitterne house 1752
1752 below the 1686
chitterne house 1783
1783 to the right of the front door

The stable at Chitterne House also has an inscribed datestone.

chitterne house stable
This stable was built by Robt Michell Eq 1774

Near Chitterne House, and built on part of the garden, is Pitts Cottage. This cottage is thought to have housed the Chitterne House gardener in days gone by. It was built by Richard Hayward, owner of Chitterne House in 1870. It also has a datestone.

pitts cottage 1870
Richard Hayward’s Pitts Cottage dated 1870

The Long family left their mark on the village. Just across Pitts Lane from Pitts Cottage is Pitts House, built by Walter Hume Long in 1891.

pitts house 1891
Walter Hume Long’s Pitts House 1891

An earlier member of the Long family, Richard Penruddocke Long, left his mark on Chestnut Cottages in Bidden Lane in 1874.

chestnut cottages 1874
Richard Penruddocke Long’s Chestnut Cottages, an early example of building entirely in concrete, see my archived blog  “Researching Concrete Houses in Chitterne” dated 23 Sept 2014

The Old Baptist Chapel has quite a large stone memorial tablet.

baptist chapel 1903
The Baptist Chapel burnt down and was rebuilt in 1903

Inscriptions can be a lot less fancy than those above, but be just as interesting and useful. A name and date scratched in the plaster of the chimney breast in the loft at my house was probably done when the roof was renewed or changed in 1882 by Poldens, the builders.

round house 1882
Polden the builder signed his work in 1882 at the Round House

It was some time before we spotted this simple 1880 scratched on a brick at the entrance to the old stable at the Round House. What could it signify? A rebuild, a repair?

stable 1880
1880 scratched in red brick on the stable door jamb at the Round House

If your house in Chitterne has a date inscription, please leave a comment, or contact me on the ‘About’ page.

 

Dated Buildings