Wet Chitterne

The Chitterne Brook overflowing 15 Jan 2023

2023 comes in with a splash! Chitterne is no stranger to flooding, our last big one was in January 2014, in the very same week in fact. Early January was a popular time for the springs to appear in 1995, 1998, 2000 and 2003. Usually they come up and go down again causing no trouble, but every so often…they don’t, as in 2014.

Flood 2014

I described the reason why Chitterne is susceptible to springs popping up occasionally in a blog back in 2014. This was before I started blogging on WordPress. To read that blog go to http://www.suerobinson.me.uk and click on Old Blog, January 2014.

This January the water table has been fickle. Water first appeared in our garden on the 4th January, on the 6th the water level was higher, on the 9th it started going down, the garden was dry on the 11th. On the 14th it came back up again much faster!

On the 16th the temperature dropped overnight to -7C, and the water level increased leading to some interesting effects from the traffic splashing through the flooded roads.

All the spring water draining from the village into the Chitterne Brook rushes headlong toward the meadows on the outskirts, swelling and overflowing the banks on its way to Codford to join the River Wylye.

The start of the meadows on the edge of Chitterne
The swollen Chitterne Brook flows over the top of a farm bridge
Creating a mini waterfall

After a week of mostly freezing temperatures overnight, and no rainfall, the spring water started to recede. Several houses suffered water indoors but we came off lightly compared to 2014. The Cut in the village did not overflow as it had in 2014. Since that time the local council have made strenuous efforts to keep the Cut free of obstruction, and laid in stores of sand bagging materials. We live and learn.

To finish here are two photographs of past floods in the village.

Flood 1925
Flood 1970s

2022 Round House Round-Up

It’s wet in Chitterne and the Cut (Chitterne Brook) is filling on the last day of 2022, not a day to be outside. So I sit here and contemplate what we have achieved this year, numerically.

21 history blogs written and posted.

3 groups taken on history tours around village.

3 villagers or ex-villagers added to the burial record.

110 books read.

34 sets of guests and 14 dogs welcomed to the Nest, our holiday let.

10,123 miles cycled by Dave, my other half.

There is more but I failed to record how many history queries I answered during the year. Next year I intend to keep a record. A couple I do recall – one lady hoping to live here asked whether Chitterne was a friendly village with lots of interaction. I told her yes and listed all the possibilities. To another gentleman writing a book about Wiltshire’s unsung heroes, I gave info on our Scotland Yard detective Bill Brown for inclusion in his book.

A Happy New Year, thank you for following Chitterne Now and Then.

Great House Chitterne in 1921

This intriguing building has a colourful history. Originally it was the stables and service quarters of the great medieval manor house of Chitterne All Saints that stood, until it was demolished in about 1824, in what is now Chitterne Sportsfield. The service quarters survived and were converted into six separate dwellings called Great House to house farm labourers and their families. The new conversion’s name probably transferred from the original building, Great Manor. ( Manor Farm was once known as Little Manor).

The only photograph I have of the converted building at about the same time as the census is this one where it appears in the background of the 1923 accident with a falling tree. Great House was still housing some farm labourers, but by then only four families lived there.

In the 1930s, along with Manor Farm (now part of Chitterne Farm), Great House came into the ownership of the War Department. It was sold in the early 1970s and the new owners converted it into a single dwelling named Coach House.

I don’t know when exactly, but when Great House housed six families, it had been numbered along with the rest of the village, possibly between the 1911 and 1921 censuses, as the 1921 gives us village house numbers for the first time. The six dwellings were numbered 37 to 42 Great House, coming after number 36 Gate House and before 43/44 Yew Tree Cottages (Bow House), which explains why there is still a gap in the numbering of village houses. Today the building is number 37 Coach House, and numbers 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42 don’t exist.

Who was living at Great House in 1921?

Charles and Susan Colborne and their five children lived in 3 rooms in number 37 in 1921. They had been in Chitterne since 1915. Charles who hailed form Rockbourne, Hampshire, had served in the 5th Hants Regiment in WW1, before being invalided out in 1916. In 1921 he was a builder’s labourer working for Holloway Brothers of Imber. Susan, birth name Topp, came from Wincanton in Somerset. Their children were 16 year old Charles junior, who worked at Webster’s farm (Clump Farm) as a carter, Bessie aged 13, Lily aged 10, Hubert aged 7 and Phyllis aged 3.

Living at number 39 Great House William and Agnes Collins also had 3 rooms. They had not been living in Chitterne long and I know very little about them, although they were still in the same house in 1925. William was working as an under-carter ploughman for the farming Collins family at Manor Farm, but I don’t think they were related as he was a Wiltshireman and the farming Collins’ were from Devon.

Stephen Williams at number 40 Great House, was alone in his 3 rooms on 24 April 1921 when the census was recorded, although he says he was married, but no wife is listed. Now here’s a strange thing: According to Rev. JT Canner, Stephen’s wife, Amelia, died in 1916 and is buried in All Saints graveyard. Perhaps he still thought of himself as married despite having lost his wife. Stephen, like Charles Colbourne above, also worked for Holloway Bros builders of Imber, but as a bricklayer’s labourer.

Lastly, at number 41, lived the Dowdell family. They had three rooms shared between widow Eliza Jane Dowdell, born Eliza Jay in Broadchalk, Wiltshire, her four grown-up children, Edith 25, Albert 23, Edward 21, Hilda 15, and her orphaned grandson Leslie Jay 9. Eliza was the widow of Tom Dowdell, born Hanging Langford, who had died in 1918. Albert and Edward both worked for Charles Collins at Manor Farm. Hilda was born in Chitterne so the family had been here since at least 1906, whereas Albert and Edith had been born in Hanging Langford, and Edward in Codford.

Many workers of this post-war era had moved several times in their lives. Those living at Great House were no exception, the unusual building was home to a transient population for the main part of the twentieth century, until more mechanisation did away with the need for so many farm hands.

I am grateful to J & RR for their invaluable help with the 1921 Chitterne census.

Graveyard Serendipity

Following my last blog, a piece of serendipitous news. All graveyards, churchyards and burial grounds in England will be surveyed in the next few years. The National Burial Grounds Survey (NBGS) is happening right now. Who knew? I certainly didn’t until recently.

Since I wrote the last paragraph I have attended a Webinar about the NBGS and found out more. AG Intl Ltd are doing the surveying, working their way around the country diocese by diocese. The survey of Salisbury Diocese, free to the church, went live on the 24th November 2022 as consent is being sought from each parish, hence the informative webinars held yesterday.

NBGS was launched last year with the aim of mapping and digitising burial grounds. It is funded by MyHeritage and enabled by FamilySearch (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons). They will recoup their investment by offering the information gathered to subscribers to their service.

The idea that all burial grounds will be searchable online in future is an exciting one, and will suit our needs here at Chitterne very well, but it needs qualifying. Not ALL burial grounds are included in this survey, only those of the Church of England. Burial grounds in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also not included in the survey.

And I do wonder how it will affect all you folk searching your ancestry the old way. Will you miss your days out visiting churches? Will you still want to visit once you’ve seen photographs and information from the comfort of your armchair? How about the archivists who offer their expertise free at the History Centre? Will it do them out of a job? But I guess it will provide them with another resource.

Despite these reservations we welcome the scheme. The software Dave uses for making and updating the graveyard maps is getting out of date now he’s retired, so that’s a relief.

Here is the link for more information:

https://agintl.org/burial-ground-management-survey/: Graveyard Serendipity

Mapping the Graveyards 20 years on

There are two graveyards in Chitterne that have been in use since medieval times. Neither is situated near the present church, which is on a site not suitable for burials, but both are some distance away where the two old churches of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary once stood.

Twenty years ago there were no plans of either of these graveyards. The lack of plans became a problem when the second partner of a couple died wishing to be buried in the same grave as the first partner and no-one could remember where the unmarked grave was. I think that grave plot was finally identified by referring to family photographs of the original burial. The photos included nearby grave markers that allowed the grave to be identified, but nevertheless the embarrassing episode nudged the churchwardens into action.

It was a two person job to survey the sites and to create the plans. I gathered and recorded the information and my husband Dave drew the plans, using software. We started with St Marys graveyard.

St Mary’s, pictured above, surrounds the remaining part of old St Mary’s Church (undergoing roof restoration at the moment), and is well kept and in constant use.

We used various old maps and internet maps to plan the shape and orientation of the site. Then plotted and numbered the graves. Numbers 1 -15 gravestones had been moved from their original positions and re-sited in a line alongside the path leading to The Manor, so we gave those a different shape on our plan. There are three burials within the chancel, these we gave dotted lines, and three memorials on the outside walls of the chancel, these just have numbers. Lists were made of the numbered graves and where possible annotated with the names of the occupiers and their dates. Illegible inscriptions were noted too. The latest version of the map of St Mary’s is pictured above.

St Mary’s proved to be a bit of a doddle when it came to mapping All Saints graveyard.

All Saints is not mowed but grazed by sheep. Even this is an improvement from 60 years ago, when it was overgrown with brambles and scrub before Alan Sprack cleared it, so at least we could move around the graveyard for our survey. Alan was the last person to be buried here; the graveyard is not as popular for burials as St Mary’s.

Our main problem with All Saints was the higgledy-piggledy layout of the graves, which apart from all facing the same direction, seemed to have no pattern. We resorted to GPS in the end, but this in itself was difficult as every time we stopped and started again we got a different reading from the satellites. Once we had our basic layout we followed the same procedure as St Mary’s. One grave of a suicide at All Saints is outside the boundary. Number 20 marks the underground vault containing the eleven coffins of the Michell-Onslow family. Number 48 (top centre) that of the Hitchcock family.

Eventually, after two years, in 2004, we finished All Saints graveyard map. This map is updated less frequently than St Mary’s, the latest version is pictured above.

All the information was passed to the churchwardens and the vicar, added to a Graveyard Search page on the village website and turned into an alphabetical Burial Guide placed in the current church for visitors. The map and lists are updated every year or so. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to update the search page on the website.

Paintings of old buildings 3: All Saints Church

All Saints Church, Chitterne painted by Robert Kemm in his youth in the 1850s – see first blog in this series for more on Robert Kemm. This church has been wholly demolished, only the graveyard remains alongside the old road to Imber. All Saints was a small building consisting of a chancel, nave, western tower, south porch and a chantry chapel on the north side, to which the Michell family added a pew containing a mausoleum in 1775. The chancel with priest’s door and the tower date from the 13th century Early English Period, whereas the east and nave windows are of the 15th century Perpendicular Style.

Two encaustic tiles were found in the chancel of this church. They are now in the Wiltshire Museum at Devizes. One bearing the arms of Simon Sydenham, Dean of Sarum 1418 to 1431, has two chevrons between three rams. The other bears the arms of William Alnswyke, Archdeacon of Sarum 1420 to 1426. These probably denote that alterations or enlargements were made to the church during their terms of office, perhaps the Perpendicular Style windows were inserted.

Apologies for blurred image

Inside, All Saints Church contained six hatchments and eight memorials to the Michell and Onslow families. The monuments were all removed to the new church in 1861 and may be seen on the walls of the entrance lobby. Giles de Bridport, Bishop of Sarum, acquired the right to Chitterne All Saints Church and 17 acres of glebe (land belonging to the Church) and gave it to his newly formed College de Vaux in 1270. The land continued to belong to the College until the dissolution of the college in 1545.

This final painting by Robert Kemm depicts several details from the interior of All Saints Church annotated by the artist. The annotations are as follows, top left to right: Window in Chapel; West window; W window S side of nave. Below left to right: Within the South doorway; Shields and …. in Chancel ….. and part of East window. The medieval glass in the east window painted by Kemm looks very similar to the small pieces of medieval glass preserved and still visible today in a window of St Mary’s Chancel pictured right.

The Robert Kemm paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs of the paintings and to MS for sending them to me.

Paintings of old buildings 2: St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church, Chitterne painted by Robert Kemm in his youth in the 1850s – see previous blog for more on Robert Kemm. Most of this church was pulled down in 1861, leaving just the chancel, which still exists today. The original building consisted of a chancel, nave, a small chantry chapel on the north side and a square tower over the south porch. The windows and priest’s doorway are in the 15th century Perpendicular Style.

The Rectory of Chitterne St Mary was appropriated to the Dean and Chapter of Sarum (Salisbury) before 1295, and remains in their possession today. The Manor of Chitterne St Mary formed part of the lands given by Countess Ela of Salisbury’s son to Lacock Abbey in 1246, see previous blog.

Robert Kemm’s watercolour painting of the church interior. The chancel and nave were divided by a fine 15th century stone rood screen.

A painting by Robert Kemm of a tomb in the chancel to the north of the altar, without figure or inscription, under a 14th century arch in the Decorated Style. This is interesting because the arch is still in the chancel today but the tomb has disappeared since the painting was done. I wonder who could have warranted such a memorial in Chitterne St Mary back in the 1300s?

The paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs and to MS for sending them to me.

Paintings of old buildings 1: St Andrews Chapel

Several photographs of paintings of the two old Chitterne churches, and one said to be of St Andrew’s Chapel have come my way recently. They are all new to me, as is the artist Robert Kemm, and I thought this worth sharing with you in three parts.

The paintings are annotated with typewritten notes which state that they date from 1865-1867. I was a little taken aback by this. How could that statement be correct when both our old churches were mostly demolished by 1861 in order to build the new church? So I set about researching Robert Kemm. Again, the notes on the last photo of the so-called St Andrew’s Chapel, also sent my eyebrows skyward, as we now think the chapel to have been sited behind the building in this painting.

Robert Kemm was born in 1837 in Salisbury, the son of William Kemm, a gilder and carver born in Netheravon, but living in Salisbury with his wife Jane by the time Robert was born. Robert showed early promise as an artist and was producing paintings by the time he was fourteen years old in 1851. In fact he produced two series of 256 watercolours of Wiltshire churches in his youth. So there is the answer to my query, these paintings were painted well before 1865, when the old churches were still standing in all their glory.

Building on the site of St Andrews Chapel

This building dating from the 15th century, which still exists, may have been built on the site of, or near the St Andrew’s Chapel that certainly existed in 1142, when it was given by Walter of Salisbury to his newly founded Priory of Bradenstoke near Lyneham, Wiltshire. But the monks of Bradenstoke did not benefit from it for long as Walter’s grandson, Patrick Earl of Salisbury, took it back into his own possession before he died in 1168, swapping it for some land he owned at Wilcot. The chapel remained in the hands of the Earls of Salisbury until 1236 when William Longespee II, Earl of Salisbury, gave all his holdings in Chitterne to the Abbey his mother founded at Lacock. For the next 300 years, from 1236 until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539, the chapel became the property of the nuns of Lacock. In 1447 a disaster occurred, the bell and bell turret of the chapel were struck by lightning and destroyed. The present building pictured above must date from after this disaster, as the 15th century style windows and door attest, but is it sited in the same place as the original chapel? We may never know for certain.

The paintings are stored in the Salisbury Museum and can be seen by arrangement with the Curator. I am grateful to RE for the photographs and to MS for sending them to me.

Grange actor appears on London stage

100 years ago this month Earnshaw Twinkle from The Grange at Chitterne was making his first appearance in a play on a London stage.

The play, The Broken Wing, originally opened in 1920 in New York and, in England at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 15th August 1922, It was written by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard and described at the time as a ‘Colourful Comedy of Modern Mexico With a Sensational Aeroplane Crash’. The arrival of a plane through a living room window at the end of Act I was thought the best thing in the play.

Earnshaw was appearing alongside the lead actress Dorothy Mix, and spent some of his time in London at her flat. “Apparently he loved the glitter of floodlights so much that he had to be pulled off in one of the scenes instead of meekly following the hero and heroine, as the authors of the play intended.” reported the Warminster and Westbury Journal on Friday 18th of August 1922. So who was this mysterious player from Chitterne?

Earnshaw Twinkle was a dog, a pedigree setter from the kennels of Sidney Pownceby, who in 1922 lived at the Grange with his wife Marion. Who would have thought it?

With grateful thanks to the Warminster Journal for their endlessly fascinating snippets on the ‘Days of Yore’ page.

Olivia George’s 1887 Map

A map last seen in the village pub in the early 1990s has been returned to Chitterne by Keith Lacey ex-landlord of the Kings Head. He and his wife Jackie left the pub when Ushers sold it to Gibbs Mew. Jackie sadly died in 2021 and Keith has returned the map in memory of her:

I’ve donated it back to the village in memory of my late wife Jackie Lacey, a previous landlady (famous for her Sunday bar treats like cockles and roast potato pieces. Locals loved it all). They all adored her.

The map was given to Keith and Jackie by Ernie George about 100 years after the original was drawn by Olivia Ann George (1877-1950). Olivia was Ernie’s Aunt. Many of you will remember Ernie who lived in Townsend Chitterne all his life from 1921-2012 (except for war service).

Olivia Ann attended Chitterne School when it was led by William Brown the successful headmaster. She was 10 years old when she drew her map of the village. Now 135 years later we can see how she viewed her environment thanks to another member of the family, Kenneth George 1920-1981, Ernie’s older brother, who made this ink and wash copy of the original 90 years ago in 1932.

We know these details from the back of the map, added by Ernie.

” Copy by Kenneth Victor George, Age 13. 1932.

From a pen/ink by a ten year old schoolgirl of 13 Townsend Chitterne All Saints with St Mary, May 1887. (O.A.G. (Olivia Ann George) Born 25 April 1877 at All Saints.)

Not shown are:- Penning cottage, Down Barn cottage, Bee cottage, Breachill cottages, Bush Barn cottage and Two Barn cottage. Middle Barn cottages, which are all within the parish of Chitterne.

Oram’s grave is East of New Barn cottages on the old Warminster/Sarum road nr. MS (milestone) WAR 10 SARUM 12 crossed by the Warminster/Shrewton road (Codford/Maddington road). 5 March 1797 Elizabeth Windsor born; as a child, about 1805, witnessed Oram’s burial at the crossroads, a stake was driven through his body, and buried without funeral service as he had hung himself on account of disappointment in love, the man was a suicide, therefore dealt with according to old custom and law by the people of Chitterne. “

The story of Oram’s Grave and Elizabeth Windsor has since been disputed, for the newer version see http://www.chitterne.com/history/oram.html

Interesting things to note on Olivia’s map are: The number of farms in 1887 (shaded in grey); the prominent ways to Heytesbury (top), to Imber and to Tilshead; Lodge Paddock, the site of the yet to be built racing stables; and the twelve houses in Bidden Lane on the south side that no longer exist.