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

Home Guard and Anti-Tank Gun

Chitterne Home Guard going through their paces on the 2 pounder Anti Tank gun

Amazing what you can find on the internet. GS spotted this photo and passed it on to his uncle in Chitterne who passed it to me saying, ‘I’m sure that’s Brook Cottage in the background.’

The photo was described as: ‘Chitterne Home Guard going through their paces on the 2 pounder Anti-Tank gun’, which looks like a publicity shot, but who are the men?

home guard

Here’s a photo of the Chitterne Home Guard outside Manor Farm, right next door to where the other photo might have been taken. Let’s give them names, left to right:

Top row: H Burton; Geoff Helps; John Patterson; Bert Bailey; Bert Diaper; Leslie Sheppard; George Gagen; Ernie Polden.

Second from top row: Les Mundy; Walt Herrington; Walt Ledbury; George Dowdell; John Lecocq; unknown; Don Wallis; Will Ashley; Alban Polden; Len Moore; Herbie Feltham; Bert Lush (not in uniform); Mr Fagg.

Third row: Fred Bowden (in flat cap); Rowland Pearce; Jack Beaumont; Douglas Piercy; George Diaper; Dickie Bailey; George Macey; ‘Pat’ Patterson; Burt Grant; Willie Ashley; William Poolman; Fred Feltham; Stan Waite; Frank Helps; Lewis Feltham; Frank Ashley.

Fourth row: Len Searchfield (seated on chair); Harry Sheppard; Percy Churchill; Cecil Windsor; Lewis Daniels; Sgt Blatch; unknown; William Limbrick (leader); Tom Limbrick; Mr Snelgrove; Ev Feltham; Jack Poolman; unknown; Bill Bartlett.

Front row: Cecil Saxby; Laurie Wallis; John George; Tony Bailey; Gerald Feltham; George Feltham; Billy Windsor; John Oakes; Gerald Polden; Bobby Gorry.

Could the man standing with arm outstretched behind the gun be William Limbrick, and the man squatting to the right of the case be his son Tom Limbrick?

 

Home Guard and Anti-Tank Gun

1896 Sale of Chitterne Properties: part 1

Following on from my last blog here are the details of the properties that were offered for sale by Walter Hume Long in 1896 from a copy of the auction particulars found at 98 Chitterne. Most of the properties were in St Mary’s parish, apart from a couple in All  Saints. Some were sold, some were not, and some were withdrawn from the sale.

Lot number 1: The White Hart Inn.

white hart inn sale 1896
The inn is now White Hart House

The tenant at the time was William Poolman, a member of the very large Poolman family that had lived in Chitterne since at least 1737. He is usually known as William Meade Poolman to distinguish him from other Williams in the family. In 1865 he married Sarah George, niece of Thomas George previous tenant of the inn, and ran the White Hart Inn from then until Sarah died in 1906. He was a carrier and landlord of cottages as well as an innkeeper and owned quite a few cottages scattered around the village. He has appeared in my blogs before as landlord of 8 cottages in Bidden Lane. As the village carrier he ran a regular service to the local towns and markets.

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The White Hart Inn under William Poolman’s tenancy, note his name above the door

The inn was purchased at auction for £2000 by Margant Bladworth (or Margan & Bladworth, it is not clear) according to the pencilled note on the excerpt above. I have not been able to find out who that was. It may have been an agent for a brewery as the same person/s also purchased the King’s Head Inn.

Lot number 2: The King’s Head Inn.

kings head sale 1896
Part of the King’s Head’s ground is a part of the St Mary’s graveyard and 101 Chiiterne

The tenant of the King’s Head in 1896 was George Brown. I have very little idea who he was. His name appears in the Pig Club ledger for providing a Pig Club supper in 1895, 1896 and 1897, but not in any parish records, neither does he appear to be related to the Browns who taught at the school at that time.

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The King’s Head at the turn of the century

The King’s Head was purchased for £1350 at auction by the same person/s who bought the White Hart Inn, Margant Bladworth or Margan & Bladworth, possibly agents for a brewery.

Lot number 3: Bridge Cottage.

bridge cottage sale 1896

The sitting tenant, Miss Annie Compton, purchased Bridge Cottage for £55 at auction. She had been living there since before 1891, and stayed until her death in 1931. She was one of the first women in the country to be elected to serve on a council. In 1894 she was elected to the Rural District Council representing Chitterne, and remained so for almost 40 years. She was also a member of the Board of Guardians of Warminster Workhouse until she was 90 years old.

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Bridge Cottage is centre behind the horse and cart

Bridge Cottage is named for the bridge over the Chitterne Brook, which it fronts. The bridge was always known as Compton’s Bridge by the locals in those days. It was hump-backed until the second World War, when it was flattened to allow for easier movement of military transport. American troops who were billeted in Chitterne made use of the Bridge Café run by Henry Slater and Lily Poolman at Bridge Cottage during the war.

 

 

1896 Sale of Chitterne Properties: part 1

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

manor farm (1)
The Limbricks thrashing at Manor Farm

Some time before World War II the Defence Land Commission of the War Department (WD) of the British government bought up a lot of land and properties in Chitterne including Chitterne Farm, the Racing Stables and Manor Farm. Manor Farm was run by a tenant farmer under WD ownership for about 60 years. In the 1980s the land and barns were amalgamated with Chitterne Farm and the farmhouse sold off. So today we have Chitterne Farm West, owned by the Ministry of Defence, and Manor Farmhouse privately owned.

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The reverse of the photo above – William Limbrick’s written description

By 1939 the Limbrick family ran Manor Farm and lived in the farmhouse. The tenant, William Isaac Hatherill Limbrick, was born in Gloucestershire, but he and his wife Emma Annie née Cave had spent several years farming in Canada before coming to Chitterne. Their children, Tom and May, were born and grew up in the wilds of Saskatchewan.

According to BL, who paid a visit to Chitterne a short while ago, his father Tom and aunt May were almost feral by the time they set out for England. But Tom ran the farm here and appears to have been well-liked in the village. He offered the re-formed Cricket Club a field to play on in February 1939, married Marguerite Willcox of Tytherington, Gloucestershire in 1941 and lived in Brookside (Brook Cottage) with her. Their three children were baptised in Chitterne Church.  Tom joined Wiltshire Flying Club and gained his flying certificate in 1946. May married Ralph Carey of Potterne in 1942 at Chitterne Church.

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William Limbrick’s invoice

The Limbrick family left Chitterne after the war in about 1948 and returned to their roots in Gloucestershire. William died in Sherborne, Gloucestershire in 1964, Tom died only 5 years later, aged 52 in Cheltenham.

The Limbricks of Manor Farm

The Village Hut in Wartime

The old First World War corrugated iron hut acquired by the village in 1921 to serve as a village hall was again pressed into use by the services in the Second World War.

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Village Hut in Bidden Lane, no longer exists, the site is part of Well Cottage garden

In 1940 the Village Hut Committee planned for the hut to be used purely as a recreation facility by 225 Squadron RAF billeted in the village, but by October that year the RAF had commandeered the large room in the hut for use as sleeping quarters.

The committee were shocked to discover the state of the hut in June 1941 after the servicemen had left.  Two chairs were missing and several damaged, the platform extension and music stool were missing, the stove was broken and the hut was in a mess. The RAF officers summoned to examine the damage promised to send and fit a new stove. They offered 14/6d (73p) in compensation for the broken and missing chairs and for timber to make a new platform extension, and promised to send a fatigue party to remove the ashes and rubbish from the rear of the hut and to clean up generally. The committee accepted this offer, the new stove arrived and the fatigue party cleaned up.

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Chitterne Lodge

In August 1941 225 Squadron borrowed the hut piano for use in the Officers quarters at Chitterne Lodge for three weeks. The Committee were relieved to see that it was returned still in good condition.

Lectures were held in the hut in 1941 by the Home Guard and the Pioneer Corps. On 4th May 1942 members of the Officers Training Corps were billeted in the hut overnight and paid a 6/8d fee. The Men’s Club at the hut asked the committee for physical training classes and were able to obtain the services of an instructor from the Welsh Guards stationed at Codford.

Later in 1942 the Royal Army Medical Corps, billeted at Chitterne Lodge, were selling a gramophone and offered it to the hut committee for £20. The committee decided their budget would not stretch to this, but they did agree to loan the hut platform to the RAMC for a show at their billet. In May 1943 the RAMC were allowed free use of the hut for an ENSA concert, to which the village were invited. By October 1943 the RAMC were holding Whist Drives and Dances regularly in the hut, but not charged because they had transported the hut piano to and from the piano repairer in Warminster for free.

In 1944 the Engineers, stationed at Chitterne Lodge, asked to use the hut for entertainment on Sundays. The committee agreed to this as long as the use didn’t coincide with religious services.

Lastly, in January 1945 Major Baddeley of the 3rd Wilts Cadet Battalion asked to use the hut for cadet meetings. The committee agreed and charged 2/6d per session. Could this be the same man who lived in Chitterne for many years at Syringa Cottage?

The Village Hut in Wartime

19 Townsend

19 Townsend small
Honeysuckle Cottage, 19 Townsend

This cottage has a horsey history. A farmer’s groom lived here in 1871, he was Joseph Mabbitt and his boss was Edward Gibbs of Chitterne Farm. Joseph lived in the cottage until he died in 1888 aged 58 years and his wife Elizabeth lived here until at least 1901.

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1882 Corn Rents map, 19 Townsend is plot number 200, Joseph Mabbitt is listed as tenant on the schedule

By 1911 things had changed a little, Elizabeth Mabbitt had moved out to live with her niece a few doors away and Chitterne Farm had a new owner, but still with horses, racehorses.

Ronald Farquharson, bought the Chitterne Farm estate, which included Chitterne Lodge, from lord of the manor, Walter Hume Long in 1906. Farquharson, having made his fortune in rubber, now fancied a new career training and breeding racehorses. His plan was to breed horses at Tilshead Lodge, which he bought at the same time, and train them at Chitterne. His new estate in Chitterne included 19 Townsend, the groom’s cottage.

By 1911 Farquharson had installed (no pun intended!) nine of his workers at Chitterne Racing Stables in 19 Townsend. They were all young men and came from far and wide:

  • John Henry Hemming aged 21, straper, from Leamington, Warwickshire
  • James Walsh aged 19, stableman, birth place unknown
  • William Every aged 18, stableman, from Chester
  • Herman Trathen 21, jockey, from Yorkshire, birth place unknown
  • L Clever aged 17, stable lad, from Birmingham
  • John Gilly aged 28, stableman, from Bigbury
  • Walter Winn aged 38, stableman, from Rochdale, Lancashire
  • Robert Arnold aged 15, stable lad, from Earls Court, London
  • Harry Bond aged 24, stableman, from Bath, Somerset

Farquharson’s enterprise lasted until 1937 when the War Department (MoD) bought the whole of his estate including 19 Townsend, bringing an end to the horse connection. Troops replaced the horses at the stables in the second World War, and widower Ernest Ayres and his six children replaced the stable workers at 19 Townsend, followed by Walter and Florrie Lacey a couple evacuated from Imber in 1943.

I wonder what happened to all those stable workers? And how on earth did they all fit into number 19?

19 Townsend

Conscientious Objectors and GIs in Chitterne

Following my last blog on the lining of the Cut more has come to light. It seems No. 10 Company NCC of conscientious objectors (COs) may have been here in Chitterne preparing the way for the arrival of troops from the USA. Besides working on the Cut, or Chitterne Ditch as they termed it, they were working on the village roads. Perhaps strengthening them for the future movement of army vehicles and providing hard-standings.

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A page from the 1943 War Diary concerning the COs stating “Work at Chitterne Ditch ended”

The work of the COs in Chitterne finished on 3rd November 1943 as noted about halfway down on this document from National Archives. This must have been about the same time that the residents of Imber were given 6 weeks to leave the village. So it was all happening on the Plain in late 1943.

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Letter from WCC thanking the COs for their work in the area

TF who has kindly shared these documents from the National Archives with us says his CO father kept the War Diary up-to-date. The note bottom left on the above letter is in his father’s handwriting.

No, 10 Company NCC finally finished work in West Wiltshire in February 1944 when they moved on to the Salisbury area.

wcc-letter-1943
Extract from letter from WCCs Resident Engineer (Warminster) to the Officer Commanding the COs thanking the men for their work in Chitterne

Soon after the work of the COs finished in Chitterne the US 978th Field Artillery Battalion arrived in the village. I believe they were billeted at Chitterne Lodge and Racing Stables, which the War Department had purchased from Ronald J Farquharson in about 1937. The WD also owned Chitterne Farm and Manor Farm by this time, but both were being farmed, by Robert Long at Chitterne Farm and William and Tom Limbrick at Manor Farm. So it’s not likely the troops were at either farm, they must have been housed at the Lodge and Racing Stables.

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Chitterne Racing Stables 1988

The US battalion, equipped with 155mm Howitzer guns, were here to prepare to support the invasion of Normandy which had started on D-Day, 6th June 1944. The 978th landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy on the 26th June 1944.

Many thanks to TF for providing the fascinating information about the COs and the documents from the National Archives.

Additional information from: The American GI in Europe in World War II: The Battle in France by J E Kaufmann & H W Kaufmann.

 

 

 

Conscientious Objectors and GIs in Chitterne