The Jam Factory at a carnival

April 24, 2014

Time was when carnival in Easterton and Market Lavington meant raising money for health care. If you are aged 66 or more then you entered this world before the UK had a National Health Service. If you were not rich, then using the doctor meant relying on charity. Now that’s something most folks hate. But if a fund could be raised out of people having fun, then it didn’t seem so bad. Carnival week in our two parishes was also called Hospital Week. The money raised could be allocated to those in need. What a blessing it must have been, in 1948, to be able to use a doctor as a matter of right.

For local companies, the carnival procession was two edged. Not only were the companies clearly supporting local people, but they were also advertising their wares.

Easterton Jam Factory carnival entry in the 1920s

Easterton Jam Factory carnival entry in the 1920s

This entry was by Samuel Moore Ltd – the Easterton Jam Factory whose final buildings have recently been demolished.

No effort has been spared in making the van pretty. It is covered from roof top to wheel in something. It would take a more knowledgeable expert than we have at the museum to identify the make of van. We wonder if it is a Crossley (but don’t take that as fact, it is only speculation) and it probably dates from the mid 1920s. We’d expect a commercial company to be aiming to show themselves as modern and with it so the picture itself probably also dates from the 1920s.

The decoration on the side of the van says ‘Golden Sunset Jams. Was this a brand produced by Samuel Moore? Or was it just a slogan for a carnival?


Can anybody name the driver?

All information and suggestions will be gratefully received.

The old pavilion is lit up.

April 23, 2014

Back in the Edwardian era, more than 100 years ago, Charles Awdry held Market Lavington Manor and he wished to indulge in his passion for cricket. He had a high class cricket field laid out and built a pavilion to suit it. The pavilion was at the corner of the ground, where it met the road we call The Spring. That’s next to the entrance to Lavington School these days.

The cricket era was quite short lived and when Lavington School was built, the pavilion was converted into a home for the caretaker.

And that’s what we see in the photo below.

The former cricket pavilion in Market Lavington, floodlit in 1977

The former cricket pavilion in Market Lavington, floodlit in 1977

This splendid image shows the house floodlit at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Since then, of course, the old pavilion has gone and modern housing called Pavilion Gardens stands in its place.

Contracting Means Expanding

April 22, 2014

So read a headline in a 1981 issue of the Wiltshire Gazette which was about Clem Bowyer. Clem ran an agricultural contracting business from premises on Drove Lane in Market Lavington.


The article tells us something of the life of former local resident, Clem Bowyer who moved to the area from Bradford on Avon in 1928.

Let’s read the article first.




The article had a photo of Clem back in pre-war days.


Clem was born in 1916 and from 1928 until his death in 1995 he lived in the Lavington/Easterton area

It would be good if anyone could offer us a better photo of Clem.

Visiting Lyneham

April 21, 2014

Let’s start today with a brief note from Joyce Radley to Peggy Gye.

Note from Joyce Radley to Peggy Gye about an over 60s visit to Lyneham

Note from Joyce Radley to Peggy Gye about an over 60s visit to Lyneham

It’s about a visit that the over 60s made to Lyneham in 1972 but goes on, ‘I know it is present day – but it may prove interesting in later years.

Well, 42 years have elapsed since the photo was taken so maybe it is time to see if it is of interest yet.


Lavington Over 60s group with an RAF comet as the backdrop


Let’s start with the aircraft behind our Lavington ‘over 60s’. It looks to be a De Havilland Comet. Lyneham certainly had comets. One of them lasted as ‘gate guard’ until the airfield’s closure.

Now the people. We need help naming them so let’s do some zooms.





So now it is over to you.

Somebody lost their marbles

April 20, 2014

Marbles are truly ancient toys. They have been found in the ashes of Pompeii which means the Romans used them more than 2000 years ago.

Mass production of clay marbles began in 1884 but it isn’t always possible to tell if such clay marbles are from the era of mass production, or from the era of one at a time making.

However, we do think that a couple of clay marbles that we have at Market Lavington Museum do date from the nineteenth century. Here is one of them.

One of two 19th century clay marbles found during renovations at the former Volunteer Arms.

One of two 19th century clay marbles found during renovations at the former Volunteer Arms.

Being a marble, the size is about 1 centimetre across.

We do not know who lost these marbles, but we do know they were found during renovations at the old Volunteer Arms pub on Church Street. Perhaps marbles was played as a pub game, out in the yard or maybe these toys belonged to family who lived there. For much of the nineteenth century this was a branch of the Potter family. They certainly didn’t lose their marbles in any other sense.

Dancing in the Parish Room

April 19, 2014

Uncaptioned photos are a bit of a nuisance. What we are looking at today is a group of people who appear to be doing a ‘grand chain’ as part of a country or barn dance.

Dancing in trhe old Parish Room in Market Lavington, possibly 1960s

Dancing in the old Parish Room in Market Lavington, possibly 1960s

We think this was probably in the 1960s. There’s a young man near the back who appears to have modelled himself somewhat on George Harrison of the Beatles.

This young man is something of a George Harrison lookalike

This young man is something of a George Harrison lookalike

The blobs are photographic error – not part of the suit – but we can just imagine all the older folk telling him to, ‘get your hair cut’.

We have no caption to tell us what the event was but perhaps it was a church social. None of the participants are named but we do know that Peggy Gye was amongst those present.


Perhaps some of this group might be identifiable.

We do have other photos of the same event which have been put in a scrap book by Peggy Gye at some point in the past.


That group has a man smoking – it wouldn’t be allowed these days – and could that be Sybil Perry at the far end?


This looks like Peggy Gye serving some refreshments.


Did they really play musical chairs?

We certainly get something of a feel of the old Parish Room here. At the time when we had this hall, it seemed fine and it did feel a sad day when it was demolished. But what a small, gloomy, cramped place it actually was when compared to our new (2007) Community Hall. Now that is a building our community can be truly proud of.

We also can remember that good honest wholesome fun was still available in those days, away from the TV and the as then un-thought of electronic devices of today.

Shem Butcher

April 18, 2014

It was back in 2012 that we came across the story of Shem and his donkey shay, pictured on October October 1st 1900 at Lavington Station – the day the railway line opened. Back then we hoped to come up with a better quality photo and we have got one that’s a bit better – excuse enough to revisit this wonderful story which was actually published in a 1930s newspaper. This time we have transcribed the story and here it is.


Our picture is not one of “the wonderful one-hoss shay” which Holmes immortalised in “The Deacon’s Masterpiece”. It is what might be aptly termed “Shem’s shay”.

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart - ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station - October 1st 1900

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart – ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station – October 1st 1900

To the younger generation it will appear to be only a picture – probably as an amusing one – but to the older residents of Devizes and around about, it is one in which they will recognise an old personality, who used to’ be as familiar in our Market Place as Drew’s pigeons. Those of the older school will recognise in it Mr. Shem Butcher and his donkey-cart, who in days gone by used to be a regular attendant at Devizes Market. Shem and his equipage were the observed of all the observers in those days – an old favourite with the locals and, his cart tied up with string and his donkey’s harness similarly kept together, were the subjects of curiosity on the part of those who saw them for the first time. Shem, now gathered to his fathers, was an old man, but it was a moot point whether he was senior in years to his donkey. What has happened to his faithful companion we do not know; according to the laws of nature it should now be enjoying its last rest, but seeing that the “oldest inhabitants” are said to have rarely seen a dead donkey one would hesitate to say that Neddy has brayed for the last time.

Shem and his shay, as seen in the illustration, are drawn outside Lavington railway station, upon the first day when the Stert – Westbury route of the Great Western Railway to the West was opened. It was there that the photographer Burgess’s camera made a picture of them which has now become historic. Upon the opening of the route the writer was at Patney Station when the first train steamed in from the Lavington direction on a beautiful October morning in 1900. But it is obvious that he went to the-wrong place from the point of view of public interest. That was surely at Lavington, where, according to an endorsement on the back of the photograph, Shem’s shay represented “the first public vehicle that plied for hire at Lavington station upon its opening.” Whether it was patronised by any of the passengers we are not told. For years after the route was opened the photograph was given a place on one of the walls of the station. It remained until, having regard to the changes which the efflux of time brought, the picture began to lose its significance because those who knew Shem Butcher became fewer and fewer. Eventually the photograph became the property of Mr. H.J. Sainsbury, the local builder, which was appropriate, as it was Mr. Sainsbury who, in a light spring cart which he made himself, drawn by a fine little upstanding cob, took the first load of goods either to, or from, the local railway station.

Shem was often the butt of jokes on the part of the younger generation, and a story as to that is perhaps worth telling. The donkey and cart were standing unattended in the drive of Clyffe Hall at Market Lavington while the aged owner was doing business inside the house. A few young rascals of the locality came along and removed the donkey and cart to the other side of the road, where the Awdrys used to have their cricket pitch. There was situate a five-bar gate, which was locked, but one of the perpetrators of the joke had the key. He with the contrivance of the other young scallywags, unlocked the gate, unhitched the donkey from the cart, and Put the shafts through the bars, hitching Neddy in again on one side of the gate with the cart on the other. Then they locked the gate and awaited the arrival of the owner. What Shem said can be imagined. The culprits of the incident were in hiding, and eventually one of them, having heard the owner’s story, “happened to have a key in his pocket and wondered if it would fit and unlock the gate!” Needless to say it did.

Mr. Butcher who latterly resided in a cottage adjacent to the Clock Inn at Lydeway was formerly a farmer at Cheverell Common, having a herd of some 20 cows. He made a speciality of producing mangold seed, with which in those days he supplied a number of farmers in the neighbourhood.

It may be of interest to recall that this first section of the new short route to the West from Stert to Westbury was opened for goods traffic at the end of July 1900 and for passengers on 1 October the same year. From the new station, called Patney and Chirton, to which the single line of the old Berks and Hants extension railway from Hungerford had already been doubled, it is 14½ miles long, and for the first mile runs alongside the old line to Devizes. Save for a brick viaduct, 120 yards long and 40 feet high, near Lavington, there are no engineering features worth mentioning, but the earthwork was heavy and much trouble and delay was caused in the early stages by slips. Until the opening of the Castle Cary and Langport line, which had not then been begun, its only effect was to shorten the distance between London and Weymouth, and of course all stations below Westbury, by 14½ miles. This, however, was of some importance in connection with the competitive Channel Islands traffic, which was constantly increasing. Two new twin-screw boats, Reindeer and Roebuck, similar to Ibex, had been placed on the station and a summer daylight service established in 1897, in addition to the regular night service.

A Message in a Bottle

April 17, 2014

This is another under the floorboards posting – but this time with a difference for today we look at something deliberately placed under floorboards when a new building was erected.

Somewhat more than 100 years ago Market Lavington decided it needed what was, in effect, a village hall but which was always called The Parish Room. A site was located on High Street, more or less opposite the Workman’s Hall, money was raised and construction got under way. The building was completed in 1908 and it served the community well until 1996 when it was demolished to make more space for the Nursing Home.

In 1907, the builders and the movers and shakers who got things organised, put a list of names on a piece of paper, put the paper in a bottle and rested it under the floorboards.

And there it stayed until 1948 when the floor needed some replacement. The message in a bottle was found, photographed and replaced and it is these photos we see today.

Builders of the old Parish Room in Market Lavington. The list was left in a bottle, under the floorboards.

Builders of the old Parish Room in Market Lavington. The list was left in a bottle, under the floorboards.

We start with the committee, headed by the Vicar who would have been J A Sturton at the time. With him were J E Gye, G Bishop and J H Merritt. The Gyes were carpenters, George Bishop was a builder and John Merritt was a blacksmith. Possibly the trades were deemed potentially useful in the building work.

The paid workers, who built the hall were; J James, F Burgess, W Ring, H Dole, P Lie?? and J Goodall.

In addition there were free workers, J H Merritt, S Axford, G Gillett, ? Hussey, Mr Sea, A Baker etc. Mr Lea was the architect.

The other side of the paper has been signed and dated.

Reverse of the list - signed by W Ring

Reverse of the list – signed by W Ring

It was signed by W Ring on November 16th 1907. Presumably this was when the flooring was completed.

Sad to say, we do not know what became of bottle and message when the hall was demolished in 1996. It would be good if it was preserved somewhere.

But at least we have a photograph and that should enable us to find out more about the men who built the old Parish Room.

Widening the road

April 16, 2014

The year is 1993. Maybe the car is still king for it had been decided to improve the main road which runs through the Lavingtons to make it wider, straighter and faster. Twenty years on it may seem this was a mistake as long lengths of the improved road now carry permanent speed limits and parked cars in the villages do a wonderful job of making sure traffic passes through slowly.

In fact, when these schemes were planned, many people thought it was to make life easier for the cruise missiles which used the road on their way up onto Salisbury Plain. If that was the case there’s a certain irony in the fact that the decision had been taken to get rid of these missiles by the time the roads were improved.

Road widening in progress at Eastcott in 1993

Road widening in progress at Eastcott in 1993

Our first photo sets the scene in Eastcott where a sign records what was happening.

The sign gives us all the information

The sign gives us all the information

A new surface is laid

A new surface is laid

The scale of the works was quite large – and other stretches of the road were similarly – or even more massively, re-engineered.

Was there any advantage in the end? We do not know the figures, but maybe accidents have been reduced. Perhaps, journey times are a few seconds quicker than they otherwise would have been. And of course, those harsh new surfaces soon weather in and these days nobody will realise this was once a narrower route.

Helena May Elisha

April 15, 2014

We have met Helena before on this blog. It would be impossible not to come across this wonderful lady if talking about Market Lavington in the 20th century.

Helena came into this world in 1903 at a time when her grandfather’s horse bus service was the main link between Lavington and Devizes although that was beginning to founder with the opening of the railway and Lavington Station in 1900. Helena, who was always known as May, lived with her parents on Parsonage Lane. Ed Potter, her father, was assisting his father in the business interests he had, by working on the farm.

We know that Canadian Soldiers were billeted with the Potters at one time. Maybe they inspired May to want to do her bit for she worked on the land and later did Red Cross work too.

She was still Miss Potter when she started teaching the infants at the Market Lavington School. That was a job she had for life and people in the village in their nineties recall being taught by Miss Potter and some perceptive sub 40 year olds recall that Mrs Elisha still came in to do supply work on occasion. But teaching at the day school was not enough and Miss Potter also was the Sunday School teacher. When May married Bill Elisha in 1929, the children all clubbed together and bought the couple a clock.

Perhaps sadly, the Elishas had no children of their own, but May had an extensive family of real relatives and an even wider family of the children in Market Lavington.

After retirement, May continued to serve the village. She became a member of the Parish Council – Husband Bill had once been chairman.

This news clipping recalls her long years of service.

Mrs Elisha of Market Lavington receives a gift for 31 years as a Parish Councillor

Mrs Elisha of Market Lavington receives a gift for 31 years as a Parish Councillor

The hand written note tells us this was in the Wiltshire Gazette on 18th October 1990. May is looking frail, but we learn she had only recently retired from her 31 year stint on the Parish Council. She is being given some photos of old Market Lavington by fellow councillor Bob Francis.

May died about a year after this photo was taken.

Sadly, the other person in the photo, Bob Francis died before the end of the 20th century as well.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 192 other followers