100 Years Ago

May 31, 2016

May 1916 by Lyn Dyson

1st battalion

After nearly a week at Acq, the men were back in the trenches at La Targette, France. They did quite a bit of night time bomb throwing and fired rifle grenades and Lewis rifles. During the day their snipers were busy. They inflicted some losses on the enemy with few casualties of their own.

On 10th May they moved to Pylones. They suffered daily enemy action, and inflicted plenty on the enemy too. At the end of the month they had lost 6 men killed in action and 8 died of wounds. 63 men were wounded, and another 5 men were wounded but remained on duty.

2nd battalion

The battalion was involved in working parties and trench work all month around Carnoy on the Somme. They were subject to intermittent artillery and sniper fire, but things were relatively quiet. On 28th May, at 9.30pm they were moved to the front line. They were tasked with building a fire trench 100 yards in front of the front line, and it had to be completed by 1.30am. They achieved this under occasional sniper fire and short bursts of machine gun fire. When they withdrew they were rewarded with cocoa.

5th battalion

The battalion was serving in Mesopotamia. In May it was very hot, and the men found it very trying. More than 40 men a week, and many officers were evacuated to hospital. They saw no enemy action from the Turks whilst they were at Bait Isa. From 20th May they were at Rest Camp at Masons Mounds where they did drill and physical training and bathing. On 30th May they moved on to Sheikh Saad.

6th battalion

There was no trench work during May. The battalion was engaged in training in machine guns, signalling and bombing at Quernes in Picardie, in the mornings and sports in the afternoons.

7th battalion

This battalion was in Salonika and apart from four days in Balavca in the middle of the month, the routine for the men of this battalion remained unchanged. The weather was very hot with a few thunder storms. They were still at Salonika at the end of the month, and still continuing work on the trenches.

There was one casualty from our villages in May 1916.

Private William Copeland Austin Killed in Action 11th May 1916

William was born in Sussex in 1896, the son of Scottish parents, Robert and Isabella Austin. Robert was a domestic gardener, and in 1901 the family lived in Shaw, Wiltshire where William’s younger brother, Hector, was born.

In 1911 Robert, Isabella and Hector were living at Russell Mill, while William was in lodgings in Devizes and working as an apprentice printer. By 1915 the family was living in Hawkswell Cottage, Little Cheverell.

On 9th November 1915 William enlisted in the Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment, and he was posted straightaway. After training he embarked at Folkestone on 10th March 1916 and joined the 13th Battalion in the field in France on 1st April 1916.

William was posted as missing on 11th May 1916 at Loos in France, and later presumed killed in action on or around that day. His brother Hector later served with the 3rd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment in Ireland.

Pond Farm Camp in 1908

May 30, 2016

We have quite a few photos of Pond Farm Camp in the years prior to World War One. Here we have a plan of the camp as it was laid out in 1908.

Plan of layout of Pond Farm Camp in 1908

Plan of layout of Pond Farm Camp in 1908


This plan was copied from The Cavalry Journal (III) for 1908. Water for the camp was pumped from the well at the bottom left which was adjacent to the farm buildings. We can see just how important the horse was then with a large area set aside for grazing and rows of troughs. We can see the Field Post Office from which the men sent postcards back home and we can work out just where the camp was.

This document also shows the programme for the soldiers enjoying their summer camp.


The activity programme for the men

This is a bit brief, but we can picture a lot of men coming down into the villages on those half holidays.

Being a Pixie

May 29, 2016

“I wanted to be a Fairy but I was a Pixie”. That’s what Lily told us when we showed her some Girl Guide and Brownie memorabilia recently. Amongst this collection of newly acquired Girl Guide and Brownie memorabilia was a promise badge and that was what got Lily talking.

The Brownie Man was the promise badge from the 1930s right through to the 60s

The Brownie Man was the promise badge from the 1930s right through to the 60s

This was issued to Brownies when they made their promise on joining up. Well it certainly looks more pixie like than fairy like. Lily didn’t really like it.

Lily is the first girl in the second row of this photo of the Guides in 1942/43

The Lavington Guides of 1942/43

The Lavington Guides of 1942/43

Market Lavington has never had its own Guides. They are still, officially, the West Lavington Guides even though these days they meet in Market Lavington.

Church Street – framed

May 28, 2016

This framed photo was recently donated to the museum. We did have an original postcard of this view which we featured back in 2013. The enlarged one is easier for folks to see. We think this dates from around 1905.

Framed photo of Church Street - about 1905

Framed photo of Church Street – about 1905

This is Church Street, looking towards the crossroads. It has all the hallmarks of an Alf Burgess photograph.

Despite being behind glass we were able to get a relatively reflection free straight on photo.

Just the image

Just the image

The middle of the photo is dominated by a donkey cart. We believe, from what Peggy Gye always said, that this was Billy Davis. He operated as a rag and bone man in the area, collecting what was essentially rubbish and scratching a living by selling it on.

Down at the far end we can see Mr Walton’s shop. The large writing, were we able to see all of it, would say, ‘Lavington Supply Store’.

A handy bicycle is more or less outside what was Mr Merritt’s cycle store. A lady with another bike is just to the right of Billy Davis outside the building which at one time was Potter’s Store, later a Spar Shop and Mr Dempsey’s shop before becoming a private house.

This can’t have been a school day. The street seems to be filled with children. It is another lovely image.

John Kyte’s Garden Rally – 1985

May 27, 2016

John Kyte lived at what still gets called Kyte’s Cottage. Behind it, in the garden, John used to hold an engine rally. All sorts could be seen there. There may well have been steam powered devices, but the mainstay was probably the barn engine powered with an internal combustion motor. Exhibitors at such rallies were always awarded a plaque and collections of plaques were displayed with pride, often on or by an explanation board. John, mostly, had plaques in clay, sometimes featuring a suitable item. This one is for 1985.

Plaque for John Kyte's Garden Rally - 1985

Plaque for John Kyte’s Garden Rally – 1985

They tell us the camera never lies, but it certainly hasn’t rendered this very accurately. It looks, here, like a hunk of metal and it most certainly is not. In truth it looks more like brick material. But good for John. He had a design incorporating a vital part of many an internal combustion engines – a spark plug.

One can imagine this being displayed at future rallies and maybe it led to, or was part of, competitive plaque designs. We are certainly pleased to have this example which has recently been given to the museum.

John, by the way, lives in Salisbury these days but many folks in Lavington remember his quirky garden rallies with affection.

Another mustard pot

May 26, 2016

We had a couple of these, so why not a third. Artistic folk always reckon a collection of three looks better than a pair. This one was given to us by a former resident of the village who has the sad job of clearing his deceased parents’ home – a home in Market Lavington.

A mustard pot with full local provenance

A mustard pot with full local provenance

This is, of course, Workman’s Hall China.

This is market Lavington Workman's Hall crockery

This is Market Lavington Workman’s Hall crockery

When we last featured some of this china we commented that it was almost 150 years old. Now we can report that it has passed that milestone. This pot and all the other pieces we have were made and dated 1865 so they are now 151.

This dates from 1865 so is now over 150 years old.

This dates from 1865 so is now over 150 years old.

The Workman’s Hall was a temperance hall and offered people a chance to have a meal and maybe a game with just soft drinks. Many folks took advantage of this establishment, noting its proximity, when built, to The Bell Inn and The Green Dragon. Those requiring alcoholic refreshment could nip out and have a drink very easily. It is doubtful as to whether the hall actually did much for the temperance cause.

But they did produce crockery which has lasted well. And like this mustard pot, items of the set are still finding their way to our village museum.

Thanks to Adrian for bringing us this and other items.

A Bessie Francis recipe

May 25, 2016

Bessie was a lifelong Market Lavington resident. She was born a Gye but later married butcher, Peter Francis who gave up the butchery trade to become the local professional photographer – with Bessie as his very able helper. For many years they lived above the Church Street shop.

A copy of her handwritten recipes has recently come to us at the museum and we pick on one of her recipes here.


Bessie Francis’s recipe for ginger snaps

This is a recipe for ginger snaps. Let’s hope it isn’t teeth that they snap! Judging from this book Bessie was very keen on sweet items. There are several different fudge recipes, more than one crème de menthe recipe and lots of other sweet items, mixed in with some savoury items, a couple of knitting patterns and even a recipe for curing skins.

At our Museum Miscellany this year – October 8th at 7.30 in the Community Hall – we will have a range of ‘Museum’ food. This recipe of Bessie’s could be amongst the delicacies on offer – along with old favourites such as Grandma Doubleday’s potted meat and green pea sandwiches.

An unverified rumour

May 24, 2016

Just over a month ago we published a sales brochure for a house in Easterton, now known as Willougbys. (click here) The brochure refers to a story that Oliver Cromwell stayed at this house.

A single, small, typed document has just come to light and that refers to this incident as well.

Document about Easterton House which refers to a possible civil war incident in the Market Lavington area.

Document about Easterton House which refers to a possible civil war incident in the Market Lavington area.

This document, as can be seen, is about a house in Easterton called Easterton House which was once used as the Vicarage for the parish. We have no reason to doubt what most of this document says. It is the first paragraph – a kind of preamble to the main focus – which refers, again, to Oliver Cromwell.

It says, ‘A great battle was fought on the Wiltshire Downs just above Market Lavington and it is said that Oliver Cromwell slept in a farm house, in Easterton, the night before the battle.’

We would really like a historian who knows to confirm or deny this story of a battle on the downs above Market Lavington. Of course we are only about 6 miles from the site of the Battle of Roundway but surely nobody would describe Roundway Down as ‘above Market Lavington’ when it is the other side of Devizes.

Any help or ideas on this would be gratefully received.

Women of the village

May 23, 2016

This piece of writing, we believe by Janette Hodgkinson, was written in 1999 and follows the archaeological excavations on the Grove Farm site. We think it captures the spirit of two ages, separated by a millennium.


Women of the Village

We are two women separated by a millennium.

You were brought back to the surface of our village by an archaeologist at the beginning of the 1990s. I washed the sandy soil from your skull and found the pale blue, barrel shaped, Roman bead that was one of your treasures. Maybe a gift from your mother or grandmother, precious enough for you to make into a necklace with other more modern beads and for your family to place it around your neck when you were buried.

This is my village now as it once was yours. We tread the same pathways, scan the same skyline and are warmed by the same sun as it rises over the vast Wiltshire Plain.

I know a little of your hard Anglo Saxon life, but you, even in your wildest dreams could never imagine the wonders of mine as I face the end of our joint millennium.

Your family hunted in the woods and fields that are part of the village surround, I travel to buildings where exotic foods are brought from the other side of the planet for me to choose from. Maybe some of your family died because there was too little to eat, some of my family have died because there has been too much.

You collected fuel from the nearby woods on which to cook your food and bake your bread. I have smart little boxes that keep my food fresh, cook it to perfection and at the press of a button bake my daily bread.

Did you walk the local fields gathering herbs to cure the ills of your family? I have hospitals and doctors to fight for my life. Yes, we still fight to stay healthy but ironically in a lifestyle totally the opposite to yours.

Like me, perhaps you weren’t born in the village, did we both travel to be part of its history? You could have journeyed many days to see your family and friends just once or twice in the whole of your lifetime here. I spend merely hours covering the hundreds of miles to see my mine, with the use of the phone and e-mail I talk to some of them every day. I’ve flown through the air to be with them on the other side of the Earth, with the same excitement you could have felt visiting the growing settlement of Sarum.

I hope you had a grandchild and experienced the joy of seeing the future though it’s eyes. Did it stand on the edge of the Plain looking down at our developing village in wonder? It’s possible mine will stand on the flight deck of a spaceship and look at the beautiful planet we have both been part of.

Our lives have been so different, yet our hopes and fears would have been the same. One day, like you, I will be part of the soil of Wiltshire and rest not twenty yards from where you were found.

The guides of 1942/43

May 22, 2016

The Second World War would have had quite an impact everywhere so it is good to know that guiding went on and flourished. The local Girl Guides were based in West Lavington but young ladies from many local villages were involved.

They met together for a photo and here it is.

The Lavington Guides of 1942/43

The Lavington Guides of 1942/43


We have the names of most of the young ladies.


Apart from actually having the names it is interesting to see how fashions change in names. Back when these girls were named – around 1930, it seems that Eileen, Jean, Marion and Sheilagh were popular. They don’t appear in the top 50 for 2016. Lily, however, is currently fashionable and appears in the top ten most popular names for baby girls in the UK this year.

Lovely picture and it may bring back memories for some octogenarians today.



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