A Home Field find

July 1, 2015

The Home Field was the name given to the field which is situated behind the houses on Shires Close. Once upon a time it was used as the village recreation ground and we have posts on this blog which show all sorts going on there including cricket, football (well, a goal post) and political rallies. People remember circuses, fairs, carnivals etc all taking place on this field. These were occasions where crowds of people met up and, inevitably, things get lost.

Step in a metal detectorist, with permission from the owner. A staggering collection of twentieth century coins has been found and also other items and these have very recently been donated to the museum. We’ll take a look at one such item today.

A cricket motif item found on the Home Field in Market Lavington

A cricket motif item found on the Home Field in Market Lavington

This piece of non-ferrous metal obviously has a cricket connection.

This measures some 6½ centimetres across and 5½ centimetres from top to bottom. It clearly depicts a couple of cricket bats, a cricket ball (even the seam is shown) and three stumps. They are not all scaled to match. Damage has been clearly suffered with both bats looking just a tad battered.

If we look at the back we can see this is a thin sheet of metal with the shapes just pressed into it.

This was cheaply made out of non-ferrous metal

This was cheaply made out of non-ferrous metal

There’s no obvious method in which this has been fastened to anything and so no obvious purpose for this item.

Our guess, and it is no more than a guess, was that this may have been attached in some way to a cricket bag – one of those large bags for holding cricket gear.

We can’t begin to put a date on this but it is most probably twentieth century.

We seek further help can you tell us anything more about this? We’d like to get an age and original purpose for this item.


June 1915

June 30, 2015

100 Years Ago

June 1915 was hot and sultry. On 3rd June the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment marched to Vlamertighe where they stayed in huts. The next day they were in the trenches at Hooge. On 6th June two men were killed when the Germans fired their “Minenwerfer”. These were short range mortars. The Wiltshires responded with Howitzers.

The next day another two men were killed and the battalion was busy putting up large quantities of barbed wire in front of the trenches.

On 8th June another man was killed and three were wounded. There was a thunder storm. After four days in the trenches the battalion marched to Ypres on 9th June for some rest. During this period of rest there was an accident with a lyddite grenade, and two people were killed and 23 injured.

On 15th June, they were back in the trenches, this time on the Menin Road, west of Hooge. They took up their positions at 11.45pm. At 2.50 am the artillery commenced a bombardment on the German trenches between Roulers railway and the southern end of Ypres wood. This was followed by an assault on the German trenches, which was successful. At about 9am on the 16th the Germans began their counter attack. The Wiltshires were on the receiving end of a heavy bombardment, and for about an hour and a half they responded with grenades. However by 10.30, they had used up all their grenades and the Germans succeeded in driving them slowly back down the trench.

They had to retreat in the open, and lost a considerable number of men. A counter charge was organized but without success as the officer and many men were shot down. Charles Pike from West Lavington was one of the men killed on this day. Towards evening the Germans fired some gas shells, but these caused only a temporary inconvenience.

The next day the battalion was relieved and they marched to billets between Ypres and Vlamertinge. During the action the battalion lost two officers killed, and 20 other ranks. Three men were missing believed killed, one hundred and three men were wounded; 3 were wounded and taken as prisoner, and 54 men were missing.

After one night’s rest the battalion was in the trenches again the next day at Hooge. They were there for five days and then had four days rest at Valmertinghe. During this rest period there was another accident when the medical Officer was severely burnt. He subsequently died from his injuries.

On 27th June they were back in the trenches at Hooge. The Germans regularly shelled the trenches over the next few days, during which the battalion lost two men on 29th June, including Ernest Sainsbury from Market Lavington.

On 1st June the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was resting in billets at Robecq. At 4pm they were lined along the road, and subject to a casual inspection by Mr Asquith, the Prime Minister, who was accompanied by General Haig. The battalion remained at rest, moving from Robecq to Hinges to Locon where they stayed until 14th June.

On 14th June they took over the trenches at Givenchy, and at 6pm the following day they started an attack on the German line, during which they managed to take over some German trenches. The next day they were relieved and made their way back to the reserve dugouts where they had breakfast. Over the next few days they marched back to Robecq where they spent eight days in billets. They then received orders to march to Lumbries about 26 miles from Robecq, and they arrived there on 29th June.


Frederick William Wright died 2.6.1915

Fred was born in London around 1874, the son of coachman Frederick Wright. At the age of 21 he enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery on 18th May 1894, and he served for three years. He was working as a labourer prior to his enlistment. Whilst serving with the RFA he was a driver.

In 1896 he married Rhoda Carr in Camberwell. Rhoda was born in Trowbridge. Following his marriage, Fred bought himself out of the army for the sum of £18 in 1897. They had at least four children, Hubert born in 1898, Gaston born in 1899, Alfred born in 1900 and Gladys born in 1901. There were probably more children, but I have been unable to find this family in the 1911 census.

At the outbreak of the war, Fred was one of the first to enlist, signing up on 4th September 1914 at the age of 41. At that time he and his family were living at 5 Church Street, Market Lavington. He gave his occupation as licenced victualler. He was assigned to the 4th Wiltshire Reserve Battalion and saw service at Codford.

Sadly, it soon became clear that Fred wasn’t fit for service. He suffered from a constant night cough with shortness of breath and chest pains, and after three spells of sick leave he was discharged as medically unfit by reason of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. His condition was not caused by his army service, but it was aggravated by the constant wet conditions at Codford camp.

Fred was discharged in February 1915, and he died a few weeks later at home in Market Lavington.  Rhoda never remarried, and died in Trowbridge in 1957.

Charles Pike killed in action 16.6.1915

Charles was born about 1887 in West Lavington. His father was John Pike, a gardener from Wilton, and his mother Eliza came from Suffolk. The family moved around a bit, but were living in West Lavington from about 1886 to 1890. They then settled in the Swindon area.

Charles was working as a compositor in Swindon in 1911. By that time he had been married to Frances Paddon for a little over a year, and they had a son, Charles Edward Pike.

Charles enlisted into the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and arrived in France on 18th May 1915. The battalion was then at Elzenwalle in Belgium, and having a relatively quiet time, according to the war diaries.

On 15th June the battalion marched to trenches on the Menin Road, and arrived there about 11.45pm. At 2.50 am that night, the British artillery commenced a bombardment on the german trenches. At around 9am the Germans began bombing heavily. The Wiltshires replied with grenades, and the exchange lasted about one and a half hours. The supply of grenades was exhausted and the battalion was driven back down the trench. They suffered heavy casualties. They then had to fall back in the open and lost a considerable number of men. A counter charge was organised, but without success, as the officer and many men were shot down and the remainder made no progress.

There was further bombardment during the evening, and several gas shells were fired. These apparently caused only temporary inconvenience.

It was during this action that Charles was killed. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate memorial.

George H W Griffiths killed in action 22nd June 1915

George was born in 1866 in Handsworth, Birmingham. His father was George Griffiths, a barrister, and his mother was Emma Lucy Harvey.

At an early age, George went to sea. Whilst engaged in this occupation, George had some extreme tattooing performed on his person. On his chest he had a woman’s head and a trophy of flags and a crown; 1887 was inscribed on his right arm; Britannia, cross flags, a ship and a bracelet were on his right forearm; a sailor with a flag was on his left arm; GHWG MAAW in a wreath, and a bust of a woman were on his left forearm. George also had scars above each knee and each foot.

In April 1888 George had obviously had enough of the sea, and he decided to join the army. He enlisted into the 18th Hussars. He was described as 5ft 6ins tall, fresh complexioned with hazel eyes and black hair. He weighed 136 lbs and had a chest measurement of 35 inches. George served for 78 days from April 1888 to July 1888, and then bought himself out for a payment of £10. His commanding officer described him as being regular in his habits with good conduct and a temperate nature.

This good report obviously held George in good stead when he applied again to join the 18th Hussars in February 1891. When signing up he gave his occupation as “Collector”. He served for seven years in India from 1st September 1891 to 28th December 1898. He was discharged from the army on 31st December 1898, but recalled in November 1899. He was sent to South Africa and served throughout the Boer War, until July 1902. He was finally discharged in February 1903.

It was at about this time that George came to West Lavington. He was certainly in the village in 1906 when he married Alice Riddle Burgess. Alice was the daughter of Ebenezer Burgess, who was described as a pathological painter. He must have been quite successful as the family seem to have lived in reasonably affluent circumstances. It may be pure coincidence that George married within a few months of the death of his father. His father left a modest estate of £221.1s with his spinster daughter, Eveline Constance Griffiths as his executor. From this one does gain the impression that maybe George was felt to be a bit of a black sheep.

George joined the 25th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. This was formed in London by the Legion of Frontiersmen on 12.2.1915. The Legion of Frontiersmen was a unique paramilitary group formed in 1905, and was likened to Boy Scouts for grown men! It was a group of adventurers from all over the Empire, with experience in various colonies.

They embarked at Plymouth on 12.2.1915, bound for East Africa, and they arrived in Mombasa on 4th May 1915. The Battalion was part of a Force in Africa which defended British Colonies from German Colonial raids mostly focused in the areas around Lake Tanganyika, British East African and German East African territory.

The first major battle to involve the Frontiersmen was Bukoba in June 1915. The British objective was the destruction of the Bukoba wireless station. Due to Bukoba’s location on the shore of Lake Victoria, it was decided that the raid should take the form of an amphibious assault. The raid was launched from Kisumu in British East Africa on June 21st 1915. Amongst the units chosen for the attack were the Loyal North Lancashire and the 25th (Frontiersmen) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, more commonly known by the their nickname the 25th ‘Frontiersmen’.

Upon reaching the objective at Bukoba the attackers were accidentally landed in a large swamp and were pinned down by fierce rifle and machine gun fire from the German positions. Finally managing to escape the swamp, the British force was then held up by snipers—who succeeded in stalling the attack until a Captain Meinertzhagen advanced towards them and opened fire, killing one and driving the rest away. The attack continued for a further two days in the town; however, casualties were light on both sides. The Frontiersmen took the town on June 23rd. An Australian member of the unit, Lieutenant Wilbur Dartnell, climbed to the top of the town hall and removed the German Imperial Ensign from the flagpole as a symbolic gesture of victory.

George was killed in action on 22nd June 1915, and is buried in Dar Es Salaam Cemetery.

George and Alice had two children, George Edwin born in 1907 and John Whitmore born in 1918. The family stayed in West Lavington until at least the late 1920s. George was the goalkeeper in the local football team. John became a vicar. I have so far been unable to trace any descendants for either of them, but their aunt, Elise Elizabeth Griffiths married twice and had several children.

Ernest Charles Sainsbury 29th June 1915

Ernest was born in Market Lavington in 1896, the son of agricultural labourer Frederick George Sainsbury, often known as George, and his wife Sarah. Frederick was born in West Lavington, and Sarah came from Easterton. The family lived in the High Street in Easterton, where Ernest grew up with two older sisters and a younger brother.

In 1911 Ernest was working as an agricultural labourer. In 1914 he was already serving in the 1st battalion of the Wiltshire regiment and he arrived in France on 14th August 1914. He was promoted to corporal at some stage after the start of the war.

His battalion was involved in the action at Mons and Ypres. On 29th June, a showery but warm day, the battalion was in the trenches at Hooge in Belgium. They were fired upon with trench mortars, and two men, one of whom was Ernest, were killed and eight men were injured. He was buried in Bedford House Cemetery.

Knapp Farm Barns

June 29, 2015

People who live in what is now called White Horse Barns may like to see this photo of their homes, before conversion.

Knapp Farm Barns before conversion to White Horse Barns. The photo dates from 1997.

Knapp Farm Barns before conversion to White Horse Barns. The photo dates from 1997.

This photo, obviously not taken in ideal conditions, dates from about 1997, soon before the conversion into homes took place.

It is recognisably the same place, albeit it is a much tidier environment now. The conversion was very sympathetic to the original lines and purpose of the building.



The career of Miss Ross

June 28, 2015

Miss Ross was, for fifty years, the infant teacher at West Lavington School, but her home, for many years, was in Market Lavington for she was the daughter of a Market Lavington man. This news article was published in the Wiltshire News of 19th February 1982 and, sadly, it was following the death of Miss Ross. Miss Ross is at the left hand end of the back row in this picture.

Miss Florence Ross(back row at the left)as a very youthful teacher at West Lavington School.

Miss Florence Ross as a very youthful teacher at West Lavington School

Miss Florence Ross as a very youthful teacher at West Lavington School

The story with this picture, shown in full below, tells of Miss Florence Ross, daughter of Joseph Ross who was head gardener at Clyffe Hall. When her father died, Florence lived with her mother and other family members in Market Lavington High Street.

Clyffe Hall is close to West Lavington School and Florence attended it as a pupil until the age of 14. That was in 1918. The very next term, Florence returned to the school as a teacher and she taught there until 1968.

The day after she retired she became Mrs John Parr of Swanage and Dorset became her home until after the death of Mr Parr when Florence returned to the Lavingtons. She died in 1982.

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Maybe members of the Alexander family could add something to this story???


Mabel Baker and her brooch

June 27, 2015

Mabel was born in Market Lavington back in 1883. Her parents were John and Louisa. John was a whitesmith (working in tin plate) and ironmonger and occupied the former hardware shop which is opposite the co-op. John died in 1903 and Louisa in 1910. Four of the daughters, including Mabel, emigrated to Canada. Mabel went in 1912. We believe this photo of Mabel was taken in England.

Mabel Baker, born and raised in Market Lavington

Mabel Baker, born and raised in Market Lavington

Amongst treasured possessions which Mabel took, there was a brooch. This has made its way back to Market Lavington and is now in the museum.

A lucky survivor. Mabel was unable to get a berth on her emigration ship of choice which was Titanic.. This brooch has been to Canada and back.

A lucky survivor. Mabel was unable to get a berth on her emigration ship of choice which was Titanic. This brooch has been to Canada and back.

Susan Way, a member of this Baker family wrote the following about Mabel.

Mabel Alice BAKER (b.1883) was the third sister to emigrate to Canada.  She married Arthur Willoughby (b.1886) at St Matthew Church, Winnipeg on 29 Dec 1914. Arthur was in uniform and soon to leave for service in the First World War. Joan Woods (Mabel’s niece) was almost 3 years old when she attended the wedding and remembers the dress she wore.

They adopted James Norquay (b.1933).  Mabel was deeply religious woman and attended an Anglo Catholic Church, St Cuthbert’s by name – a church in Elmwood – a north-east suburb of Winnipeg.  Mabel died in 1943 in Winnipeg due to a blood clot following a successful operation.  Arthur died in 1960 in White Rock, British Colombia.

She was to have sailed to Canada on the ill-fated Titanic in 1912 but the ship was overbooked.


Tractors: Market Lavington leads the way.

June 26, 2015

Today we are looking at an article published in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald on April 19th 1973. But it is about an event which took place in 1916 – the first use of a tractor in South West England.

The tractor was being trialled by T H White and Co, originally a Market Lavington company and the 1973 article was to mark the company moving into newer premises in Devizes.

Back in 1916, a tractor was clearly worthy of a photo and here is the photo, as published in 1973.

The first tractor in the West of England - Market Lavington, 1916

The first tractor in the West of England – Market Lavington, 1916

We are reminded, of course, of how much newspaper technology has moved on in the last 40 years. But the caption is clear to read.


The article was written by T J Witchell who was an apprentice with T H Whites back in 1916. It’s well worth a read.


Click the image to see a larger version


Of course, the Market Lavington interest is that Mr Watts was the farmer at Church Farm.  Does this mean Knapp Farm?

Now we’d love a real copy of that photo. Has anybody got one they could let us copy?

The Rough Wallopers

June 25, 2015

One of the earliest ‘musical’ bands in Market Lavington was a rather ad-hoc collection of men who earned the nickname of the Rough Wallopers.

The name was probably apt for their purpose was to make plenty of noise rather than to be strictly musical. We have a photo of them outside the Green Dragon.

The Rough Wallopers outside the Green Dragon in about 1870

The Rough Wallopers outside the Green Dragon in about 1870

This rag, tag and bobtail collection of noise merchants were a band of a type known as a skimmerton band.

A person would be a skimmerton if they tried to impersonate an offending spouse with intent to ridicule. A procession, including a band, would form up behind the skimmerton and make as much noise as possible, thus informing all of the locality of the bad behaviour of the spouse.

Sometimes the procession would form up without a true skimmerton to lead it. For example, a husband seen to be severely hen pecked might get ridiculed by his fellows, perhaps in the hope that he’d stand up for himself better. It sounds almost like the 19th century equivalent of cyber bullying.

Quite often the ‘victim’ was a wife who had been unfaithful to her husband. In mob fashion the band would march to the house of the offending women and make sure all knew of her infidelity.

Perhaps it is fair to say that people haven’t changed much. These days there might be a hate campaign on Facebook but it amounts to much the same thing.

We don’t know who any of our Rough Wallopers were and it is doubtful that anyone would be able to name any. We believe the photo dates from around 1870.

Southcliffe Farm

June 24, 2015
Southcliffe Farm in 1934. It was once the home of the Alexander family.

Southcliffe Farm in 1934. It was once the home of the Alexander family.

This bungalow was the home of the Alexander family. Our photo of it was taken in 1934.

Sitting outside the front door is Geoffrey Alexander. He later emigrated to Australia and still has descendants there.

Getting an accurate fix on the location of this bungalow is quite difficult but we can see former council housing in the background which must be at Townsend.

We don’t think there are any members of this Alexander family left in Market Lavington but we’d be very happy to be told that we are wrong.


William Thomas

June 23, 2015

From Shepherd Boy To Mayor

The thrilling life story of the Mayor of Maidenhead, retired Bandmaster William Thomas, who once gave a salvation address in the presence of a future Queen. (Abridged from The Bandsman and Songster 12 January 1935)

William Thomas

William Thomas

William Thomas, who was one of a family of nine, was born on a farm at Tilshead, a village on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. His father died when he was quite young so William experienced bereavement and deprivation at once. His schooling, such as it was, took place at Easterton, where the school children met in a cottage, and later in the church. A two-penny fee had to be paid for the eldest child in the family and a penny each for the remainder. Then the family were so poor that they often had to catch sparrows for food.

At eight years of age William began work, driving a donkey and cart laden with wood. Sometimes he started his labouring at three o’clock in the morning and was accordingly nicknamed ‘Early’. A year later his family moved to Market Lavington where things took a turn for the better. As a farm-worker he was up at five in the morning herding the cows for milking, attending to the pigs and carrying water long distances on a yoke. His job was seven days a week with no holidays.

By the age of ten had become a shepherd and he made extra money by picking up all the little bits of wool that scattered over the downs then selling them to the village rag-man. Work in a combined foundry, brick-yard and pottery followed until at the age of 17 he entered the employ of Lord Bouverie, for whom he tended Jersey cows and pedigree white pigs.

William, who had early on in his life had been converted, was attracted to The Salvation Army corps in the village. In spite of warnings as to probable dismissal from his employment he one day went to receive his wages from Lord Bouverie in his Army uniform. Contrary to expectation his lordship was rather sympathetic. ‘I believe it’s a good cause,’ he said, ‘go on with it!’

After becoming a bandsman and the corps sergeant-major William Thomas felt led to offer himself for full-time service in the Army. He was accepted and sent to the Training Home at Woolwich and gained much valuable Bible knowledge and an understanding of the problems faced by the slum-dwellers. Later Cadet Thomas was sent to Eastbourne, where the Army was fighting a hard campaign against a mischievous mob.

‘When we stepped out of Eastbourne station’ said the erstwhile cadet, ‘our caps were pulled off and torn to ribbons. One Sunday morning it took 36 policemen to marshal the Army down to the beach. As soon as you put your instrument to your mouth it was snatched away; some of the instruments were actually thrown into the sea, and we were pelted with all kinds of filth. One day I was dragged along the street by my hair.’

As a commissioned officer Captain Thomas, then barely 20 years of age, was sent to Arlesey, in Bedfordshire, where he started a band. Sunninghill in Berkshire followed. It was a hot spot for the Army in 1892, there being riots and disturbances organised by the so-called ‘skeleton army’. Very soon Captain Thomas found himself with some of his soldiers before the magistrates at Windsor for alleged obstruction and was sentenced to paying a fine or spending a week in Reading prison.

‘I’m like the Apostle Paul’ the captain told the chairman of the Bench: ‘I don’t believe in paying for doing the right.’ The magistrate retorted ‘Well, you can follow the Apostle Paul and go to prison.’ At Reading the captain and his comrades received comfort from the playing of the local band. The Chaplain, visiting his cell, told him that the Army couldn’t last and advised him to break his connection with it!

One Sunday evening, after a rough open-air meeting the Salvationists returned to The Salvation Army hall for their indoor meeting. That night Princess Mary (later Queen Mary) and two of the young Princes attended the meeting in which Captain Thomas gave the salvation address. At the close the Princess and the Princes gave him a hearty handshake and also a donation.

Captain Thomas was later stationed at Reading. Other postings followed until he returned to Maidenhead, Berkshire. It was during the disastrous flood of the 1890s that he was stationed as the officer of the corps in the town of which he was eventually to become Mayor. ‘We got up early in the one morning,’ he says, ‘to find ourselves up to our knees in water.’ It was during that period that he settled down in business in the town, but never for one moment lacking in his zeal for the Army.

Theresa Gale remembers

June 22, 2015

Theresa was one of those old village people, kind, gentle, smiling and seemingly content with life.  She was born in 1905 in Bromham so her early memories come from there. She married in 1926 and became a Lavington lady. She died in 1994.

This piece she wrote appeared in a Womens’ Institute production called ‘Within Living Memory. It dates from 1993.

Early 1900’s

In the Village of Bromham where I lived, when a couple were married and a baby didn’t arrive until nine months had passed, the vicar’s wife would present the couple with a hand-made christening gown. I still have the one given to my parents, and it must be one hundred years old now.

My family consisted of five brothers and one sister, plus an orphan boy cousin. Just imagine wash day, all the water had to be drawn from a well shared by three houses – think of the shirts, pinafores, petticoats, bed linen, starched tablecloths – all washed by hand, and my mother didn’t have a mangle for years. On ironing day, my father would make up a huge fire and the irons would be heated in the bars kept in place by the poker.

The women used to help with potato planting and picking and also pea picking, otherwise they had enough to do looking after their large families. We always went to Sunday School and no one would have been allowed in a place of worship without the head being covered.

During the, summer holiday several families would get together and walk to the top of Roundway Hill, Devizes, about two miles away and spend a day there. The children took tin trays with them, and we used to sit on them and whizz down the hill. There was a dew pond built by Smiths of Market Lavington, which we all paddled in. Once my grandmother decided to have a go. Unfortunately she slipped and sat down in the water. We helped her up and she calmly took off her wet knickers and hung them on a bush to dry, much to the amusement of all us children. Late afternoon we lit a bonfire and fetched some water from a barn at the bottom of the hill and boiled the kettle for tea. Afterwards we cleared up all the rubbish and wend our way home, tired but very happy. Such happy days.

In my childhood days, the roads weren’t like they are today. I can remember heaps of large stones by the side of the road and a man with a long handled hammer and dark glasses to protect his eyes cracking the stones. That was quite a common sight.

In the holidays my father would drive us to market in a pony and trap, and near the bottom of Dunkirk Hill is a farm called ‘The Ox House’ and in those days (89 years ago) there was a large figure of an ox over the front porch and my father told us that every time the ox heard the clock strike twelve, it would come down and go in to dinner. We used to beg our father to be passing at twelve, but, of course, he never would. I wonder what happened to the ox, but it’s still called Ox House Farm.

Market Day was quite different to what it is today. The market place would be filled with rows of cages containing rabbits, ferrets, ducks, hens, cockerels and there were pens for animals, all to be sold by two auctioneers shouting against each other. If we were lucky we were treated to faggots and potatoes (no frozen peas in those days!) at a little shop in Northgate Street owned by Wordleys, I’ve never tasted faggots so good as they were.

Saturday nights we always had a bath in front of the fire. It was lovely being dried in the warm. My sister and I had a lot of hair, which was washed every week and every day my mother would go through it with a small tooth comb, because nearly all the girls had lice, but we never did due to my mother’s care.

In my young days the girls had wooden hoops and the boys iron ones, and we used to trundle them miles. We played hopscotch, marbles, whip-tops and tag. In the evenings my father taught us all sorts of card games and then we had ludo and draughts to amuse us.

I can remember the Coronation of King George and Queen Mary in 1911. I still have my husband’s and my coronation cups. In my village we had a big get together in a field. The band played, there were all sorts of things on and we all had free tea. What I can remember most is a chip van outside the field and we were all treated to a pennyworth of chips done up in newspaper. You see my mother never cooked any chips, so they were a treat.

My teenage years and War Time

In my teenage years I went to dances and in the beginning it was the quadrilles and polka, and then we moved to the valeta, waltz, foxtrot and lancers. I loved being swung off my feet in the lancers, it’s so different today. If we went to Devizes to a dance we all had cards and the young men would write their names down for the dance they wanted. The girls all wore long dresses.

Another great day in our lives was the killing of a pig and a butcher would come and joint it for us. My mother made black puddings and we cleaned the henge and plaited it up and it was called chitterlings. I would like to taste some now, “we’ had’ the liver and we melted down the flecks for lard which we used on toast .Then my father would salt the whole side of bacon which hung on the pantry wall and keep us going all the Winter.

Four of my brothers were older than us two girls and it was getting a problem about baths for them, so when Devizes Prison closed down my father bought a bath from the sale and he built a little wooden room next to the boiler and installed the bath. By then we had a pump so it was easier to fill the copper which heated the water for the bath. No one else had a bath in the neighbourhood. When the village football team played at home my

brothers used to bring their mates home to wash in our bath – didn’t they have fun -all my life I’ve had lot of menfolk friends.

My father was a small holder, but he also cut men’s hair on a Saturday evening for 4d. Three of my brothers went to the First World War, two were wounded, but they all came back. One family in the village lost three sons. I can remember the papers at that time -each day the front page was covered with columns of soldiers killed.

Every year a ‘hospital week’ was held in aid of Devizes Hospital. It culminated with a procession led through the village by the village band, and we ended up dancing in the field.

My father had a lovely voice and every year he joined a group and they went carol singing and one year I went with them. On the Christmas morning we met in the village and sang “Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn”. Whether we were appreciated or not I don’t know, as it was only six o’clock!

Memories of Market Lavington

Before the army took over Salisbury Plain, there were lots of farms up there and every Saturday night the farmers and their families came down to the village, as the shops stayed open until 10 o’clock. The men went to the pub and the women did their shopping, caught up with the village news and visited their friends.

 The children that lived on the hill were let out of school early during the winter, so that they could get home before dark. One day they were caught in a snowstorm and lost their way. Eventually, they were found huddled together under a hayrick.

When I was married in 1926 lots of people in this village had to fetch their water from a stream that is still running now. I can see them now with a yoke across their shoulder with two buckets. Then there was the nightsoil business. Lots of it had to be carried through the houses to the street. It was done at night. As for toilet rolls, they haven’t been about that long, we used to cut up squares of newspaper and hang them in the toilet. Then there were lamps to fill and the glasses to clean, a candle to go to bed – and get up in the morning and light a fire to boil the kettle and to get some warmth. What a blessing when we could buy a primus.

I’d been married four years and just had my first baby when Market Lavington W.I. was formed – it was 1930. I’m the only founder member still alive. We always started the meeting by singing ‘Jerusalem” but we don’t now. We were pleased with our Institute because we lived six miles from the nearest town, the men could go to pub, but not us women. When we had a speaker from away, we had to put her up for the night as there was no transport to get her home. There were hardly any cars then.

We used to have a lovely Christmas party and we could each invite one person, and everybody wanted to come. Every year the butcher, who was a middle-aged man, would have the polka with me, and when it was over he’d book me up for the next year.

In the beginning we had a very good choir, which won at several festivals, and also a folk dancing team. Now we play whist, scrabble and skittles.

And then when the wireless came it altered our lives. We had a little crystal set and my husband had one earpiece and I had the other, and we listened to the Savoy Orpheans.

I really must stop now, but I could go on and on – but would anyone be really interested!



And the answer to that last question is, of course, ‘yes, we would’.



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