The gasworks explained

August 9, 2022

In our recent blog entry, A map from 1923, we posed a question about the gasworks, which were marked on the map on the western edge of Market Lavington, near Russell Mill. (Russell Mill, Russell Mill and Russell Mill.) This area has now passed from Market Lavington into West Lavington, but our museum preserves the history from anywhere that was ever in the Market Lavington parish.

We wondered if gas from the Lavington Gas Works had ever been transported from the acetylene gas works on Church Street all the way over to the vicinity of Russell Mill. We had no responses to our query but, perchance, have found the answer in one of our museum treasures.

In the late 1960s, before computers were commonplace household items, Market Lavington and Easterton Women’s Institute did a major piece of work recording the history of the village. We have a typewritten copy of their book.

On reading through this recently, we came across this paragraph.

So, there is the answer. The Manor House was lit by gas from the 1860s and produced its own gas supply.

Near to the gasometer on the map, we see the horses exercising ring. Notes taken by our curator whilst visiting museum founder Peggy Gye’s 1st Village Festival history display in St Mary’s Church in September 1993, give us an insight into this map feature too. When the Bouveries moved into their newly built Market Lavington Manor in the mid 1860s, they brought sixty horses with them.

We would be delighted if anyone could donate to the museum copies of pictures of either the gas works and gasometer or the horse exercising ring.

Pastor Bertram Powner

August 8, 2022

In Market Lavington, at the far end of the High Street, at the junction with Stobberts Road, is the former Congregational Chapel, later Trinity Church, and now a private house. (The congregation still worship together, but in the Community Hall.)

In our 1980 photograph, we see the church and, behind it, a prefabricated hut.

This was known as The Powner Hall and was named after the pastor, Bertram Powner. We have met him before at A dinner treat for the Congregational men, but we do also have a photograph of him at the museum.

He was at the church for Dedicating the Powner Hall in 1968, but the building no longer exists. The church was sold off by auction in 2010.

Ralph Brown, the postman

August 7, 2022

At Market Lavington Museum, we love our three dimensional artefacts. The actual objects used by local folk in times past are great for building displays to capture the interest of our visitors.

However, in order to understand how life was for the people here in previous decades and centuries, we need more than their possessions. So, we are pleased to have a goodly collection of photographs and newscuttings along with some oral history recordings and written memoirs.

Last year, we were contacted by a member of the family of Ralph Brown, who had been the village postman in Market Lavington, and we were offered a page of writing about this local resident, which is now in our museum collection.

Born in Erlestoke, Ralph had spent earlier parts of his life in the Royal Marines and working in London and for the Post Office in Croydon. It was after being demobbed from his Royal Marine service in World War Two that he came to Market Lavington and was appointed as the postman here.

In 1946/7 he and his wife Violet and their first three children moved into one of the new council houses on Lavington Hill and he lived there until his retirement in 1963. The family grew until there were five children. Ralph’s son, David, used to help his father with the Christmas post, often having to sort out poorly addressed cards to ‘Aunt Edie’ or ‘Mrs Potter, High Street’.

In 1950, Ralph formed the Lavington Tenants Association, in an effort to improve the condition of the council estates on Lavington Hill and Northbrook and was subsequently elected to the District Council. Sadly, Ralph died soon after his retirement, aged 63.

A pair of glass floats

August 6, 2022

The artefacts in Market Lavington Museum are supposed to have a connection with Market Lavington or Easterton, which was once part of our parish. Surprisingly then, we have a pair of glass floats which, according to our records, date from the First World War when they were used to mark a mine, presumably in the sea.

Glass spheres like these were wrapped in a string net attached to a rope. They are often used by fishermen to float on the surface to mark a submerged lobster pot or the like.

The connection to our village was that they were, for many years, used as ornaments on the sideboard of a lady living on Church Street in Market Lavington.

A map from 1923

August 5, 2022

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a good number of maps. Unfortunately, lack of space in the building housing the museum means that they are mostly tucked away in the drawer of the map chest upstairs. Of course, visitors are welcome to request to see them and we like to feature them on our blog from time to time.

We have recently accessioned a map from 99 years ago into our collection. It was printed for military purposes, but shows our villages as they were then as well as the training area up on Salisbury Plain.

Presumably the officers were being asked to focus on the area of the plain above Urchfont in their exam, with a battalion from Durham and one from Middlesex in marked areas including the scarp slopes of Salisbury Plain.

We see our local railway line named as the Stert and Westbury branch of the Great Western Railway.

At a museum conserving the history of Market Lavington and Easterton, this section is of particular interest to us.

It reminds us that the villages were rather more linear then, before the various more recent housing estates were built. Some things don’t change and we can see the stream from Broadwell and the Northbrook marked in blue.

Easterton still has its public house, The Royal Oak, but the school has been demolished, replaced by a newer building serving both Market Lavington and Easterton. The chapel is now a home and there is no longer a smithy in the village.

The Fiddington area to the east of Market Lavington (and formerly an exclave of West Lavington) now has a large housing estate where there had previously been the lunatic asylum, with its house set in extensive grounds. The chapel at nearby Townsend is now a private home, but its congregation still exists, worshipping in the Community Hall.

Grove Farm has been demolished and its fields are now the Grove Farm estate. The locations of Beech Wood and Lady Wood are remembered in street names, although some of the Beech Wood still remains near the homes built as Canada Rise.

The Manor House is now a boarding house for Dauntsey’s School, in neighbouring West Lavington. We have seen the exercising ring for horses marked on other maps at the museum and would be delighted if someone could provide us with a photograph of this.

We have never had mains gas locally, so are intrigued by the gasometer. Was this in any way connected with the acetylene gas produced at The Lighthouse on Church Street in Market Lavington? Do please add a comment to this blog entry if you can enlighten us on this or any on other issues that this old map might prompt.

A charcoal box iron

August 4, 2022

At Market Lavington Museum, we have A selection of irons from the era before electric irons. Many of these are flat irons, which were heated on An iron stove. However, there was An alternative to the flat iron in the form of a box iron, which had something hot put into a cavity in the iron itself. One design, which we do not have in our collection, involved placing a heated metal ‘slug’ into the iron. This was felt to be a good, clean option. However, the box iron on display in our museum kitchen, is the type that was filled with hot charcoal.

We have another charcoal box iron, not yet out on display.

It is a Baby Beatrice Box Iron, missing its handle.

Around its base are a row of holes. Apparently, this meant that these irons were prone to leave sooty marks on the clean laundry!

Looking inside the iron, we can see where the hot charcoal was placed.

We rather suspect that the creamy white material on the inside of the lid may be asbestos, designed to reduce the heat to the handle. We expect that we will need to contact our professional museum service conservators about this before we can put Baby Beatrice out on display.

Bus adverts

August 3, 2022

In our previous blog entry, we looked at a Lavington and Devizes Motor Services timetable from the 1930s and may have spotted the little advertisement for Curry’s Motor Works in Devizes. At the time, this would just have brought the firm to the attention of the timetable owner and, no doubt, given a little boost to Fred Sayer’s bus company too. Modern viewers can also enjoy the picture of what we would now consider to be a vintage car.

Unfortunately, from the point of view of Market Lavington Museum, none of the adverts are for our very local businesses. However, we can still enjoy the drawings, such as that of shoes fashionable in the 1930s as seen in this advertisement for a shop in our county town of Trowbridge.

In our museum collection, we also have a return journey ticket from The bus company in Market Lavington.

It cost an adult passenger two shillings (one tenth of £1).

It also provided an advertisement opportunity, for a men’s clothing shop on the corner of the High Street in Devizes.

A 1930s bus timetable

August 2, 2022

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a book all about Lavington and Devizes Motor Services, which was owned by Mr Fred Sayer until 1934. You are most welcome to look at it, and many other local books, in our upstairs study room. For a shorter read about bus services in and around Market Lavington, see The bus company in Market Lavington.

Here is Fred Sayer, proprietor at the time of our timetable booklet, dating from the early 1930s.

Fred Sayer had a large fleet of buses and charabancs, based in the Market Place, used for regular services and outings.

This little booklet contains timetables for some of the many routes in the local area.

Routes 13 – 24 were run by our local firm.

Service 13 would have been a much used bus locally as it linked Market Lavington to the market town of Devizes, about six miles away.

An Oddfellows Rule Book

August 1, 2022

We have noted in several of our previous blog posts that some of the men in Market Lavington were members of the Oddfellows friendly society. At Market Lavington Museum we have an Oddfellows accounts book (see Friendly Oddfellows), James Gye’s membership card for 1899 (see An Oddfellow) and photographs of Oddfellows dressed for an occasion (see An Oddfellows photograph and The Oddfellows again).

We understand that this friendly society supported and visited the sick in the days before the National Health Service. It provided a sort of self help health insurance policy for its members. We find more details about the financial support given in our rule book for the local (Devizes) lodge of Oddfellows.

This little booklet dates from 1862 and informs us that the loyal Providential Dolphin Lodge of Oddfellows met at the Black Swan Hotel in Devizes (mid Wiltshire). This inn, on the edge of the Market Place, still exists in 2022.

There are several pages of rules, starting with explaining the mutual support for members, providing financial relief in sickness and a donation towards the funeral of a member or his wife.

Contributions in the form of an initiation fee and monthly payments went up according to the age of the member.

Benefits were paid weekly during periods of illness, starting at 12 shillings in the first year, but decreasing to 3 shillings after two years of sickness. A lump sum of £12 was paid at the death of a member, half of that if his wife died.

Members met for two hours every two weeks. It would be interesting to find out what they did at their meetings.

A copper funnel

July 31, 2022

Market Lavington Museum is situated in a house dating from 1846. One of its rooms is the kitchen, complete with its range.

This room provides an ideal setting for our many items of kitchenware, which were all used locally.

Amongst these, we have a copper and brass funnel.

Here it is perched in a tumbler. Looking inside, we see that it was designed to strain the liquid passing through it.

It dates from the late 19th century and is currently on display with other items of kitchenware dating from a similar period.