The Francis family at Grove Farm

June 15, 2021

Within living memory for older local residents, there was a farm quite centrally positioned in the village of Market Lavington. Younger folk and more recent arrivals to the village will think of the area, where fields once were, as the Grove Farm estate and Canada Rise. Where Grove Farmhouse and farmyard stood we now have the Community Hall and its car parks. There are already many entries connected to this farm on the Market Lavington Museum blog, but we are grateful to Philip Francis for the additional information on his oral history recording, which add to our knowledge of the farm under its last owner.

When the Francis family first moved to Grove Farm, they rented it from Henry Davis of Knapp Farm. They took it over from Henry Watts, whose name is remembered in Watts Way on the Grove Farm housing estate. Ron Francis ran the farm as a dairy farm. He and his wife had been given a dozen cows as a wedding present by a family member.

In 1952, the owner put the farm up for sale and Mr Francis was able to purchase it.

This picture of the farmhouse is part of of postcard image from about 1960 taken from the old recreation ground across the road known as The Spring.

We will consider more of Philip Francis’s memories of Grove Farm and his childhood there, next time.

Evacuees in Easterton

June 14, 2021

We have based our last few blogs on the recorded memories of John Sainsbury. He was born in 1930, so would have been about nine at the outbreak of the second world war. He was a pupil At Easterton School (now demolished and replaced with housing). The school was next to the church in Easterton and this picture of it predates John’s time there, but shows what the building was like.

John recalled the influx of children from London who were evacuated to Easterton at the beginning of the war and swelled the number of children at the school. John said that things were quiet in London early in the war, until the bombing started in May, and that some of the evacuees returned home soon after they had arrived. However, a lot of the children stayed until the end of the war.

None were billeted at John’s home in Eastcott, which was too small, having only one bedroom and a bed space on the landing. The vicarage in Easterton was a much larger building. The Reverend Stacy lived there and Miss Windo, longtime headteacher at Easterton School lodged there too and there was a housekeeper called Mrs White. Seven or eight of the London children were placed at the vicarage.

John remembered brother and sister Jimmy and Marjorie Sampson and was still in touch with Jimmy at the time of the recording in 2012. They had a baby brother, who was at White Street. Very sadly, he fell off a wall and died and is buried in Easterton churchyard.

That is all that John said about evacuees in his oral history. However, we have a lot more on the subject of evacuees in both Market Lavington and Easterton in the following blog entries. Easterton Evacuees, An evacuee in Lavington, An Evacuee Remembers, More evacuee memories, Mrs Drury with evacuees, An evacuee’s family seek help, Summer fun for an evacuee, Winter and spring fun, A boy’s WW2 summer and autumn, Bobby McGregor and Latimer Road School – 1942/43.

A lad porter at Lavington Station

June 13, 2021

Our recent blogs have featured information given by John Sainsbury on his oral history recording for Market Lavington Museum. After leaving Devizes Grammar School, aged fourteen, his first job was market gardening at Eastcott Manor. He was there for a couple of years, but then heard of a vacancy for a lad porter at Lavington Station and started that working there in 1946.

Lavington Station, which was only in operation from 1900 to 1966, is in West Lavington parish but, as it also served Market Lavington and Easterton folk, we include photographs and other connected artefacts in our museum collection. (Type Lavington Station into the search box on the blog for many entries and pictures.)

John was there until 1949, when he had to take a break to do eighteen months national service. He was involved with catering at Aldershot, Shaftesbury, Bovington, Bristol and Gloucester, before he returned to Lavington Station. A senior porter left, so John was able to become a porter.

In this 1954 photograph, John is on the left of the pair of staff on the platform.

Amongst his tasks, he lit fires in the station master’s office, the parcel office and the two waiting rooms. He also issued tickets for the first train of the day. It cost 18/3d (eighteen shillings and three old pennies) for a day return to London. He also worked down at the goods yard while the goods man had his lunch and he helped with unloading lorries.

The station was quite busy, with ten taxis waiting to take passengers to and from the station. The luggage for all the boarding pupils at Dauntsey’s School in West Lavington was sent by train.

John was at Lavington Station until 1962 and then moved on to permanent way work, working on the track at night and at weekends. His local memories include having the key for the signal box at Crookwood, which was only opened on summer Saturdays. He had to go in and sweep up the dead flies before the relief signalman came. He also remembered picking lineside primroses and giving them to the buffet man on the Paddington to Weymouth train, who would give the permanent way men ice cream tubs to scrape out.

Dewponds and red flags

June 12, 2021

Continuing to share John Sainsbury’s oral history memories, we will focus this time on his memories of Salisbury Plain. This is a large expanse of chalk upland, part of which is found in the parishes of Market Lavington and Easterton. There were remote hill farms up there in both our parishes, until the army took over the area for military training. This acquisition of land began in the late 1890s. (Now the army training area on Salisbury Plain is the same size as the whole of the Isle of Wight.)

The postcard of Pond Farm, on the plain above Easterton, dates from 1905, when the farm buildings were still in existence.

It gives an idea of the terrain. Of course, there were no natural ponds on permeable chalk, so the farms were reliant on dewponds. (See Mr Stowe on pond making, Sybil Perry on pond digging and How to make a dewpond.)

John Sainsbury’s boyhood spanned the 1930s and 1940s, when the farms on the plain were no more. However, he recollected going up there to collect newts and frogspawn from the dewponds.

To this day, there is some limited access on tracks on the plain, but not when the red flags are flying. John said that, on one occasion, he went over the hill at Easterton to a wood where there had been a cottage and dewpond. The red flag was flying and he and his friends were soon spotted. Someone drove over to them on a motor bike and made them run back to the look out tower at Lavington.

For further information about the plain above Market Lavington and Easterton see Cultivating Salisbury Plain, MEMORIES OF SALISBURY PLAIN, Pond Farm – then and now, Pond Farm and Joshua Hampton’s farm records.

A lad in Eastcott – 1930s – 40s

June 11, 2021

In our previous blog, we learned from John Sainsbury’s oral history recording about Prisoners of war at Eastcott. He also reminisced about his boyhood days there.

He moved to Eastcott from Market Lavington when he was five, so most of his childhood memories centred on this tithing of Easterton. On this map, Eastcott is located at the top right, north east of Easterton village. It is a small place and John was the only child there. Near neighbours were Mr and Mrs Hale. Their son, Aubrey, shot foxes so he could sell their skins and tails.

John lived with his mother and stepfather in a small cottage with one bedroom and a landing area upstairs. It had originally been one of a pair of cottages, but the other one was derelict. John’s family stored apples upstairs in it and there was a copper downstairs, where they heated water for a bath. The water came from a well outside and they kept milk, butter and cheese cool down the well in the summer.

John walked across the fields to attend Easterton School. We have previously seen Joy Sheppard’s Memories of an Easterton schoolgirl and her Easterton memories of 1930s. John recalled being in Miss Thomas’s class and the school milk being warmed round the fire in the winter.

His other memories of Easterton were of singing in the church choir and pumping the organ for Miss Stone to play. He remembered the vicar, Mr Stacy, warming himself by the church fire. Miss Shears used to ring the church bell at 12 noon every day so that the workers in the fields would know the time.

When not at school, John roamed around the countryside near his home. He would mostly play at Wroughton Folly (see The Folly) sometimes taking the goat with him. There was a huge area of blackberries there. These could be sold to Samuel Moore’s jam factory in Easterton along with any jam jars he could find. Sometimes John would take a trolley with him and collect firewood. He might also follow the stream down to Crookwood Mill, on the edge of Urchfont (the next village in the opposite direction to Easterton) and splash about in the water there.

We will dip into more of John’s memories another time.

Prisoners of war at Eastcott

June 10, 2021

In our previous blog, Farming in Easterton -1939, we noted that, by 1940, the Manor Farm at Eastcott had been sold to Major Carver. At Market Lavington Museum, one of our oral history recordings is by John Sainsbury, who lived in Eastcott. His mother did housework for the Carvers and, at the time John left school, aged fourteen, she was told that there was an opening for a market gardener at the manor.

It was in 1944, during the second World War, that John started working for the Carvers. He recalled land girls growing tomatoes, lettuce and so on. Just down the road from the manor was a cottage with five Italian prisoners of war. John maintained contact with two of them and visited them in Italy.

After the Italian POWs left, some German prisoners came to the cottage. John was quite friendly with two of them. One had been a sculptor and artist and John remembered that he had done some stonework near the telephone in Easterton. He stayed in England after the war and married a Wiltshire girl. The other one was a good footballer. On one occasion, this German prisoner borrowed a suit and cycled to Westbury with John to see a Betty Grable film.

After the Germans left, John said that a Polish family moved into that cottage and worked for the Carvers. John himself worked there until 1946.

As ever, we are extremely grateful to those people who have contributed to our oral histories, giving us a flavour of real life in our villages in times past. We will feature more of John’s memories another time.

Farming in Easterton -1939

June 9, 2021

We have looked, recently, at Easterton in 1939 in Kelly’s directory and considered Easterton businesses lost since 1939, focusing mainly on the shops. However, the list of commercial businesses shows the predominance of farming and market gardening carried on in the parish. There are seven market gardeners and a smallholder mentioned as well as nine farmers.

The directory informs us that “The soil is loam; subsoil greensand. The chief crops are corn and roots.” In Easterton and its tithing of Eastcott, Manor Farm and The Close at Eastcott are each marked as having over 150 acres. The remaining farms were smaller and not all are still run as independent farms. Often land has been sold off to become part of larger farming enterprises and the farmhouses have become private homes.

This is the commercial list for 1939.

We have featured Crossways Poultry Farm some twenty years before this directory. It was run by the Misses Chivers then and by Mrs Agnes Maddick in 1939. That area has private housing and a plant nursery and fields there now, but the poultry business is no more.

Amongst the other small farms in 1939, which are now private homes are Twentylands and Halstead Farm. (See Easterton farms.) In the 1939 directory, Hubert Bowyer was at one of the large farms, Manor Farm, Eastcott. He moved there in 1928, but sold it to Major Carver in 1940. (See Contracting Means Expanding.) Fairfield Farm, on White Street can be seen in Looking up White Street – Then and Now. There is also interesting information about Willoughbys and Halstead Farmhouses in their sales brochures. ( See Willoughbys for sale and Halstead Farm, Easterton.)

More information about Easterton’s farms and the history of the village can be found in the updated and expanded version of The History and Development of Easterton Village, originally by Sheila Judge, which is available for sale for £12 from Market Lavington Museum and Market Lavington Post Office.

A tailor’s apprentice

June 8, 2021

Today, we were delighted to receive a new item for our museum collection. Surprisingly, it was sent from Lincolnshire, but has a definite connection to

It is an indenture for an apprenticeship. We have seen a couple of these legal documents before, concerning An Apprenticeship Indenture for four years from 1932 and An Apprenticeship Indenture for five years from 1919. They were for learning to be a motor engineer and a carpenter. Our new acquisition dates from 1835, in the reign of KIng William IV, and relates to a seven year apprenticeship in tailoring.

Richard Hopkins, a fourteen year old lad from Erlestoke, a few miles away, was to spend the next seven years learning the art of becoming a tailor and habit maker. He was to be taught by William Halfpenny, a tailor in Market Lavington.

Richard’s father, John Hopkins, was to provide board and lodging, wearing apparel and other necessities whilst the master, William Halfpenny, agreed to pay Richard increasing amounts of money after his first year. This would build up from a shilling a week in his second year to six shillings a week in his seventh and final year as an apprentice.

We would love to find out more about William Halfpenny. Unfortunately, the 1841 census for Market Lavington has not survived. That would have given us a street location for him. He does appear in local directories in 1842 and 1844, as a tailor and draper in East (Market) Lavington. However, he is not listed in an 1848 or any subsequent directories we have consulted. We have not found any Halfpenny burials at Market Lavington Church. The 1861 census shows a widow, Jane Halfpenny,a lodging house keeper, aged 70 living at Townsend, Market Lavington. We do not know what, if any, relation she was to William the tailor. If anyone has family history information on him, please add a comment to this blog.

Grateful thanks to the donor for contacting Market Lavington Museum and returning this document to its place of origin.

Easterton businesses lost since 1939

June 7, 2021

In our last post, we considered Easterton in 1939, based on the entry for the village in Kelly’s Directory. Below the descriptive paragraphs, we find lists of private residents and commercial businesses.

The Royal Oak public house, run in 1939 by Ernest Husford, is still trading in 2021, but many of the other High Street businesses are no more. (See The Oak at Easterton.)

Kelly’s Directory mentions the post office at Godfrey’s shop at that time. This was the shop, at the north end of the High Street. (See Easterton Shop in the 1930s.)

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Easterton had another shop, on the High Street, near the bottom of White Street. At times in its history that shop had the post office. (See Easterton Shop – 1930s.)

In 1939, Mrs Burnett was listed as the other shopkeeper. Both of Easterton’s shops have now closed down and villagers need to go to nearby Market Lavington for their most local food shop and post office.

Kelly’s 1939 Directory listed two bakers in the village. One was Jim Sheppard. (See Easterton bakery supplies, The Tip-Top Bakery in WWII, The baker’s delivery van and One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns.) The other baker was Percy Bullock. (See 120 ways of using bread.)

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In this photo from the 1930s, Jim Sheppard’s bakery van happens to be outside the premises of the other bakery in Easterton. Now, there are no bakeries in Easterton.

We will consider the farming and growing businesses in Kelly’s 1939 directory another time.

Easterton in 1939

June 6, 2021

At Market Lavington Museum, we find directories very helpful when checking facts about local people and places at particular times in history. They often give lists of the ‘important’ residents and the tradespeople and services available. The entry for each town or village usually starts with a description of the place.

This is the writing about Easterton in Kelly’s Directory for 1939 and now, just over eighty years later, it’s interesting to see what has changed over that period.

Our museum conserves the history of Market Lavington and anywhere that was ever in its parish. Easterton, just under a mile north east of Market Lavington, was part of that parish until 1875, when its church was built and it became an ecclesiastical parish in its own right. The postcard picture below is possibly Edwardian.

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The Kelly’s description reminds us that Easterton parish consists of Easterton (once in Market Lavington parish), Eastcott (a hamlet just beyond Easterton, that was formerly a tithing of Urchfont parish) and Fiddington (lying between Market Lavington and Easterton, which was once part of West Lavington parish).

In 1939, it was important to explain where the local railway stations were. Lavington Station, just two miles away, was opened in 1900 and closed in 1966. (Type Lavington Station in the search box on the most recent page of our museum blog, for more information and photos of this short lived station.)

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Kelly’s Directory also mentions Devizes Station for local transport, but that has also closed. (At the time of writing, in 2021, there are plans to build a new station just outside Devizes.)

So what else has changed since the 1939 description? With regard to the churches, Kelly’s mentions the living being a vicarage. That is now a private house, as Easterton is now part of a group of five churches, in the care of one rector, rather than each having their own vicar. The Methodist Chapel in Easterton is also now a private house.

We will look at some more then and now comparisons based on the 1939 Kelly’s Directory in our next blog entry.