The Pondmaker’s sign

March 5, 2015

This would be a fine sign to actually own. We don’t. We just have a photograph of this simply fantastic item which probably no longer exists.

Pond maker's sign from Broadwell House, Market Lavington

Pond maker’s sign from Broadwell House, Market Lavington

It would once have adorned the front of Broadwell House on White Street where the Smith family had their residence.

The sign quite clearly tells us what the Smiths did. They dug ponds and wells.

C. J. Smith was Charles, born in Market Lavington in the 1850s. We have met him before on this blog. Click here. He was rarely at home for the ten yearly census. The family business was well known throughout the south of England so pondmakers were often away working.

It is good to record that a descendant of Charles is a regular reader and commenter/information provider on this blog.

These days we all (or nearly all) have piped mains water so the days of the pondmaker are pretty well over. The Smith family had a goodly 150 years in the trade – and a highly skilled one it was too.

Alex J Martin

March 4, 2015

We know very little about Alex Martin except that he was a landlord at The Green Dragon and we have a little sign which was, presumably, above the entrance door to this fine old inn at one time.

Wooden sign to tell us that Alex J Martin was a licensed victualler

Wooden sign to tell us that Alex J Martin was a licensed victualler

The style of writing – essentially a plain and simple sans serif font, does suggest second half of the twentieth century and we can, indeed, find A J Martin listed in our 1966 directory.

Highlighted entry in the 1966 local directory

Highlighted entry in the 1966 local directory

There was a different landlord on the 1964 electoral roll so we have a pretty good idea of when Alex arrived but that really sums up our knowledge. There will surely be regulars at ‘The Dragon’ who can tell us more about Alex J Martin

A Tombola Ticket

March 3, 2015

It was back in 2011 that we published a list of tombola winners for the Market Lavington and Easterton Hospital Effort of 1923. The first prize was a fat lamb offered by Mr Watts.

The same event was offered again for the 1924 effort. This is being written at a time when the British National Health Service is being criticised for long waits in accident and emergency centres, bed blockers, giving the wrong kind of flu jabs etc. It’s worth reminding ourselves that until the formation of our NHS, most people relied on somebody else contributing to a charity if they needed health care of any kind. If you needed your GP it cost money. If you needed an ambulance it cost more. If you needed hospital care it was even more expensive. The truth is we are lucky to have a very good health service paid for by national taxation of one kind or another so that we get free treatment when needed.

Back in 1924 to get a bit of help with the cost of medical treatment people bought tickets for a tombola. They hoped to win a good prize and all profits were administered by a charity to assist ill people in need. And here is one of those tickets.


1924 Tombola ticket for Market Lavington and Easterton Hospital Effort

1924 Tombola ticket for Market Lavington and Easterton Hospital Effort

It’s called a tombola but it sounds much like we’d call a raffle. The first prize was that fat lamb – one imagines butchered, but still a problem in 1924 with no freezers for storage.

The prize draw must have been a lengthy process with about a hundred prizes. Presumably notices in the village told hopeful prize winners what time to turn up at the Parish Hall.

That’s an interesting little relic of times past.

Oh! One good thing about those old days was that people had a lot of fun raising money.

A crowd in the Green Dragon – 1950s

March 2, 2015

The Green Dragon remains the one pub in Market Lavington. The reduction from four to one such establishment in the past 30 years reflects a change in habits more than anything else.

Back in the 1950s, despite competition from the other three ‘locals’ the Green Dragon could still pull in a crowd as this photo shows.

A crowd in the Green Dragon in the 1950s

A crowd in the Green Dragon in the 1950s

It all looks very homely although it is very predominantly male.

We have names, but sadly not clearly attached to actual people. Here are the names we have. There may be somebody out there who can attach them to the people shown.

Amongst those standing we have Fred Davis, Bimbo Boulton, Charlie Golding, Freddie Hurle, Albert Potter, Len Francis, Harry Andrews and Bill Sainsbury.

Seated people include Ben Hurkett, Ed Potter and Mrs Bert Potter.

We look forward to hearing from you.

A Hospital Week poster

March 1, 2015

We are really fond of our Hospital Week posters at Market Lavington Museum. They remind us of so many things.

First and foremost they were charity events for both villages – Easterton and Market Lavington. The procession on Carnival Day always started in Easterton and marched to wherever the fete was held.

Secondly we are reminded that we are so lucky to live in the age of the National Health Service which means the whole demeaning business of having to beg for money when ill has been abolished.

And thirdly we are reminded of an age when communities were much more reliant on self-made fun.

Here is one of the posters – this one is less bright than some being black printing on white.

Hospital Week Poster for Market Lavington and Easterton. Probably 1925. Click to enlarge

Hospital Week Poster for Market Lavington and Easterton. Probably 1925.
Click to enlarge

The most annoying thing about these posters is that they don’t give the year. We believe this dates from the 1920s and the only Saturday August 15th in that decade was in 1925 so we expect this poster advertises an even that took place 90 years ago.

The gates opened at 2.30 and adults had to pay 6d admission. Sixpence, in 1915, had the purchasing power of about £1.25 today but we are all richer these days. In the time taken to earn those six old pennies, a typical worker will earn over £6 today. So a 6d entrance fee was really quite a significant sum to have to pay.

But prizes can be similarly upgraded. The guinea (£1-1-0) prize for best horse and harness in terms of income would be much the same as £260 today.

And what entertainments you got for your money – many provided by the 6th Field Brigade of the Royal Artillery. Musical Chairs on Horseback sounds like a sight to behold and we are assured that Nobby the Clown and his Human Horses are worth the entrance fee all on their own.

There were races to be run, and won by somebody who would have felt suitably rich. Fairground type rides and side stalls had been brought in. Excisable (alcoholic) beverages were provided by Mr Greetham of The Green Dragon and the good old Ladies’ Committee were serving teas.

The venue was the Home Field – behind Shires Close which was regularly used as the village recreation ground.

This lovely poster is something like A1 size

100 Years Ago

February 28, 2015

February 1915

The 1st battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment were in the trenches at Kemmel, about six miles south west of Ypres, with regular periods of rest at Locre. Things remained fairly quiet, and although there was daily shelling or sniper fire, and a good deal of rifle fire at night, there were few casualties.

The 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment was at Fleurbaix, in France. All was pretty quiet there too, but the battalion HQ at Fleurbaix was shelled on 19th February, and rendered uninhabitable. They took over a large house near the Brigade HQ the next day, but this was bombed on 22nd February, and three men were wounded.

There were no casualties from any of our villages during February.

Lyn Dyson 01380 813943  e-mail:

Diana Benson

February 27, 2015

Diana Whishaw Benson was born in 1913. The birth was registered in the Bath district to parents John Benson and Enid (née) Whishaw. Both had connections with Tsarist Russia. Enid was born there in 1891 and John had worked in Russia. He was considerably older than Enid having been born in 1869.

The couple married in Bath in 1912 but soon after John, who was a doctor, took Fiddington Asylum in Market Lavington. The asylum was the backdrop to Diana’s childhood. Her sister, Barbara was born in 1915 and a brother, Ian in 1920. Their births were registered in the Devizes area – quite correctly for a family living in Market Lavington.

People who knew Diana all comment on her beauty. This photograph of her as a young adult certainly gives that impression.

image002Diana grew up to be a talented musician. She obtained her licentiate of the Royal College of Music in 1933 when she was just 19 and made her debut as a professional pianist at Bournemouth in June of that year.

Diana was renowned for having a fiery temperament. Apparently on one occasion she was playing the piano for her aunts during which one of her aunts turned to another and said “Evelyn dear, do give me a recipe for your scones“. Diana slammed down the piano and left the room.

Diana Benson married Gerald (known as John) Atkinson on 19th September 1936 at Alderholt near Fordingbridge. The bridesmaid on the right is Diana’s sister, Barbara Benson. Alderholt had become the home of Diana’s parents.


John was a naval officer and during World War II he was based in Malta. He was able to take his wife. However, a problem arose over her grand piano which could not be taken. Diana decided her piano was more important to her than her husband. They divorced in 1940.

Meanwhile Diana was building a reputation as a pianist. A search through the Radio Times archive reveals five occasions when she is named as the pianist for a radio broadcast.

26 August 1938 21.00


Conductor, W. J. Cotton  Diana Benson (pianoforte)

  1. J. Cotton, conductor of this choir, comes from a musical family. His father and five brothers were singers in Dawlish parish church choir, and his two sons were choristers in Exeter Cathedral choir. His daughter is also a well-known singer. He himself was a member of the celebrated male voice quartet, the Isca Glee Singers, and sings in Exeter Cathedral.

21 January 1939 11.00


by Diana Benson  (West of England)

13 June 1939 18.00


Rita Owton (contralto)  Diana Benson (pianoforte)  Frederick Harvey (baritone)

24 July 1939 18.40


by Diana Benson (pianoforte)  Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 Prelude in F, Op. 28, No. 23 Berceuse, Op. 57  Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op. 39

23 June 1940  11.45


two of his piano pieces played by Diana Benson

Diana was well enough thought of for a composer/pianist, Herbert Fryer to dedicate a piece called ‘My Love’s an Arbutus’ to Diana. You can hear this piano piece, played by Philip Sear here. .

After her divorce Diana became a Roman Catholic (we believed she toyed with becoming a nun) and settled down at the Fiddington Lodge which had enough space for her and her beloved piano.


Local children, in those pre-television days, found that standing outside Fiddington Lodge and listening to Diana play her piano provided free entertainment. One of the youngsters, Lily, had been made the Goddaughter of Diana when she was confirmed into the Catholic church. She had the luxury of being able to listen from the inside. Lily has a real fondness for her former Godmother and recalls trips out, probably to Alderholt where Diana’s parents still lived.

Former husband, John Atkinson, had less pleasing memories. Apparently he chanced to meet his ex-spouse one day and he described the experience as “not unlike standing on a rake in such a way that the handle leaps up and belts you in the face”.

Diana died on 20th February 1966. She was aged just 53 and Lily recalls bad health dogged Diana’s later life. She also has a memory that Lily may have gone to Scotland which may explain her absence from the England and Wales death register.


Diana plays her piano

With thanks to Lily Rose of Market Lavington, Goddaughter, Vivienne Kevan (niece) and also to the website of Turtle Banbury at

Market Lavington and Easterton in World War One

February 26, 2015

This little book has been put together by our curator, Rog Frost.

An entirely different group, the Lavington and District First World War Commemoration Group raised funds so that a copy could be given to every house in Market Lavington. Easterton raised funds separately so that a copy could go to every house in that village.

The book takes a year by year approach to how the war made an impact on our area and themes include ‘Our Boys’, ‘Men from Overseas’, ‘The Home Front’ and ‘After the War’.

The front cover of the book shows a 1916 scene in Market Lavington with Australian troops marching along High Street.


Front cover of the Market Lavington and Easterton in World War One bookj


The rear cover provides a summary of the book alongside men of Easterton who were a part of the 1st/4th Wiltshire regiment.

Rear cover - it features men from Easterton

Rear cover – it features men from Easterton

Many of the photos used in the book are black and white, but where appropriate colour has been used as seen in a sample page below which also features Canadian soldiers and their very early armoured cars at Pond Farm Camp. This camp was on Salisbury Plain above Easterton.


An inside page. Colour was used where appropriate

A few books will be on sale at the museum at a price of £2.50

Stobbarts Row – Then and even longer ago

February 25, 2015

Stobbarts Row! Or should that be Stobberts Row? Or even Stobbards Row? Different spellings seem to have been used at different times and there probably is not a right answer for all time. We are using the spelling on the front of our older photo which is a postcard.

Stobbarts Row in about 1910

Stobbarts Row in about 1910

Here’s an idyllic rural scene with house just ceasing as the downland of Salisbury Plain begins.

Each householder has a person standing outside the door.



We don’t tend to see people gathering for photos these days and we certainly didn’t for our second photo which dates from 1985.

Stobbarts Row - 1985

Stobbarts Row – 1985

What looked like a hedge and maybe a footpath in the older photo has become Stobbarts Road and agricultural buildings have appeared at the end of it. Once the houses were behind a hedge. Now they front straight on to the road. Stobbarts Road is not busy since it only serves these houses – even the farm buildings are out of use at the time of writing.

The people outside the doors have been replaced by the rather swish sports car. It seems a shame that the spacious porches on the second terrace have gone. We assume there wasn’t room for them and a road.

Once again we see change of a gentle kind which may have made life easier for the residents of Stobbarts Row.

Three Post Office locations

February 24, 2015

When you move in to a place, be it village or town, you have a sense of timelessness. It seems that things are as they are and as they always have been. But this isn’t always the case. The Post Office in Market Lavington has been in many places and today we are going to look at three locations which all tell us they were (or are still) the Post Office.

The first one we look at was on the corner of the Market Place and High Street.

Market Lavington Post office - 1911

Market Lavington Post Office – 1911

The original postcard had been cropped to fit in a mount and frame and had suffered damage as well so it isn’t the best of photos but on the left we can see the building is labelled Post Office. The decorations allow us to date this photo to 1911. The street was decorated and bedecked with flags for the coronation of George V which took place on 22nd June of that year.

That Post Office occupied the plot which now has the chemist’s shop. It is not the same building. The one shown was demolished by the agricultural engineers to make parking space in about 1960. The building which houses the chemist’s shop dates from around 1990.

Alf Burgess, the photographer has managed, as usual, to bring forth a crowd of people, all hoping to be seen in the photo. We believe he spent some time organising them into apparently random groups.

Other points to note include the full width porch at the front of the Green Dragon – which had once been the posting house for Market Lavington itself and, of course, the fact that back in 1911 the street belonged to people rather than to vehicles.

Our next location for the Post Office is next to what is now Gemini hairdressers – almost on the corner of White Street.

Market Lavington P{ost Office - ca 1930

Market Lavington Post Office – ca 1930

We have used this photo before on this blog back in 2011. From what we know of the three young ladies – Clara Brown, Ella Ross and Mary Smith – we date the photo to about 1930. This shop which also advertises stationery, postcards and holdfast boots was a part of Arthur Walton’s department store.

Moving on just about 100 years from the first photo we have the Post Office of today and once again we have chosen an occasion celebrating a royal event – in this case the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Market Lavington Post Office - 2012

Market Lavington Post Office – 2012

This is an example of village life evolving and changing. Things certainly are not just what they used to be.




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