The Robber’s Stone at Gore

February 21, 2020

Our previous blog post The Robber’s Stone tells of a highway robbery in 1839,  where the victim and others chased the four highwaymen, leading eventually to the conviction of three of them and the death of the fourth. That blog showed the museum’s postcard, with a picture of the stone erected on Chitterne Down, where Benjamin Colclough fell and died.

We have now acquired another postcard relating to these events.

Robber stone Gore snip

The Robber’s Stone at Gore Cross

Again, the picture is of a limestone plinth, with a cast iron memorial plaque, but this one is at the site of the robbery at Gore, near the crossroads of the A 360 south of West Lavington and the Ridgeway route across the northern edge of Salisbury Plain and leading to the closed village of Imber. A lot more information on this subject can be found on the West Lavington Parish Council website

So why are we at Market Lavington Museum so interested in a West Lavington event? Well, until 1884, Gore, now in West Lavington, was a detached part of Market Lavington, as can be seen on the parish map at The Parish of Market Lavington .

The Domesday Book census of 1086 tells us that Robert Marshall held Gore. He also held Lavington. The farmstead there had a chantry chapel, dedicated to St Joan ( or possibly St John) a’Gore in the 1300s. It was never a big settlement and had 12 poll tax payers in 1377. Anyway, it was a tithing of Market Lavington parish and so comes in the remit of our village museum.

Flo, who sent the postcard in 1905, was staying two miles away from the Robber’s Stone at Gore. She was keen to return to Clifton, having ‘had enough of the country where you can’t here (hear) nothing but a lot of calves keeping you awake all night’!

Robber stone Gore reverse snip

We like it here and are pleased to receive and conserve all sorts of items from anywhere that has ever been in the parish of Market Lavington. That includes Gore as well as Easterton, Fiddington and Frieth.

Crossing the water at Broadwell

February 16, 2020

Clean water springing from the ground at Broadwell would have been an important factor in the very existence of Market Lavington as a settlement. Collecting water there was part of the daily routine for many villagers until the coming of piped water in 1936. Typing ‘Broadwell’ into the search box on our museum blog will lead you to many posts on this subject.

broadwell2 ca1917

A 1917 postcard of Broad Well

The caption on this 1917 postcard reflects the way older local people say ‘Broadwell’ for, indeed, the water widens out immediately after it appears from the ground near the pump in the centre of the picture. (Broad Well also appears as two words on the 1:2,500 scale Ordance Survey map of 1900.) This blog post considers how the wide water has been crossed over the years.

Broadwell Gye painting snip

A painting from about 1880, believed to be by James Gye

In this painting, we look south from a trackway and across the water to its continuation beside the home of Mr Merrett, the blacksmith, and along to Knapp Farm. There is a ford where the ducks are swimming . Whilst this was suitable for crossing by horse, a drier option for those on foot was to use the stepping stones to the right of the ford.

By the time of our 1950s postcard, the stepping stones had been replaced by a footbridge, which is still in use in 2020.


Children have always played in the shallow water here, especially in the long, hot summer of 1959, as seen in this picture by village photographer, Peter Francis.

1959 children P Francis

In  2020, an effort is being made to tidy up and improve the area around Broadwell. As of  15th February, children will be able to enjoy crossing the water on stepping stones once more.


New stepping stones at Broadwell, 16th February 2020

So now there are three crossing options in a row – stepping stones, the ford and the bridge.

Dating a postcard

January 11, 2020
New church postcard

St Mary’s Church, Market Lavington

At Market Lavington Museum we have many photos of our parish church, but this is a recent addition to that collection. The exterior of the building is fairly unchanging, so we have looked at a tree to help us date the picture.

church coloured 1905

A 1905 tinted postcard

This tinted postcard was produced by Woodwards of Devizes and is not one of our village photographer (Alf Burgess)’s black and white photographs. Below the church tower is the porch and to its right we see a pointed tree just reaching  rooftop level.

church 1913

A postcard sent in 1913

Our next card, again, was not produced by our local Burgess photographers. It was posted in 1913. Of course, this only gives us a ‘no later than’ date for  the image, as we do not know when the photo was taken or when the card was printed. Although taken from a different angle, it would seem that the tree has grown, with its tip reaching the louvres, which let the sounds of bell ringing out into the village.

church 1917

A view from 1917

This 1917 photograph was taken from a very similar position, just below the table top tomb, and, from this angle, the tree top appears nearly level with the tower top crenellations.

It has all the hallmarks of a Burgess Brothers postcard and the handwritten caption in white ink is the same as on our new card, which is marked Burgess Bros, Photographers, Market Lavington, Wilts on the back. Their father, Alf Burgess, had set up the business in 1886. He died in 1918, but two of his sons continued to run it until after the second world war.

More information on the photography business in Market Lavington is at

From the height of the tree, we would estimate that our new postcard might date from about 1920. Presumably, at some point, it was deemed to be too tall or unsafe in its proximity to the building and was felled. It had certainly gone before this postcard, dated to 1960s by the television aerials, was printed.

village from rec ground2 1960s

St Mary’s Church from the Recreation Ground – probably 1960s




4th Day of Christmas – Four Colly Birds

December 28, 2019
04 blackbird 1930s ML play

A 1930s Play in Market Lavington

At Market Lavington Museum, we have this rather battered photograph, believed to be of a play performed in the village in the 1930s. We do not know who the actors are or what the play was about, but it seems to feature a blackbird, lying in the front of the group.

The Twelve Days of Christmas song names the gift for the fourth day as either four calling birds or four colly birds. Colly birds are believed to be an old West Country term for blackbirds, with the word colly meaning coal coloured. It could be related to collier, meaning a coal miner.

Do let us know if you have any information about this picture.

2nd Day of Christmas – Two Turtle Doves

December 26, 2019

Wooden pigeons

At Market Lavington Museum we have two life size models of pigeons. We know that at least one of them was made by Norman Neate.

He was the last commercial brewer in Market Lavington, taking on the business and its outlet ‘The Brewery Tap’ on White Street, from his father James. The brewery and pub closed in the mid 1930s.

Outside work, Norman was one of many keen local shooters. In fact, he was disabled due to having been accidentally shot in the leg as a young man. He continued with his shooting activities by aiming his gun from a tricycle fitted with hand operated pedals.

Pigeons were among the target species, presumably to reduce the numbers of these seed eating birds damaging crops on farmland as well as to provide meat. Pigeons feed in flocks, so setting realistic decoys at a suitable distance from the guns, tempted real birds to join the models, putting themselves in the line of fire.



These were for the chop

October 12, 2019
cheese cutter snip

Chopping tools on the kitchen wall

Visitors to Market Lavington Museum will know that we have a kitchen featuring many appliances and utensils from Victorian and Edwardian times. Some of our displays are changed every year, but these tools on the wall are a permanent fixture.

Apart from the butter curler (c.1910) at the top left, they were all used for chopping. The tool below the butter curler, with two swivelling handles, belonged to a lady on Spin Hill and is said to date from the 1920s.

The two large cheese cutters, probably dating from the 1880s, were used at 1 High Street, Market Lavington, presently occupied by the Post Office, but formerly a baker’s and grocer’s shop.

choppers snip

Two small chopping tools

We do not have room in our museum cottage to display all the artefacts at the same time. These two small choppers are in store at present.

All of these objects have wooden handles, some of which are delightfully smooth, indicating that they were well used in their time. However, they all share the problem with iron based blades, that they go rusty when exposed to air and moisture – typical kitchen conditions.

Iron and chromium alloys were known in the 1820s, but it wasn’t until about the time of the First World War that what we know as stainless steel (containing at least 11% chromium and less than 1.2% carbon by volume) became available for knives and other blades, gradually becoming the metal of choice for cutlery and kitchen tools.

How to build a mud wall

October 9, 2019

New Street, also known as The Muddle

In Market Lavington, New Street, with its charming row of cottages, is generally referred to as The Muddle.


The Muddle

This strange name is a corruption of mud wall, another name for a cob wall, made from a mixture of subsoil, water and fibre, such as straw. Local recipes might include clay, chalk, lime or sand. Mud walls were built on a stone foundation and topped with thatch, tiles or slate, to prevent them from being washed away. The cob had to be well mixed and was sometimes trampled overnight by cattle to help the process. Each layer had to be left to dry for a few days to ensure it was strong enough to bear the next layer and avoid collapse.

mud wall White House garden

Mud wall at the White House on White Street in about 1958

The last surviving mud wall in Market Lavington, not far away from The Muddle, was in poor condition by 1958.

In Market Lavington Museum, we have some written information about mud wall construction. The Hiscock family of thatchers, also built mud walls.

Thatching Hiscock snip

The Hiscock family travelled around, walling and thatching from mid 19th century into the 20th century

Ben Hayward, of Easterton, just a mile away from Market Lavington, provided us with further detail on how to prepare the cob mixture.

mud wall Hayward

Copy of an excerpt from Ben Hayward’s diary – 1829

Unveiling the Toposcope

June 28, 2019

At Market Lavington Museum, we realise that today’s events are tomorrow’s history. This evening, the unveiling of the toposcope near the army vedette at the top of White Street marked the culmination of five years of events arranged by the Lavington and District WWI Commemoration Group.

We have been given a chunk of granite, as used in the plinth of the toposcope, which we will keep in the museum, along with copies of the speeches and photographs of the occasion.


The crowd at the unveiling ceremony

Cubs, Sea Scouts and a bugler took part in the event at the edge of the military training area, which would have been familiar to thousands of British, Canadian and Australian troops who passed through Lavington before being sent to the battlefields of Europe.


The toposcope plinth and seat, before the ceremony

After the speeches, the toposcope was unwrapped, a wreath was laid on behalf of the British Legion and prayers were led by the rector.


Plinth unveiled

Then the children scattered poppy seeds from ‘tin hats’, remembering the flowers that grew in the war disturbed soil of France.


Scattering poppy seeds

Finally, we all had a chance to admire the disc, depicting so much of local relevance and international poignancy.


The WWI toposcope on Lavington Hill



Trains from Lavington Station

June 27, 2019

Lavington Station, in the parish of West Lavington, but serving Market Lavington folk too, was rather a late and short-lived addition to the rail network. The line connecting Patney and Chirton to Westbury only opened in 1900.

ca 1910 snip

Lavington Station in 1910

7A snip

Lavington Station – Signal Box and Siding

The station was on the Weymouth to Paddington route. At the museum we have the timetable for 1944 in a Devizes area booklet of bus and train times.

Lavington station timetable snip

Sadly the station closed in 1966 and Lavington residents now have to drive to Westbury to catch the train to Weymouth.

16 4 1966 snip

Lavington Station – 16.4.1966

A Japanese Mystery – Detectives Required

June 22, 2019

The museum has just acquired a new postcard. It’s a rather faded sepia print of fourteen people wearing ‘oriental’ clothing and holding fans and parasols.

Japanese troupe

There is nothing on the front to link it to our local villages, but the writing on the back clearly states, ‘The Market Lavington Japanese Troupe.

Japanese card back

The card has not been used postally, so we have no stamp or postmark to help us with a date. The group are clearly dressed up, rather than wearing their own clothes, which makes it hard to infer the period from the fashions. Our best guess is that the hairstyles look Edwardian, though the ladies could be wearing wigs, of course.

So, what was the occasion? Market Lavington and Easterton residents were renowned for dressing up, particularly for the carnival during Hospital Week, in the 1920s and 30s. (There is a display about this in the museum for 2019.) But the setting of the picture, with Japanese paper lanterns hanging in the garden, might suggest an event located there, rather than out in the streets. Could they be the cast of a performance, maybe The Mikado? If so, were they planning to act outside or in a large local building?

There is so little evidence to go on and we would be delighted to hear from anyone with local knowledge who can help us out.

Maybe you have other photographs of this garden with its distinctive trellis. To the right of the trellis, but hard to see, there is chicken wire, which is taller than the gentleman on the right of the picture. Maybe you had family members, fond of performing, and can match a face to a photograph in your possession. Maybe you are aware of the event and its date.

Do, please, add a comment to this post if you have any knowledge or ideas.