National Fame for Market Lavington Post Office

July 1, 2020

In 2020, sub-postmasters have been in the news for winning a court case, showing that some of them had been wrongly accused of false accounting, which had actually been caused by a faulty computing system. But we are looking back over twenty years from now with a recently acquired item for our museum collection.

Sub-postmasters have a professional trade organisation and this National Federation of  Sub-postmasters celebrated its centenary in 1997. What better way to celebrate than with a postcard featuring our post office!

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Market Lavington Post Office is at the bottom left of the card with Kettleholm near Lockerbie in Scotland above and Allenheads in Northumberland to the right.

Sub post offices provide some, but not all, of the services of a main post office. Market Lavington counts itself lucky to have a post office, though it is up for sale at the present time. The village has been well served over many years, though not always in the same building. The old Posting House was in the Green Dragon public house. The Post Office was later in the shop on the corner of the Market Place, now replaced by the newer pharmacy building. It then moved to the opposite side of High Street, next to the present hairdressers, before crossing the road to its current site at the crossroads. For more information and pictures see Three Post Office locations

The neighbouring village of Easterton once had a post office too, but not any more. For more information see Easterton Post Office – then, then and now

1820 – Aspirations for a Canal or Railway to Market Lavington

June 18, 2020

The village of Market Lavington, about 5 miles south of Devizes in central Wiltshire, nestles in a gault clay valley between the escarpment of the chalklands of Salisbury Plain and a greensand ridge. Before the army took over Salisbury Plain for training purposes, the old main road from Devizes to Salisbury went through the village and up White Street and the steep hill onto the Plain. This could never have been an easy journey for horse drawn vehicles. In the opposite (north westerly) direction, there was the sunken road through the greensand to negotiate. Routes along the valley floor were flatter.

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1907 NW View from Salisbury Plain, across village to greensand ridge

The topography and state of the roads have had implications for local industry and its transport links over time. For instance, in the 1660s, bricks from the brickworks along the Broadway had to be taken away by horseback between Michaelmas and Lady Day, as carts were not permitted during those six winter months.

In the 1840s, William Cambridge made agricultural steam engines and other equipment here, but had to move from the village to a site nearer the docks in Bristol to facilitate selling them worldwide. See William Colbourne Cambridge

In 1852, James Neate established a successful brewing business here, but only came because he believed that a railway station was to be built on Church Street. See JAMES NEATE (1829 -1920)

Which brings us back to the

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which has featured in Market Committee Report – 1820. The committee felt that all the wheat was selling well, but there was a problem due to a surfeit of barley.

The hill lands on Salisbury Plain were suited to sheep farming and barley production. This latter gave rise to a large number of maltings in the village, including one in the Market Place and one behind the Workman’s Hall. See Malthouses and Behind the Workman’s Hall. Malt for brewing was made by soaking and germinating barley corn for about six days and then drying it with hot air. The family at the White House on White Street ran a wagon delivery service carrying malt to London. The last malthouse here closed in 1883.

The 1820 report stated that ‘from the great quantity of Barley grown at Lavington, and its vicinity, there appears to be a want of purchasers … and the market will not expand to the magnitude desired, without a Canal or a Rail Road, to join to the Kennet and Avon Canal.’ It suggested that the 12,000 inhabitants of over twenty villages in the area, including, the Lavingtons, Imber, Netheravon and Amesbury, would all want to buy coal in Lavington if it could be transported here. Figures were quoted in the report for how much could be raised at 2d per ton per mile if canal or rail transport were available to move grain, coal, coal ash, flour, iron and groceries. Often 4d per ton per mile was charged on turnpike roads.

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A three man deputation was chosen to ask the managers of the Kennet and Avon Canal to see if they would ‘assist in the projected Canal or Railroad’.

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The canal through Devizes had opened in 1810, improving the ability to transport heavy loads despite the 6 hours taken to go through the 29 locks in the Caen Hill area. The railway through Devizes only opened in 1857. The hopes of the Market Lavington Market Committee must have been dashed. The canal never came here. Eighty years later, in 1900, we did eventually get a Lavington railway station, just north of West Lavington. This closed in 1966. See Lavington Station – a new photo

Now, 200 years after the Market Committee report, there will be a feasibility study to assess whether we could have a new station, not in our village, but a few miles away at Lydeway, east of Devizes.

 

Market Committee Report – 1820

June 17, 2020

By 1820, the market in Market Lavington had been restarted and its committee produced a three page report on December 6th of that year. It sounds as though this was very much a corn market as no mention is made of other commodities.

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A market porter had been appointed to assist with unloading and loading. There was a charge of 2d per sack (old pence, where 144 pennies = £1). Some sellers brought samples, rather than bringing all the corn they had for sale and the committee had provided a stand for the samples, though they preferred sacks to be brought by ‘those desirous of promoting the good of the market’.

Sacks featured rather a lot in this report and needed to be returned promptly. ‘Your Committee recommend that all sacks holding Corn sold in the Market, be returned in a fortnight, and if not returned in six weeks, to the Sack Office, Market Lavington, the seller of the grain, should demand of the buyer, value for the same.’

We have no sacks from this era, but we do have a later local hessian sack in the museum. See John Davis – Miller and Coal Merchant

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As reported in our previous blog post The Market at Market Lavington our knowledge about the market is scanty. We do not know where the Sack Office was, but Brian McGill’s book about Market Lavington, ‘Village under the Plain’, informs us that there was a building in the Market Place where market tolls were paid and manor courts were held. Fortunately for the newly established market, our report states ‘ that the Right Hon, the Earl of Radnor, has relinquished the tolls of the market for five years, for which act of generosity, your Committee have communicated their thanks to his Lordship…’

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These buildings, on the corner of the High Street and Market Place, were demolished in  1960 and have been replaced by Rochelle Court. The one used for market business was immediately to the left of the shop on the corner. This early photo dates from the 1870s, about 20 years after the end of Market Lavington Market.

The corn market appears to have been an event of short duration on market days. ‘…The time for conducting the business of the market, be from Twelve o’Clock, till a quarter past One. The market bell to ring at the commencement, and at the close.’ Maybe there was food awaiting them at the Green Dragon, for the report says, ‘Your Committee recommend all attendants at the market, to transact their business as far as possible before dinner.

The committee felt that the market was doing well, despite ‘as dull a time for the sale of grain, as was ever known.’ Between 300 and 500 sacks of grain had been sold each market day and they were grateful to ‘the respectable growers of grain’ and ‘the respectable dealers in corn’ for supporting the market. The committee considered ‘that the business done at Lavington, has been done with as much advantage to the seller, as at any market in the County.’

The second part of the report concerns itself with transport issues, which we will look at in the next blog post.

The Market at Market Lavington

June 16, 2020

Considering that Market is part of the name of our village, we know remarkably little about our market. A market charter was granted to Richard Rochelle, one of the lords of the manor here, in 1254. Snippets of information gleaned from reference books suggest that it suffered from competition from the markets at Devizes and at Steeple Ashton. Other sources suggest that it was doing good business at various times in history.

The village has a large, central Market Place, to the north of the High Street, which is now a car park. Sadly, we lack pictures and written descriptions, to give us an idea of how it was laid out and whether it was just a farmers’ market or if there were food and other stalls for the general public.

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The postcard shows the Market Place, but this was a one off market event during WWI, many decades after the weekly markets had ceased.

William Camden’s ‘Britannia’ of 1722, said that ‘Cheping Lavington; which is the same with Market Lavington and, if so, it has been a market for above 200 years at least’. (See Market Lavington – what’s in a name? )

badgersAccording to the Historical Manuscripts Commission an attempt was made to deal with badgers at the market in 1612 – 13.

The London Magazine (or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer) volume 20 of 1751 reported that ‘Market Lavington… has a great corn market on Wednesday’.

Pigot’s National Commercial Directory of 1830 said it was a large market for corn and cattle, although it wasn’t mentioned in a list of Wiltshire markets at the end of the previous century. Peggy Gye, who founded Market Lavington Museum, spoke of the market dealing in corn and sheep.

Kelly’s Directory of 1848 said that weekly markets were still held and had a considerable trade in corn and malt, though that trade had much declined. Hunt’s Directory of the same year is less complimentary, writing that ‘Wednesday is market day, if so it can be called, the market merely consisting of a few farmers, who meet at the Green Dragon Inn, in the evening, with samples of wheat, oats &c. This market has been established for four centuries and was formerly an extensive one.’

We believe that the market wound up in the 1850s. Rev. Atley’s 1855 book, ‘A Topographical Account of Market Lavington’, speaks of the market as a thing of the past – ‘Lavington was formerly distinguished for its corn market and the manufacture of malt, in which articles business to a very considerable extent was transacted …  The market-place continues to maintain its former dimensions, and constitutes the favourite resort of the juvenile portion of the population.’

Just recently, we have had sight of a three page document from 1820, that sheds a little more light on the market.Market report heading It refers to ‘the revival of the market’, which had presumably closed down and recently been restarted. We will look at the contents of this report in another blog.

Market Lavington – what’s in a name?

June 13, 2020

The name Lavington is thought to derive from Lafinga-tun, the farmstead of Lafa’s people. IMG_20200613_210701066

In 2020, we know our village as Market Lavington. This name was used on the large scale Ordnance Survey map from 1900 (above) and earlier Ordnance Survey maps.

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However, if we look at Andrews’ and Dury’s 1773 map of Wiltshire, we see the village named East Lavington.

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In fact, over the years, the village has had several names. Going back to the Domesday Book of 1086, we see it called Laventone. It was held by Robert the Marshall, who also held Gore. Confusingly, the next entry says that Laventone was held by Robert Blunt, but that was Bishop’s or West Lavington.

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So, there has always been a need for an affix to the place name to distinguish what we now know as Market Lavington from its near neighbour to the west.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire, volume 10, informs us of various other names in use since Domesday. In 1242 and 1255, it was called Stupel and Stepel Lavington, which may come from the Old English stiepel, for a church steeple. Church towers were formerly called steeples, according to Richard Tomkins in his book, ‘Wiltshire Place Names’. However, by 1316, the word stapul, meaning market, is used. This makes sense, as Richard Rochelle had been granted a charter for a market here in 1254.

A document from 1412 calls the village Chepyng Lavington. The Old English ceapen meant market and this is the derivation of place names such as Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds. In 1460, our village is written as Lavington Forum, from the Roman word for a market place.

Early in the 14th century and afterwards, East Lavington has been used, though often to distinguish what we now think of as Market Lavington from Easterton and Gore, which were parts of this parish until the 19th century.

Most of the names given to this place remind us that a market was held here. An interesting report from 1820 has recently come to light, so look out for future blog posts about our market.

 

 

A spanner in the works

March 8, 2020

Market Lavington, now considered to be a village, was a thriving, self sufficient little town, with people working in a wide variety of trades. One of these was wheelwrighting, carried on at Gye’s yard on White Street. Previous museum blogs have featured this in photographs and memoirs. See Wheelwright memoriesWheelwrighting and The Wheelwright at work – fitting a tyre.

At the museum, we have a variety of tools of various trades, including this spanner.

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This heavy iron tool is 41 cm long, 9 cm across its wider end and the handle is 8 cm high. It was a wheelwright’s hub spanner or axle wrench, used for fixing the wheel of a cart. It is said to date from 1881 – 1920.

Horse drawn carts are now part of agricultural and road transport history, but there was still work for wheelwrights making and repairing cart wheels into the early decades of the twentieth century.  Reminders of this trade can be seen in the Trades Room at Market Lavington Museum.

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A cart wheel in the Trades Room at Market Lavington Museum

 

 

 

Revisiting the 1925 Farmers’ Guide

March 7, 2020

We have seen this Carter’s Seed Brochure before The Farmer’s Guide of 1925, but it has over 70 pages so we’ll take another look now.

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A catalogue suggesting crop varieties for farmers to grow

Of course, farmers don’t only require seed for vegetables. The catalogue recommends various types of grass seed.

Farmers' Guide rye grass snip

Once again, we are reminded of the importance of horse power in the agriculture of almost a century ago. The price lists remind us that British farmers  were using imperial measures for both weights and money.

Farmers'Guide swede snip

So, one pound (lb) of swede seed cost 2 shillings (s) and 3 pence (d). A pound in weight is just under half a kilogram as 1 kg equals about 2lb 3oz. 16 ounces (oz) make a pound (lb). The pound of swede seed cost 2s 3d.  In old money, 12 pennies (d) = 1 shilling (s) and 20 s = 1 pound (£).

Farmers' Guide fertiliser snip

Buying heavier items than a pound of swede seed, you would be looking at the prices per hundredweight (cwt) or per ton. (Some of us can remember sitting in the primary school quoting, “16 ounces make one pound, 14 pounds make 1 stone, 8 stones make one hundredweight and 20 hundredweights make 1 ton.”)

So, this seed catalogue serves to remind us of times gone by in so many ways – the imperial system used for weights and prices, the use of horses in agriculture and, more locally, having a station and a department store in the Lavington area. We are grateful that it was saved for our museum collection.

What is a wimbrel?

March 6, 2020

Well, a whimbrel is a curlew bird but, at Market Lavington Museum, we have this tool and its record card states it is a wimbrel.

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A wimbrel at Market Lavington Museum

It is basically a cranked metal hook with two wooden handles. (Larger dictionaries define a wimble as an auger or brace, with a cranked handle for boring.) Our cranked wimbrel was not used for boring, but for twisting straw into rope.

This could have been used for tying sheaves of corn, which had been cut with the ears still attached to their straw stalks. The corn was tied into bundles known as sheaves, which were then stood up in stooks to dry in the field before threshing.

This process has now been replaced in the days of combine harvesters, though we still see sheaves in Wiltshire fields, where long stemmed wheat varieties have been grown to produce thatching straw.

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Stooks at Marden, Wiltshire 2018

Straw rope is also used for thatching. The Weald and Downland Museum in West Sussex has a list of thatching tools, giving many alternative names for our wimbrel tool. It can also be known as a whimble, a whimbrel, a wimble, a womble, a haybond twister or a scud winder.

Our wimbrel is said to date from the late 19th or early 20th century. It was given to the museum in 1986 by a lady who lived on Market Lavington’s High Street, but we do not know if it was used by a farmer or a thatcher.

Reusing a school register

March 5, 2020

At Market Lavington Museum,  we have a number of old school registers. We have seen this 1936-7 one before, on our Calling the Register blog post.

Visitors delight in finding their own names and those of their classmates on our registers. However, this one is rather different.

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The lower half of a Market Lavington C of E School register

It has been cut in half and covered with sugar paper, with the word Records written on the front. Inside, we can see the names and attendances of all the girls in the class, but not the boys.

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The girls’ attendances in the weeks leading up to Christmas

The register was obviously reused for storing 78 rpm gramophone records. The pages would have protected the records from being scratched, whilst the triangular notch at the top of each page would have allowed a record to be pulled out easily.

Maybe the record collection was used with a gramophone at Market Lavington School. We do know that West Lavington School had one, which was played by a Market Lavington lady who taught there and used it for country dance music. We have that gramophone in the museum.

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.

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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 https://www.westlavington.org.uk/historic/robbers.php

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.