Boys on the plain

Market Lavington and Easterton villages nestle beneath the chalk uplands of Salisbury Plain. Although both parishes extend onto the the plain, it is a military training area now and public access is very limited. We would certainly not be expecting youngsters to play up there, but some of our oral history accounts of childhoods spent in the 1940s and 50s inform us that this did happen then, despite danger. Our recent blog Dewponds and red flags alludes to lads being where they shouldn’t have been and Philip Francis’s recording also tells of his visits to the training area, maybe in the early 1950s.

Philip remembered the delicious bread sold at James’ bakers shop, situated in the building which now houses Market Lavington Post Office. We can see the shop on the left of this 1950s postcard.

Philip recalls buying a loaf there and taking it up the hill, opposite, and spending the day on the plain. The boys ignored the red flags and managed to avoid the live ammunition that might have been lying around. About a mile over the top there were rows of lorries, tanks and aircraft which were used for firing practice. He also spoke of the old pumping station, about two miles back. This would have been near Pond Farm, one of several hill farms which were lost when the army took over large tracts of land on the plain. (See Norman Merritt’s MEMORIES OF SALISBURY PLAIN and Edna May Hayward.)

Some of the land on the periphery of the training area was, and is, sometimes available to farmers, by agreement with the military. Philip remembered that the Lawrences, who had West Park Farm, on the edge of Market Lavington, kept their sheep on the plain at times. Philip and his friends would sometimes take cheese sandwiches up to their shepherd’s hut on the plain and toast them on his fire in the hut. In this photograph from the 1950s, the flock are heading towards the farm, having been driven down from Salisbury Plain.

sheep_2.jpg (547×361)

4 Responses to “Boys on the plain”

  1. James Perry Says:

    Even in the late 60s we used to go across to the pumping station. Not too many vehicles left on the plain by then. However on a walk across the plain to Salisbury one day we saw several bomb shaped containers with the word “Bomb” on them!

  2. David Lawrence Says:

    Woops! There was no picture of the sheep coming off the plain. West Park Farm was owned by my grandfather at this time. Could you repost with the correct pic or email me directly with it?

    In Anticipation

    David Lawrence

    P.S. I do believe Phillip Francis is/was my 1st cousin once removed; the son of my Gt. Aunt Ethel Francis nee Lawrence.

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      Thanks, David. I spotted that on the day it was published and I edited the entry. If you go to it now, you should see the sheep at the crossroads, having been driven down from the plain. Best wishes, Sue (curator)

  3. marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

    Yes, we spotted the error on the morning it was published and the sheep picture is now on the blog post.

Can you add anything to this or do you want to know more?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: