Archive for the ‘Museum’ Category

To Devizes at 2 mph

October 16, 2021

Another entry in the 1953 Women’s Institute local history file, refers to an account by Mr William Herbert Hopkins about an outing to Devizes in 1880. We are told that it was the Chapel centenary Sunday School outing. We have not succeeded in matching a chapel or Sunday School to the year 1780, but the account of the outing draws our attention to how different transport was in the late nineteenth century.

The town of Devizes is only about six miles from Market Lavington and might take us about quarter of an hour by car or a little longer by bus. Apparently this outing took four hours each way, though it did go on an eight mile route, calling in at various villages.

About a hundred people went on the journey – scholars, teachers and others. Miss Bayliss had been involved in decorating some of the newest trucks with flowers, streamers and bunting. The trucks had seats fitted and some overhead protection for rain or sun. And the motive power for this outing was traction engines. The account in the file does not make it easy to visualise the ‘train’ as it gets called. We are told that there were three traction engines, but sometimes it sounds like one! It reads “Two heavy steam traction engines (used on the land) and one used for road work, threshing and corn grinding were owned by a farmer who lent the traction engine.” Then we are told the name of the engine driver was George Goddard and Mark Brown was at the wheel. We also learn that the engine (singular) was decorated.

There was a law in place at the time meaning that traction engines in use on the public roads were limited to moving at 2 miles per hour and had to be preceded by a man walking with a red flag. (See also our blog entry about a court case involving A speeding traction engine? in Market Lavington.)

What a pity that we don’t have any pictures of this special Sunday School outing, though we can share a photograph of a steam engine in use for farm work in Market Lavington.

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The Northbrook witch

October 15, 2021

Northbrook is the name of the road leading out of Market Lavington’s market place and up onto the greensand. It was formerly one of the most heavily populated parts of the village, with many cottages crowded together.

This picture shows part of Northbrook, looking down from the greensand hill. At its lowest point, the road crosses the stream (hence its name) and our postcard shows Northbrook rising uphill again towards the Market Place. The field on the right is now covered with the houses of Bouverie Drive.

There is a section in the 1953 Womens’ Institute history file which deals with alleged hauntings and relates the story of a witch who lived on Northbrook. This old woman was said to worry cows and other animals. Sometimes she changed into a hare, but could not be caught. Eventually, men with guns waited until they saw the hare crossing Northbrook and shot at it, wounding its leg before it disappeared.

The old woman was not seen for a few days, so her house was entered and she was found dead in her bed, with a gun-shot wound in her leg.

The hare was never seen again.

The Dorcas Society

October 14, 2021

Dorcas was an early follower of Jesus. We learn in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 9, verses 36-41) that she was known for her good works and sewed clothes for the poor. We are grateful, once again, to the Market Lavington Women’s Institute and their 1953 history file, which gives us details of the Dorcas Society in our area.

The Saunders family ran the water mill known as Russell Mill. This was in the parish of Market Lavington, but later transferred to West Lavington.

Our previous blog entry is about Amram Saunders and his work to rid the neighbourhood of tollgates. In 1808, Amram married Mary Box. The following year, we are told that Mrs Saunders of Russell Mill set up the Dorcas Society to help poor women to get clothes for their young children. About twenty ladies in the Lavington area subscribed money to this and worked at home to produce clothing and Mrs Saunders did much of the work herself.

Later, the hon. Mrs Bouverie of Clyffe Hall took over this role.

Her daughter Louisa, the hon. Mrs Hay (1811 – 1898) carried on the work after her mother’s death.

Lavington toll gates

October 13, 2021

Previous entries on this blog, Stop the tolls, Market Lavington Turnpike Subscribers and More from the tollgate removal notebook have explained how Amram Saunders campaigned to have the local toll gates removed, by collecting money to pay off the turnpike companies. He succeeded in having the toll gates removed in 1825.

The local Women’s Institute history file, produced in 1953, gives us an idea of what travel was like under the turnpike system and why people disliked it so much.

The roads had been in a poor state, unmetalled and rutted and relying on six days a year of local unpaid labour organised by the parish surveyors. This had been unsatisfactory and so eleven toll gates were set up in the area, with a view to raising money to keep the roads in a better condition. (However, the WI file suggests that the tolls only really paid the expenses of keeping the gates and didn’t achieve road repairs.)

Paying the tolls was a real financial burden on local folk going about their business. The charges were typed up by the WI in their file.

There were exemptions. No charge was made for loads of manure, hay, straw and timber, road repair carts, farm implements and the post driver’s horse. Churchgoers, funerals, soldiers, horses and cattle going to pasture also escaped payment. People from Devizes taking the air were allowed through free for just two hours.

Despite these allowances, the people of Market Lavington and Easterton still objected to the system sufficiently to contribute to buying off the turnpike trust. There were great celebrations when this was achieved. There was a general holiday on 8th February 1825. The church bells were rung and flags were put out. There was a dinner at the Green Dragon and Amram Saunders was presented with a silver dinner service in recognition of his efforts. In the evening, vast crowds made their way up onto Salisbury Plain, where a huge bonfire burned the offending toll gates.

Market Lavington’s malt industry

October 12, 2021

The chalk uplands of Salisbury Plain were well suited to growing barley. Market Lavington, situated just below the northern edge of the Plain, was an ideal location for malting the barley for use in the brewing industry.

The paragraph in the 1953 Women’s Institute history file states that there were said to be as many as 27 malthouses in the village at one time. None remain today, but the file gives us the location of some of them. There were two on the site that later became Wordleys yard (then Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering) to the right of the Market Place. Others were said to be in Parsonage Lane, at Oatley’s Yard, at Davis’s coal yard (50 High Street), behind the Workman’s Hall and 38 High Street and on White Street at Beech House office and Gye’s Yard.

The Victoria History of Wiltshire tells us that the last maltings in Market Lavington closed in about 1883.

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This malthouse, behind the Workman’s Hall, remained in use as a dance hall, but was demolished in the 1970s.

These windowless two storey buildings housed large tanks where the barley grain was steeped in water for a couple of days, then left to germinate. It was then spread out across the floor and left for about a fortnight, before being put in a kiln to dry it out and stop the growing process.

The WI write up informs us that much of the malt was taken to the London breweries using a waggon service run by the Smith family from the White House on White Street.

For more about our local maltings see Malthouses and An old Malthouse.

Who was Eva Hale?

October 11, 2021

We have recently acquired some photographs of people. Judging by their clothing, some of them possibly date from the early twentieth century. At Market Lavington Museum, we deal with items connected to our village and neighbouring Easterton.

One of the photographs definitely has such a connection, as it has Burgess Bros. Photographers, Market Lavington, Wilts printed on the reverse. 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. That would date our picture roughly to the 1920s, 30s or 40s.

We think her clothing may have a 1920s look. Pencilled on the back of the picture is the name Eva Hale. We wonder if any of our readers are able to give us more information about Eva. The Burgess photographers took photographs in Market Lavington, but also in other places in their local area, so she may or may not be a Lavington lass.

This photograph was in a little collection, but the others are not Burgess Bros pictures, so we do not know whether they have a local connection or not. The older gentleman was called William Perrett and the other people are not named. If anyone recognises these people, do please get in touch via a comment on this blog or an email to

Where was the school garden?

October 10, 2021

Before Market Lavington had a secondary school and before St Barnabas Primary School was built, most of the children were educated in the old school building on Church Street. There was not much outside playground area, but we do know that the school used some land for gardening lessons.

The 1953 Women’s Institute file of Market Lavington history includes a short paragraph suggesting that it was at the bottom of Spin Hill. ‘At the foot of Spin Hill, near the stream, where the school now have their garden, there used to be a farmhouse.’

At the museum we have Grove Farm Plans, with a slightly inaccurate map showing where the road to Devizes crosses the Northbrook stream and Spin Hill is the road going uphill from the stream.

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We hope that one of our older local readers might be able to tell us just where the school did their gardening. Did they have a plot on the Grove Farm land or maybe it was across Spin Hill on land now built on as Bouverie Drive.

Our blog entry The bottom of Spin Hill includes this 1969 photograph of the bridge over the stream.

This shows the Grove Farm land on the left. Over the bridge and a little behind the photographer is the land where Bouverie Drive now stands. The whole area is less rural now as the rising land, covered in trees, on the far left of this picture is now the road leading uphill to the Canada Rise housing.

The Women’s Institute paragraph goes on to inform us that the old farmhouse was demolished in the middle of the 19th century, but that its dairy was built back into the hill, to keep it cool in warm weather. The only older picture we have, which is possibly of this area, is a sketch from the 1830s (See Parsonage Lane/Spin Hill) which does show distant building on the right of what may well be Spin Hill.

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Of course, the site of the old farm could have been further over to the left of our 1969 view. We realise none of our readers would remember the farm, but maybe someone could locate the school garden for us.

An escaped highwayman

October 9, 2021

We have previously learned of a local Highway Robbery This took place near Gore Cross in 1839. However, we are also aware of another highwayman. This man had escaped from the Market Lavington police constable and there was a reward offered for his return.

We are aware of this, thanks to the Women’s Institute, who produced two ring files of local history. The second one dated from about 1953. They stuck in a handwritten copy of a newspaper article dating from the time of King George III, so somewhen between 1760 and 1801.

Isaac Blagden was accused of stealing a horse and robbing on the highway.

We have a detailed description of the suspect, who was about 5 foot 8 inches tall, stout and with brown hair. He was about 32 years old, had a round face and his skin was pitted from smallpox. He walked with a stoop.

He had been a resident of Market Lavington and it was assumed he was hiding up in that locality.

The government’s act of parliament enabled a reward of £40 to be offered and an additional five guineas (£5.5s) was available to anyone who brought him before a Wiltshire magistrate.

Verandahs and glass rooves

October 8, 2021

Back in about 1953, the Market Lavington and Easterton Women’s Institute completed the second part of their history of Market Lavington. We believe the original was presented in an embroidered cover. At the museum, we have a copy of the typewritten pages in a quarto ring binder. (Quarto was a paper size before A4 and A5 and measured 10″ x 8″.)

The file contains a treasure trove of information on all sorts of subjects. One section describes local trades and industry and has a couple of paragraphs about a business run by the Pinchin family, who lived in a house called Roslyn on The Clay, a lane running parallel to the High Street. Here they made ‘Pinchin’s Indestructible Iron and Glass Roofing’ and their work featured greenhouses and verandahs.

An example of this can still be seen there, in the house on the corner with Chapel Lane, which runs past the side of the fish and chip shop, that was formerly a Baptist chapel.

A little red book

October 7, 2021

At Market Lavington Museum we have this small red cash book.

It belonged to Mrs Barbara Reynolds and contains a record of what was spent at Clyffe Hall on food and one person’s wages between February and November 1938.

The prices are in £.s.d (pounds, shillings and pence) with the fractions indicating halfpennies and farthings.

The food items are interspersed with Vera’s wages, household items such as disinfectant and polish and personal items like toilet paper, shaving soap and magnesia. (Milk of Magnesia was a laxative.)

By November, it is Pearl who is receiving the wages. Haliborange tablets were given to children as vitamin supplements. We are made aware of the amount of inflation that has occurred between 1938 and today when we note, for example, that a broom handle cost 3d (just over one new decimal penny).