Archive for the ‘Museum’ Category


August 5, 2021

A bayonet is a pointed spear-like blade that could be attached to a rifle to form a weapon for close combat. We have a couple of these in our collection at Market Lavington Museum.

This one was donated by our museum founder, Peggy Gye, but our records give no details of its provenance.

Its overall length is 54cm. The blade is flat on one side, but triangular in cross section.

The end of the bayonet away from the point is cylindrical with a zig zag slot for fixing it to the rifle.

We learn from Some Tom Gye memories that bayonets were issued to members of the Loyal Volunteers in Market Lavington.

Our other bayonet is a little shorter and rustier. It was dug up in the garden of Beech House on White Street.

A mystery press

August 4, 2021

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a very varied collection of items, but all should have a connection with our village, or neighbouring Easterton.

This object is a press made of wood and iron. It was given to our museum founder, Peggy Gye, by her grandfather, James Welch. She used it for pressing flowers, but we imagine this was not its original purpose.

James Welch, Peggy’s grandfather. His son, also James, was Peggy’s father.

James lived from 1856 to 1927, so this press could well be Victorian or Edwardian.

The central metal bars and wooden handle can all be removed in one piece, leaving this.

Then the upper wooden layer can be removed, exposing a flat wood base, on which flowers or maybe books or something else could be laid ready to be pressed.

Maybe one of our readers can enlighten us as to the original purpose of this piece of equipment.

For more information on Peggy’s grandfather, James Welch, see James Welch – a fine Victorian Gentleman.

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester

August 3, 2021

Now that was the opening opening line of a song by The Wurzels, but there would have been many farmers in Wiltshire for whom it would have been true following a purchase from the agricultural engineers in Market Lavington. This can be verified by looking through the records of their sales between 1949 and 1963, which form part of our collection at Market Lavington Museum.

A combine harvester in the 1950s would have looked similar to this Massey Harris machine at work at Vicarage Farm in Easterton.

Here are some of the combines sold in Market Lavington in late 1956 and into 1957.

At that time, some farmers were buying combine harvesters with tanks and presumably had silos into which the grain could be poured. Others bought machines which had baggers and filled sacks with corn during the harvesting in the field.

For more information on the local agricultural engineering business, see ‘Wilts Ag’ and Wilts Ag!

Side rakes for sale – 1955

August 2, 2021

In 1954, Wordleys, the agricultural engineering business in Market Lavington, advertised the range of machinery they had for sale in a local directory.

We see evidence of their sales of haymaking machinery in their records of sales, which includes a page concerning the side rakes and tedders sold in early 1955. The side rakes gathered the cut hay into windrows. The tedder turned the hay, so that it all had a good chance to dry out thoroughly before being collected and stored in a haystack or bales.

The accounts include two columns with prices. The first shows the purchase price paid by the engineers to acquire the machines, whilst the second shows the sale price, paid by the customer. For example, the popular Vicon side rakes cost the firm £93.10s, but were sold for £110. Obviously, the business needed to make a profit, some of which would be needed to pay their bills and the wages of their employees. (In 1986, there were twenty six people working for Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering.)

Amongst the purchasers of the hay rakes, we see two from the local villages of Urchfont and Poulshot. Other machines went further afield, to Box and Dorchester.

Agricultural machinery sales

August 1, 2021

The area close to Market Lavington’s Market Place, where the Rochelle Court housing and a few newly built shops are to be found, was once the site of A S Wordley & Co, later Wiltshire Agricultural Engineering.

This photo from the 1960s locates the site, showing the High Street at the bottom right and the Market Place, leading to Northbrook on the extreme left.

At the museum, we have a set of 125 sheets of records of the machinery sales made between 1949 and 1963, which demonstrate just how busy this firm was.

The accounts are arranged in sections according to the type of machine sold. For example, this page records the tractors sold between January and March in 1956.

Most of these sales were of Ferguson and Nuffield diesel tractors. These are some of Wordley’s tractors from the 1950s.

Most of the machinery sold in Market Lavington went to customers within Wiltshire, although on this page, we see that one customer came from London.

We will look at more of these sales another time.

Fiddington Common

July 31, 2021

The villages of Market Lavington and Easterton in central Wiltshire are close neighbours and were, until late Victorian times, part of the same parish. However, until the boundaries were changed, the thin strip of land lying between them and known as Fiddington belonged to the parish of West Lavington. All these places had chalk land to the south, whilst their northern areas were on the greensand and we believe that Fiddington Common was in the northern part of Fiddington. (See Andrews and Dury, a post about a 1773 map of Wiltshire, which shows a Dr Batters marked at Feddenten Common.)

Fiddington Common is on the 1861 census as being home to farmer Joseph Webb and his wife and the Oram family of farm labourers. By the 1891 census, John Sainsbury, his wife Lydia and their ten children lived at Fiddington Common as did the Shergold family of market gardeners. We know of John Sainsbury at Parham Farm, before this area was disrupted by the construction of the railway.

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a copy of Hugh Spencely’s book about the house called Hawthorns, a little further to the east along Kings Road, which mentions Amram Saunders and Richard Box owning land on Upper Common and plantations. (Hugh’s book is also accessible online at

These references give some indication of the area of land referred to in the letter being considered in this blog post.

It is a newspaper cutting of a letter sent on 2nd July 1892 to the editor of the Wiltshire Telegraph and is a response to what Mr Samuel Saunders had written to the Devizes and Wilts Advertiser. We do not know who wrote this letter as it is just signed FIDDINGTON COMMON.

The writer was clearly aggrieved that land that had once been common land had been taken over by the Saunders. It seems that local people worked the land rent free for a couple of years and then paying £3 or £4 an acre until it was in good heart and beginning to turn a profit for them. At that stage it was put up for sale. The writer was of the opinion that the area should be restored to common land.

Rolling the barrels

July 30, 2021

For many years, Market Lavington in central Wiltshire held an inter pub barrel rolling competition. Teams from the four village pubs, The Green Dragon, The Kings Arms, The Drummer Boy (formerly The New Inn) and The Volunteer took part. This would no longer be possible as only The Green Dragon survives in the village now.

We have featured this event before, so do look for more information and pictures in Barrel Rolling, Roll out the Barrel and Newspaper Cuttings.

Our records suggest that this collection of newspaper cuttings was put together by the late Mrs Di Lund to promote the last barrel rolling event in 2010.

As it was not deemed safe to roll the barrels on the main road through the village, the distances between the pubs were measured and marked out along White Street and each team of three competed in a heat with another pub and the winners then raced against each other. The race involved rolling a barrel and drinking beer.

The local scout group organised the barrel rolling event, starting in 1971, when the team from The Kings Arms were the winners. The newspaper photo shows them receiving the trophy.

In order to run the event safely, it was necessary to have a car free course through White Street. At the museum, we have a couple of letters from the scouts asking residents to clear the road of parked vehicles. This one dates from 1990.

Making a haystack – part three

July 29, 2021

Please scroll back to find this final entry on haystacks. It was published in error on 25th July!

Making a haystack – part two

July 28, 2021

In our last post, Sybil Perry explained how the lower part of a haystack was built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, based on her first hand experience of watching the process when she was a girl. Her account continued –

‘When the rick got too high for the men doing the pitching to reach, an elevator had to be used. This implement was a long wooden trough carrying a continuous chain with metal spikes set at intervals along its length, which acted as a conveyor belt.’

This photograph of Haymaking at Knapp Farm in Market Lavington shows an elevator in use in the 1920s.

Sybil explained that the belt ‘passed through a large hopper, which the men kept filled with hay, and the spikes picked up the hay, carried it to the top of the rick and, as the spikes swung over the top, the hay dropped onto the rick and the spikes began their downward course on the underside of the trough.’

There is also an elevator in our wonderful photograph of the Lush family haymaking on Salisbury Plain in 1890. (Note the ox on the extreme right of the picture!)

Sybil informed us that ‘the elevator’s motor power was supplied by a small petrol motor in the 1930s, but until then a pony was used. It walked round in a small circle and turned a large gear wheel’ but Sybil couldn’t ‘remember as far back as the pony.’

Next time we will conclude Sybil Perry’s memories of haymaking by considering how the rick was completed.

Making a hay stack – part one

July 27, 2021

In our previous blog entry, the hay had been brought from the field by horse and cart and taken to where the rick was to be built. This was still the method used at Knapp Farm, Market Lavington in World War Two, when land girl, Pat Wilmott, led Blossom the horse back to the farm after she had done this hay hauling.

Sybil Perry, in her memories of 1927-1932, told us that ‘making a hay-rick was a very important and skilled job as the finished rick had to maintain its correct shape, and it had to be constructed so that its centre would not overheat, as compacted hay gets hot in the middle of the rick, just as a compost heap heats up deep in the centre. Overheating could occur too, if the hay was cut while too green. The interior was tested for heat with a “rick-iron”, – a long metal probe with a barbed point, which was thrust deep into the rick, left for a few minutes and then withdrawn with a tuft of hay in the barbs. Very occasionally, if a rick seemed to be in danger of overheating, it was partly unmade to allow it to cool, but usually the rick makers knew their job.’

Sybil wrote that to start making the rick ‘an area which was to be the base of the rick was covered with hay, more spread on top of that layer and so on, with the men making the rick spreading it as evenly as possible layer by layer. When the rick got too high for the men doing the pitching to reach, an elevator had to be used.’

Our 1915 postcard shows soldiers assisting the haymakers on Salisbury Plain with an elevator in use. We will share Sybil’s description of how this worked and how the hay ricks were completed next time.