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.

Farmers Guide snip

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.

wimbrel snip

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.


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.

Register record snip

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.

Register record snip 2

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.

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