Posts Tagged ‘naturalist’

Museum Miscellany

September 18, 2010

(Some of the) Treasures of Market Lavington

Tonight at 7.30pm in Market Lavington Community Hall

Tickets, on the door at £5 each.

We celebrate our Silver Jubilee tonight. The event will take the form of a concert in images and sounds with a number of pieces presented. This has not been done before and the programme may get altered to match the time available but the plan is.

Part 1

  1. “Candown Farm”, one of the lost farms of Salisbury Plain
  2. “Broadwell”, Market Lavington’s water supply, narrated by former curator, Peggy Gye
  3. “A Basket Case”, the story of a basket made and used in Market Lavington
  4. “Transport of Delight”, how we travelled by road, rail and air
  5. “Village Worthies”, some famous people from Market Lavington
  6. “Lavington Songs”, performed by the Lavington Community Choir

An interval so that you can sample some Market Lavington nibbles and refresh your glasses at the bar. You will also have a chance to chat with Tim and Helen of the Wiltshire Museum Service who will tell you how the county support local museums like ours at Market Lavington

Part 2

  1. “Bang it on a Big Bass Drum”, the story of Market Lavington bands
  2. “Chalk and Cheese”, farming in Market Lavington
  3. “Fun and Games”, leisure activities in the parish
  4. “Along the High Street”, shops and shopping in Market Lavington
  5. “In sickness and in Health”, some aspects of medicine in the parish
  6. “The ballad of Sam Rumble”, a folk song about a man from Market Lavington who drove traction engines

Do come and enjoy what will be a fun and interesting evening


Knapp House

June 29, 2010

Knapp (sometimes Nap or Knap and sometimes House or Farm) is situated at the foot of Lavington Hill and not far from Market Lavington’s main spring water supply at Broadwell.

It is a large house with a long and varied history. These days, with changed routes, the front is rarely seen, for the only tarmac approach is to the back of the house. But 100 years ago, when this photo was taken, the setting of Knapp House was easy to see.

A view from the downs showing the church and Knapp Farm House - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

The photo shows two dominant buildings, which are St Mary’s Church and Knapp House.

Here we have zoomed in and can see the elegant frontage of this early 18th century house.

Close up of Knapp House, Market Lavington

Amongst its former residents, we believe there was one John Legg, already mentioned in this blog, who was a reclusive naturalist.

Later relatives of his had the surname Fowle and one lady of the Fowle family had to have her leg amputated. She had the leg buried in the family vault so that it was ready for her to have again in the hereafter.

In 1861 the Fowles of Knapp Farm were managing some 1500 acres and employing well over 50 people. By 1881, the one remaining Fowle at ‘Nap Farm House’ was Sarah, described as a landed proprietress.

By 1901 a husband and wife – Mr and Mrs Hall had Knapp Farm.

In the 21st century, the house has a garden but the land is farmed from elsewhere.

The Life of James Lye

April 25, 2010

Market Lavington gardener, James Lye was a giant in the field of fuchsia growing and hybridisation. Here – a response to requests for information – we present the details we have of his life.


James Lye was born in about 1830 in Market Lavington. His parents, Richard who was a labourer and Ann had him baptised at St Mary’s Church in Market Lavington on August 22nd of 1830.

A recurring problem with genealogy in Market Lavington is that the 1841 census has not survived for our parish. But a James Lye of the right age was a servant at Cornbury Mill for that census. Cornbury Mill is the first building in West Lavington where the census has survived.

In 1849 James married Maria Smith – a Market Lavington girl by birth.

In 1851 James was a gardener. Documentation suggests he was already in the employ of Louisa Hay at Clyffe Hall. He and Maria lived on Northbrook in Market Lavington with baby daughter Elizabeth.

In 1861 the census tells us that James was gardener to the Hon Mrs Hay. He and Maria now lived on White Street in Market Lavington and they had three daughters with them – Ann, Emily and Louisa.

By 1871, a cottage had been found for James on site – Clyffe Hall Lodge. James was gardener and bailiff for Mrs Hay. He and Maria had four daughters now – Elizabeth Ann, Harriet, Ellen and baby Letty.

Letty died in 1878. James named a fuchsia after her.

For the 1881 census, James was aged 50. He and Maria lived at ‘The Cottage’ Clyffe Hall and still had Harriet and Ellen at home with them – both described as dressmakers (out of employ). James was, of course, a gardener.

James Lye, fuchsia grower and gardener of Market Lavington - about 1890

Moving on to 1891 we find James and Maria together at Clyffe Hall Cottage along with daughter Ellen. Louisa Hay was still at Clyffe Hall and James was still her gardener and Bailiff.

We do not know just when James retired. His employer, Louisa Hay, died in 1898 and perhaps uncertainty over his future made him decide it was time to hang up his gardening gloves.

James and Maria celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1899 but we have no information about how they celebrated this occasion.

In 1901 James and Maria lived in Easterton on Oak Lane. Easterton had been a part of Market Lavington but became a separate parish in the 1870s. So James was not far from home there.

James died in 1906 and was buried in Market Lavington churchyard. Maria followed him some three years later.

The Gardeners Chronicle published this obituary for James

Gardeners Chronicle February 10 1906

Obituary _ James Lye

On Saturday last, at a ripe age, a victim to paralysis, there passed away at Market Lavington, Wilts a gardener in the person of James Lye, who had the warm esteem and regard of a wide circle of friends, and who had made for himself a good name in horticulture.

For very many years he was Gardener at Clyffe Hall Market Lavington, and there gave his attention largely to the raising and growing of Fuchsia and potatoes. Whilst the varieties of the latter which he raised have been elbowed out of commerce by newer ones, many of his Fuchsias today still rank amongst the very best in cultivation.

Indeed none are more beautiful, have better habit or flower more abundantly. Mr Lye was a very capable raiser and. first class grower of specimens and the noble pyramids he grew at Clyffe Hall 9 to 10 feet tall, and referred to in an article in Gardeners Chronicle February 14 1885, were never excelled out of the West of England.

He had retired from active life for several years, but still retained his love for Fuchsias to the last.

‘Country Pageant’ by Hugh Brandon Cox

March 29, 2010
This small book forms part of the collection at Market Lavington Museum.

Title page of 'Country Pageant' at Market Lavington Museum

You could read the book – a delightful collection of information in text and images about life in rural areas – and wonder why, specifically, Market Lavington.

The answer lies in the foreword. The author, Hugh Brandon Fox, was a Market Lavington man.

Part of Hugh Brandon Cox's foreword to 'Country Pageant'

Hugh Brandon Cox was not born a Wiltshireman. He came from East Anglia and, it must be said, the large skies of the flat lands of the east remained his abiding love. In fact, Hugh, who was born in 1917, didn’t move to Wiltshire until after the second world war. One of his projects, whilst living in our part of the world was founding ‘The West Countryman’ magazine but clearly, he also found time to write and illustrate books.

‘Country Pageant’ contains both colour and black and white illustrations by the author.

Hugh Brandon Cox's dragonfly illustration

Hugh Brandon Cox did return to the east, settling first in Cambridge and finally in Norwich. He died in 2004 but his memory is assured by a large catalogue of books, drawings, paintings, photographs and films

John Legg – a Market Lavington Naturalist

January 27, 2010

John Legg lived in Market Lavington from about 1755 to 1802. In 1780 he published a book – one of the first to tell the truth about bird migration. But it seems John was a shy man and did his best to hide his identity by just saying it was ‘by a naturalist’.

Title Page of John Legg's book on bird migration

But John Legg left clues in this and other publications – not least that his initials were J L and that he came from Market Lavington.

In 1894 the Reverend A C Smith carried out research to identify who J L of Market Lavington actually was. His research was published in the 1896 journal of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. I quote from his research here.

John Legg lived and died a bachelor, and for some time at least, if not to the end of his short life, his sisters lived with him. He appears to have had no profession, but to have devoted himself in his early years to the study of Nature and he is reported by his descendants to have practised the art of grafting and inoculation of trees in his own garden at Lavington: but in the latter part of his life, for he died in middle age, he was absorbed in religious speculations; and he appears to have latterly given way to melancholy thoughts and unhappy broodings, to which he was doubtless predisposed by much infirmity of body. Family tradition reports that towards the end of his life he shut himself up almost completely, seldom moving beyond his garden, where he indulged in reveries, and mused in solitude: nay, so persistently did he shun the society of his fellows that he objected to be seen in the village street, and to avoid observation he is said to have made a private path to the Church, by which he could go unseen by any: and even when a young relative was taken by her mother to visit him, all she ever saw of the recluse was his pigtail as he darted upstairs to avoid the interview. His nephew, too, recorded that he never saw him but once, and that then he never spoke to him.

John was buried at Market Lavington. His gravestone is inside the church, near the entrance and another memorial is on the south wall of the Chancel.

John Legg's grave inscription - St Mary's, Market Lavington

At Market Lavington Museum we are trying to piece together as much of the story of John Legg as we can. If you can help then do contact us.