Posts Tagged ‘Salisbury Plain’


September 16, 2016

Much of Salisbury Plain is now closed to walkers, being a military firing range. Norman Merritt, a lifelong local man, recalls walking across Salisbury Plain when it was still possible



By Norman Merritt

My father was an avid walker he loved his Sunday stroll and would cover miles on our Sunday walks. My favourite walk was always the pumping station walk down to the valley of SELDOM SEEN as it was always known to my father and his father before him. An apt name because no matter where you are on Salisbury plain it is invisible from view. The only time you can see it is to be there.

So come with me for a walk around the valley as I remember it.

We start our walk at the sentry box at the top of Market Lavington Hill and walk a few hundred yards until the track forks to the left. We now take this left fork and follow it for about 2 miles into Seldom Seen.

As we start our walk on the left is a large clump of trees this was the site of little farm (su029533) it is marked on the map as gibbet knoll but this was not the original site of the gibbet. As we continue walking past the trees, the field on the left goes into a triangle where farther down the track from Easterton merges with the track we are on. This triangle field was the original gibbet field it was, many years ago, a crossroads.  The track went across the track we are on and down to Fiddington Farm (su034528) and Wallace’s Cottages (su037528) and then veered off to terminate at Philpott’s Farm (su033521). We will be coming back on this other track

Going back to our track, the crossroads was an ideal place for a gibbet. It was a major highway in Roman and medieval times. It was the main route to Salisbury. If you are going to hang a body as a deterrent to others to (behave or else) you put it where it can be seen right by the trackways.

Now if we carry on down the track about 500 yards on the left would be Easterton Hill Farm (su037530) and on the right at about this point was a massive well since filled in but at the time protected by stakes and wire it was brick lined and about 4 metres around.

The story is that a Canadian soldier fell in and drowned in the well and that during exercises on the plain a Bren gun carrier was lost down the well. .The soldier that drowned in the well on December 15th 1914 was private Charles Mathews of the 12th field ambulance corps of Hamilton. (Canada)

As we continue down the track about 600 yards we now come to the area known as Pond Farm (su0435251). It became a large army training camp long before World War One.

We now continue on down the track after a while it starts to drop down into the valley and as you round a slight bend the low lying valley starts to come into view and with it the pumping station you can now see Seldom Seen in its full glory.

SELDOM SEEN is .a low lying flat area and an ancient crossroads. The track from the right going to the left is the old coaching road from Bath to Andover and the road straight on takes you to Salisbury.  The pumping station is situated in the right hand corner of the valley

It is still a very imposing building and now a sanctuary for owls so it still serves a purpose.

The western side of the pumping station is cut into the chalk hillside. The north end and east sides are solid concrete walls and roofed in – massive reinforced concrete roof. The doors and window openings are fitted with 12mm thick steel plate doors and window shutters so the operator could seal himself in and work the pumps during live firing.

To the south end were the stables for the horses and trap, then you passed through a door in the stables into the pump room.  This would have held two beam engines to pump the water – long gone at this time.

I have no idea when it was built it does not show up on my map for1888 but looking at the way it was built I would hazard a guess it was around the time of the build up to Pond Farm Camp. It was the site of a water house before the pumping station was built.

The left hand track that took you to Upavon and on to Andover and Winchester forked about half a mile from the valley. This left hand fork took you back up to Eastcott Hill Farm on the top of the ridgeway track (Su033542).

The right hand fork from the valley will take us to pick up the other track from the top of Lavington Hill where we first started from.

As we leave the valley track the track back to the left would take you to Tilshead, Orcheston, and on around to pick up the Redhorne to Salisbury track about two miles from the Bustard pub

At a spot now called Bombard the sign post for Lavington, Urchfont and Salisbury still stands at this spot

We are going to take the right hand fork and head for home to complete this 6 mile triangle. As we walk after about half a mile you would get a better view of Wallace’s Cottages to the right and Fiddington Farm lying on the slope of Church Hill. The next farm we would come to was New Farm (su034518). This farm covers both sides of the track. The wooded area where the farm stood is still there.

The next farm would be Philpott’s Farm (su033521), the last farm on the track. This is the farm where the track (the old crossroads) from Easterton going past Wallace’s Cottages and Philpott’s Farm terminated.

The only other building on this track is old barn (su028528).

We have now arrived back at where we started.



December 8, 2015

Much of our parish is out of bounds to members of the public for Market Lavington goes for some miles over Salisbury Plain which is military range. However, when the flags are not flying there is a right of way across Salisbury Plain. You start at the top of Lavington Hill and take the track that heads across the plain. It is about 10 kilometres across to Orcheston but on the way you’ll pass the sites of a number of long gone farms. Today we’ll look at the site of one of them called Philpotts.

The old farms on Salisbury Plain were never on metalled highways but they were close to tracks. The Plain was always wild and windswept and trees were often planted as shelter for farm houses and buildings. That is what may still offer a sign of past habitation but you might also come across clearly originally cultivated plants even though the inhabitants had to leave more than 100 years ago.

This is the site of Philpotts in a photo taken in the early 1970s.

Site of Philpotts Farm still delineated by the shelter belt of trees in the 1970s

Site of Philpotts Farm still delineated by the shelter belt of trees in the 1970s

This was the shelter belt.

By 2008 it was looking a bit more scrubby.

Site of Philpotts in 2008

Site of Philpotts in 2008

If you walk further, you’ll pass New Farm and Candown Farm before leaving Market Lavington.

It could be a pleasant way to walk off some of that Christmas lunch that you’ll be having soon but if your tastes are more gentle then you can visit the museum which will open its doors on Sunday 27th and Monday 28th December between 2pm and 4pm. Now there’s a chance to get guests and children out of the house for a while.


Pond Farm – then and now

March 21, 2015

Pond Farm is one of the lost farms on Salisbury Plain. It was an active farm until about 1910, albeit its piece was disturbed by the summer regimental camps which took place there.

Then it became part of the artillery range on a permanent basis. Occupants moved out and farming ceased.

Here we merge two pictures. One dates from the Edwardian era and is, of course, black and white and shows the farm in its remote setting.

The second dates from 1977 which at 38 years ago is hardly now, but these days there is no public access to the area. Back then it was possible to recognise the area as the same. The 1977 picture is in colour and no doubt it looks much the same today.

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The pictures should merge, one into the other, every few seconds. There are arrows to click if you feel a need to speed things up.




The Cooper Family at New Farm

January 14, 2015

New Farm is, or rather was, one of the farms on Salisbury Plain, in the parish of Market Lavington. To reach New Farm now you’d have to go to the top of Lavington Hill and then, if the flags weren’t flying, continue on the track across Salisbury Plain. After a mile and a bit you’ll find the track passes through a bit of a wooded area. New Farm was in that wooded area on the right hand side of the track. We have looked briefly at New Farm before and this page,  has a photo of the area taken in 2008.

Today we are looking back at a photo believed to have been taken in 1909. The person who gave it to the museum believes it is New Farm although it has to be said, we have doubts because stone like that big blank wall is made of just isn’t found on Salisbury Plain. However, the family shown is a Market Lavington family so the picture is definitely worthy of being seen.

The Cooper family, possibly at new Farm, Market Lavington.

The Cooper family, possibly at new Farm, Market Lavington.

This is the Cooper Family (possibly) at New Farm, Market Lavington in about 1909. Seated at the right is James T Cooper, born around 1865. Next to him is his wife, Sarah Jane (née) Taylor also born around 1865. Behind them in the dark suit is their son, George Thomas Cooper born about 1887. The other people are not known, but on the 1901 census (at New Farm) the other children of James and Sarah are Mary, born 1889, Walter, born 1891, Charley, born 1894 and Jacob (named after his grandfather) born 1898.

Sadly, nobody alive is going to recognise New Farm. It is now over 100 years since it vanished. But we remain hopeful that people just might be recognised.

Haymaking in 1915

October 6, 2014

1915 was not an easy time anywhere in the UK. Men had volunteered to fight in the war – and they hadn’t got home by Christmas – unless severely injured. The men were not around when it came to agriculture in 1915 – and this was still a time when farming was very labour intensive.

But in Market Lavington, help was at hand for soldiers from the empire were trained on Salisbury Plain. Haymaking was as good a way of keeping fit as any other. And here we see soldiers, taking a quick breather whilst they posed for a photo which is captioned ‘Haymaking on Salisbury Plain – 1915’


Haymaking in 1915

There’s a mix of men, most in unidentified (by us) military uniform but some being local civilians.

Soldiers and civilians are at work

Soldiers and civilians are at work

Local lads have walked up the hill to see the work in progress.

Local youngsters look on

Local youngsters look on

This picture has suffered some of the ravages of time, and having been hung in a smoke filled pub and these images are enhanced to give us a better view.

The card was posted from Market Lavington on August 20th 1915.

The card has a Market Lavington post mark

The card has a Market Lavington post mark

The message suggests that the writer was not much affected by the war.

Nice weather!

Nice weather!

We think the sender may have been a nun, based on another card we have sent from Mona Cottage.

There’s no comment on the war – just the weather!

The Girls on the Plain

June 5, 2014

This photo of five young ladies and only one man is captioned as ‘The Group on Salisbury Plain. It comes from the recently acquired album which dates from around 1929.

The girls (and one boy) on the Plain with three identified by Pat Hale.

The girls (and one boy) on the Plain with three identified by Pat Hale.

We never really expected to precisely find the location, particularly as this is not the sharpest photo in the album. The photo is on a page with others which are in Market Lavington so it seemed likely to be very local.

We didn’t expect to name any of the people either. But recently our curator took the album for Pat Hale to see and the instant response was, ‘Well that one’s my mum’. It turned out that Pat was able to name three of the ladies and they are:

On the left is Betty Pike. She married Harry Hobbs and that pair are Pat’s parents.

Next to Betty is her sister, Lily Pike.

On the right hand end it is Alice Gale.

Well done and many thanks to Pat.

Sergeant’s Mess

February 1, 2014

This post is really about Market Lavington photographer, Alf Burgess. Alf was not only a photographer, he was very much a business man and he always had thoughts on what would make money.

The summer camps that territorial regiments held, up on Salisbury Plain, were clearly a chance to make some money for Alf. These camps were like holidays with training for the men. They had left parents, wives and sweethearts back home for a week or a fortnight. They needed to write home and what better than a postcard which showed them or maybe their camp.

Many of Alf’s photos are of Pond Farm Camp which is above Easterton. Today’s photo may not be taken within our parish for it bears a postmark of West Down North. This camp was within spitting distance of the Drummer Boy Post which is in the parish of Market Lavington but the camp itself was just outside.

Let’s look first at the back of the card.

Card sent from West Down North Camp in August 1911

Card sent from West Down North Camp in August 1911

It says very little, but we can see the postmark. The card was sent on August 5th 1911.

We can also see that the publisher has credited himself on the card.


The card was published by A Burgess and Sons of Market Lavington

The card was published by A Burgess and Sons of Market Lavington

It is interesting to note that even by 1911 Alf was crediting his sons as part of the business.

And now to the picture which shows a collection of sergeants relaxing on the bleak downland which is Salisbury Plain.

The front of the card shows a group of sergeants

The front of the card shows a group of sergeants

Apart from the chef they all have a cross on their arms, above the stripes. Presumably these could be medical NCOs.


They appear to belong to the Royal Army Medical Corps

They appear to belong to the Royal Army Medical Corps

The cap badges certainly look like those off the Royal Army Medical Corps.

But now let’s think of Alf Burgess, or his sons. Transport for them was the bike. To take the photo the hefty equipment of the day would need to have been lugged up Lavington Hill and then taken some three miles across the rough, rutted tracks to the far reaches of the parish, and then just that bit further. With pictures exposed the whole set of clobber would need to get back down to the Burgess premises on High Street in Market Lavington for the dark room work – developing the exposures into negatives and then printing off each image as a postcard. Perhaps these were then hauled back up to the army camp to effect actual sales. Or, maybe, soldiers were able to escape to purchase their images at the shop and also sample the bright lights of Market Lavington.

It’s a far cry from life 100 years on. These days photos like the one above would have been taken on somebody’s smart phone and almost instantly posted so that friends, family or, indeed, anybody could see it, all over the world.

Pond Farm

October 1, 2013

Pond Farm was one of the hill farms of our parish. These days it is in a part of Easterton which the military authorities on Salisbury Plain have completely closed to the public. Our old photo, taken in the Edwardian era, shows the bustling farm, with house, cottages and associated buildings and a really well used track across Salisbury Plain.

Pond Farm, Easterton in about 1908

Pond Farm, Easterton in about 1908

Our second photo shows the same scene before it was closed to the public but long after the farm had vanished.. It was taken in 1977 and it portrays the bleak emptiness of the Salisbury Plain landscape. The trackway was still clearly visible, but no longer bore the hallmarks of heavy use.

The site of Pond Farm in 1977

The site of Pond Farm in 1977

Let’s take a look at the photos  as a kind of two shot slideshow.

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It would be good if the path across to Pond Farm could be re-opened, like the re-opened Jubilee Path in Market and West Lavington.

The Museum Miscellany

September 8, 2011

The Miscellany takes place in less than ten days time on 17th September at 7.30pm in Market Lavington Community Hall. Tickets cost just £5 and are available now from Market Lavington Post Office, or on the door.

The event should be every bit as good as last year’s event which was very much enjoyed by a capacity crowd.

And here’s something you’ll learn the history and mystery of – The Drummer Boy Post out on Salisbury Plain. It has been a way marker in the middle of Salisbury Plain (in Market Lavington parish) for many a long year and it is still there, and a listed building.

The Drummer Boy Post will feature in Market Lavington Museum's Miscellany

Don’t miss the Miscellany which mixes fact, fun, fantasy and food.

Peggy’s Project on Salisbury Plain

August 22, 2011

Back in 1934, a young lass called M Welch compiled a school project on Salisbury Plain. Miss Welch became better known to we younger folk as Peggy Gye. Peggy would have been 12 or 13 at the time she wrote this. Her mother had died the previous year and Peggy had a lot to contend with, helping to run a house and look after a younger brother as well as coping with schoolwork.

What shines through is her love for her environment for the project covers history, natural history and the people of the Plain as well as aspects of art and culture.

From the project we have chosen one small extract.

Extract from a school project on Salisbury Plain by M Welch (Peggy Gye) of Market Lavington

The teacher (unknown) did not have the same clear writing that Peggy used and his comments are hard to read.

The teacher's verdict - worth an A grade!

It reads:

A most interesting account – very well thought out and obviously carefully prepared. The subject matter has been well chosen and arranged. Note one or two faults of spelling. Altogether an excellent piece of work which reveals a sympathetic treatment of the subject.

Peggy was given a well deserved A grade.

You can see the entire document – not in good condition so in need of careful handling – by visiting the museum.

You can discover more about schools and schoolwork in Lavington by visiting The Museum Miscellany on September 17th at the Community Hall at 7.30 in the evening.