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Chitterne

This page is one of 261 pages covering every community in Wiltshire, and is provided by Wiltshire Council Libraries and Heritage. A project to provide a fuller picture of each community is in progress, working on the larger communities first. When these 261, which are modern civil parishes, are completed we will begin work on a further 180 villages and hamlets to provide comprehensive coverage of Wiltshire communities large and small.

From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1810:

From Andrews’ and Dury’s Map of Wiltshire, 1810


Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


This is a corrected and updated edition of the 1773 map that includes the recently built canals.


Map of the Civil Parish of Chitterne:

Map of the Civil Parish of Chitterne

1890s
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


From the Ordnance Survey 1890s revision of the one inch to one mile map. The modern civil parish boundary has been superimposed.


From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773:

From Andrews' and Dury's Map of Wiltshire, 1773

1771
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre



Thumbnail History:


Chitterne is a small remote village nestling in the folds of chalk on Salisbury Plain. More than half of Chitterne parish is owned by the Ministry of Defence, a large portion of this lying in the live firing Danger Area that surrounds Imber, and is consequently inaccessible to civilians. Imber, sister village to Chitterne, was requisitioned by the War Department and evacuated in 1943. The Chitterne Brook, a winterbourne, which rises at Imber, winds its way through the village before joining the River Wylye at Codford.

The present parish was formerly two adjacent parishes, Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St. Mary, civilly united as Chitterne in 1907. There are two theories as to the origin of the name Chitterne, which has been spelt numerous ways in the past. In Domesday it is spelt Chetre and this probably refers to a place of refuge, but another theory suggests “Chitt” may refer to the personal name “Cyta” or “Kite”, or to British “ceto” meaning wood, while “Erne” is thought to be Old English “aern” meaning a store or house.

There are eleven archaeological sites, eight of them on the parish boundary. Two are the remains of settlements, one British, one Romano-British, two are earth ditches and the remainder are barrows. Most of the British village lies in Knook parish but Sir Richard Colt Hoare found a skeleton with a drinking cup in the part of the village in the west of Chitterne parish. The Romano-British village lies in the north of the parish near the boundary with Tilshead. The survey of this village carried out in 1982-3 under the auspices of the newly appointed Conservation Officer found remains of streets, house platforms, ponds and sherds of Romano-British pottery. Kill Barrow nearby is a long barrow of 52 metres in length and 6 metres wide. The excavation of this barrow by J. Thurman in 1865 revealed a primary burial deposit of imperfectly burnt bones at the south east end and two skeletons near the surface, which were assumed to be secondary Saxon or Roman burials. At the junction of the south-eastern parish boundary of Chitterne, with that of Shrewton, is Oram's Grave, a small mound believed to mark the burial of the suicide James Oram in 1768. On Chapperton Down there is a stone pillar with memorial plaque to mark the spot where the highway robber Benjamin Colclough died in 1839. Two old coach roads pass through Chitterne parish, the Salisbury to Bath and the Salisbury to Warminster roads.

The Domesday Book shows that in earlier Saxon times Chitterne had three owners, but only two manors under the Normans. The two manors, Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St. Mary, were held of the king in 1086 by the family of Edward of Salisbury, later Earls of Salisbury. The family endowed Bradenstoke Priory, to which the Manor of Chitterne All Saints was given, and Lacock Abbey, to which their remaining lands in Chitterne St. Mary were given. After the dissolution of the two monastic institutions in the 16th century the Manor of Chitterne All Saints was owned by the Temys-Jordans, relatives of the last Abbess of Lacock, followed by the Giles's of Fisherton Delamere, the Methuens of Corsham, the Michell-Onslows of Calne and Cornwall and the Collins's of Devon, before being purchased in 1937 by the War Department. The Manor of Chitterne St. Mary was owned by the Paulet, Methuen and Long families. Walter Hume Long of Rood Ashton sold off his lands and tenements in Chitterne St. Mary in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The church at Chitterne, dedicated to All Saints cum St. Mary and designed by T.H. Wyatt was built in 1861-2 as a replacement for the two smaller 15th Century churches of All Saints and St. Mary's. The new church consists of a nave, chancel, two side aisles and a vestibule under a tower which contains a peal of five bells, three bells from old St Mary's and two from All Saints. The chancel of old St Mary's church still stands near St. Mary's Manor House. It contains part of a tomb with an ogee arch dating from about 1500. The surrounding graveyard is still in use as is the graveyard of old All Saints Church. A non-conformist chapel existed in Chitterne in 1846. It was held by the Methodists and later the Baptists. A fire in 1903 destroyed most of the building except the schoolroom. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 1904. The chapel closed in the early 1970s and was sold in 1973.

An illustrious past is borne out by the large number of listed village houses. Chitterne House, of banded stone and flint, was built by the Michell family in the 17th century and was extended in brick a century later. It has a datestone above the doorway with the motto: “Health and peace this house increase 1635”. On the same estate and adjacent to Chitterne House, behind an ornate carved stone arch with an iron gate, is the half-timbered Gate House built of stone and flint, possibly of earlier origin. Opposite is Manor Farm House, built in the 19th century of chequered stone and flint as a replacement for a much earlier Manor House, which was destroyed by fire in 1852. Chitterne Lodge is an 18th century stone house with a slate roof. Chitterne St. Mary Manor House is 17th century of brick with stone-mullioned windows and a stone-tiled roof. The Old Vicarage was built in 1812 of stucco under a slate roof. It has an ornate wrought iron glazed canopy shading the south-side windows. The Grange dating from the early 19th century is also of stucco under a slate roof. White Hart House, formerly the White Hart Inn dates from 1651. Samuel Pepys and his party made an unscheduled stop at the White Hart when lost on the Salisbury Plain one night in 1668. Thomas Pryor, the landlord, not only persuaded another client to give up his bed in order to accommodate Pepys, but acted as guide to Bath for the party the following day. Pepys said of the episode: “by and by to bed, glad of the mistake because it seems, had we gone on as we pretended, we could not have passed with our coach and must have lain on the plain all night;” and of the beds: “good, but lousy, which made us merry”.

Until the latter half of the 20th century most of the adults of Chitterne worked on the eight farms in the village. In medieval times thousands of sheep were kept for their wool by the tenants of the Lacock Abbey-owned farms. By the end of the 20th century there were only three separate farms. The farms had also diversified, dairy cows are no longer kept, and very few sheep, these have been replaced by beef cattle, rare pig breeding, arable crops and a landfill. A redundant barn houses a business that recycles and disposes of ex-business computers.

Fine white clay was dug at Clay Pit Hill, Chitterne St. Mary and taken to Amesbury for the manufacture of clay tobacco pipes in the early 17th century. In 1907 an equestrian business for the training of racehorses started up and carried on until the late 1980s.

In 1257 Lady Ela, Countess of Salisbury, as Abbess of Lacock and Lord of the Manor, was granted a charter to hold a market and an annual fair in Chitterne. Pepys referred to Chitterne as a 'town' as late as 1668. The two parishes still had adequate services to be self sufficient in the 19th century, but no market by then. There were several shops, two grocers and bakers, a sub-post office, a marine store, two blacksmiths, a wheelwright, a farrier, two builders, a watch and clock man, two public houses and a carrier. By the mid 20th century there was no baker, but a guesthouse and a Ministry of Defence depot had been added, and two bakers, two butchers, a greengrocer, a fish merchant, a hardware merchant, a laundryman and a milkman delivered to the village from elsewhere. Nearly all village facilities have gradually disappeared since then. The White Hart Inn closed its doors in 1955, but the carrier business continued until the 1970s. The King's Head floundered but found a new lease of life as a free house in 2011 after several years of uncertainty. The last shop, the village grocery and sub-post office, closed in 2000. Nowadays villagers shop elsewhere, the nearest shop is at Codford, or use the online delivery services offered by various supermarkets.

The population of the combined Chitterne parishes in 1801 was 469. By 1861 the number of inhabitants had increased to 710, hence the need for the new church. Soon after, with the onset of the agricultural depression, the population started declining and dropped from 629 in 1881 to 450 in 1911. This downward trend continued until the 1971 census, which showed a population of 239, but in recent years, with more houses being built, the trend has been upwards to 298 inhabitants in 2001.

Local authority housing was first provided in Chitterne after the First World War and more houses and flats have been added since. Overall the number of dwellings in the village has risen from 99 to 139 in the last 50 years. Recently, despite the lack of facilities in the village, Chitterne is thriving. The site of a pig farm was developed in the 1970s to provide 8 new houses; the former racing stables were converted into 8 cottages in the 1990s; houses have been built on land behind both the village public houses and on former farmyards. At the same time some small dwellings have been 'knocked together' to make one larger one.

Two charities existed in Chitterne: Edward Michell's Second Poor Charity of 1725 and the Morris Charity of 1880, which were later combined into the Second Poor Charity. Edward Michell left £75 to the second poor of Chitterne All Saints, the proceeds to be distributed annually on St. Thomas' Day. Charles Morris left £300 to the vicar of Chitterne St. Mary to be invested for the maintenance and support of the Chitterne Parish School.

Chitterne has a history of home-grown entertainment. At the turn of the 19th/20th centuries the village had cricket, tennis and football clubs, a brass band, tea parties, concert parties, outings, fetes and celebrations. Chitterne Sportsfield, purchased by the villagers from the Ministry of Defence in c.1970, is maintained by the village Cricket Club and is the venue for local cricket matches. The village school had been built in 1840 with a proviso that its rooms could be used in the evenings for meetings of the village Benefit Club, the Penny Reading Room being inadequate. In 1921 the village 'Hut' was erected for entertainments such as billiards, whist drives, dancing and amateur shows until the old school was converted into the Village Hall and opened in 1970. This hall was used until 1998 when it was demolished to make way for the new Village Hall, which opened in 1999 on the same site.

In 1937 the then War Department purchased a large slice of Chitterne village and the surrounding land, including 5 farms, which have since gradually amalgamated into one farm. Farming jobs dwindled from 29 in 1950 to 4 in 2000. Military transport and troops were a frequent sight in the village. Village roads were strengthened to support the movement of armoured vehicles and tanks. In the 1980s a training village was built on Copehill Down and in 2000 a new concrete road for the military opened, greatly reducing army traffic through the village. The numbers of farm workers in the village has shrunk but the numbers of service personnel, retired and active, living in Chitterne has expanded. Most of the working population commute to their jobs, although working from home is becoming more common.

Beneath the village lies an abundance of water. Water was drawn from the many village wells before mains water arrived in Chitterne 40 years ago. In 1988 Wessex Water sank boreholes at the village outskirts to tap into this resource and built a new pumping station at Chitterne to serve West Wiltshire and the village itself. Broadband came to the village in 2005 but there is no mobile phone signal, no mains gas and no sewerage, except for a small plant at St. Mary's Close. The village school closed in 1967. The children attend Codford (Wylye Valley School) or Tilshead (St. Thomas a Becket).

In 1930 it was touch and go whether Chitterne would succumb to the eventual fate of Imber and be taken over for military training. At the time Edith Olivier described Chitterne as having “a grand spaciousness about its fields” and a “dignity of its own”, so it would have been a great loss.

CouncilWiltshire Council
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Parish CouncilChitterne Parish Council
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Churches: Information on both current and disused churches and chapels.

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Population 1801 - 2011

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Newspapers from 1738: These newspapers covered this community at different times. Newspaper titles in bold text are either the ones you should check first for information about this community.

 

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Archaeological Sites: A Sites and Monuments Record (opens new window) is maintained by the County Archaeology Service and covers some 20,000 sites. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was formed in 1853 and have been publishing an annual journal since 1854. The journal contains both substantial articles and shorter notes on archaeological excavations, finds, museum objects, local history, genealogy and natural history.

Folk Arts:

Folk Songs from Chitterne

Folk Biographies from Chitterne

Folk Plays from Chitterne

History of Buildings: The collections of the Wiltshire Buildings Record are housed in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

Listed Buildings: The number of buildings, or groups of buildings, listed as being of architectural or historic importance is 36. There are three Grade II* buildings, the Church of All Saints, the Chapel of St. Mary, and the Gatehouse.

English Heritage and National Monuments Record

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