Chitterne Now and Then
Blog Archive - January 2009

Thursday 29th January - Women Neutralised: a sidetrack

I have been reading "Godiva" by Nerys Jones, and I feel I must write about the position of women in those years before 1066. I was startled to discover that 1000 years ago we women had a lot more rights than we did a mere 100 years ago. Before 1066 women in Britain could inherit and bequeath property and land; instigate divorce and retain access to their children and to their share of the marital property; widows and divorcees could remarry; during marriage women were protected in law from violence and neglect; they could practise crafts or skills, ride, bear arms and travel; in fact an adult married woman was viewed as a partner in the relationship, "sometimes the lesser partner, often equal and occasionally superior."

What happened? The Catholic Church happened. After the Norman Conquest in 1066 all these rights that women enjoyed were gradually eroded by church lawyers: "leaving women of all social ranks subject to vastly increased male authority in the family, disposessed of property in everything but name, and in general degraded to a state of inferiority - disarmed in an age of chivalry, unemployed in an age of guilds, and uneducated in an age of growing literacy. Men and women were set on routes of social change that split the age-old customs of partnership and introduced the enmity of the genders." The quotes are from the end notes to the book.

I am staggered that we had so much and we lost it. It must have happened so slowly that it's only possible to see the enormity of the change from a great distance. And how long has it taken to get those rights back? Hundreds of years. There is a moral to this tale: fight tooth and nail against the removal of any right, no matter how small it may seem. Watch out for that creeping Big Brother.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is very readable, very well-researched and it made me want to read more about the Saxons. I am sad that we can't expect any more from this author; Nerys Jones died just before it was published.

Comment from G, Suffolk: I don't think they had it rosy, but it definitely went backwards for women after that. Strange isn't it how these things get lost in the mists of time.

Wednesday 28th January - Glass Sheds and more Felthams

Here's a bit of medieval glass just because I like it, and I've added it to my history pages on Someone else must have liked it too because it had been saved from the old All Saints Church and inserted into a window of St Mary's Chancel. It shows a creature surmounted by a crown and looks like part of a coat of arms or emblem. A royal connection? Could it be William Longespee, the half brother of Richard the Lionheart, who held Chitterne in medieval times through his wife Ela, Countess of Salisbury? Did they even have the know-how to make coloured glass in the 13th century? I would love to know but that's a conundrum for another day.

At the Moment I'm trying to remember to record physical changes in the village for posterity. I usually miss the chance to take a photograph before something is demolished and kick myself later, so I've made a resolution to improve. Yesterday I took several photos of buildings due for demolition near Chitterne Farm. They're not architectural specimens, stables and storage sheds mostly, but it will mean a change in the appearance of Back Road, hence the record.

Oh and yet another member of the Feltham clan has contacted me. ST from Hampshire is a descendant of Prudence Feltham and making a family tree for her mother. She wanted to know who Pru's parents had been. I sent her my list of Felthams and in return I discovered more about Prudence to add to it. A perfect exchange system! I learnt that Prudence and her sister Irene had been married to the same man, Reginald Cheffey.

Sunday 25th January - Coming Clean and Basking

I am a bit of a perfectionist and one thing that's been nagging me is that there are some mistakes in my book on Chitterne. It's not just the fact that the mistakes exist in print, it's that there are people who own and people buying the book who are unaware that it contains faults. So I have decided to come clean and publish the list of errors, yes a list, on the book page on this website.
It is cringeworthy, especially as one of the mistakes, in my mind, is enormous. I got the date of the Magna Carta wrong!!! As one villager said to me, with a malicious glint in his eye: "Every schoolboy knows this." Certain people do enjoy putting you down when you have surpassed their expectations.
So, to balance out the cringe and the down-putting I have also published on the same page the reviews and comments that lovely people have said or written about the book. I've been very lucky, so far no-one has written a bad review and, apart from the malicious glint man, no-one has said or written a disparaging comment.
If you are a reader of, or own a copy of my book (and if you're not I have plenty left) you can find the errors and the praise by clicking on "Current Projects" and then the "Chitterne - a Wiltshire Village" link on that page.
Mea Culpa.

Comment from G, Suffolk: When was the Magna carta signed then?

Sue: 1215, not 1216 as stated in my book.

Tuesday 20th January - Supermole Pays a Visit

What on earth (ha! ha!) is going on in our garden? Since before Christmas the biggest molehills I have ever seen have appeared on our lawn and they are still being added to. It must be a supermole with an underground JCB.

Monday 19th January - Meaning of Pibs

I searched all my refernce books and online but drew a blank on the meaning of "Pibs", (see yesterday's blog). I love the detective work and I won't give up easily but it feels slightly like cheating to have to seek professional help. Like resorting to the Thesaurus to solve a cryptic crossword clue. Still, needs must sometimes. However I was rewarded as my much more knowledgeable friend, whom I asked about the meaning of "Pibs", has thrown new light on the query. This is what he said:

"What a tricky one! I think that the word is Pits (see the initial letter in the word this, 6 lines above). It seems to be written at the same time as the line above, and I wonder whether it is part of the address where her first husband died Kinsington Travill Pits. Possibly travill is for travail, meaning suffering (or for a woman in labour!). & my great affliction LM: is similar in form to the note on the lower half of the next page. As you can see I am not very sure of the meaning I am afraid."

It's reassuring that even the professionals are not sure on this one. But his explanation of how "Pits" could have been written at a different time to the rest of the last line on that page rings very true. For the writing at the bottom of the second page is not so assured as the earlier section and shows that Loveday probably wrote it in later life. So it looks as though she added: "to my great affliction L.M:" after she had written so sorrowfully about her second husband's death. That figures, but it still doesn't give us the answer. More detective work required to discover the whereabouts of "Kinsington Travill Pits".

Later - Woooheee I've found it! On an old 1839 map of London there's a place called Kensington Gravel Pits. I'm sure in my bones this is the place as it's not too far from where Loveday and Samuel married. Here is a portion of the map:

In 1839 the place was undeveloped, but on a modern map of London it's in Notting Hill. Just north-west of Kensington Gardens, beyond the Bayswater Road. Very satisfying, but it doesn't explain why someone would die of smallpox there!

Even later - I found another map online of 1795 showing Kensington Gravel Pits as the name of a road, part of the Uxbridge Road. And then from British History online I discovered that: .." the Gravel Pits were the fashionable suburb resort of invalids, from the times of William and Anne to the close of the last century." So that answered my last question: Samuel Michell was at the Gravel Pits because he was suffering from smallpox. Case solved and closed. A satisfying day's work.

Sunday 18th January - Loveday's Note Book

I am still in correspondence with MA re the Loveday Michell story. MA has sent me copies of pages from Loveday's Note Book shown above. I think hand-written accounts of lives lived long ago are about the most exciting part of researching history on two counts. First, I have always loved hand-writing since I first learned to write with a pen and ink as a child, this later led to an interest in calligraphy. Secondly, is the frissant I get from seeing and handling something the subject has handled and created maybe centuries ago; it's a personal connection. As a result I am drawn in to the story.

Enough waffle. What does Loveday say on these two pages? She says this:

I marryed Mr. Michell July the 30 1699 on a Sunday att Trinity Chapel (by St James) by Dr Waugh my own sister was with me and his 2 sister ye Eldest & younger his Cos S Michell gave me the Clark and two women was in the Chapel and ye was all

Hee Departed this life for a Better Thursday Aug ye 28 1701 two days before hee was 30 year old hee die off ye smallpox ye ii day att 8 a clock in the Morning att Kinsington Travill to my great affliction L.M: Pibs

I Marryed Col Wheler June ye 8 1707 att St Bs Chapel in Smith-feeld on a Saterday. I had with me my own sister & son S: Michell and Cosein Blake: Cos Betty Sherstone: & Cosein M: Sherstone and hee had his Mother & Sr Benjn. Tichborn: thare was only the Clarke & one Women

To my great Misfortune and everlasting sorrow: I lost ys Husband on ye 3 off Janry 1729-1730 on a Saterday just att 6 a clock in ye Morning on which Day I shall ever lement as long as I live

The spelling and lack of punctuation notwithstanding Loveday's words are easy enough to understand and her feelings stream off the page. [I find I start using old-type language in these situations, ie. "notwithstanding", where did that come from? Same when I read Jane Austen, I'm speaking to D as if he's part of the 19th century!]

Seriously, will our notes and emails be available to future historians centuries from now? And on a practical level we are trying to discover what "Pibs" means.

Comment from G Suffolk: Isn't Loveday a beautiful name. Was that series about a crooked but attractive antique dealer on TV years ago called Loveday? I think so but as a surname.

The handwritten pages are scrumptious I want to write something immediately..............I have included a pick of some stitching done from a diary of a woman who was killed by Trial by Fire because her husband thought she was a changeling. They were done by a Forum member and I put them in this quarters newsletter, by coincidence.

Sue: Fantastic stitchery and I think you mean Lovejoy?

Friday 16th January - Ominous Happenings

I took a walk down the village and the first thing I saw is a "To Let" sign outside the pub. Oh dear. This is the only time in my 32 years here that such a sign has been posted at the pub. The pub has been empty a few times in those years but the lack of landlord has never meant advertising was necessary. I guess there were always enough would-be tenants waiting in the wings to take over. Not so in the present climate. Perhaps Enterprise Inns' website offering to train publicans isn't attracting many.

I continued with my walk and the next thing I came across is a view of the Grange I have never seen before. Usually the house is hiding behind a stout brick wall, but not at the moment.

A section of the wall has collapsed, due no doubt to the very frosty weather we have been having, and the Grange is now protected but visible behind a temporary fence. What an opportunity for a historian! I couldn't resist taking the photo. It would be interesting to know how long the wall has stood and who built it. Since I've been in Chitterne the wall's tendency to bulge in places has been rectified by a local builder, but this is the first time I've seen it right down. What else has 2009 ready to throw at us?

Tuesday 13th January - Heralds of Spring

A few mild days and out pop the early aconites. As always they are in a rush to be the first flowers in our garden of the new year, but in recent years they have been beaten into second place by the Iris. The iris usually win hands down as they often appear in December and even earlier; in one freak year they appeared on November 5th, which is definitely cheating. No signs of Iris this year however, so the aconites have won. The earliest I've seen them was on 1st January 1998 and again in 2001. Last year the remains of the Rose of Sharon swamped them and they struggled to appear at all, but in the Autumn I cut the RoS back to give the aconites a chance and now they are the winners!

Comment from G in Suffolk: Irises out first here, but then got frosted.

Sunday 11th January - I Have Readers!

I am very excited. I've just received the first comment on this blog. It's so good to know there are people out there reading my words, so thank you MA for emailing me your comments.

One of my objectives in starting a local history blog was to be able to pass on all the information that comes my way rather than have it remain in my database unread. With that end in view I'll reprint MA's comments below the two blogs she commented on: "Chitterne - Cornwall Connection" of 16th December 2008 and "Being Hounded" of the 17th December 2008.

Friday 9th January - Plain Frosty

The continuing cold weather may be getting us down but you have to admit that the effects outside are sometimes spectacular. Our village sportsfield for instance, usually so green and mud brown in the winter, but now dusted with frost, has an almost ghostly quality to it. Only the cricket nets on the right serve as a reminder of summer days past, and hopefully of those to come.

Tuesday 6th January - Sun Arise

The sunrise was beautiful this morning, heralding another very cold but sunny day. This picture of the sun coming up over the Clump was taken from indoors - I haven't ventured outside yet! The frozen remains of yesterday's snow still lie treacherously on the ground.

Later, same day...famous last words. The village newsletters arrived as I uploaded the previous bit of blog so I did venture out in the frozen cold after all. It's usually one of my favourite jobs, delivering the Chit Chats and Arrowheads around the village each month, but today it was tempting to stay indoors. Looking on the bright side, at least the sun was shining and there was no wind. By the time I reached the top of Bidden Lane on the first leg I could feel my fingers and toes again and the sun felt really good. By the time St Mary's end of the village was completed, I was looking forward to going out again after a quick lunch to deliver the rest. And did I feel virtuous afterwards!

Sunday 4th January - Mastering the Web

The powers that be in the Home Office are clamouring for the work of parish councils to be more accessible on the web. So the home page of our village website will from today have a new link directly to the parish council web pages. Eventually those web pages will allow members of the public to access all sorts of information about the council, or tell them where it can be accessed. I imagine this will lead to many more village websites, or at least parish council websites, than there are now. And as its quite a while since our website has had any major additions I've had to dip into my Idiot's Guide to Creating Webpages to refresh my memory.

Thursday 1st January 2009 - Moving Out

The pub is being cleared but the landlord is remaining in the village, so there's a glimmer of hope. Tim and Dan were selling my books for me at the pub and doing very well. It all seemed so upbeat back in April, but now many other pubs are going under (36 a week according to one paper). I hear the pub in Sutton Veny has closed, and yet nearby Heytesbury has two pubs. I fear it's going to come down to the survival of the fittest, with constant refurbishment necessary to stave off closure. Even city centre pubs are not immune: the Cathedral Hotel in Salisbury, which was completely re-vamped a few years ago, is now boarded up. But a city can cope much better with the loss of a pub than a little village with only one pub to it's name.

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