Chitterne Now and Then
Blog Archive - February 2014

Tuesday 25th February 2014 - Death of Two Johns

This month we have lost two of our oldest villagers, both named John. John Harris who died earlier this month and was buried yesterday, and John Strawson who died last Friday the 21st February. Both men were over 90 years of age.

John Harris was a retired automobile engineer and former proprietor of Goddard's garage in Salisbury. He retained an interest in several automotive companies until his death. John and his second wife Barbara moved to Chitterne in 1987. Sadly Barbara died eight years later in 1995 and was buried in St Mary's Chancel graveyard. John was buried in the same grave yesterday.

John had two sons from his first marriage to Ursula Joan Onslow. I was lucky enough to meet up with Richard, the younger of the two, and his father a few years ago when Richard contacted me to ask about his mother's relationship to the Chitterne Onslows. I doubt if I was much help because the Onslow family proved to be difficult to fathom and I have little expertise in family history.

Hengar Manor - now a holiday park

Ursula Onslow was the daughter of Sir Richard Onslow who shot himself in the family home at Hengar, Cornwall in 1931. Somehow or other these Onslows are connected to the cornish Onslows that married into the Michell family of Chitterne and are represented in All Saints graveyard here by the monument to Sir Henry Onslow and by the Onslow Michell vault. Sir Henry, who died in 1853 was the son of Admiral Sir Richard Onslow and Anne Michell, daughter of Commodore Matthew Michell of Chitterne House. The name Richard seems to appear regularly in the Onslow family.

Sunday 9th February 2014 - Flood Matters

With ground water rising yet again in Chitterne I think I need to revise the first statement of my last blog: 2014 will go down in village records as the year of the two floods. At the Round House we had not experienced a double dose of flooding before, but according to AS it does happen, especially when the ground water level has risen earlier than usual. Usually it rises in the month of February. This time it rose at the end of December 2013.

Interestingly, and allied to the flood problems, I was recently given a letter for the village archive dated 10 September 1987 from the head of Engineering and Operations at Wessex Water to the late Allan Bolton, former villager. This letter was written in response to a letter Allan had sent them asking if they might be prepared to pump water from the new pumping station into the Chitterne Brook to maintain a flow at times when it would otherwise be dry.

Wessex Water Pumping Station at Chitterne

Allan Bolton was a newcomer to Chitterne in 1987 otherwise he would have known that the Chitterne Brook is a winterbourne and, as Wessex Water replied, that

"...there would be considerable difficulty in artificially maintaining a flow in the Chitterne Brook. The natural water table fluctuates by 50 feet or more seasonally and can fall to between 30 and 50 feet below the stream bed by the end of summer in Chitterne.The stream bed is extrmemly permeable and unless the stream was lined any water pumped into it would disappear within a very short distance. It would therefore be necessary to line the stream bed but, bearing in mind the pressure from rising springs in the winter, lining of the bed would be difficult and would reduce the input to the river from groundwater during those periods."

Chitterne Brook dry in Summer

The letter also informs us about the abstraction licence for the Chitterne source, which was granted in 1973. Before it was granted a comprehensive hydrological and scientific investigation was undertaken by the former West Wilts Water Authority and the Avon and Dorset River Authority. The results were independently assessed by the Water Resources Board, a national body with considerable expertise in water resources schemes throughout the country.

The licence covers abstraction at both Codford and Chitterne. At Chitterne it authorises abstraction during the period 15 April to 30 November and over the remainder of the year, subject to certain conditions, at a source at Codford. It goes on:

"The concept is therefore for Chitterne to be used on a seasonal basis only and for abstraction during the winter to take place at Codford. In formulating these proposals the River Authority would have regard to the rapid rise and fall of the springs feeding the Chitterne Brook and the fact that the brook dries naturally each year throughout its length, sometimes for many months at a time."

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