Following a piece about me in the May Arrowhead I received a letter from Doug Young of Salisbury. He very kindly sent me a copy of a wedding photograph that he thought might interest me. It was the wedding of Charlie Maidment of Chitterne and Dora Wilkes of Shrewton. Doug had the original larger version of the photo because his mother, Rimmelion (Millie) Young, née Chant, was one of Dora’s bridesmaids. She is seated second left, front row and his father, Charles, is standing far right. But he knew very little about the other people on the photo, apart from the newly married couple, or when and where the wedding took place. In fact he had already driven through Chitterne trying to identify the location of the chapel in the photograph, but with no luck, before writing to me.
How could I resist the challenge? It is just the sort of mystery I enjoy solving for I could see at a glance that the chapel in the photograph was not our old Baptist Chapel in Chitterne. So where was it? Shrewton was a possibility, as Dora’s home village, but after a brief stop at the old Baptist Chapel there, I wasn’t so sure. Where to look next I had no idea, so, although it felt like cheating, there was only one thing for it I would have to renew my acquaintance with Percy and Ivy Maidment, Charlie and Dora’s son and his wife. They had visited Chitterne a few years ago and loaned me a stack of papers concerning Frank Maidment, who was Percy’s grandfather and Charlie’s father. Frank Maidment was a remarkable character, who preached to Baptists in this area for 75 years. He lived in Chitterne, next door to the Baptist Chapel, and ran a bakery, Post Office and General Stores. He was easily identified on the photo as the man with the moustache standing behind Doug’s mother.
A phone call to Winchester resulted in a promise from Ivy to look up the marriage details, and sure enough I soon had the answer. Ivy had found the marriage certificate which gave the date of the wedding as 23 June 1909, and the place as New Baptist Chapel, Sheep Street, Devizes. Devizes? What was Dora doing getting married in Devizes?
As is usual in researching history, one answer can pose another question. I was lucky in that Ivy and Percy are very keen on family research, so as our phonecalls expanded so did my information. It seems that Dora, whose baptismal name was Mary Ann, was living with her sister and brother-in-law in Devizes, where she worked as a dressmaker. Dora’s brother-in-law was a brewery worker and his marriage to Dora’s sister was disapproved of by the Wilkes family, who were strict Baptists and who had subsequently ostracised the Devizes family.
Charlie (Charles Ernest) Maidment and Dora Wilkes were both 26 years old when they married. Charlie was an only child, Dora was the youngest of seven. They had been courting for 6 years while Charlie was an apprenticed grocer in Boscombe near Bournemouth and Dora lived in Devizes. It must have been a real love match, as in order to see Dora, Charlie cycled from Boscombe to Devizes and back. The Maidment family have a large collection of the postcards that the two sent each other almost every day, sometimes twice a day, as there were two deliveries a day in those days. By the time they were married Charlie had his own grocery store in Boscombe and played the organ beautifully at Roseberry Park Baptist Chapel across the road. Their son, Percy, was born 6 years later in 1915. He was 90 last December, and had followed his father and grandfather into the grocery trade.
I wrote to Doug with my findings and received a phone call from him in reply. He too had been researching via his “nonagenarian” cousins and was able to fill in a few more details about the photo. The man standing to the left of Charlie was Willie Chant, Doug’s uncle and Charlie’s best man. Willie’s wife Maggie is seated on the far left of the front row next to Doug’s mother. Doug said she was a Chitterne woman and in my records I found her: Margaret Smith, daughter of Chitterne grocer Jacob Smith who had his shop in Townsend. Willie and Maggie ran the little general store in Tilshead for many years after their marriage.
Doug had said in his original letter that he didn’t want the photo back but that: “there may be some descendants who would like it.” And Ivy had told me that Percy had never seen a photo of his parents wedding, (his mother died in 1943 and his father married again), so I sent the photo to Ivy and Percy who were very pleased. They were able to tell me that the third woman in the front row left hand side was Frank Maidment’s first wife Rose, née Tew, mother of Charlie, whom I had never seen a photo of before. Rose died in 1914 and Frank married a second time in 1925.
And that’s as much as we know so far. I’m hoping readers of Arrowhead may be able to help us identify the other members of the wedding party.