The History of The Round House - Chitterne

Round House - The Filming

The History Roadshow

On 14th April 2000 Mandy and I went along to a History Roadshow at Warminster Library organised by Mike Marshman, to try and see the House Expert. Little did we know what would result from that little trip.

We had been warned beforehand that TV cameras would be there, so we decided to arrive when the session was well under way, and the filming over, as I thought, but that didn't work! The TV crew were going to film the lady in the queue ahead of us but they got held up filming someone else at one of the other tables, so it turned out to be us.

There were eight experts all dotted around the museum part of the library dealing with the various people who had queued to see them, as the TV crew moved from expert to expert.

We started talking to the house expert lady, then this young man came up and asked if we minded being filmed, what do you say, couldn't be churlish and refuse. So they all came over and listened in for a bit. I showed her the photos of the house and explained that I didn't think it was a tollhouse because there is no door on the roadside. She thought the door could have been blocked up or turned into a window and the alteration covered by render.

The discussion moved onto turnpike roads and the Archive Expert was called from across the room to talk about that. The trouble was he told me how I could go to Trowbridge and look up all this in the archives, which I'd already done, but I couldn't say that because we were being filmed and it would have ruined the point of the discussion. So I had to pretend it was all news to me and tell him afterwards that I'd done all that already.

When we were talking amongst ourselves, the interviewer asked some questions about what was it like to live in a round house, and they liked that bit so we had to do it all over again for the camera.

At the end we were asked to sign disclaimers. A few weeks later I heard that our clip was not required, and I heaved a large sigh of relief.

Filming at the Round House

Then, out of the blue, another phone call from Available Light Productions Limited, as I now found they were called, and a request. They would be using our clip after all and would we allow them to film a follow-up story about the Round House for a TV series to be called The History Trail they were making for HTV? I said, yes, of course, finding it impossible to refuse the courteous young gentleman on the other end of the line. A date was set for the middle of June, but that was later changed to the end of May.

Soon after, I started having misgivings and imagining all sorts of awful scenarios, being a no-TV family and cynical about it to boot. As it turned out I need not have worried.

The filming was scheduled for two mornings, on the 30th and the 31st of May, but instead of taking half a day as expected, the first day took from 9.30 am to 5 pm, and the second from 9.30 am to 7 pm. It seems to be a standing joke in the industry, the amount of time you expect the filming to take, versus the amount it actually takes, ie 10 minutes in TV time is at least an hour, and I am quoting the researcher.

There was a director, a researcher cum director’s right hand man, a cameraman, a sound man, an interviewer called John, who is a local historian and the buildings expert lady from the roadshow, Dorothy. So, quite a crowd, but they all got on very well together, and with us. Mandy was involved, Dave hid in his office, and so everything went smoothly, if slowly.

They filmed outside first, across the road where we were to finally lay to rest the spectre of the tollhouse. We were in the little lay-by at the bottom of the hill, on the corner, at the entrance to the Hollow. We proved to be an attraction for all the traffic passing through. The cameraman manhandling his camera on his shoulder (they're extremely heavy, I lifted it, and worth £30000 to £40000, so he guarded it with his life), the soundman waving his big fluffy mike on a stick around and the three of us grouped close together looking at a print of an old map. We had to wait for the clouds to pass over at one point, as we'd started filming in the sun, and later for a helicopter. John thought the little building marked on the old map was a sort of toll booth, at the junction of the old road and the turnpike, right where we were standing. Dorothy said the round end of the house is much too grand for a toll keeper's house anyway.

The weirdest bit was in the round loft. They wanted to film us coming up the ladder into the loft. Three of us, me, John and Dorothy, so they had all the camera equipment set up in one corner, the director lying full-length on the very dusty floor and the soundman in another corner, all squashed into tiny spaces between our clutter. We had to do that three times. Dorothy pronounced that there had indeed been another floor above the bottom two, between 1815 when the round end was built and 1882 when we think the top floor was taken down and the roof lowered. We still don't know why or what it was used for. Except that we now know that Charles Morris, who lived here then, was a navy man and later a Colonial Agent, so the local story about it being built in the shape of a ship may be true.

They filmed us in the sitting room, going up the stairs, and the worst bit for me was the entrance into our bedroom. There they all were lined up beyond our bed, and we were supposed to come into the room, me first, and I was simply supposed to say "this is our bedroom", only I couldn't do it. I found it impossible to imagine it was the first time, and they were being so kind, I felt that I was letting them down.

Mandy was filmed in front of her computer, with this web site on the screen, working her magic, (as far as I am concerned), on the contents.

Tuesday's filming is to be screened after Wednesday's, so I am writing this in the right order even though that's not how it was filmed. This meant we had to be very careful what we said because there were things we were not supposed to know yet.

Filming at the Record Office Trowbridge

So, on Tuesday at the Record Office, Dorothy was not there but Chris was, a family history expert. All the others were the same, plus me and Mandy.

John had been doing lots of research and he had thoughtfully kept me in the dark so that I was genuinely surprised when he presented me with his findings. Except that that didn't work on the second, third and fourth takes.
He had found a document showing that the round end was built in 1814-15, which I had not known before. (So Dorothy was forbidden to mention those dates when we were in the loft filming as supposedly, we had yet to discover that). Also that the leaseholder before Charles Morris was his brother Joseph.

Then Chris showed me the 1841 census, which I hadn't studied before and on that we found that Charles Morris was a Colonial Agent. This still smacks of slave trading to my mind. If his mother was the daughter of a senator of Barbados, I wonder what his father was?

With that thought buzzing in my head we left at about 4.30pm.

The whole episode was very interesting, and my research was propelled forward at a rate of knots, thanks to the hard work of John, Dorothy and Chris. I have had to revise my opinion of TV people quite drastically after this experience. Everyone in the crew was kind, considerate, patient and friendly. They worked hard and with dedication and even awkward situations, such as the loft, were tackled with such tremendous good humour that all my misgivings melted away. So thank you Hamish, Francis, Pete and Andy, it was a pleasure working with you.

To see the result of the endeavour watch:-

The History Trail made for HTV by Available Light Productions Ltd. of Bristol. Six programmes were screened on Tuesday evenings from 22 August 2000 at 7:30pm, the Warminster programme was shown on the 29th August.