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Lacock: A Most Unique Village

On a summer evening last year I led a free walk around Lacock for the Festival of Archaeology.  It was a showery day and I had my fingers crossed for a dry walk, which unfortunately didn’t work!  We had to shelter at least once while the heavens emptied a torrent on us.  The village is a huge draw for tourists, not just for the Abbey, but also to see the where so many dramas and movies have been filmed, Harry Potter not the least, both in the village and in the Abbey.  What makes Lacock so special?  The newly-revised Pevsner volume on Wiltshire edited by Julian Orbach states that Lacock village is ‘one of the best in the country, compact and without any loss of scale anywhere, and with a wealth of medieval buildings, both apparent and disguised.  The extraordinary degree of preservation is thanks to the Talbot family who owned nearly every house until they gave the estate to the National Trust in 1958’.

Outside 2-5 High Street, Lacock – a range of medieval timber-framed hall houses.  Image credit: Tom Sunley

The village as it stands is said to date substantially from the early 14th century, though there is a documented settlement before then, probably soon after Lacock Abbey was founded in 1229 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, as an Augustinian nunnery.  At the same time she also founded Hinton Charterhouse Priory in Somerset, about 20 miles from here.  Both were in memory of her husband William Longspee, whose tomb can be seen in Salisbury Cathedral.

The village was started soon after the Abbey and is said to have been completed in 1247.  Very little of this original village remains, though there are 13th century fragments of what look to be the very first building on the site inside at King John’s Hunting Lodge in Church Street. Every one of the buildings lining the four core streets are listed, and there are more grade II* buildings than you can shake a stick at, something of a rarity considering the normal rate of development elsewhere.  Here you can see seven centuries of buildings in a 10-minute walk around in a variety of materials: ancient crucks, timber-frame, rubblestone, fine ashlar and brick.  What you won’t see is concrete or anything after about 1926, the date of the extension to the 18th century Red House in Church Street.

Our walk started outside the Red Lion pub, a hostelry dating from just after 1722.  The wide High Street was documented as the first part of the village to be built and was the heart of the village in the 18th century, when the market was held here, and in the impressive 14th century Manor farm barn which is opposite.  The great arched entrance from the High Street is still visible, though it is now long since blocked up. This was not the earliest market place, however. When Lacock was first built the original market was held in the wide open space outside St Cyriac’s church.  The narrowness of Church Street suddenly flares out at the junction with East Street, as the houses step back.  The Abbey was granted a fair in 1237 and a weekly market on Tuesdays in 1242.  At that time the village was bustling not with tourists as now, but with tradesmen such as grocers, dyers, masons, butchers, blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights and more over the centuries.  During the 19th century Lacock had its own workhouse, situated at the east end of Church Street opposite St Cyriac’s.  This became a tanyard by the mid-19th century and a unique drying shed for bark remains, used as part of the tanning process.  The gravelled yard where cars now park was once occupied by tanning pits.  The smell must have been horrific, urine being one of the components of the leather cure.

Though Lacock is small by village standards, it had a pub on every street (the Georgian stone Carpenter’s Arms backs onto East Street); the impressive mellow brick Red Lion in the High Street with its unique semi-circular pediment; the quaint George Inn, licensed since 1361 once using canine slave labour to turn the spit, and the ancient charm of the Sign of the Angel, a very beautiful and impressive stone building of 1480 said to have a priest hole over the arched passageway.

The more you look, the further you realise how rich the architectural heritage of Lacock is, quite apart from the splendour of the Abbey and its environs.  Our walk took an hour and half, and even then, some buildings, remarkable in their own right, were not looked at simply to get around in the time we had.  Lacock’s historic buildings extends further than the four main streets, Cantax Hill, Lover’s Walk, The Wharf and Bowden Hill all have remarkable buildings worth remarking on beyond the scope of this blog.

Dorothy Treasure

Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

In defence of interesting stones

When is a stone not just a stone? – when it is a guard stone, also sometimes known as a glance stone. None the wiser? Don’t worry – I’m not about to try and convince you of these stones’ magical or archaeological properties, etc., but to make you see what is so easily missed in many historic street scenes in both town and country.

Following an interesting article on cornerstones in buildings in the Oxon Recorder Winter 2021 I was inspired to think about cornerstones, and also guard stones, in my home town of Warminster. These occur in a couple of narrow lanes in Warminster town centre and I’ve noted them in passing, but given little thought to what they were doing there.

Guard stones at North Row, Warminster

The Oxon Recorder speculates that these may have had several purposes originally; the most obvious, as observed in the very narrow North Row which leads off the High Street in Warminster, was to prevent traffic striking the walls. Wikipedia describes a guard stone: A guard stone, jostle stone or chasse-roue (French lit. “wheel chaser”), is a projecting metal, concrete, or stone exterior architectural element located at the corner and/or foot of gates, portes-cochères, garage entries, and walls to prevent damage from vehicle tires and wheels. This is also true in Chinn’s Yard on the opposite side of the road. These can be rough local stones just leant against a wall, which over time become set into the asphalt in a road when this is resurfaced. They are unspectacular, and anachronistic in today’s bare, tarmacked roads and lanes.

Guard stone in Chinn’s Yard, Warminster
Guard stone at entrance to Poles Farmyard, Swallowcliffe

They are not only found in narrow passageways, but also in rural settings, such as the guard stone set at the entrance to a farmyard at Poles Farm, Swallowcliffe. Here it is obvious that the guard stone is a reused padstone that once carried a post in an open-fronted building on the site, repurposed to prevent cart-wheels from knocking off the corner of the building. Some houses have curved corners for the very same reason. It is illuminating that as you walk along a pavement and come across a curved corner on a house, that you are looking at a time before the pavement was made, allowing carts and other wheeled traffic to get very close to the building. The very many now-redundant shoe-scrapers built into the walls of historic houses come from this time before modern road surfacing, and indicate how different the roads must have been, especially travelling in foul weather.

It is also suggested that the other projecting stones – cornerstones – are ‘beefing up the land under a corner [of a built structure] to increase stability’ as seems to be the case at the aptly-named Corner Cottage, Frog Lane, Chilmark. Perhaps more rarely, cornerstones can be symbolic in that they indicate a boundary or other significance. An example of this is quoted at the Market Hall in Pembridge, Herefordshire where one of the posts of this structure rests on a previous medieval market cross THE MARKET HALL, Pembridge – 1081729 | Historic England . Whether this is a conscious reuse to indicate continuity of a site, or merely convenience cannot be established. So many customary practices were not necessarily passed down in print, but by unwritten tradition.

Where guard/glance stones occur in Conservation Areas they are presumably protected as one of the features that make a place unique. However, Google Conservation Areas and guard stones together and nothing comes up. Does this mean they have received no special consideration? They were no doubt as useful as bollards, walls, posts, or any other more obvious street furniture, but their literally lowly status seems to have made them almost invisible. Maybe it is time to look down and note where guard stones occur, and try to record them systematically before they disappear when a road is resurfaced.

Dorothy Treasure, Principal Buildings Historian

Wiltshire Buildings Record

On a Brambly Ridge near Dilton Marsh

About two miles north of Dilton Marsh is the ancient manor house of Bremeridge, which we were fortunate to be able to visit a month or so ago. It was once one of the smaller manors that made up the parish of Westbury. Its settlement dates from at least the late 12th century, and a hoard of gold nobles of Edward III (1327-77), Richard II (1377-99) and others were found outside the back door in 1877. It has a commanding view from its ‘brambly ridge’ of the valley north towards Fairwood and Rudge on the Somerset border.

The National Heritage List for England suggested this was an altered 18th century house, which its exterior features indicated. The only clue to its far more ancient beginnings were its monumental double-skin studded door, worthy of any church. As we looked, we realised that this door was still attached to a vestige of timber-framing that survived after the house was rebuilt in the late 18th century. As we looked deeper, we realised that buried within this substantial building was an original three-bay timber-framed yeoman farmhouse; deeply-chamfered beams, and the original through-passage could all be seen and deciphered in the original plan. It was in the roof that the whole story of the house was told, as it so often was.

At one end of the long range was the remains of a cranked collar and tie beam truss roof with angled struts, rather in the manner of goats’ horns. This was an indication that we were probably dealing with a house of the second half of the 16th century. Incidentally, in urban areas such as Salisbury the same kind of roof would not be seen after 1550. It is recognised that a time-lag effect operates whereby new fashions in building are often introduced in cities or other important sites, percolating down to towns and then villages and hamlets in due course. Here we speculate that the farmhouse, long in the ownership of Edington Priory, was rebuilt for a new owner some time after the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541.

This ancient farmhouse must have looked very picturesque with its old, studded door, but the story in the roof tells us that in the later 18th century there was a disastrous fire. One charred roof truss in the centre of the house must have backed onto the timber fireplace (yes, a timber-framed fireplace! Though covered in fire-retardant lime plaster on the inside – they weren’t that stupid!). The top part of the truss had burnt away and was supported, strutted and braced in a later 18th century manner, which tells us when this must have happened.

Timber-framed fireplaces were usual before about 1600 and accidental fires were a regular occurrence. In a town or city they could change the landscape forever, such as at Marlborough where the great fire of 1653 burnt down 244 houses. Other notable fires occurred at Ramsbury (1648), Hindon (1754), Heytesbury (1765) and Colerne (1774) and no town or village ever escaped unscathed.

An estate plan of Dilton Marsh dated 1852 ref 3809/1/1

Out of the ashes rose the present stone house, and the opportunity was taken a few years later to extend and redevelop it on more comfortable lines. The descent of the manor was also varied; it was kicked around as an investment football between speculators until it was bought in 1867 by Charles Phipps of Chalcot House nearby. Prior to that in 1852 William Stancomb, a local worthy and Victorian wheeler-dealer (his descendant’s description – not mine) owned Bremeridge, and sold a great chunk of its lands to the Great Western Railway. The sound of trains clearly drifts up the ridge to the house today, where it is on its own journey into the future as a comfortable and characterful family home.

Dorothy Treasure, Principal Buildings Historian
Wiltshire Buildings Record

The Fortunes of a Wiltshire Parish Rectory

Stratford Tony is a small village 4 ½ miles from Salisbury. The river Ebble flows through it, and the line of the ancient Roman road known as ‘Icknield Street’ passes close on the west side of the village. The most notable occupant of Stratford Tony was the impressionist painter Wilfrid de Glehn, who lived at the Manor House from 1942 until his death in 1951. The population now only amounts to around 50 people.

Last year Wiltshire Buildings Record was asked to investigate the old rectory, now a private house. The house presented a decorous early Georgian front with views across the lawns to the river below. As ever, we looked beyond the polite elevation to the hidden corners and roof spaces to reveal a very different story. Remains of a c1500 timber-frame were found embedded in replacement stone walls and in the roof which suggested that this was a much more humble farmhouse. Grabbed by the intrigue glands, our researcher Louise did what she does best, which is to squirrel out those hidden facts embedded in layers of old parchment. It turns out that it was quite possibly a grange farm for the Abbey of Lyra in Normandy (nothing to do with His Dark Materials or the constellation of stars!) and then the Priory of Sheen in Richmond, London.

Its transformation to posh rectory happened in the later 16th century when Lawrence Hyde acquired the advowson (the right to recommend a clergyman to a ‘living’ in the parish) from the Crown in 1560. Lawrence Hyde was part of the influential Hyde family of Wiltshire, he had benefitted greatly from the acquisition of land and property following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He held a lease from William Earl of Pembroke, of Wardour Castle and Park around the time he was granted the advowson at Stratford Tony. Members of the Hyde family held it for over 126 years up to 1686, when it then transferred to Edward Fawconer of Sarum.

By 1671 the glebe terrier noted a substantial rectory house comprising …A mansion house, a brew house, a wood house, a barn, a stable, a fodder house besides some skillings (cowsheds), an orchard, 2 gardens…. Lawrence and his son Robert Hyde installed three members of their own family as clerks at Stratford Tony. It is very likely, the patronage of the Hyde family resulted in substantial investment in the parsonage house, including the addition of a smart Georgian wing. This was extended further in 1791 by Reverend Stockwell, the rector at that time, who commemorated it with a datestone.

The rectory fell out of use in 1923 when the benefice was merged with that of Bishopstone and became a private house. The first lay owner, a major Collison implemented a transformation which was very typical for its time. Distinct fashions occurred at different periods, and for the humble farmhouse a ‘gentrification’ was inevitably made in the later 18th century/early 19th century period followed in the second half of the 19th century and earlier 20th century by a ‘rustication’, part of the Arts and Crafts movement, which undid all the first effort and put back a pre-Georgian type of interior. This trend was replicated in middle-class homes everywhere in Wiltshire and Wiltshire Buildings Record has seen and recorded many such schemes, some overseen by architects such as at Jesses, Dinton where the architect was known to be Biddulph-Pinchard, and some by local builders, very likely implementing the ideas of the owners themselves, and no doubt accommodating finds from reclamation yards and demolished houses. The old rectory at Stratford Tony was no exception, and any elegant fireplaces, plasterwork and dado rails were done away with in favour of dark 17th century panelling and a reproduction fireplace.

Thus it is that most houses are a very pleasing and individual mix of styles reflecting their owners fashion and fortunes. Of course we can only speculate from known examples what some houses looked like in the past, as one scheme may obliterate partly or wholly the previous scheme in a phenomenon noted by Pam Slocombe as ‘alternate rebuilding’.

Dorothy Treasure
Principal Buildings Historian, Witshire Buildings Record

Wonderful Warminster – the Warminster Buildings History Project

Warminster is a market town lying in close proximity to Salisbury Plain. Its history starts with the discovery of two Roman villas at Pit Mead, Bishopstrow. In Anglo-Saxon times it was a royal estate and residence, but it was not until the 13th century that it began to develop into the town we know now.

The earliest settlement was likely around the parish church of St Denys and nearby Manor House (now embedded within Manor Gardens), but nothing else survives. The town grew east from the site of the old Emwell Cross, an open space which tradition says was an old market site originally and now contains a grade II* stone obelisk commemorating the enclosure of the parish in 1783. At that time the eastern limit of the town was at the junction of George Street and High Street. In the early 13th century the ‘market of Warminster’ with a shop ‘covered in stone’ appears to have been a separate area based around the chapel of St Lawrence, a chapel-of-ease for St Denys (the Minster) which had become isolated on the north-west fringes of the town.

Very little is known about the medieval development of the town apart from the mention of houses in Church Street, High Street, West Street and Portway, and until fairly recently, only hints of older buildings behind later fronts have been coming to light. During inspection and recording when town centre buildings are redeveloped, more evidence has been uncovered of the survival of early fabric that could be medieval or early modern.

The drawing dates to before 1832 and shows the Old Ship Inn on the site of the junction between the High Street and the Close. The old town hall stands next to it. Note the stocks! Both buildings are now gone.

Historic England have long understood that there is more to many ordinary or modern-looking towns than meets the eye and are actively fostering groups to uncover their history through the physical fabric of bricks, mortar and timber. It has recently been discovered that the row of buildings between the Athenaeum in the High Street and North Row contain the substantial remains of jettied timber-framed houses, probably shop-houses of the late medieval/early modern period. No. 16 (Bon Bon Chic) was dated to 1513 in 2014. No. 6 High Street (Café Journal) was found to date between 1499 and 1531. Cordens (no. 4 High Street) is likely to be the oldest in the row from architectural details evident. Fragments of earlier buildings have been uncovered at the Bath Arms (now Wetherspoons) and 32 Market Place (Coates and Parker) which hint at the type of buildings that preceded the present shops.

Warminster has been underappreciated as a town in architectural terms. Wiltshire Buildings Record is hoping to bring out knowledge of exactly how Warminster is unique and special, and this should foster greater interest in our town. Thanks should be given to the Warminster Preservation Trust who have kindly donated £2,000 so we can kick this project off with dating some key buildings using dendrochronology. Watch this space!

Dorothy Treasure
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

A Bratton Wool Loft?

Wiltshire Buildings Record held its 40th AGM in Bratton on the 22nd June 2019. The weather was beautiful and a miraculous interlude in a succession of grey, stuffy days that had come before. After the business meeting Mike Manson of the Bratton History Association (BHA) gave us a presentation on the origins and development of Bratton, which was apparently once three separate settlements.

The wealth of fine houses hidden down picturesque lanes were derived from the woollen industry in the 17th and 18th centuries.  West Wiltshire was dominated by a small group of entrepreneurs who controlled the woollen industry as landholders, buyers and employers. The most prominent family in Bratton and Westbury was the Whitakers; wool merchants whose impressive home was the Courthouse in Court Lane, dating from the medieval period and onwards.

Iron replaced wool in the 19th century, as Dennis Gardner, another BHA member explained in a separate presentation. Reeves ironworks produced agricultural machinery and was the largest employer in Bratton until the early 20th century.

Fuelled by much cake and tea, we went out down a positive rabbit-warren of unexpected leafy lanes, guided by Mike. Owners of houses were moved to come out and investigate at the sight of a large bunch of strangers all staring steadily in their direction. All were friendly though, and a mine of information.

Much of the timber-framing we saw appeared to be 17th century, or 17th century improvements of earlier buildings. In at least two cases this included a chute at the front, possibly to load fleeces directly into a wool loft at the top of a house (as found in a WBR recording of Court Lane farmhouse a few years back).  There was much speculation over this, with the conclusion that many villages had their own peculiarity in building, influenced by the prevailing economic activity. In Bratton’s case this being its woollen industry in the 17th century and possibly later. As usual though, more research is needed to prove this link.

Dorothy Treasure

Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

An Ancient Hall in Swindon

During a visit to Cricklade I was asked to pop in to see a cottage in Swindon. This cottage and another similar one nearby were all that were left of an ancient hamlet and were now surrounded by modern houses, giving a very suburban flavour to the area. The cottage had once been a prosperous farm but was subsequently divided into two cottages, a not unusual development for a farmhouse in the 19th century.
On the ground floor were two original rooms, the core of the cottage before it was extended. A heavy 17th century beam ran from the gable end fireplace to the cross wall and this immediately aroused my interest; when an open medieval hall with a central hearth is floored over, the beam supporting it often has one end lodged in the chimney breast, which is added at the same time.
By the time I got to the first floor I was excited to see the start of a heavily-plastered cruck blade with arched brace of what must have been a hall truss emerging from the stone wall, and disappearing through the ceiling. Crucks are a very distinctive form of timber-framing not seen in Wiltshire after about 1530: our dendrochronology project is collecting data on this very subject. Barely containing myself, I arrived at the attic floor via a steep, winding stair to be confronted with the massive and heavily smoke-blackened top parts of a 14th century roof. There were two main frames complete with characteristically skinny wind-braces, some original chunky rafters, and smoke-blackened battens, though the thatch had been replaced.

Image: Apex of one of the smoke-encrusted cruck trusses

The timbers had been cut about to allow circulation within the attic space, but originally the impressive cruck frames would have been only viewed from the ground. To get some idea of what a medieval dwelling house would have been like when built, go into an old tithe barn such as that at Lacock or Bradford-on-Avon and be impressed by the sheer scale and size of the timbers and height to the roof. A farmhouse would have been smaller, but still impressive. The hall truss over the open fire would have been the most decorative, with chamfered bracing, parts of which remain. In the 17th century the old hall was clad in stone, hiding or replacing the original timber-framing and its wattle-and-daub panels. Houses like this had to change with the times to stay useful, or be replaced. I suspect there are many more hidden medieval halls out there just waiting to be discovered, even in the most unlikely places!

Dorothy Treasure, Wiltshire Buildings Record

 

 

Westbury Leigh Baptist Chapel

Late last year Wiltshire Buildings Record was asked to look at Westbury Leigh Baptist Chapel. Now lying empty, this was the first of two Baptist chapels to be established in Westbury Leigh, an ancient village now within the town boundaries of Westbury. As there was no Anglican church until 1880, the Baptist church was the established church in the village, having a strong nonconformist tradition encouraged by the Baptist stronghold in Southwick.

Stephen Self, a clothier, allowed the use of a barn, called ‘Self’s Barn’ near his dwelling house in Leigh as a meeting place for Baptists after 1693. According to William Doel in his book, ‘Twenty Golden Candlesticks!’ they continued to worship until 1714, when Mr Self converted the barn into a chapel, fitting it up with seats, galleries & c. This barn stood on part of the site of the present chapel, the freehold of which belonged to Granville Wheeler Esq.

By 1796 the congregation had so increased as to make it necessary to build a new Chapel. A meeting was held and a resolution passed to undertake the work, which was carried out at a total cost of £1,361. The new chapel was able to accommodate five hundred people, which gives an idea of the many devout souls in Westbury Leigh alone, not counting those in the main town of Westbury!

The interior was equally impressive, with ranks of dark wood pews on the ground and first floor gallery, with a grand organ and pipes over the entrance. In front of the raised minister’s desk was in effect, a small swimming pool designed for total immersion baptisms – I only hope the water was warm! Each pew had a small metal bracket which puzzled me until one of our recording team informed me that the congregation would all swig back a small glass of wine at the same time at a certain point in the proceedings.

In all this faded grandeur was a very human touch – a pew-back covered in the graffiti of small boys whose duty was to pump the organ handle until the introduction of electricity for this purpose in 1956.

Dorothy Treasure
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

Corsham High Street Project Update

On Friday 28th September Helen Winton and I gave a talk to the Corsham Civic Society at the Pound Arts Centre. Helen outlined how many fine 17th and 18th century stone houses there are in the High Street resulting from the wealth generated by the cloth trade. John Leland, when he visited in 1541 described ‘Cosham’ as ‘a good uplandisch toun’, which suggests that it was a thriving place even then. But what remains of this earlier town, if anything? Corsham seems to have sprung fully-formed in stone with no apparent trace of timber-framing.

Smoke encrusted roof truss at 11 High Street

After Helen had comprehensively set the scene, my half of the talk concentrated on a case study; a pilot study just to examine the potential for earlier building in the town. No.11 High Street is a stone building at the south end of the High Street listed as being later 17th century, now housing an optician. The opportunity to study this building came during re-roofing works. Larry La Croix of the project was given permission to clamber up the scaffolding to photograph the nooks and crannies of the roof – a position which was to prove extremely fortuitous as the remains of two separate smoke-blackened roofs, perhaps of the 15th century were revealed. The sooting had come from an open hearth of a once timber-framed building.

None of this early structure is visible from the outside, now encased in stone, or the ground floor so we were very lucky to get this evidence. Helen Winton was also able to look at another High Street house and also reported smoke-blackening in its roof. We await the outcome of the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore further. If you would like to support this project by volunteering we would love to have you. Contact me on dorothy.treasure@wiltshire.gov.uk or come in for a chat at the History Centre on a Tuesday.
Dorothy Treasure
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record

Deadly Game: death of a poacher at Red Lodge Farm

Wiltshire Buildings Record was asked to look at Red Lodge Farmhouse, Braydon. This was a farm created in the mid-17th century out of the royal forest of Braydon, which had formerly been a royal hunting ground. The house is of great interest and reflects changing ownership over time until the 20th century, as does almost every house we look at. This time, however, it was a very human tragedy that took our attention in particular.


Andrews and Dury 1773 map

By sheer coincidence I was on my way there and had called into another farm at Brinkworth nearby. When I mentioned my destination, the farmer exclaimed that his great, great uncle, Hezekiah Matthews, had been killed as a poacher at Red Lodge in 1882, and gave me a transcript of the poor man’s inquest.

Hezekiah Matthews had been one of a group of poachers, all cousins from Brinkworth, who were looking to bag something for the pot on the night of 27th December 1882. Because of previous incidents, a watching party consisting of the Neeld Estate head keeper, William Collins, Henry Reeves, Henry John Reeves, Thomas Reeves, and three others ambushed them, and after a struggle, apprehended them. Unfortunately, two of the keeper’s party were accidentally shot, and Hezekiah Matthews received a blow to the head. They were all taken off to Red Lodge Farmhouse to await the doctor and the police, who were coming from Purton.

The following is taken from an account of the inquest in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette dated 15th February 1883:
‘The doctor found nothing serious, and the three prisoners were conveyed later on to Cricklade, to be taken before a justice of the peace for the purpose of a remand. Before arriving at Cricklade, Hezekiah, who had spoken but little since the capture, showed alarming symptoms, and when Cricklade was reached he was taken to Dr. Langley, who made a minute examination, and finding his condition precarious, suggested his removal to the Purton Cottage Hospital. He was accordingly conveyed thither, but died shortly after his admission, not having recovered consciousness since his arrival.’

An inquest was heard to determine the cause of death. Henry Reeves was found to have delivered the fatal blow, but was himself at Purton Cottage Hospital, having been one of those who had been shot. The inquest was adjourned until the following February to allow Reeves to recover so he could attend. After hearing all sides, the jury returned the verdict:
“That Hezekiah Matthews was feloniously killed by Henry John Reeves striking the deceased upon the head with a bludgeon in Braydon woods.” The verdict having been accordingly given, the Coroner made out a warrant for the commitment of Henry John Reeves on a charge of manslaughter.

Needless to say, the current owners of the farmhouse had no idea of the dramatic events that had been played out in their very living room 130-odd years ago.

Dorothy Treasure
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record