Author: Aldbourne Archive

Aldbourne in Art

In May 2020 Art UK set up Curations, an on-line tool that allows anyone to curate their own group of artworks. This provided me with a great opportunity to gather art inspired by our village, the people and the surrounding landscape.

Click on the image ‘Cottages at Aldbourne’ by Ambrose McEvoy to see my Curations gallery

‘Cottages at Aldbourne’ by Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927) Birmingham Museums Trust an Art UK Founder Partner

My gallery is a work in progress, because together with the obvious works, where Aldbourne features in the title or description, I have gathered several that have a connection with the village in some other way.

For example, ‘Silver and Grey’ by Ambrose McEvoy – his portrait of Gwen, his sister-in-law and wife of playwright Charles McEvoy (1915). So painted five years after ‘The Village Wedding’ took to the stage at the Malt House, Aldbourne.

Other notables are H.J.P ‘Jimmy’ Bomford of Laines, who presented artworks that helped establish Swindon’s renowned collection of modern British art, including ‘Composition’ by Jankel Adler, who lived in Castle Street. More about Mr Bomford will follow, with links to Swindon Museum & Art Gallery and Art on Tour 2020.

Also in the collection are Thomas and Ruth Lowinsky who arrived at the Old Rectory, Aldbourne in 1945. The curated works include a painting presented to the National Gallery in remembrance of their son, Lt. T.M.F.E. Lowinsky, killed at Anzio in 1944.

There’s always the chance that other village connections will surface!

My plan is to branch out towards other on-line collections and projects; such as ‘Water Colour World’ and ‘Creative Wiltshire’ – so more soon!

The Somme – Aldbourne Fallen

Over 100 years ago the landscape pictured below was a scene of devastation. When Phil Comley sent me this photo in 2016, ready for an article in our parish magazine, he commented, ‘you can see how they were reminded of home’.

I’ve never visited the battlefields myself, nor have I conducted the in-depth level of research that Phil has undertaken over the years; all thanks to him that we can record names and histories here.

Somme Battlefields 2016 Photo: Phil Comley

Yesterday, I walked along a field margin lined with poppies in Shipley Bottom (just down from the Ridgeway National Trail along the Swindon Road) The landscape reminded me vividly of the modern images of the battlefields of the Somme.

Wiltshire landscape Photo 2020: Jo Hutchings

At 0730 hours on 1st July 1916, the shrill sound of whistles pierced the air along the 18 miles of British front line trenches on the Somme signalling the start of a 5 month joint British and French offensive. The aim was to relieve the pressure on the French Army fighting at Verdun, while stretching and weakening the German Army to breaking point. In the subsequent fighting well over a million men from all sides lay dead and wounded and despite making an overall gain of 6 miles, the Allies were unable to break the German line and the war continued for a further 2 years.

The first day of The Somme has become the stuff of myth and legend and is best remembered for the lost generations of young men, many from the Northern ‘Pals’ Battalions, who went ‘over the top’ and walked into a hail of machine gun bullets and searing shell fragments. In the ensuing chaos and amid suffocating clouds of dust and smoke, many of these men disappeared forever and to this day, still lie where they fell. Of the 100,000 British soldiers who went ‘over the top’ on that hazy sunny morning, 19,240 were killed outright with a further 38,230 wounded, sick or captured. Staggeringly 60% of the officers who led their men into the maelstrom of bombs and bullets were killed on that fateful day.

So, what became of the village boys who were there? Having survived the first few days relatively unscathed but it wasn’t long before the Somme took Aldbourne in a vice like grip leaving many families broken and devastated.

22905 Pte Edwin John Sampson of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment was the first to die. He was killed in action 6th July 1916 at the Leipzig Salient near Thiepval after the Germans unleashed a day-long barrage of shrapnel shells, trench mortars and rifle grenade fire. At just 17 years old Edwin was dead. Not only was he underage but he had only been at the front for a mere 3 weeks. In the ensuing fighting, his body was lost and he has no known grave.

Just 5 months later on 18th November 1916, his brother 8589 Pte Arthur William Sampson of the 97th Machine Gun Corps was killed. Tragically his death was ‘presumed’ meaning he simply disappeared without a trace. Arthur was 19 years old and echoing his brother demise, has no known grave. The teenage boys were the sons of William and Emily Sampson of Beaconsfield Cottages on The Green.

18311 Pte Thomas Cox of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action 8th July 1916 in the vicinity of Bernafay or Trones Wood. The 2/Wilts tucked in behind the Yorkshire Regiment, were held up by dense, impenetrable undergrowth and they soon became disorientated. They had been tasked with attacking Maltz Horn Trench but on leaving Trones Wood at the South Eastern tip, they were cut down by withering machine gun fire and pounded by German artillery. Thomas was 39 and listed as a resident of Aldbourne by ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ but neither the Memorial Hall or the Church Memorial Plaque bears his name. He has no known grave.

The next to fall was 19855 Pte Robert Edward Hawkins of the 8th Devonshire Regiment. His death was ‘regarded’ as being on 20th July 1916 during a night time assault on Bazentin Ridge, but again, nobody really knows for sure. Robert was 20 years old and the son of Henry and Emma Hawkins of The Butts. He has no known grave. By a cruel twist of fate, his brother 19283 Pte Frederick Thomas (Tom) Hawkins died just 8 days later in Mesopotamia while serving with the 5th Wiltshire Regiment. To lose one son is tragic but to lose two within a week of each other is unimaginable.

2361 Pte Oscar Cook of the 28th Australian Imperial Force was the next to die and he was killed in action on 29th July 1916. Oscar was 23 years old and has no known grave, his brothers Albert and Henry also died during the war. All were the sons of Charles and Annette Cook of Castle Street.

3/9223 Sjt Charles Haddon Cozens of ‘C’ Company, 1st Wiltshire Regiment died of wounds 13th September 1916 at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford. Upon his return to the UK he became gravely ill and soon faded away. He is buried in a civilian grave in Bourton Churchyard near Bishopstone. Charles was born at Lower Upham in 1892 but his name is not listed on either of the Aldbourne memorials.

19121 Pte Thomas George Tilley of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action 18th October 1916 in or around Flers Trench in Courcelette. He was 23 years old and the son of George and Ruth Tilley of Aldbourne Warren. In return for losing his son, his father received a gratuity of £2 16s and 8d from the War Office. Thomas has no known grave and is not listed on either of the Aldbourne memorials.

On 3rd November 1916, 21234 Pte William Thomas Dew of ‘C’ Company, the 6th Wiltshire Regiment was killed by artillery fire in the trenches near Albert. William was one of 13 killed on the day with a further 43 wounded and 1 missing. He was 23 years old and the son of John and Annie Dew of Lottage Road. He has no known grave.

745A Pte John Harold Liddiard of the 7th Australian Imperial Force was killed in action on 6th November 1916. Although born in Aldbourne in 1891 he had emigrated to Mildura, Australia where he worked as a farmer. He was 25 years old and has no known grave.

Although the Battle of the Somme officially ended on 18th November 1916, the fighting in this area continued long after this date. Therefore, this list includes one more name.

18594 Acting Cpl Frederick Woolford of the 6th Wiltshire Regiment was killed in action on 21st November 1916 in the trenches near Aveluy. Frederick was 24 years old and the son of Ambrose and Sarah Woolford of Clay Pond Cottage. Interestingly a memorial service was held in his honour 14th March 1917 suggesting news of his death took some time to filter through. His body was never recovered and he has no known grave.

Tragically the vast majority of the men listed above have no known grave. Seven are commemorated among the 72,000 names on the Thiepval memorial dedicated to the missing whilst another two are named alongside the 10,890 others on the Australian Memorial at Villers- Brettoneux. The numbers on these memorials do not include those soldiers whose bodies were recovered, named and given an official burial.

Author – Phil Comley (Dabchick Magazine October 2016)

Yellow Flags with a Royal Connection?

By the pond, Aldbourne – May 2020

Look out in May for yellow iris around the pond in Aldbourne. They make a real splash of colour, together with the pink blossom of the horse-chestnut trees. This year at about the time they first appeared, I spotted a fascinating article by Karen Andrews (aka ‘Botany Karen’) setting out some other common names for this flower; including ‘Yellow Flags’. You can read Karen’s full article here. Karen connects to a 14th century tile in the Louvre, which reminded me of six tiles of a similar age found in Aldbourne and now in the British Museum. I’m not sure when these tiles were found, but it may have been sometime in the 19th century. There’s a mention of ‘medieval tiles’ as part of Mr Walter Lawrence’s collection, proudly displayed at the Crown to visiting members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1894. Possibly the first instance of a ‘pop-up’ Museum in the village. The six tiles found at the Court House were acquired by the British Museum in 1947, are just a tiny part of the huge collection belonging to the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940). We’ll probably never know if Mr Lawrence discovered his tiles at the Court House, or if the newspaper article refers to other discoveries; or (if they were the Court House tiles) how they found their way to the Duke of Rutland. Dating tiles is a mystery to me. At least one of the six in London is listed as ‘made in Clarendon’; how do they know that? Mind you, I’ve seen an article that speaks of tiles from the mosaic at Littlecote House having been made at Minety, which is fascinating, but that’ll be another article for another day!

Devizes Gazette Cutting July 1894 in the library at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

Returning to the Yellow Iris, or Fleur-de-Lys, there was an interesting display during 2018 at the Aldbourne Heritage Centre, researched by Warwick Hood and reproduced in part here with his very kind permission.


The four decorated floor tiles shown here are the best examples from six medieval tiles that were found in the garden of Court House. The six date from between about 1280 and 1412 and are now held by the British Museum.The tiles form part of the Rutland Collection, assembled by the 9th Duke of Rutland (1886-1940) and originally kept at his family seat, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.  The collection was sold to the British Museum in 1947 by his son, the 10th Duke.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Two of the six tiles date from before 1300, evidence that a substantial house or hall existed on the site at that time.  The pattern of one of the other tiles, dating from the 14th century, resembles a fleur-de-lys.  This was a prominent feature of the coat of arms of the Dukes of Lancaster in the 14th century, as can be seen in the tunics of Henry of Grosmont and John O’Gaunt, both pictured below

The Hall, the oldest part of the present house, has a fine fireplace into which have been carved a rose and a fleur-de-lys.  Both the Rose of Lancaster and the fleur-de-lys are closely linked with John of Gaunt. The presence of these carved symbols has therefore been cited as evidence for the link between John O’Gaunt and Court House.

The puzzle is that the fireplace dates from 100-200 years after John’s death in 1399! Maybe the symbols were added later to celebrate the earlier link with John?  Or perhaps they mark a later connection with the Crown, which held Aldbourne Manor for much of the Tudor and Stuart period up to 1627?  All of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs used the fleur-de-lys and the rose – by then the Union Rose combining the roses of Lancaster and York – as important symbols.

Warwick Hood

The yellow flags by the pond, and the fleur-de-lys have also made their way into the exquisite ‘Awborne Gospels’. a current illuminated manuscript project by Jenny Greaves, inspired by the beautiful works of Medieval scribes and artists.  The manuscript initially set out to present John Wycliffe’s fourteenth century translation of the Four Gospels into English – this unauthorised translation enabled Aldbourne’s Medieval residents to hear, for the first time, the Bible in their own language. The challenge of these “Awborne Gospels” is to illustrate each page with something to do with our village. As Jenny’s project progresses, the breadth and depth of our village’s history and culture are proving to be near infinite.

Copyright Jenny Greaves

With thanks to Karen, Warwick and Jenny

Tom Rolt in Aldbourne

Some years ago on a visit to Crofton Beam Engines, I spotted this plaque on their chimney. The name that caught my eye was actually ‘Aickman’, but in more recent times (and after reading our Dabchick Parish Magazine) I learned that Tom Rolt spent some time in Aldbourne. My friend, Warwick Hood, has very kindly sent me his original article – reproduced below.

I have to admit to knowing next to nothing about Rolt and Aickman being the inspiration for the formation of the Inland Waterways (IWA) in 1946; and hence the survival of our canals.

Mr Rolt also gets a mention on the Hungerford Virtual Museum website, confirming that boats were used to transport materials for pillboxes and other defences along Stop Line Blue on the Kennet & Avon Canal. “The last of the K & A boatmen was dragged from retirement and put in charge of a leaking maintenance boat hauled by a broken down horse” an overloaded boat that eventually sank.

Who lived in a village like ours: Tom Rolt

Lionel Thomas Caswall Rolt (1910-1974) was a prolific writer and biographer of 18 th and 19th century British engineers, and a successful early campaigner for the revival and preservation of heritage railways and canals.

Born in Chester and educated at Cheltenham College, in 1928 he became an apprentice at a locomotive works in Stoke-on-Trent.  This move was to prove significant for Tom’s future, as the chief engineer at the works, who happened to be Tom’s uncle, introduced him to the canal system, on which they travelled in a converted narrow-boat called Cressy.

After being laid off in early 1932, he worked firstly for a firm of agricultural engineers in Hungerford, and then for a year from the summer of 1932 with the Aldbourne Engineering Company (previously W. T. Loveday) at the Foundry in Lottage Road.  Here he lodged with the manager and his family “in a cottage at the back of the little works”.  In his autobiography “Landscape with Machines” (1971), he devotes several pages to his time in Aldbourne, describing with great fondness various excursions into the surrounding countryside, often in his 1903 Humber.  These trips included several to the Boulton and Watt beam engines at Crofton near Bedwyn, then still in full operation.  He also recounts two amusing encounters with the local constabulary, in particular an officious sergeant from Ramsbury who spotted that the letters on his 30-year-old number plate were ⅜-inch too short; and he describes in some detail a work colleague at the Aldbourne Engineering Company, Mark Palmer, an elderly native of Aldbourne with a treasure trove of stories.

In 1934, he co-founded the Vintage Sports-Car Club, which is still going strong; and in 1936, he bought Cressy from his uncle, converted it for habitation, and set off on a life on the canals with his girl-friend, who later became his wife.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Rolt joined the Rolls Royce factory in Crewe, producing Spitfire engines. However, as soon as he was offered a job back at the Aldbourne Foundry, the Rolts headed south in Cressy, arriving at Hungerford some four months later having survived storms, being ice-bound at Banbury and the Thames in flood!

In 1944, he published his book “Narrow Boat”, which kick-started the national revival of interest in the canal system and led directly to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association in 1946.  He was also instrumental in the foundation of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, the National Railway Museum, and the Iron Bridge Gorge Museum Trust; and he was a trustee of both the SS Great Britain Restoration Committee and of the Science Museum.

In the 30 years after “Narrow Boat”, he wrote biographies of the engineers Brunel, Telford, Trevithick, Watt, Newcomen and both Stevensons, as well as books about the railways and waterways of England, his 3-volume autobiography, and some ghost stories!

His second wife (Sonia) obtained an OBE in 2010 “for services to industrial archaeology and to heritage”. She died in 2014, aged 95.

Tom Rolt, engineer, author, biographer and heritage campaigner, once lived in our village.

Warwick Hood – October 2015

Eleanor Maud Hawkins (‘Pat’ Cheramy)

Born 21 March 1906 – Died 26 March 1987

I’ll add more of Eleanor’s story shortly, but just wanted to mark the 75th Anniversary of her release from Mauthausen concentration camp.

It was an absolute privilege to visit RAF Odiham in 2015 and see the portrait of this brave Dabchick in the Officers’ Mess. Since then the Aldbourne Heritage Centre has included the photo of the portrait in their permanent display, and I have had the further privilege of working with a descendant of the Hawkins family to trace more information about Eleanor.

More soon …

Parish News April 1976

Chris Barnes

Chris in 2006 – photo Jo Hutchings for the Aldbourne Oral History Project

Remembering Christopher Walter George Barnes (“Chris”)
20th February 1941 – 9th April 2020

Covid-19 lockdown rules severely restricted who could be present when Chris was laid to rest in the churchyard of St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne. A memorial service, details of which will be announced in due course, will offer the opportunity to share thoughts and memories of our ‘Local Yokel”.

I was privileged to have many chats with Chris over the years, and he always had a tale to share about Aldbourne history. His contribution to the Aldbourne Oral History project can be heard via Aldbourne Community Heritage Group website

I remember Chris watching as the church clock face was lowered on ropes (June 2006). It WAS too large to pass through the doorway into the tower – he said it would be!

His sketches and poems in the guise of ‘Local Yokel’ are treasures. For many years he created the posters for Carol Singing around the village. Miss Susan Bailey handed me several examples of Chris’ work many years ago. The Harvest Poem dates from 2012 and was part of a display at St Michael’s Church.

Oliver Hawkins (1889 – 1975)

The cherry tree planted by the pond in memory of Oliver Hawkins is often one of the first to blossom. This photo was taken at the end of March 2020. This reminder that Spring is well on the way helps us to remember a very distinguished Dabchick. His memorial stone (made by village craftsman, Marcus Rouse) reads:

He served not for personal glory, nor monetary gain. Suffice for him it was to serve his fellow man

His obituaries – with thanks to the archive at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes – refer to this gentleman as the ‘Father of Aldbourne’. His tree was planted in January 1976. The pink flowers in spring and the blaze of red leaves in autumn always bring him to mind.

Wakefield & Brind

A surname that appears on the Aldbourne memorials for both World Wars is ‘Wakefield’.  Another is ‘Brind’.

With many thanks to Phil Comley whose meticulous research has made possible my attempts to trace their stories, including a surprise connection between the two families.

F H Wakefield and E H Wakefield were both sons of Martha and John Wakefield who lived at ‘Kandahar’. 

John Wakefield, of the old Wiltshire Regiment … talked of the terrible march to relieve Kandahar. Scarcely was this ordeal over than he was caught up in the first Boer War, where on Majuba Hill his regiment suffered most grievous losses.  But again an Aldbourne man showed the power to live an active life in spite of all he had previously endured, when he settled down in Lottage in a house which he named Kandahar.  Not only did he often walk 16 miles a day as an auxiliary postman, but he gave physical instruction to the children and taught musketry to the young men.  At his funeral five soldiers carried his coffin and a bugler from his old regiment sounded the Last Post.

The Heart of a Village – an intimate history of Aldbourne by Ida Gandy (1975)
From a postcard in the collection of Mr Paul Williams, and reproduced here by his very kind permission. I like to think that this picture shows John Wakefield on his rounds. The uniform is very similar to those worn by postmen of the era. Not so sure about the hat! The postmark appears to be 1907, the postcard is addressed to ‘Miss E Wakefield’ in Cirencester and is signed ‘Dad’

In 1911 Sapper Ernest Haynes Wakefield was a 19 year old regular soldier; a carpenter with the Royal Engineers based at Bulford Camp, Salisbury (thanks Phil!).

I first heard of the young Frederick Henry Wakefield in a newspaper report

The village is proud of Fred Wakefield, who came from Chile, left his job at £40 a month, paid £50 fare.  Landing at Liverpool he was a soldier again in five minutes … Several regiments wanted him, but Wakefield said ‘No, I am a Wiltshireman, and for the Wilts I shall fight’.

Swindon Advertiser 6 October 1916 ‘Aldbourne – The Village’s Fine Record’

Corporal Frederick Henry Wakefield, Wiltshire Regiment, died 21 March 1918 aged 24.  Buried at Savy British Cemetery, Aisne, France and remembered on his family grave in St Michael’s Churchyard.

Martha Wakefield died in 1928, her husband in 1940.  Major Ingpen’s notes in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes show a record of this old soldier’s enduring service and a resumé of his later years as a village postman.  A list of mourners at his funeral includes Sergeant E H and Mrs Wakefield

Ernest Wakefield married Florence Alice Brind in Aldbourne in 1929.  Florence was the widow of Herbert Colin Brind (named on the WW1 Aldbourne memorials).  Ernest and Florence are on the 1939 Register as living in Reading. (Thanks again Phil!) Ernest is described as a carpenter.  He died in November 1943 in Leicester.  There is no Commonwealth War Grave registration of Ernest’s death.  Pure guesswork suggests that he was still contributing to the war-effort with his carpentry skills or perhaps in the Home Guard.  His family ensured that he was remembered here in Aldbourne. Phil has also discovered family details for Herbert Brind and Florence, but those are a story for another day.

George Marshall Watts

Scouts in Aldbourne 1910 (including Clifford Brown) GMW centre
Newspaper cutting 1933 courtesy of Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

In 2014 I happened to be in the Post Office when I overheard a gentleman asking for Whitley Lodge, the former home of George Marshall Watts – his great-uncle. I’d found out a little about GMW from Terry Gilligan in terms of the history of Scouting in Aldbourne. It was a pleasure to learn more family history and show our visitor George Marshall and Fanny Jane Watts’ grave in St Michael’s Churchyard. Mr and Mrs Watts were in Aldbourne for the 1911 Census, living at South View (the old name for Beech Knoll); then they moved to Wootton Bassett, thereafter returned to Aldbourne and lived in Castle Street. We often visit the grave. This year the snowdrops have been slow to appear, but I’m happy to report green shoots have finally emerged.

This is my favourite photo of the snowdrops (so far!). After the snow in February 2018