Alderbury & Whaddon

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This section of our web site contains the text of articles which have been removed from feature pages. To preserve web space, illustrations have been removed, but the text is retained for the benefit of those researching local history. In relation to each entry, it is possible that more detail on the articles below can be found in our publications – click HERE for details. The following are in no particular order, and the reader is invited to browse to see what is available!


Charles Dickens

The bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens in February 1812 has been widely celebrated recently and it is known that he visited Alderbury before he wrote his novel Martin Chuzzlewit in 1843-44, staying at the Green Dragon. Many people believe that he based the fictional Blue Dragon Inn of his book on this pub, although this is still open to debate. One of his characters, the bandy–legged tailor, also bears a resemblance to William Lewis, a real-life tailor who was a regular at the inn at the time and who lived close by. Mrs Hazel, who ran the ferry across the Avon, told the local schoolmaster, Mr Freeman, that she had taken Dickens across the river from Avon Cottage at Shute End. But Charles Dickens is not the only world famous genius with a local connection born two hundred years ago.


Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, architect, designer, artist, writer and critic was born on March 1st 1812 in Bloomsbury, the son of a French émigré artist. In 1835 he chose to build his family home, St Marie’s Grange, just over the parish boundary at Shute End although he didn’t live there for very long.

At the time, this was considered to be the first example of genuine Gothic building in Britain since the middle ages. Pugin built the house as a vision of the Gothic Revival that was his inspiration and philosophy throughout his life. He went on to design many churches, cathedrals, colleges and houses in Great Britain and beyond. The best known of these is probably St Giles church in Cheadle, Staffordshire. In 1844 he designed the interior of the Palace of Westminster in London and near the end of his life, the interior of the Clock Tower that we all know as Big Ben.




The Alderbury Singers

The Alderbury Singers is a group with a long history. The first reference to the ‘Alderbury Choral Society and WI Choir’ is in the report of a meeting held in 1930. However, this mentions a vote of thanks to the previous conductor for two or three years service so the Society was probably in existence as early as 1927. In 1931, and again in 1933, Alderbury won the Cup and Shield for Larger Village Choirs at the Wiltshire Music Festival in Devizes. Although ‘WI Choir’ had been dropped from the Society’s title by late 1931, rehearsals continued in the WI hut. The entry relating to the Wiltshire Music Festival in 1933 is the last in the Minute Books until 1963, when a total of 22 members was recorded. From 1968, rehearsals were held in St Mary’s Hall. The Society won the Devizes Festival Cup in 1970 and it became customary to give an annual carol concert, a spring concert, and the occasional concert for charity. The Singers entered the annual Devizes Festival each May, winning the cup for four-part singing in 1978. The Singers have performed many important works, including those by Schubert, Gilbert and Sullivan, Maunder, Fauré, Horowitz, Bach and Monteverdi.


Alderbury Tennis Club

The present Alderbury Tennis Club can trace its origins to an evening in 1980, when a small group of villagers met to discuss the idea of building courts in the village. From the outset the Parish Council was supportive and the committee initially gained planning permission to build one court on the recreation ground, beside the bowling green. However, this met with opposition from the Cricket Club and another site was sought, this time for two courts. The Parish Council made an approach to the Earl of Radnor and by 11 August 1981 the present site next to the village green had been acquired. By March 1982, planning permission had been granted: the courts were to cost about £12,000 but there was only £223 in the bank. The committee worked hard at fund raising in the community and with grant aid from various organisations, arranged for construction in March 1983. Membership now stands at 230, including 97 juniors. A wooden pavilion store was provided in 1988 and this was replaced in 1999 by a more substantial building. The courts were resurfaced in 1992. The club holds its own tournaments and has two teams in the Sarum League. It seeks to provide opportunities for the enjoyment of affordable tennis within the community and actively encourages the young to take part.





School-day memories


Before the closure of the old school, some pupils wrote to the Salisbury Journal asking former pupils for their memories of the school. Mrs Flora Lampard (nee Kerly), who had been at Alderbury School during the Great War, corresponded with the children. The following extracts are from her letters.


‘Our family moved [close] to Downton midway through the war. I was between 12 &13 years old, at the time. My three younger brothers, Gilbert, Roderick and Donald, and myself attended Alderbury School. A most dreary walk in winter time – no such thing as school buses. Mr Freeman, his wife and their son were the teachers at the time but after we had been there a few weeks, the son was called up to join the forces leaving them short staffed... they asked if I was willing to help to look after the little ones. When I reached the age of 14, my parents were asked if they would allow me to stay on for a while, they paying me a few pence a week, offering to coach me towards becoming a real teacher one day. I did it for nine months but decided it wasn’t what I wanted... We took sandwiches for our dinner as in those days there were no school meals or milk. We were allowed to sit round the stove in winter. As soon as the weather changed the playground was our dining room. One good thing about that: we didn’t have to brush up the crumbs!


On very cold mornings we four each carried a hot tin. My father collected four empty tins as tall as milk bottles. He bored a few small holes in the bottom and two holes at the top of each can. Then ten minutes before leaving home, he would fill them with burning coal, clamp a lid on each and fix a long wire for us to hold them. By the time we reached school they were almost out and we were allowed to empty them on the ash pits ready to collect them on going home... There was a cane in each classroom but once you had felt it, one took great care you didn’t have it a second time... On the whole, if you did as you were told, our teachers were fair.’


Memories of an Alderbury Schoolboy, 1947‑54

The following are extracts from a letter written to the pupils by Michael Clarke, Senior Marketing Manager at Heinz Foods.


‘In March 1947 I remember moving into a Nissen Hut on an unused Army Camp at Shute End. I didn’t know at the time that we would become known as squatters and my family along with a dozen or so others were living on a camp vacated by the Americans in 1945. We were to live here for nearly two years and I was seven years old. It was from here that my first journey was made to Alderbury School. There was no transport and I walked every day in those early years... There were no school dinners and my mother would pack mine in an old Oxo cube tin, complete with a preserving jar rubber ring put around for safe keeping!


My first winter at Alderbury School in 1947 was one of the coldest on record... on one occasion we went skating on a pond not far from the school. I found some thin ice, went in, and it was nearly goodbye. But I was lucky and some of the bigger boys, George Bayford and George Gray, pulled me out. I remember the first school dinners... a van used to bring them in sealed containers and the food was ladled out, and the smell was always the same, whatever it was. Most dinner and playtimes were taken up with football during the winter, played with a tennis ball, and in the summer it was cricket. In the early days the stumps were chalked on the back of the boys’ toilets, but we did progress to three wickets fixed into a block of wood. For the first four years or so, the headmaster was John Carr, a Yorkshireman. Another of my memories was the folk dancing. One tune I still remember was called Brighton Camp. By 1950, my family had moved from the camp to a bungalow with a green roof and they were to live there for the next 38 years. I remember the family elation when I was one of the pupils that passed our 11-plus exams to Bishop’s School... places were limited and of the six who had passed their exams only two got a place. So, I was to stay on at Alderbury until I was fifteen.


In 1951, the football team got to the final of the under 12’s cup and we played against St Osmund’s at Victoria Park. It was quite an achievement for the school because we were up against much bigger schools from Salisbury and district. We did not disappoint and won the match 1‑0 with Brian Ling scoring the winning goal. I still have my medal plus a photograph of the successful team.


In 1953, George Murray took over... the year of the coronation. There was a competition for a poster advertising the events of June 2nd, in the village. I was lucky enough to win ten shillings and I still have the poster today. School trips at this time were a novelty, but I do remember the coach trip to London to see the coronation decorations. From about 1953 we had lessons away from Alderbury, and once a week we would take a bus trip to Downton School to do woodwork, and cookery for the girls. I believe it was also in 1953 that the school acquired a small piece of land just above the school. It was a small field to us and hard work as we cultivated it without mechanical aids into a vegetable and flower garden. Not only that, but we built a fair sized goldfish pond as well. I remember we were all very proud of our achievement.’


A Teacher Remembers Wartime

Mrs Betty Scammel (née Coombes) was a teacher at the school during World War II. ‘The school consisted of four classrooms. There was a long room divided by a screen into two sections and two rooms off this, one on either side. One was the infants’ room and the other the Headmaster’s room. He was Mr John Carr. I was appointed in 1940 and I stayed for four years until my husband, Henry Scammel, came home from the Middle East There was a big ‘Tortoise Stove’ to heat the room but as the war went on there was a shortage of fuel and it was often very cold. There were usually about 30 children in her class. Some of them walked to school and on wet days the rails around the stove would be hung with steaming coats. The names of Barbara Riches, Jeremy Freeman, Joyce Tucker, Gladys Allen, Dorothy, Marjorie and David Dyer and the Collins family come to mind.


We had a very few books and a great shortage of paper and art materials. The Reading Scheme was the Beacon Method. Each child had to carry a gas mask to school.


When the Channel Islands were taken over by Germans, a teacher from Guernsey was sent to us and we also had evacuees and teachers sent to us from Portsmouth.


One of the managers was Sir Henry Everett... One year we planned a May‑day festival making a throne from Mr Carr’s high chair. What could the Queen of May wear? There was no material left in the shops. I suddenly thought of Lady Everett and I called on her on my way home. She gave me a beautiful satin nightie for our queen. This happened in the middle of the Baedeker raids, when Hitler was systematically bombing churches and cathedrals. Of course, we carried on... I can vividly remember the Tuesday afternoon when a stick of bombs fell on Salisbury. We heard this, even though three miles away! On Monday mornings, I used to sell saving stamps for the war effort. All schools were expected to do this and over the four years I collected over £2,000. Summing up my war time memories – the tragedy of a father or uncle reported missing or killed and the little ones needing lots of cuddles – my own personal life disrupted with no news at times of the whereabouts of my own young husband (thankfully he came home after four and a half years away, with no leave during that time). But it was a happy time in many ways. I loved the children and got to know the parents who were very supportive. I can truly say that being an infants’ teacher in Alderbury School was a rewarding time for me.’








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