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Henford Marsh: Shepherd’s Cottage
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Introduction

Shepherd’s Cottage was my home as a little boy in the early 1950’s, but it was old then and has been home to many other families down the centuries.

 

When we lived there it was a semi-detached cottage and we rented number 6. My parents paid the rent to a Colonel Southy (or Southliegh). I cannot say if he actually owned the house or was the owner’s agent, but he did tell her a little of the history. He said the original deeds to the building had long been lost, but he had documents referring to a house on the site that dated back to over 500 years. This was in the 1950’s and would mean there was a house on the site as long ago as 1450 and probably a long time before that. How much of that original house still exists in the fabric of the current building I have no idea, but the building is old despite the various extensions, renovations and modernisations it has undergone throughout its life.

 

Existing Records

Shepherd’s Cottage is certainly shown on Andrew’s & Dury’s map of Wiltshire (1773) as the extract on the right shows.

 

In one of his books, local historian, Mr Danny Howell mentions that the cottage is included in the 1838 Survey of Warminster Parish. It was listed as plot no.356 and was owned by Sir John Dugdale Astley (Bart). The occupier at that time was Ambrose Patient. However, by the time of the 1841 census Ambrose Patient seems to have moved away from the area. Who was living in the cottage at that time is uncertain as house numbers were not listed on the census and there is no way of identifying Shepherds Cottage.

 

In that same book Mr Howell writes that the cottage got its name from the former sheep pound once located nearby and that it was originally three dwellings. The building was later converted into two dwellings. By the 1930’s the address of the building had become 6 & 7 Henford Marsh and the tenants were S Snelgrove and G Farley. At this time the cottage had a thatched roof.

 

Andrew’s & Dury’s map 1773

Shepherd’s cottage highlighted in red

Census Returns

I have checked the census returns for 1841 to 1901 inclusive, but only the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses list house numbers and I am not certain that the numbering system was the same then as now. Out of interest, Sam Snelgrove was living at 11 Henford Marsh during the 1881 census and at 6 Henford Marsh during the 1891 census and the 1901 census. However in the 1901 census number 7 Henford Marsh is listed as Henford Marsh Farm. This is most likely to have been the farm that used to be on north bank of the river Wylye rather than part of Shepherd’s Cottage itself.

 

To complicate the issue further, Colonel Southey told my mother that the parish boundary of the 1950’s passed through the middle of the property. One residence was in Warminster parish and the other in Sutton Veny, which may well have affected the way they were listed in the census.

 

Old Photographs

Slightly more recent records come in the form of copies of old photographs sent to me by the current house owner, via the moderator of the Warminster Internet Forum. The original photographs belong to Kevin and Mary Richardson . Apparently their mother used to live there in the early years of World War 2. The names Joan, Doris and Alan Streater were mentioned in connection with the pictures, but as I have not met the Richardsons myself I can only assume that Streater was the name of the family living there. The pictures show that Sam Snelgrove and his wife were still living in number 6 at the time and that Sam was a shepherd. There is also a picture of a sheep fold or pound, presumably the one that gave the cottage its name. The roof of the cottage was still thatched at the time although it seems to be badly in need of re-thatching in later photographs.

 

It seems that the cottage and surrounding Eastliegh Estate was purchased by a Major Walker soon after the War and that the thatch was replaced by a corrugated roof. This roof remained in place throughout the years we lived there and only seems to have been replaced many years later when the building was modernised and converted into a single residence.

 

Photos (late 1930’s to early 1940’s):

(above) The cottage.        (below) The sheep fold with Shepherds cottage visible in the background.

 

The Second World War

In the early morning of 15th May 1944 a German bomber jettisoned it’s bomb load over Warminster, presumably to escape from attacking night fighters. The resulting blast caused some damage to Shepherd’s Cottage.

 

Fortunately no one in the cottage was hurt. Legend has it that Sam Snelgrove slept through the whole event and was eventually woken up by the local Home Guard who had arrived to check he was alright.

 

For more information on this event go to the “Bomb Blast” page.

 

My Childhood and after

We moved into number 6 in 1952 when I was still very young and our next door neighbour was Mr Carter. The rent was low as the building had been condemned by the local authorities as unfit as a residence. This was probably due to the total lack of running water, gas, electricity, sewage disposal or internal toilet. It is probably only because of the chronic housing shortage at the end of the War that the local authorities had not enforced the notice of condemnation.

 

We moved into a modern council house sometime around 1955 but Mr Carter stayed on for some time. As far as I can tell he was the last tenant and upon his departure the building seems to have been left to fall into disrepair and eventual decay. It would be many years before it was sold and renovated into the modern home it is today. It was rebuilt as a single residence and has been renamed Shepherd’s Cottage.

 

Shepherds cottage circa 1952 with a new roof.

Afternote

While we were living at number 6 my father decided we needed direct access to the nearby lane. With the help of some of my uncles he dug out a gap in the boundary hedgerow and fitted a wooden gate.

 

With the passage of time much of the old gate had rotted away and the hedgerow grew back. It became so overgrown that hardly anyone knew it was ever there.

 

The current owner of Shepherd’s Cottage (2007) saw a picture of the gate on this web site and thought it might be nice to reinstate it.

 

The new gate was completed about the time my father died and I thought it made a fitting tribute to him and decided to include it here

The old gate circa 1954

The new gate 2007

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