a Wiltshire village
I took advantage of Mrs M’s hair appointment to take photos of the village of Chapmanslade. Her hairdresser now works from home, having closed down her shop in Trowbridge. Rather than sit in the car and wait for her, it was an ideal time to walk around and take some photos. Usually, I research a place before taking photos, but this was an opportunity too good to miss. There was sunshine on this last day of January, so now was as good a time as any.
Chapmanslade is a small linear village in Wiltshire close to the Somerset border. It lies 3.5 miles from the three towns of Westbury, Warminster and Frome. It is intersected by the A3098 and has a High Street of 2km in length. We can definitely call it linear, as the majority of the homes run along the main road. The population in 2017 was 649, and with only a few homes built since then, it will still be under a thousand. A map of 1773 shows the spelling as Sharpmanslade. We don’t know how long Chapmanslade has carried the name, but records dating back to 1245 can confirm it. In April 1252, the great Bracton (a famous medieval judge) sat with the Sheriff of Wiltshire at Chapmanslade.
The village has a church, junior school, pub, and village hall. There are no shops except a plant nursery, Barters, who unusually supply full price and stock lists to download as spreadsheets. The former post office is a private house, although it does have a Royal Mail postbox.
Chapmanslade Church and School
In the centre of the village is the Anglican church of St Philip and St John, along with the school next door. The land for both buildings was donated by the Marquess of Bath, living at nearby Longleat House, now famed for the safari park. The church was consecrated in 1867 by the Bishop of Salisbury and cost £1753 7s 10d. You can hardly buy a shed for that now!
The church and the school were designed by George Edmund Street, a very well-respected architect in his day. Many readers will be familiar with the name William Morris, who was famous for his carpet, wallpaper and fabric designs. Morris had been George Street’s apprentice, became a household name, and is still highly rated today.
Chapmanslade School was opened in 1872 as a National School. The first master was known as ‘Daddy Irons’ and was noted by a visiting school inspector as being a disciplinarian - ouch! Poor kids. No doubt they had the end of a cane meet a certain part of their anatomy at high speed. By 1890 the school had 40 pupils; in 1898 - 75, and in 1894, it was enlarged to accommodate 90 children. School fees had to be paid until they ended in 1891. One old penny a week (0.4p) was charged
There were two chapels in Chapmanslade; today, both are private homes. In the 18th century, Daniel Grey, a Baptist minister, came to Chapmanslade and converted many of the villagers. A chapel was built on Wood Lane.
The website British History notes this about the chapel.
In 1777 Daniel Grey was preaching in a friend's house in Chapmanslade. He was followed by other preachers, calling themselves students of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. Later, preachers came from many neighbouring Baptist chapels, and in 1788 the Revd. Robert Marshman, of Westbury Leigh, baptized 8 people at Chapmanslade. Thenceforth, services were held in one of the communal workshops connected with the cloth industry until 1799, when a chapel was built in the village to accommodate about 140 people. The first minister was appointed in 1802. In 1846 some trouble broke out among the congregation, and the minister resigned, leaving the chapel in debt. The debt was not cleared until 1864, but five years after this, there was enough money among the Chapmanslade Baptists to have the chapel repaired at the cost of over £1,000. At about this time, the Baptists were joined by the congregation, which withdrew from the Congregational chapel in the village (see below).
The second chapel was the Independents Congregational Chapel. Commencing in 1771, this was the first non-conformist church in Chapmanslade. The congregation was formed in 1761, and they met in a barn for ten years until building their chapel. A new chapel was built in 1867 at the eastern end of the village and became a house later in the 20th century.
Two well-known people were born in Chapmanslade, James Dredge, and Clara Grant, OBE.
James Dredge was born in 1794. He had no formal education but proved to be a very clever man. He was a maltster and brewer in Bath. He needed to get his beer across the River Avon in the heart of Bath. To that end, he designed and built in 1836 a suspension bridge spanning 150 feet across the river. If that were not enough, he patented his Taper Bridge design. His bridge was so successful that he built over fifty wrought iron suspension bridges.
The bridge in Bath is Victoria Bridge and is used by pedestrians and cyclists. It was built for horses and carts and is not suitable for cars. The bridge was refurbished in 2016 at the cost of £3.4 million. Dredge would probably be shocked at that amount!
Clara Grant, OBE
Clara Grant was born in 1867. She became a schoolteacher and lived in Frome for a while, and you can see a blue plaque on the house where she lived. She moved to Frome when she was eight years old.
Clara moved to Bow in East London during the 1890s and was shocked by the poverty. She provided hot breakfasts for the children as this, in many cases, was the only decent meal they would have all day. She also supplied them with clothes and shoes and created what became known as the ‘farthing bundles’. - A farthing is one-quarter of a penny, the smallest value in UK currency at the time - The bundles provided things like toys at minimum cost; they were so popular that children would queue from 7 am to buy one. These continued to be sold until the 1970s.
Clara died in 1949 and was awarded the OBE shortly before her death. She also founded the Fern Street Settlement for mothers to meet and discuss their problems. This still serves as a local community centre. In 1993 the school where she taught was renamed the Clara Grant Primary School.
I filmed the house in Frome in my Frome Blue Plaque Video tour. Click here to see the house.
The only pub left in Chapmanslade is the Three Horseshoes. The others have long closed, as is not unusual in many towns and villages in Britain.
Chapmanslade is surrounded by farmland, which in places meets the High Street, and, at one time, market gardening played a role. There are a few small businesses trading from units on the farms.
I am sure residents enjoy living in the village, and some new housing is being built on the eastern side. It’s a shame that it doesn’t have a shop, sadly that is a modern-day problem, due to competition from nearby towns and the Internet. If you live in a village, or if you are passing through and need something, call in and spend a pound or two. Once gone, many of these businesses will never be able to reopen.
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