The history of the house on an English village green, continued: Poulshot and its brewers.

our house 1786

If you read my last post you will know where this journey began – in 1840, when our house and land were owned by a Reverend Hopkins.

img_4019The records office in Chippenham found a lot of documents about the property and the 165 acres of land that Rev. Hopkins had owned, and who the property and land had passed through after his death. But as I said last week, I was not interested in recent years I wanted to travel back in time with my house and the land it was built on as far as I could reach.

At the end of my first day searching through old records handing over mortgages, land and property leases, I came to the end of the pile of documents that the records office had identified for me. But in the last and oldest document, an Indenture dated in 1813, I found this…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A record of the documents that showed who had owned the land and property all the way back to 1671. This document, show in the pictures above, was signed by Charles Tylee, and it names an Edward Gilbert as taking on the lease. An Edward Gilbert was also mentioned as leasing most of the land and one of the two homesteads and orchards in 1840.

At this point it was late on my first day in the records office, and when I spoke to staff they did a quick search for the documents listed in 1813 and could not find anything. It seemed as though my search had hit a dead end because without reading the listed documents I could not be sure that they actually included our house and/or land.

But I was not to be defeated. At home in the evening, I searched the online database for the records office to find the missing documents. I thought there was still a chance they might be somewhere in the records that were held there.

I found the first document, John Tylee’s will, buried in with other documents from his lifetime.

img_4108“Deeds from 1843 of a shop in the Market Place, Devizes (plan in 1877 deed), also relating from 1826 to property in New Park Street (plans in deeds). Marriage settlement of John Tylee of Devizes and Ann Reed of Romsey, Hampshire, relating to the house occupied by Tylee in St, Johns parish, Devizes, and Barley Hill house and land in Poulshot, 1773. Copy will of John Tylee 1809; schedule of deeds 1891; inventory of the contents of a house and work shop probably of Mrs Burt, 1915; Tylee, Crockett, Greenham, Burt, Clark.”

John Tylee’s land in Poulshot was listed as the first part of his holdings in his marriageimg_4120 settlement, but he also owned many inns and land in Devizes and the surrounding areas. All the records talk about tenants, showing that the property in Poulshot was leased, he never lived here himself. He lived in Devizes and his occupation is recorded as a brewer.

He owned even more land than Reverend Hopkins had because John Tylee also owned the land called Barley Hill and Home Close, and the buildings listed as being present in those areas. But for some reason these other areas of land in Poulshot were sold or passed on in 1798 to someone called Simpkins, who was given 1/13th of the holdings in Poulshot. But of course the title Barley Hill and his occupation, makes me wonder – Did he therefore own and lease the land to grow barley for brewing? I am not sure of that yet, although I think I can find out in the future, because the records office have an accounts book for John Tylee’s company that I hope will show the income for the lands and properties in Poulshot.

When John Tylee died, his will passed the land in Poulshot to his eldest son Charles Tylee, whose signature was on the document written in 1813. But, anyway, I am not working forward in time, I am working back.

The account book listed in the records is described “Private account book of J Gent of Gent and Tylee, brewers of Devizes”. It is for the period 1827-1829. Now here is another clue.  Obviously date wise this is later than 1802 that is when I had discovered Tylee’s purchase records. So I did not look at this book at the time, but it immediately told me that Gent and Tylee worked together, and the 1813 document showed that Gent had sold the houses and land in Poulshot to Tylee.

My record searches showed up lots of references to documents from the brewery business that Tylee and Gent ran together. “Gent, James, Common Brewers, Tylee, John, the younger Common Brewers, Tylee, Thomas Common Brewers”. But also the surname Rose appeared, and in the 1813 document it shows Charles Rose owning the land and property before Mr. Gent, and before Charles, his father John Rose. It turns out that they were also brewers. “Rose, Charles brewers and co-partners. Tylee, John brewers and co-partners,” was referenced in 1762.  The document referenced in 1813 shows that Charles Rose died in 1772, and passed the land and property in Poulshot on Mr. Gent.

Charles’s father’s will had left that land to him in 1740.


If you remember, last week I told you that the drawing at the very top of this post, captured the appearance of our house in 1786, so now I know that in that year the house was owned by the brewer, James Gent and his wife Mary, and would have been lived in by a tenant, as is recorded in John Rose’s will above, and in the Tylee records.

It is still clear even in these early documents, though, that there were two properties on this area of land, with gardens and orchards, as is shown in the 1837 map in my last post. But in 1740 John Rose’s will only speaks of one tenant, John Cook. In 1837 one property is leased with the orchard, separately to the property leased with the rest of the pasture land (that second property is called Manor Farm).  So did John cook lease the house we live in, and then sublet Manor Farm? That is also something I cannot yet explain.

When I finished my research in the records office on the Friday, I had caught the research bug. I came home with a desire to find out even more. I had raised more questions in my head than answers. So I began searching on line for other references that might tell me more. I came across this post on Devizes Brewers in the Devizes online history pages. It mentions Mr. Gent, Charles Rose and says that John Tylee was the nephew of Charles Rose.

There is still far more for me to tell, because this is not where my journey through time ended. But this post is getting a bit long so I will end this chapter by telling you something related to this, that is quite a twist of fate.

If you know Devizes, you will know that even today a brewery has pride of place in the centre of the town. Not only that, it is one of the only breweries that still delivers kegs by horse and cart, in Devizes town. Wadworths influence is so broad in Wiltshire, they call the area Wadworthshire. They took over the Tylee and Gent inns according to the Devizes blog post.

But that is not the twist of fate. The twist of fate is that even though the 165 acres that Rev. David Hopkins owned moved out of the hands of brewers after the last Mr. Tylee and Mr. Gent, a couple of generations later a director of Wadworths made his home in Poulshot.

Major John Bartholomew bought a house that had been built on one of the plots of the 165 acres, later he sold that house and bought the orchard that belonged to the house we live in. He built himself a house on that orchard land.

He also bought the plots of land behind the orchard that had once been part of the 165 acres, and then created a tradition in the village that lasted for years.

Every August, when the brewery shut down for a summer holiday, the shire horses would be brought down to the village from Devizes. They would have a pint at the pub and then they would walk down through the village and be let free to run in the fields behind our house.

I have no idea whether Major John Bartholomew, or as every one knew him ‘The Major’, knew that the land had previously been in the hands of brewers for generations. Sadly, I will never know, because he passed away not so long ago at the age of 95, but I think it is a lovely twist, whether he knew about it or not.

The horses drinking their beer in 2015 🙂 

The horses walking to the fields for the start of their holiday 2015

Additional notes

  1. The horses are actually running off into the field that I think contains some of the remains of the ancient moat that I have found 😉
  2. In further research I discovered that Rev. David Hopkins (owner of the land and property in 1840) came by the 165 acres of land and the two properties because his mother was a Tylee, so he was a nephew of the last brewer in the Tylee family.

Next week, I will take you back to Poulshot in the Civil War.


Perfect Period Drama

from Jane Lark

The rule of the red thread of destiny says that everything that is unresolved will be resolved.


The Thread of Destiny


The Lure of a Poet

Delicious Reading_with poet

Discover all of Jane Lark’s books

Discover hours of period drama (2)



The tale of a house on an English village green: from 1066, through the Civil War and growing barley for breweries.

When I was young my parents used to belong to an archeology club and I would fieldwalk with them longing to spot something interesting. One particular memory is when I walked Faringdon bypass while it was being built in the summer of 1976. I was wearing my favourite halter-neck summer-dress and the sun was burning my back raw as I stared at the mud, longing to find a spearhead or a piece of pot.  I saw nothing. Ever.

But now I have found a lost, possibly saxon or norman, moat!!! Me! My name is on the Wiltshire records as the person finding a “potentially significant site” with my research used as a reference.

Great Chalfield is a manor near us that is still occupied, though, it was rebuilt in the Tudor period. You may recognise it no matter where you live because they have filmed some Poldark Scenes there. As you can see in the picture below the whole front element of a saxon moat is still in situ at Great Chalfield. That is what I believe the land in front of our house could have looked like, many years ago.


So let me tell you the story behind this discovery.

Obviously from this blog you know how much I love the real stories I discover in history and use in my fictional books. But it has been even more exciting discovering the stories about the place where I live.

Like most English villages, Poulshot, near Devizes in Wiltshire, has its myths and rumours about its history. But I became tired of hearing the things I knew could not be true because I have done so much research I can tell what is pure fiction. So I decided to go to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre and look for the truth.

We know our house is old, but we have no idea how old and so that was where I began this journey, searching back through the information about who had previously owned our house. So, initially, I was looking for the story of my house and then it became the story of the village green.

What I knew before I went to the records centre is that our house has been around since 1786 at least, because an artist, John Baptiste Malchair, drew our house in 1786. our house 1786The image was drawn from the parlour of the vicarage on the far side of the road from where we are. The drawing below was sold by Sotherby’s a few years ago but we do not know who bought it.

I have a list of some owners of our house after this date, but I did not investigate from the current date, back. I was mainly interested in who owned the house at the time this image was drawn, and who had owned it previously. When was it built? Why was it built? What did the owners do? What was the village they had lived in like?

The first stop in my search was the Articles of Agreement for the Commutation of Tithes in the Parish of Poulshot, a document from 1837.

This document shows that Rev. David Hopkins owned our house, a nearby house and quite a few fields (I found out from his will that the land was 165 acres in total). Our house and the attached orchard, were being rented by John Gilbert, while Edward Gilbert rented a property named Manor Farm and the fields.

The houses and land stayed in the Hopkins family for another generation, and then remained in the ownership of a mother, then a sister. The land and property were then split among more distant relatives.

Below is a map of the land the document above describes but this was drawn in 1874 when the land was sold by the Hopkins estate.


The village green is the area called ‘common’ on the image above, and the house weimg_4058 own half of, is at the bottom of the village green.  Plot number 283, homestead and garden. At the time the occupants of our house were also leasing plot 284, the orchard.

Before I progress, note that the 1874 map shows you what was owned by the Hopkins estate, not other properties. Ours was not an isolated house, other houses had been built about the green. In fact there were five farms in positions around The Green.


The second map (on then left above) was drawn earlier, in 1840. The 1840 map shows you the other houses.

These maps told me something more than just that the house was let as part of a larger estate. Where the dotted lines run past the front of our house, is now the main road through the village.  Years ago houses, unless there was a reason to travel to them, were built on the roadside. They did not build closes, and estates. Houses were always on the edge of some network that connected them to daily life. A road. A canal. A river. A green But as you can see from the 1840 map, our house, is at one end of the green and it stands out on its own, that is when you realise it was not built on a through road. Our plot of land closes off the green.

This first step in my story told me two things about our village myths straight away too. All around Poulshot are what is known as the Green Lanes. They are really wide byways and bridle ways. I have lived in a few villages, and walked around many, and I have never seen track ways between fields as wide as these.

I have asked some of the other villagers, ‘What is the history of these lanes?’ No one I have asked has been able to tell me. Well, having seen the 1840 map, I now know they were the roads. Carts and carriages would have travelled around the village green behind the properties, on this main route. The road through the middle of Poulshot as we know it today was simply not there. The road across the green does not show up on maps until 1919, but it had not been there even in 1899.

So when did the road appear? Nora Dixon, who wrote about life in Poulshot Village in 2002 explains in her book that The Parish Council applied for a road to be put in across The Green in 1896, and then again in 1905 using a new idea for a reason for a new main road, ‘extraordinary traffic over the roads in the parish by traction engines hauling timber, which caused great injury to the roads.’ The new main road that ran straight through the village and over the village green was laid in stone in 1909 and flattened by a steamroller brought down from Devizes 😀

But, as you can see in the 1786 drawing, above, there was a narrow pathway across The Green before the road existed. This was a cobbled track and is still buried under the grass. It was (and still is) claimed to be a pathway put in place by Monk’s and I am told it goes all the way down the hill to the village church.

But not everyone believes that is true.

Anthony’s Walk (Vol, v, page 374) “There seem as always to have been a strong tendency to connect any old track or causeway either with monks or nuns. A walk near Warminster, known as the Nuns’ Pass, was in 1777, the subject of a descriptive poem of 35 pages, and very recently when the question of relaying part of the time-worn causeway some two miles in length, which travers the village of Poulshot, was introduced to the Urban District Authority at Devizes, it was at once identified as an old Monk’s Walk, in accordance with usual tradition.” 

It makes far more sense to me that the cobbled track was put in because while carts and horses would have used the roads and travelled around the edges of the green, (although in those days roads were no more than mud tracks). In the watercolour painting below you can see what those tracks may have sometimes been like. Travellers who were walking or droving animals to market, may well have there taken the short cut over the green. As would the locals. As recorded in a letter from John Aubrey (1626-1697) Poulshot was a ‘wet and muddie place’. (An aside: I have loved the fact that most of these records are pre-Victorian and therefore pre the inventions of exact spelling and grammar; so refreshing for someone with dyslexia). So why not build a pathway that means you can keep your feet dry. The leather shoes of history, would have been no match for persistent damp and mud. Which is why people wore metal or wooden clogs called patterns underneath their shoes when they went outside (otherwise in the towns they were likely to step in animal or human waste while in the country it was mud).


I would not like to have to balance on those when it was icy, and I do not think they would have been much use on a muddy track turned into a quagmire by the rain in winter, as Diana Sperling showed by her painting of her life experience. No, a much better idea to put in a path.

The last thing to say in this post about the village is to give you another example of a potential old path used to keep feet dry.  I cannot share a picture of the cobbled path that runs across the green,  but here is an old brick path that we found a couple of feet down in our garden when we built our extension. This runs towards where we know our outdoor toilet was, and it was at the same level as the original foundations of the house. So perhaps it went to the toilet… or you never know perhaps it is a continuation of the Monk’s path.


There is a lot more to be said (obviously), I have barely scraped the surface of this story, but for today I will give your eyes a rest.

Thank you for joining me in this historical investigation/adventure. I have felt a little like a time traveller in the days I was immersed in this research.

I will post the next chapter soon.


Perfect Period Drama

from Jane Lark

The rule of the red thread of destiny says that everything that is unresolved will be resolved.


The Thread of Destiny


The Lure of a Poet

Delicious Reading_with poet

Discover all of Jane Lark’s books


Discover hours of period drama (2)