Luckington

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Luckington is a village in the southern Cotswolds, located in north-west Wiltshire, England, on the B4040 road linking Malmesbury and Old Sodbury, with a link via the A46 road to the M4 motorway at junction 18.

Local geography[edit]

The parish of Luckington is seven miles south west of Malmesbury and seven miles north east of Sodbury, comprising the village of Luckington and the smaller village of Alderton to the south west. Parish boundaries border Gloucestershire in the west and Great Badminton and Sherston in the north east with Grittleton and Leigh Delamere to the south east.
In his book ‘Wiltshire Villages’ the author Brian J. Woodruffe describes Luckington as: A happy blend of old and new, made up of some pleasant sub-areas of Cotswoldian character attached to a rather less attractive centre. Five roads meet here, interlaced in such a way that the core of the village is sliced up into triangular pieces, which in the distant past formed one large green. The school and schoolhouse are found on the edge of one of these remaining greens.[1]
The population of the parish in 1801 was 304, and despite a dip in the ensuing 50 years, rose to 339 in 1851. It grew to 470 in 1951 and 532 people lived in the parish at the time of the 2001 census

Census Data[edit]

Census Year Population Number of Houses
1881 336 81
1891 394 90
1901 390 89
1911 356 not recorded
1921 293 84
1931 348 89
1951 470 135
1961 466 148

Luckington in the Cotswolds[edit]

The Cotswolds are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which means it is recognised as containing some of Britain's finest countryside. As such it is protected as a special landscape of national importance. The area covers 790 square miles, of which some 80% is farmland.
The area is generally designated from Worcester due north to Bath, Somerset due south, across to Oxford and then north to Stratford-upon-Avon. The region is delineated by the belt of rich limestone –the source of building materials for the beautiful cottages, fine buildings, and churches. The limestone Cotswold stone in the northern Cotswolds is a rich honey coloured brown which gradually grades creamier towards the south at Luckington.

History[edit]

The name of Luckington is thought to derive from Lucca’s Farm. The earliest evidence of settlement in Alderton was the discovery of a Neolithic stone axe near to Drew’s Pond and some Iron Age remains have been found to the west of the village.[2]
The village has a clear connection to pre-Norman times; a house standing on the site of what is now Luckington Court is said to have been used by Harold I Harold Harefoot King of England from 1035 to 1040, as a hunting box. Because Harold was King, Luckington became a Royal manor, so was entitled to use the title court.
In 1086 there were two manors at Luckington held by Herman (of Durand of Gloucester) and Edward (of Ralf de Mortemer). The total population would have been around 120 people and there was enough land for eight plough-teams, each with eight oxen, and a mill on the infant Avon river. From 1141 until the 14th century, the manor of Luckington was held by the Earl of Hereford. In the 16th century the manor passed to the Fitzherbert family Francis Fitzherbert, 15th Baron Stafford and remained with them until 1798, when the last heiress is said to have eloped with a man from Bristol (reportedly a butcher) named Jones, creating the family of the Fitzherbert Jones. It was this family that added the impressive front of Luckington Court.[3]

Historical Maps 1820 - 1901[edit]

Coordinates: 51°33′N 2°15′W / 51.550°N 2.250°W / 51.550; -2.250Luckington from OS 1817- 1830 series map.jpg Luckington from OS 1899 -1901 series map.jpg

The Sources of the Avon[edit]

Luckington has the distinction of containing the seasonal springs in a valley to the south of the village, that are the source of the River Avon (Bristol) and these are found in the south of the parish. The Avon, from Luckington, passes through Malmesbury and Chippenham towards Melksham and Bradford-on-Avon, leading to Bath and Bristol. The 17th century writer John Aubrey, was probably referring to one of these springs when he wrote: ‘In this village is a fine spring called Hancock’s-well… It cures the itch and Scabbe; it hath done much good to the eies,' writes Aubrey, and again the editor Jackson adds: 'Hancock’s well is still resorted to for the cure of sick dogs, bad legs and the like'.[4] J H P Pafford et al[5] tells us that at the time of writing the well still had the reputation of being good for the eyes. Hancock’s well still flows strongly in its stone culvert down to the river close by.

Luckington Court[edit]

Luckington Court, lying close by to the parish church has been an important part of the village for centuries. It is found to the west of the church and is a Queen Anne style architecture house. An earlier house on the site was referred to as Peach House. The present building is made from Cotswold stone and became famous when it featured as Longbourn, the home of the fictional Bennet family, in the 1995 British television drama, of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Within the grounds of grade II listed Luckington Court are two cedar trees that are said to be 400 years old.[6]

Village Life[edit]

Luckington has a Community School[7] with fewer than fifty pupils taught by three full-time teachers and two teaching assistants. There is a children's playground located on Church Road near the Green, run as a charitable organisation.[8] There are good playing fields (one soccer pitch) and a village hall, each run by committees.

The farms which surround Luckington are both dairy and arable; some are owned by the Badminton Estate. The Duke of Beaufort's Hunt and the proximity of Badminton have a bearing on village culture. Luckington holds its own fête each year, usually early in July.

There is Methodist Church at Church Road, a 'Tin Tabernacle' built to satisfy the needs of the religious revivals of the 19th century. Mr T. Ayliffe and his wife moved to Luckington in 1897 and started conducting open air meetings, preaching Primitive Methodism. He was on the committee that in 1903 purchased land and built a Methodist Chapel on it. The chapel opened on August Bank Holiday 1903 and 200 people from the local chapels attended the first service.[9]

Old Royal Ship Inn,[10] is a popular village pub with walkers and cyclists, and The Beaufort Hunt[11] meets there occasionally.

Notable people[edit]

  • Sir Stewart Menzies was Chief of MI6 (SIS), British Secret Intelligence Service, during and after the Second World War. The person on whom Ian Fleming's "M" of James Bond fame was based. He acquired Bridges Court in the 1920s, an 18th Century Grade II listed Cotswold stone farmhouse, set in 30 acres adjoining the Badminton Estate. He rode with the Beaufort as did the The Prince of Wales - a frequent visitor to Badminton House. As a Major-General, he was President of the Luckington branch of the British Legion now Royal British Legion, and took the march past of the Army Cadet Force at a ceremony in April 1948.[12] After the war he retired and died in London in 1968. Bridges Court is now a Bed & Breakfast hotel.[13]
  • Guy N Vansittart, younger brother of diplomat Robert Vansittart, 1st Baron Vansittart, was a director of General Motors Ltd, on the continent and managed their HQ in London from 1938. He lived at Luckington Court in the 1940s, and was recruited into “Z” Network and Special Operations Executive SOE, headed by Claude Dansey. The Z organization was supposed to operate independently of British embassies and thus avoid the attention of foreign internal security agencies. He moved to London post war continuing his career with General Motors. He died in 1989.[14]
  • Captain F W Hartman, together with his wife Dorothy the former Lady Dalrymple lived in Luckington Manor between 1939 and 1952. Dorothy also owned Home Farm Pinkney and Cowage Farm Foxley around the same time. They were directors of Lendrum & Hartman Limited, London, sole concessionaires of imported Buick and Cadillac cars from North America. They supplied King Edward VIII with a custom built Buick in 1936, which was transported with him by warship to France on his abdication. Captain Hartman died in September 1942. They were close business friends of Guy Vansittart. His widow continued running the company, and in 1953 moved to London and Stumblehole Farm in Surrey.[15][16]
  • Captain Robert Treeck, a Baron and German agent, born in Latvia, who escaped during the October Revolution. He was possibly one of the pre-war dissident groups (Schwarze Kapelle - Black Orchestra) that included Admiral Wilhelm Canaris of the Abwehr. Together with his Chilean mistress Baroness Violetta Schroeders[17] leased Luckington Manor in 1936 immediately adjacent to Menzies’s house, Bridge’s Court. He joined the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt, to which Menzies already belonged, and paid a handsome £150 into the hunt's funds for the 1937-38 season. In September 1939, Treeck vanished, and the house and its contents were placed under the control of the Custodian of Enemy Property. (The Hartman's then took up residence moving from Rodmell in Sussex.)[18]
  • The actor John Thaw and his wife the actress Sheila Hancock bought a 17th-Century house in Church Road Luckington in 1990, ...or Lucky, as we called it, a Wiltshire village. John loved it, he hid away in it, curling up and shutting the world out.[19] They lived on a semi-permanent basis until Thaw’s death from cancer in 2002. Sheila Hancock and her family are still sometimes resident there. As she again writes in her book: My life with John Thaw: Today at the Post Office two photographers started snapping at us. John was feeling peaky and just sighed but I was like a wild animal. Luckington has never seen such an unseemly display.[20]
  • Basil Harwood, English organist and composer, born in Gloucestershire, was inspired by Luckington when writing the hymn tune of that name, often used for Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King![2] The heavens are not too high, his praise may thither fly, This Hymn tune features from the album "100 Best Hymns" by the York Minster Choir, and is regularly aired on BBC Songs of Praise.

Church of St. Mary and St. Ethelbert, Luckington[edit]

The grade I listed parish church in Luckington is dedicated to St. Mary and St. Ethelbert and is thought to date from the 12th century. It is located within a minute or so walk from Luckington Court. In the 15th century there was a large amount of repair and re-building with alterations in the walls and nave and the majority of the windows, including the bell tower. The north porch is Georgian and there was further extensive restoration of St. Mary’s, undertaken by Sir Arthur Blomfield the English church architect in 1872, with the chancel and side chapel within the church totally rebuilt. The Norman font in the church is extremely large with the bowl measuring 27 inches diameter and pictured in one of the east windows is William of Malmesbury, and in other windows are images of Mary and Ethelbert, to whom the church is dedicated. Within the north wall of the church is an engraving of the Lord’s Prayer dating from 1663. The church St. Mary and St. Ethelbert has the same dedications as Hereford Cathedral, perhaps a tangible link between Hereford and Luckington. In April 1948 the Standard of the British Legion, was dedicated by the Dean of Bristol (The very rev. Harry Blackburne) the Dean was assisted by Capt. G.F.Farr R.N.(Ret.) Rector of Luckington. The parade was led by D Company, Army Cadet Force, and the March Past taken by Major General Stewart Menzies a local resident.[21]

Listed Buildings in Luckington[edit]

Nearly half the buildings in the Luckington parish are grade II listed buildings.
These include the Old Bakehouse [3], The Forge House [4], Manor Farmhouse in Alderton, Whitehouse Farmhouse, North End House [5], Wick Farmhouse, The Old Rectory, Luckington Court, [6] Luckington Manor, [7] Lypiatt Barn and The Post Office Stores [8]

Note: A listed building in the United Kingdom is a building which has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. There are just under 500,000 buildings to which this applies. To be included it must be a man-made structure that survives in something at least approaching its original state. Most structures on the list are buildings, but others are bridges, monuments, sculptures, war memorials, and even milestones and mileposts. Ancient uninhabited or unmaintained structures, such as Stonehenge, are generally classified as Scheduled Ancient Monuments rather than Listed Buildings. A listed building may not be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority.[22]

Books and further reading[edit]

  • Wiltshire Villages (The Village series) by Brian J. Woodruffe, Robert Hale Ltd, 1982, ISBN 0709197454 / 0-7091-9745-4
  • Aubrey's Natural History of Wiltshire, John Aubrey, David and Charles Reprints, 1969, ISBN 0715346709
  • Wiltshire: Cradle of our Civilisation, Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton, 1939
  • The Dovecots and Pigeon Lofts of Wiltshire, John and Pamela McCann, Hobnob Press, 2011, ISBN 978 0 946418 84 8
  • The imperial gazetteer of England and Wales embracing recent changes in counties dioceses parishes and boroughs general statistics postal arrangements railway systems &c. and forming a complete description of the country, John M. Wilson, 1870,
  • The topographical collections of John Aubrey, 1659-70: Corrected and enlarged by John Edward Jackson, Longman & Co., London 1862
  • Collectanea, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Records Branch Volume XII; Williams, N J (editor), Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Records Branch, Devizes, 1956
  • The Two of Us: My Life with John Thaw, Sheila Hancock, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005, ISBN 9780747577096
  • Just Me, Sheila Hancock, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2009
  • C: The Secret Life of Sir Stewart Menzies, Spymaster to Winston Churchill, Anthony Cave Brown, Macmillan, 1987
  • The Unseen War in Europe: Espionage and Conspiracy in the Second World War, John H. Waller, I B Tauis & Co., London 1996
  • Hitler's Spy Chief, Richard Bassett, Orion Publishing 2005

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Luckington at Wikimedia Commons

  • Hobnob Press is a publisher of books about Wiltshire and the surrounding region owned and run by local historian Dr John Chandler.[9]