The Manor Houses of Lackham 1050-1949 (part 3)

on Monday, 25 January 2016. Posted in Lackham

There is a photograph which shows the ha-ha still in position, the line of old dry stone walling just visible in the bottom right of the picture. Thus the photograph must be later than 1899, although probably not much later.


Fig.41 Lackham House c1900 from the south west (72)

The terraces are shown in a series of postcards (73) produced very soon after they were constructed, but at least a year later based on the plant growth to be seen. The images themselves are not dated but the earliest postmark is 1904, and indeed the date July 23rd 1904 is clearly written on the front, so the terraces must predate this.


Fig.42 Postcard dated 1904

The hedge to the west of the terraces, which blocks off the terraced area from view from the back drive may have already been in existence before the terraces were constructed; certainly a fence or hedge that follows the same line is clearly shown on the OS map of 1886 (Fig.39).

The path running alongside the hedge cut across what is now the western end of the terraces  and the angled face of the pillar here is explained by the line of this path. The white object in the bottom right hand corner of Fig.42 was unidentified until the author visited Powis Castle (74) and saw their mobile garden seats from the same period.


Fig.43 Edwardian mobile garden benches: left from 1904 postcard, right photo taken at Powis Castle

In October 2004 a broken pipeline resulted in diesel oil contaminating the area east and south of the terraces and the ha-ha. Rapid excavation of the affected areas was carried out to avoid contamination of the River Avon, and this gave a unique opportunity to investigate the construction of the ha-ha and the terraces (75).

Examination of the cross section of the ha-ha ditch showed that it was originally some 50cm deeper than it was before excavation, that the original width at the top was 1.1 metres and 75 cm at the base, which was gently curved. Figure 6 (over) shows the ha-ha ditch excavated. The drainage pipe at the bottom of the ditch is probably original and put in place at the time of construction; there as no indication in the section that the ditch infill has been disturbed by pipe laying post construction and subsequent silting of the ditch.

This photograph (76) shows the ditch just north of the bridge connecting the Sundial garden to the Anniversary garden to the east of Lackham House.


Fig.44 Cross-section of the ha-ha ditch.

The facing wall of the ha-ha is made of dry stone. The excavation revealed that this went some 40 cms below the base of the ditch. The lower two layers of stone are 5cm wider than the rest of the wall, and rests directly on the underlying clay (below).


Fig.45 Transverse section of the ha-ha

The line of the ha-ha, if plotted onto the terrace map, reveals how far the terraces over run the line of the ha-ha.


Fig.46 Terrace and ha-ha (dashed line) (77)

The profile of the terraces reveals a totally different construction method (Fig.47 below).

Here a layer of concrete, which is dark in colour and appears to include fire clinker and small rounded pebbles, was used as a foundation. It varies in depth, in the sections exposed it ranged between 5 cms and 16 cms. On top of this there are two layers of red brick laid in English bond and the blocks of the terrace walls are placed on top of the bricks. These blocks are mortared. The transverse section in Fig.47 shows the ornamental relief of the terraces, commonly found on terraces in the area.


Fig.47 Transverse section of terrace

There are two terraces at Lackham. Fig.44 shows a section through these and the sundial garden to the ha-ha ditch (A-A on the inset plan) (78).


Fig.48 Relative levels of Upper and Lower Terrace and Sundial

From the relative heights the construction sequence can be worked out; the walls of the lower terrace were constructed first and the lower terrace was then made by cutting into the slope behind towards the house, a classic “cut and fill” operation. The lower terrace is 60cm below the level of the Sundial garden, and so this amount of soil was taken out from the top of the ha-ha. It has not been possible to excavate along the line of the ha-ha under the lower terrace to see exactly what was done (it is hoped this may prove possible at some time) and so it is not known whether the dry stone facing of the ha-ha was removed prior to terrace construction. It is possible it was retained as the stability of the ground behind the wall might be questionable. Whether the facing wall was removed or not, the soil removed from the cutting was then used to infill the lower areas behind the terrace wall and form the level surface of the lower terrace. It is noted that the original level of the lawns south of the house would only have dropped to that now only seen at the top of the remaining ha-ha. The creation of the lower terrace has made it seem as if the original lawns were steeply raked, which was not the case, having only a gentle slope.

The creation of the lower terrace would have given a vertical face on the northern side, and the retaining wall of the upper terrace could then be constructed. This terrace wall rises 1.04m above the level of the lower terrace. It is not known how deep the foundations are but it would seem likely that they are of similar depth to that of the outer walls. The upper terrace was then levelled.

At the western end of the lower terrace the lawns are less than level, they rise into a considerable hump and it clear that the slop down from the upper terrace on the western side of the steps, and the northern side of the east lawn on the lower terrace are that original ground level; the terrace makers didn’t level this area at all and utilised the original slopes.

The circular fountain on the upper terrace is clearly visible in a postcard dated 1907 (79).


Fig.49 Postcard dated 1910 by postmark

Terraces such as those at Lackham are not uncommon in Wiltshire (Iford Manor (80), Castle Combe Manor) but the opportunity to investigate their construction does not arise very often. The relationship seen at Lackham, with an extant earlier boundary feature, is less common.

George Llewellen Palmer made more changes in 1902 when he moved the stables from their old location to the west of the main house to a custom built stable block east of the walled garden. The old stable area was then converted to a small chapel and servant’s quarters.

George Llewellen Palmer was a keen huntsman, indeed he was a founder of the Avon Vale Hunt, which frequently met at Lackham. In 1902 George built a brand new stable block on the east side of the Walled Garden, the stables themselves used the garden’s east wall as one of their walls. The pillars at the entrance the Stable Yard have his initials and the date:


Fig.50 Entrance pillars to the Stable Yard

A substantial building, housing the Head Groom and the Groom’s Bothy was constructed on the southern side, with a clock tower, and an estate house in the north eastern corner. At the same time the Gardner’s Bothy was built along the north eastern wall of the Garden.

The stable staff were photographed early in the century, the date is not known but 1905 has been suggested for this image. Only one person in this photograph has so far been identified; the young man (probably about 17 or 18 years of age) standing third from the left is Charles Henry Maslen (81). He married in 1908, when he was still at Lackham but was no present on Census night in 1911.


Fig.51 Grooms at Lackham c1905 (82)

Another photograph of the Stable Yard staff, taken at the same time, shows the Stable Yard Bothy in the background, which doesn’t look very different from the view today. There have been some changes, the double doors on the east end of the block have been replaced, for example.


Fig.52 Stable staff c1905 showing Stable Bothy

The double doors at the west end of the Bothy, however, are still in place and show that they were fitted with the wonderful cast iron hinges originally patented by Charles Collinge from those invented by his father, John (83) (although by the time these doors were put in place Charles was long since dead) (84).


Fig.53 A Collinge hinge in place on the doors a) before renovation


and b) afterwards

These hinges were “extensively adopted, especially in turnpike gates, where their neatness, efficiency, and durability, have established them almost as an indispensable appendage” (85), however they had a wide range of applications. More relevantly, perhaps, they were considered to be:

"One of the best hinges for gates and external heavy doors, to coach-houses, stables, etc., is Collinge's spherical gate hinge, shown at H in Fig.178, made on the cup-and-ball principle, the cup being on the post or pier and the ball-shaped pin on the gate strap. It will be noticed that the pin has a projecting lip, fitted with a leather washer  to exclude water and dirt from the cup, which is filled with oil. These hinges are extremely durable and easy in their working". (86)

The genius of these hinges was that Collinge used a socket and ball arrangement, in effect the pin of the normal hinge was made

"into a sphere over which a spherical cap fixed to the other limb of the hinge is made to fit accurately; this is provided with a cavity for the reception of oil, having a small perforation to conduct it between the tow spherical surface, which work with great truth and freedom". (87)

This spherical cap is not usually very visible, but when the doors where repaired their construction could be clearly seen.


Fig.54 Socket cap for Collinge hinge

Most of the Collinge hinges extant have on them the name “Charles Collinge”, a crown and a hammer; the ones at Lackham only have the word “Collinge" and the crown moulding.


Fig.55 Features on the Lackham Collinge hinges

Collingehinges of exactly the same design as those seen at Lackham can be found in  Walmer in Kent (88) and at the Horseshoe Barracks at Shoeburyness garrison in Essex (89). 

Modern services were naturally put in place in the house but the dates for these are not known precisely; it is certain that the telephone was in place by 1907 (90). 

The water supply from Fox Talbot’s land on Naish Hill was mentioned in the sale catalogue above. In 1909 George (91) made a contract with Charles Henry Talbot of Lacock Abbey to take water from Taklemoor Wood on the high ground, east of Lackham.

Palmer paid £7 5s per annum, and the lease could only be terminated at the end of 7 or fourteen years – although if Palmer had really wanted to get out of it he could have just not paid; in this case, after three month’s leeway, the lease was void. The damage to his reputation however might have been somewhat costly... This was evidently the same supply that had been originally purchased by Captain Rooke in 1844 and for which new pipes were laid by Henry Caldwell in 1863.

The map for the supply (92) shows that the water was supplied via the reservoir, or “conduit house” on the western flank of Naish Hill. The course of the supply once off Talbot’s land is not shown and there is no sign of the pipe at the location given today.


Fig.56 Lackham’s water supply pipeline on Naish Hill, as shown in 1906

From the map for this agreement some of the field names on Naish Hill are known - Notton Mead, Stoney Mead and Cow Leaze.

It has already been seen that Lackham had electricity installed in 1900, when the house supply was by a generator put in place and owned by the Electricity company. By 1910 the Chippenham Electric Supply Company was putting up poles and wires in the local area for power distribution. It is known where one of these early lines ran, over land that Palmer owned close to the Chippenham Workhouse (now the Hospital) in Rowden. George Palmer agreed to allow the electricity company “to erect and maintain wood or iron poles wires and appliances for the purpose of carrying electric overhead wires“ (93) for an annual payment of 9 shillings yearly payable, in advance, January. In 1916 he agreed to allow them to erect a tenth pole for a further shilling per year.

This is interesting, not only because it is a reasonably early example of this sort of agreement, at least locally, but also because it points out that Lackham owned land very close to the centre of Chippenham at this time.


Fig.57 Location of electricity poles 1910 (94)

Unfortunately no maps have been located between 1900 and 1926 but some interesting changes in the Walled Garden area are clear on the 1926 map. The clarity and detail of the 1926 map is far inferior to that of 1886, the interior pathways of the Garden are not shown, but can still be seen in the Garden now.

By 1926 the two large greenhouses had been added to, with four smaller blocks to the west of the larger houses. There is clearly a gate in the northern wall between the two larger houses. Obviously the Gardener’s Bothy and the buildings of the Stable Yard of 1902 are included here.


Fig.58 Walled Garden / Stable Block 1926 OS map excerpt

Almost nothing is known of the interior of the house after 1895, but in 2002 small amounts of the Art Nouveau wallpaper that was used in the first floor rooms was uncovered.


Fig.59 Art Nouveau (c 1910-20?) wallpaper from the first floor Lackham House (Photograph © Tony Pratt 2002)

During the Second World War (1939–45) the house was taken over by the United States Army and used for various military purposes, including being General Patton’s headquarters in the United Kingdom. The room in the centre of the first floor on the south of the house was General Patton’s rooms and the room where the wallpaper above was revealed, was the bathroom.

Lackham continued to be the property of the pre-war owner, Lt Col Holt, throughout the War but the house, cottages and gardens were requisitioned at a rate of £300 pa compensation plus £75pa for upkeep of the gardens. When the Butler’s cottage was de-requisitioned the amount was reduced by £26 pa. Rent was paid separately for the land used for the Pillboxes on the estate, at 15s pa annum (95).

They didn’t take control of all the estate, and maps held by Wiltshire College from the period indicate that the farms remained free (below). Lt Col Holt was paid an additional 10 shillings a year compensation for the land on which the 7 pillboxes guarding the estate stood. These must have been put in place when it was decided to use Lackham as Gen. Patton’s HQ – similar estates locally that were also requisitioned do not have such features (96).


Fig.60 War Department areas of Lackham, the hatched lines indicate areas not solely WD land

An old servant who had worked on the estate all his life spoke of visits by Generals Patton and Eisenhower and how, immediately after 'D' Day, "the whole place became calm and desolate" (97).

After the invasion of Europe Lackham became a rehabilitation centre for wounded service personnel.

Lackham House almost lost its fine hall panelling. In July 1945 Lt Col. Holt contacted the County Council, offering to buy the pine panelling in the entrance hallway of Lackham house “if the County Council desired to sell it and the price be reasonable” 98).

Fortunately this offer was turned down; there is a pencil written note on Lt Col. Holt’s letter, instructing:

"The house is still requisitioned. I have spoken to the Secretary of the War Agricultural Committee who are to lease the property from the council and he says "do not remove panelling as it will make a dreadful mess and there is nothing to replace it with!"" (99)

After the war, the County Council purchased it to be the new County Agricultural Training facility. These all required substantial internal alterations to be made and, as the School of Agriculture developed, the construction of additional buildings.

The development of the College is not considered here but details up to the early 1970’s are detailed in a book by the first County Council Principal of Lackham, Mr JO Thomas (Principal 1948–1970) (100). 


British Library Additional MSS no. 15,547, dated August 1790

Brocklebank, Rev GR (1968) The Heraldry of the Church of St Syriac in Lacock The Uffington Press

Brown, WH Internal Domestic Fittings in Middleton, GAT  (1921) Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol6 Ch XIV, section  Hinges

Buckeridge, D (1995) Church Heraldry in Wiltshire

Crawford, Louisa (1835) Autobiographical sketches connected with Laycock Abbey and Lackham House Metropolitan Magazine vol unknown

Cunnington W (1852) Memoir of George Montagu WAM III

Devizes Gazette May 20th 1856

Fairburn, revised by Butler, L (1986) Crests of Families of Great Britain and Ireland New Orchard ISBN 1 85709 155

Fowden, W (1794) “A plan of the Wilts and Berks canal with links to the Thames and Severn Canal”.

Harvey, RB (1991) The Site of Old Lackham House -

Herbert, L (1836)  The engineer’s and mechanic’s Encyclopaedia Vol 1 p675


Jellicoe, G, Jellicoe, S, Goode, P and Lancaster, M (1991) The Oxford Companion to Gardens

Kite EJ (1899) Old Lackham House and its owners Wilts Notes & Queries, III,

Kite, E (undated) Pedigrees of Wiltshire [mss] vol II

Pratt, T (2003) Two Georgian Montagus Lackham Museum of Agriculture and Rural Life Trust

Pratt, T (2004) The Manor of Alderton: Its owners and some historical connections .

Pratt, T (2005) A note on the late Victorian terraces at Lackham, Wiltshire , and their relation to an earlier garden feature Monograph mss

Pratt T (2005) The Manor of Lackham – its owners and some historical connections Appendix 3

Pratt, T (2008) “A brief note on King Henry VIII at Lackham, and why Sir Robert Baynard was unhappy with Thomas Cromwell”

Pratt, T (2008) The WWII hardened field defences of Lackham

Scatchard, P (2001) A Brief History of the Wilts & Berks Canal

The Monumental Inscriptions of Lacock Parish W&SHC microfiche 607477

Thomas JO (1984)  History of Agricultural Education in Wiltshire  Lackham College of Agriculture

Thorn , F & Thorn, C (1979) Domesday Book : vol 6 Wiltshire Phillimore 0 85033 160 3

Victoria County History Wiltshire II

W&SHC 44/1/16

W&SHC 137/125/14

W&SHC 173/61 Sale catalogue entitled “The Lackham estate in the county of Wilts  

W&SHC f2/600/117/1 1945 – 1949 ref DLA.51/1219/R

W&SHC Map 140 V

W&SHC T/A Lacock

WANHS 16.278

WANHS 1982.1863

Wiltshire Times 20 Dec 1900,

Wiltshire Times Sat 2 May 1908 vol LIII no 3009

Wilts. Times Sat July 11 1964 “New hostel for women students at Lackham“



72 Reproduced by kind permission of Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre

73 All cards reproduced here are held in the author’s collection

74 To attend a HBGBS masterclass on “Garden Archaeology”, supported by a staff development grant from Wiltshire College and an HBGBS bursary 2008

75 This section is partially taken from Pratt, T (2005) A note on the late Victorian terraces at Lackham, Wiltshire , and their relation to an earlier garden feature Monograph mss report in Wiltshire College Lackham Library. It also appears in Pratt T (2005) The Manor of Lackham – its owners and some historical connections Appendix 3 pp212 – 221

76 © Tony Pratt 2005

77 Based on material reproduced by kind permission of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Ordnance Survey

78 Levelling survey carried out December 2004. My thanks to my colleagues Francis Greaves (Garden Trainee 2004-2005) and Monica Ashman (Horticultural Technician) for their assistance in completing this survey

79 Kindly made available by the generosity of Andrew Davies, previously Museum Curator, Lackham Museum of Agriculture & Rural Life

80 Interestingly Iford Manor was owned by Capt. Rooke’s oldest son, William Wallace Rooke, the painter of the 1849 picture of Lackham House but it was Harold Pito who installed the terracing there.

81 My thanks to Mr and Mrs Briggs for their kind permission to use the photograph and for information on Mr. Maslen.

82 Photograph copyright Mr and Mrs Briggs. Taken by JJ Hunt, the Studio, Calne.


84 My very sincere thanks to my colleague, Patrick Taylor, Estates and Services, Wiltshire College Lackham, who made me aware of the importance of these hinges when he was renovating the doors [Autumn 2010] and for sharing the results of his own careful research.

85 Herbert, L (1836)  The engineer’s and mechanic’s Encyclopaedia Vol 1 p675

86 Brown, WH Internal Domestic Fittings in Middleton, GAT  (1921) Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol 6 Ch XIV, section Hinges

87 Herbert, L (1836)  The engineer’s and mechanic’s Encyclopaedia Vol 1 p675



90 “During the afternoon of Sunday 27 April 1908 Lackham received a “telephonic communication” informing the Palmers that their son Michael had been found dead at his lodgings in London”. Death of Mr Michael Palmer Wiltshire Times Sat 2 May 1908 vol LIII no 3009 p8. He was 23 years old.

91 W&SHC 44/1/16 dated March 3rd 1909

92  W&SHC 44/1/16 redrawn, onto an excerpt of the 1901 1:2,500 OS map of the area, by the author

93  W&SHC 44/1/16 agreement dated 7 Feb 1910

94  The locations of the poles (the stars – red if seen online) have been taken, by the author, from the sketch map included in the agreement W&SHC 44/1/16 and put onto an extract from the 1901 OS map of the area

95  W&SHC f2/600/117/1 1945 – 1949 letter dated 21 June 46 ref DLA.51/1219/R

96 For an in-depth investigation and survey of the pill boxes at Lackham see Pratt, T (2008) The WWII hardened field defences of Lackham copy in Wiltshire College Lackham library and online at

97 From Thomas, JO (1984) History of Agricultural Education in Wiltshire  Lackham College of Agriculture  Part 1 p12. A project to transcribe this book, by very kind permission of the Thomas family, is under way (2011) to make it more easily available. The original is held in Wiltshire College Lackham Library and there is a copy in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham online at

98 W&SHC f2/600/117/1 1945 – 1949 Letter from Holt dated 16 July 45 from 6 Mount Row Davies Street W1

99 W&SHC f2/600/117/1 1945 – 1949 ibid

100 Thomas JO (1984) History of Agricultural Education in Wiltshire.

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