Cholderton, Wiltshire. A small village in the Bourne Valley, nine miles or so north east of Salisbury. A pretty place, it always puts me in mind of being the kind of place people come to swoon over country homes on shows like ‘Escape to the Country’.
As well as being easy on the eye, Cholderton is a lovely example of an historic Wiltshire village. It is keeper of a church, manor house, a farming estate and layers of history connecting them.
The Village Church & Church Lane
I love a good church and a good church yard. Cholderton delivers beautifully on both and throws in an impressive church yard gate for good measure. All of which is tucked away down a quaint little track, aptly named Church Lane.
Could we just take a moment to appreciate the pretty cottages and approach to the Church of St Nicholas?
And then at the end of the lane, the gate. A lychgate, I think. A common feature of British rural churches, this one particularly lovely. Beautifully maintained and quite fancy with cutouts and metal adornments. A statement gate.
The church itself, an imposing beauty. There was once two churches on the site, side by side. In the 1841 Reverend Thomas Mozley has his wife Harriet laid the foundation stone for a new church. They also met most of the cost of building it. No easy task for them, read some of their story here.
Sadly, the church itself was closed. I’d have liked a peek inside but that will keep for another day. I did find a little mystery at the door, more on that later.
The Graveyard of St Nicholas, Cholderton
There is something charming about an English country graveyard. Especially in the almost-Spring sunshine with clusters of snowdrops all about. This one, a real beauty with some fascinating features.
You’re never far from a military connection in Wiltshire. This gravestone caught my eye, with it’s army related emblem. The final resting place of Lt Colonel Rupert Stephens of the Royal Green Jackets. He lived to 86 and was buried here in 1970.
A quick calculation of maths and history has me thinking Lt Colonel Stephens had quite the career. The Green jackets were an infantry regiment who deployed in the days when going overseas meant action, not just mobility.
His stone is getting harder to read with age. It didn’t look regularly tended. His epitaph read, ‘A man of infinite…‘ but I couldn’t read the last word. Courage? Honour? Patience?
The Stephens Family Mausoleum
Remembering the family that really created Cholderton as it stands. Much of the villages historical wealth and current purpose comes from agriculture, and it was the Stephens family that planted the seeds.
Henry Charles Stephens (1841 – 1918) made his fortune in the ink industry giving him the nick name ‘Inky’, but a love of horticulture and agriculture led him to create the Cholderton estate. He developed an interest in advancing Victorian farming and rare breeds, a connection which endures at the neighbouring Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm.
Stands to reason that such a prominent local family would have a special spot in the churchyard. The Stephens Mausoleum – quite elaborate, a fair amount of detailing and a sloping stone roof- sits to the rear of the church. Enclosed by a wrought iron fence, it’s definitely a statement piece in such a rural setting.
To one side, a listing of those remembered here, ending with Alice Alethea Stephens 1898- 1993.
On the other, a crest. Impossible to read the words, but the bird is quite phoenix-like. Remember that, it’s an interesting point when it comes to another bit of local history.
In a prominent position nearer the church, this fenced in, ivy clad beauty complete with a crest. It stands in memory of one Archibald Frederic Paxton. He seems to have been a man of means, dividing his time between London and a country home at Cholderton House. Another military connection with a mention of service with Light Dragoons.
This memorial seems cared for, the stone clean and legible. It certainly stands out and links neatly to…
Driving through the village, it’s impossible to miss the large manor house. With pretty brick work and rows of windows, it’s an eye catching beauty. Built in the late 1600’s for a wealthy Salisbury merchant, the manor was extended in subsequent centuries into what can be seen today.
Well, almost. Remember that I mentioned the bird on the Stephens family crest looking phoenix like? The bird that rises from the ashes would make a fitting emblem for Cholderton House.
In 2012 a fire swept through the manor, damaging all three floors and the roof. The building could have been lost, but a decision was made to, ‘repair, reinstate and match’. The result is astonishing, you’d be hard pressed to know you weren’t looking at the original home. Cholderton House rose from the ashes, literally.
Cholderton Farm Cafe
Exploring requires refreshments, usually of the coffee and cake variety. Cholderton Farm Cafe is part of the original Cholderton estate and is owned by the great-grandson of ‘Inky’ Stephens.
It’s a welcoming place, serving hot drinks, sandwiches and traditional cream teas as well as a range of locally produced meat and produce. Also home to some gorgeous historic farm features.
I think Cholderton is a Wiltshire gem. Highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area, use postcode SP4 0DR to find the farm shop.
A little mystery. I spotted these markings by the church doors. Any ideas on what they are or what they mean?
Answers on a postcard. Actually stamps are expensive and Royal Mail a bit unreliable. Best guesses or shared knowledge in the comments, please?