Garston

Garston formed part of a tract of land stretching from Middlesex to Dorset granted by the first King William, unusually, to a loyal English family later ennobled as Earls of Salisbury. The lands passed down the family from father to son until 1196 when eight-year-old Ela, Countess of Salisbury, inherited on the death of her father William, the second Earl of Salisbury. Ela was made a ward of King Henry II. To safeguard the estates King Henry gave Ela in marriage to his natural son William Longespée. After Longespée’s death Ela founded Lacock Abbey and in 1232 her son William Longespée II gifted all his lands in Chitterne, including Garston, to the Abbey.


Map of Chitterne showing Garston's position today

For the next three hundred years, until the dissolution of Lacock Abbey in 1539, the Abbey lands in Chitterne were managed by the nun’s tenants. Garston occupied a prime position adjacent to the main house and between the two old parish churches of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary, which are thought to date from the nun’s time. The chancel of old St Mary’s still exists in a churchyard south of Garston but old All Saints church to the north has gone. The great house which once stood in the walled field (now the village sportsfield) east of Garston was probably built at that time too, as it was known locally as the Abbess’s house.

After the dissolution Garston passed through the hands of the Temys and Jordan families, relatives of the last abbess of Lacock; the Giles family of Kingston Deverill; the Methuens of Corsham; the Michells of Calston, near Calne; the Onslows of Cornwall and the Collins family of Devon. After the death of Charles Collins in 1937 the War Department bought the estate. Today Garston is owned by the Ministry of Defence and still retains a few reminders of its past.

Two avenues of ancient lime trees intersect almost at right angles in Garston. One of these avenues, running west to east, is thought to mark the main driveway leading to the great house, which once stood in the present-day sportsfield. Parts of the walls that surrounded the house still exist and some remains can be seen between Garston and the sportsfield. The main entrance to the house was in this wall. It was marked by two ball-topped pillars, similar to the pillars at the other entrance opposite the village hall. The site of this old main entrance is now closed by a Wiltshire gate. The pillars existed in living memory but were acquired by the Duchess of Newcastle for use on her estate at Boyton, in the Wylye valley, in 1967.

Another avenue of lime trees, running north to south, crosses the entrance avenue. This second avenue marks Churches Path, which once joined the two old parish churches of Chitterne All Saints and Chitterne St Mary, (these were knocked down, except for the chancel of St Mary's, before the present church was built). This path is a public right-of-way, footpath number 5. Andrew's and Drury's 1773 map of Chitterne shows this track and the house that once stood in the present-day sportsfield.

There are also remains of the foundations of a great barn which once stood in Garston just behind the garden of number 6 St Mary's Close. This may have been a tithe barn. The walls finally disappeared when Garston was ploughed up in the 1950's, under the ownership of the War Department. A second right-of-way, footpath number 7, passes close by the site and then heads towards the kissing gate between Garston and Manor Farm paddock.

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