The magic that was Purtington
by Paul Smith
On the old maps the area north and east of the A30 and Winsham roads are shown as the lands of Earl Paulett . To the south and west (Winsharn parish) is shown as the lands of Lord Bridport. When I first came to Newhouse Farm (now Windwhistle Farm) in 1921 the new winding lane had been constructed a mile further west along the A30 to enter Purtington from the west.
Lord Bridport had sold all his Cricket estate to Mr Fry and in 1919 a Mrs Hall had bought the main Cricket St Thomas estate. The five outlying farms and the hamlet of Purtington were offered for sale to private farmers. Mr Tom Corr, a great Irish character, bought two farms and Purtington hamlet, and farmed some 500 acres. As a Roman Catholic he let many of the houses to fellow Catholics and at one time there were 19 Catholics in Purtington. My father bought Newhouse Farm in 1921. During Lord Bridportís reign estate workers, including a cobbler (a Mr Hoskins), filled the houses and all hedges were laid, ditches were dug and copses, spinneys, coverts and fences were properly maintained mainly in the interests of shooting and hunting. Ponds and watercourses were carefully maintained and unpolluted. Brightly coloured apple orchards, mostly for cider, lined the approach to Purtington and opposite the houses. Roses often lined the doors under the bright yellow of the thatched roofs. The old building-stone quarry, with vertical walls, lay conveniently opposite the first dwelling - Long' s Cottage. Barn owls could usually be seen from here just before dusk. One tree in the orchard here grew very large, and very juicy, Morgan Sweet apples - a magnet for small boys.
Toward the centre was Lower Purtington Farm - a very mixed holding with a few cows, some fattening cattle, sheep, pigs, mixed poultry - a little of everything. Hay was the main winter feed. Despite the fact that, like so many village farms, the fields and buildings occupied both sides of the road residents accepted the minor disturbances as part of life. The whole of Purtington was overlooked - from further up the hill - by Purtington House and farm, with a large walnut tree in front of the buildings. My isolated home was approached along the old track and footpaths across the combe and stream to the far side of Pool copse. (See map).
The stream that started beside the houses ran alongside the farm yard under the track to Purtington House and to a large pond that powered the saw Mill, with its overshot water wheel, as it continued on down through Watermead (now an SSSI) to Cricket St Thomas and the Axe River. There was a large concrete basin in the stream beyond the mill that was used as a sheep dip.
What you may see now (2002) is but a shadow of the Purtington of old. The basic underlying structure is still there - the pond, the stream, the winding lane, a few cottages and the isolation. Two ugly brick cottages now face the old three-story farm house with its minstrel's gallery and 'cellar', with outside steps up to the third story now decaying under a coat of ivy. The old quarry has served as a silage pit, Long's Cottage has gone and there is not an apple tree in sight. The old Water Mill is but a shell and the Mill Pond has silted up. Most of the little farm hedges have gone to make way for the use of the forage harvester and the hundred cow dairy herd. There is a now a central red telephone box, a range of modem farm buildings, the old central barn has gone but the 'barn' (the Chapel) on the top (Dormer) lane has become a house. Several of the houses have been modernised.
I lived at Newhouse Farm (now Windwhistle Farm) all my childhood and working life. So to finish this exhibit I now recall some of the little happenings which make Purtington such a happy memory.
To my childish delight he picked the sheep up and with a wild swinging motion propelled himself into the dip to the obvious surprise of the sheep still standing on the edge. He was duly fished out with the sheep already in the dip.
I recall that when mother also asked him if he had a watch he replied that he never had one as it would not make him walk any quicker.
One day he promised to get me a cheap gudgeon pin for my tractor. Only a few days after he had handed it to me did I discover a fresh old tractor in his junkyard under a hedge - with the gudgeon pin missing!
Cider with Dicker
I decided to keep out of the way but on my return, when I heard the saw stop some half an hour later, the entire scene was vivid red. The exhausted Dicker was lying on his back on the ground with arms outstretched and Teddy was pouring the last drops of cider into his mouth directly from the stone firkin. It was just mid-day. Teddy was, indeed, a man of his word.
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