History of Easterton, Eastcott and Easterton Sands
The village was first mentioned in 1348 as a tithing of Market Lavington. It appears that we were part of Lavertone in the Domesday Book (1086). However, there is evidence of earlier settlement through Roman remains that were found near Kestrels on Oak Lane.
Easterton’s toponym is derived from the Old English for “the more easterly farm”. It was a tithing which formed the eastern part of the ancient parish of East Lavington, now Market Lavington. Easterton was made a separate civil parish soon after its ecclesiastical parish was created in 1874, and in 1934 Eastcott hamlet was transferred to it from Urchfont parish.
Looking around the parish you will soon discover there is a wealth of spectacular buildings dating from the 14th century onwards. Many of these beautiful timber framed properties were originally farm houses. Rumour has it that Oliver Cromwell slept in one of these before a battle.
Eastcott Manor is a Grade II* listed farmhouse of c. 1600, extended in the later 17th century and in the 18th. At Easterton, Kestrels is an early 18th century brick house, also Grade II*.
Wroughton’s Folly, known locally as Maggot Castle, was a mansion in the far northwest of the parish, Easterton Sands, close to the modern boundary with Urchfont parish. It was built and enlarged by two members of the Wroughton family, Francis and Seymour, between about 1730 and 1780. After Seymour’s accidental death in 1789 the house was left unoccupied and became a ruin. Its foundations, visible in the 19th century, have now disappeared. Today, the bridleway towards Potterne Wick is called The Folly, where Seymour’s ghost remains (according to local legend) recreating along his vanished driveway the furious carriage ride which ended in his death.
The village pub, the Royal Oak, was built as a farmhouse and has an impressive steep sloped thatched roof and timber framed gable. The local pub in the 18th century, known as The Cow Inn, was a few doors down at The Grange (now behind the large laurel hedge).
The parishioners of Easterton worshipped at St. Mary’s in Market Lavington while Eastcott worshippers journeyed to St. Michael’s in Urchfont until 1875 when the red brick church of St. Barnabas was built. A primary school was constructed beside it but has since been replaced by St. Barnabas School on Drove Lane (which is now in the Parish of Market Lavington).
By 1881 residents of Easterton were working as a game-keeper, dressmaker, grocer, baker and engine driver (of a steam plough). Farming of course remained as a key employer. There was a forge, owned by Enos Maynard. It was sold in 1910 only to be burnt down a few years afterwards. An engineering business was started in 1909 by H.E. Wells; he repaired farm machinery. He put in the boilers and other machinery in Samuel Moore’s new jam factory. This business morphed into a forge after Wells’ death, run by Oliver Webb, whose wife was the local midwife.
Over the centuries the greens and slopes of Easterton have provided an ideal growing area for fruit and vegetables such that jam making became a major industry. With humble beginnings Samuel Moore began making jam at Woodbine Cottage in 1910, starting his jam empire with a galvanised bath and primitive apple peeler. The business developed and a need to sell the jam further afield necessitated the construction of a wheelbarrow from old wooden planks. In 1918 manufacturing moved across The Drove to an old army hut which was erected on the site. The business flourished and as many as 100 people were employed in peak season.
An extension was opened by Princess Anne in 1985, but the whole enterprise closed during the 1990s, and visitors to the village are no longer greeted by the all-pervading aroma of warm strawberry jam. The “Jam Factory” is now a new housing development known as Strawberry Fields.
To the west of the main village high street, around which most of the houses are clustered, runs a stream, which is a symbol of great affection for the villagers. There are several small bridges crossing the brook in gardens or just outside front gates.
On Kings Road, which leaves the main road and goes towards the church, is an old pump from where residents used to get their water before mains water was installed in the middle of the 20th century. Most of the houses in the village of Easterton are two storey and made from red brick with slate or clay tiled roofs. The road was widened after World War Two which caused the loss of many of the parish’s older houses.
In 1985 much of the village became a designated Conservation Area which now means that it is necessary to seek permission from Wiltshire Council before embarking on any building project or tree surgery.
The population of Easterton can only be looked at from 1881, which was the first time a census recorded it as a separate civil parish. In that year, there were 384 people living in the new parish. This remained fairly steady in the 300s until 1951, when it jumped up to 427 from 301 in 1931. In 2001 there were 583 people living in the parish.
After World War One, it was noted that 17 men who had left for war did not return. This included the only son of the vicar, the Reverend Gilbert King, who was killed in 1917. A war memorial was built in the church and was officially unveiled on 5 February 1920. Names of those who died in World War Two were added after the end of that conflict.
There were many evacuees who arrived at the outbreak of the war. Many of them stayed at the Vicarage. The vicar at that time, the Reverend Stacey, had no family and therefore a lot of room in his large house. His home later became Easterton House and is now a private home.
Water was connected to the parish in the 1952 and sewerage added in 1958. Outside privies were soon demolished. There are still some houses with their own natural water supply used today.
The Village Hall was built in 1955, on land owned by Samuel Moore of the jam making business. The hall was built by local man Tom Jeffries. It was extended in 1968 when it also won an award in the same year for ‘Best Kept Village Hall’.
There are many more places of interest in Easterton village, Eastcott and Easterton Sands. If you are interested in finding out more, the Parish Council hold a copy of the book ‘The History and Development of Easterton Village’ by Sheila Judge, updated with photos and lots of appendices costs £12 (ISBN 9781987765076) this is also held in the library in Market Lavington. It is also available for purchase from Market Lavington Museum and at the Post Office.
Grateful thanks to Market Lavington Museum for providing us access to the historical photographs. For a source of more historical information of the area please use the link to Market Lavington Museum