Other Half gave my old home office the sobriquet squat (for reasons obvious to the obsessively tidy). When we moved, retracing our roots west, there would be no more squat. Our new house would have a dedicated workspace, with enough room for my desk, files and multiple half-empty coffee cups.
Squat, however, continues to haunt me. I have a nice new office, nestled in the nook of a nineteenth century squat.
Like most pre-loved homes, ours has given us a few surprises. Lydiard Green’s quirky past, and our cottage’s place in it, has been one.
The Wiltshire landscape is rich with history. However, usually the big manors and towering megaliths grab all the attention. Yet the village greens and hamlets have their tales too.
Lydiard Green’s story starts in the seventeenth century with enclosure. Landowners fenced off fields and woods, traditionally enjoyed by the community, for private hunting or agriculture. The Green remained, one of the few areas of common. Dispossessed peasants and graziers settled there, exercising their rights as squatters.
For the next three hundred years, Lydiard Green settled into a quiet existence. With its motley collection of agricultural cottages and smallholdings, the hamlet took on a character of its own. A primitive Methodist chapel, a grocers and butchers appeared in the nineteenth century. However, the hamlet remained resolutely rural; less prosperous, less modish than neighbouring Lydiard Millicent with its fine Manor and Rectory.
Today the chapel is a private home, and the butchers and grocers have long gone. Few of the cottages (our own included) now house farm labourers, or displaced peasants.
Yet, the hamlet retains a unique charm, rich echoes of its past. The brick and stone-rubble houses may lack the uniform appeal of honey-coloured Cotswold stone. (Stone from the local quarry was more salt-and-pepper in hue, flecked with chips of fossils, and the buildings themselves have more than a touch of the makeshift about them.) However, like the squatters who built them, they have those most English of qualities, character and endurance.
Sitting in my study, surrounded by all the paraphernalia of a twenty-first century office, I sometimes think about its first occupant, another squatter, making a fresh start.
Lydiard Green became a Conservation Area in 1993. Thiswas my entry for history category in the wfcap writing competiion. It didn’t get anywhere….but am pleased someoneis raising the profile of Wiltshire’s heritage. And it seemed to fit with Tales from the Hamlet….in the absence of any cute Christmassy animal pictures!