Seventeenth and Eightennth Century Occupants of Great Chalfield.

William Hanham, cousin of Thomas Hanham, who bought Great Chalfield from Sir Richard Gurney’s executors, as already mentioned, had a distinguished tenant of the manor house, Edward Horton, whose mother, Jane, was the daughter of Penelope and Thomas Hanham (sometimes known as Sargeant Hanham to distinguish him, he was a sergeant at law). This was doubtless the reason for his leasing Great Chalfield, as it belonged to his mother’s family. He was the second son of Sir John Horton (1593-1667), one of the wealthiest and most acquisitive of this very acquisitive clothier family. He bought out all the others who had shares in the manor of Broughton Gifford and built himself a manor house there. To keep the property together he left it all in his will to his eldest son having already given or arranged for dowries for his daughters and given their own properties to his younger sons. It was only necessary for him therefore in his will to leave each of them 20 shillings to buy a ring to remember him by. Edward was fortunate financially because he had been left money by a childless uncle. Sir John took care of his wife, settling on her a jointure of £300 a year when they married in 1610.

Edward Horton was High Sheriff in 1660, following his father who had held that office in 1617. When Sir John was High Sheriff and before he had built his house in Broughton Gifford he was described as of Iford, Westwood and Chalfield. This presumably was Little Chalfield as Great Chalfield was the property of Sir John Eyre at that time, who lived there himself. Edward’s wife, Margaret, was buried in All Saints, Great Chalfield in 1670. Edward died soon after in 1675. There is no mention in the deeds of sale to John Hall in 1673 of any sitting tenant so one can assume Edward Horton after his wife’s death went to live in one of the Hortons’ properties in Broughton Gifford where he was buried. Margaret’s tombstone with a lead inscription is still in the Tropenell Chapel. The space on it for her husband was never used though his death was registered at Great Chalfield as well as at Broughton Gifford. He was obviously strongly associated with Great Chalfield which was described as his place of residence as High Sheriff. As a holder of that office, all of whom had to be landowners like John Hall himself, he was not likely to have rented anything other than a property in a generally good state of repair with a Great Hall that was useful then as now for entertaining and perhaps for other purposes. The family connection continued too into the next generation as two of his brother Thomas’s Horton’s grandchildren were baptised in All Saints, Great Chalfield in 1681, shortly after John Hall had bought the manor.
It seems therefore that despite military occupation it served too useful a purpose to suffer irreparable damage from the garrison during the war and recovered for full domestic and farming use quite quickly afterwards, presumably after the considerable refurbishment and repair that would have been necessary. There is no evidence that it had suffered damage from siege. The deliberate demolition of the south Range which was very probably half-timbered with reusable timber that was easy to take down, cannot be dated with certainty but the balance of probability seems to be in favour of its having been done as a defensive measure in the civil war. If not then the alternative is that it was as a result of disuse or change of use later when tenants perhaps encouraged the owners to make such structural alterations.
The barn was extended and repaired using some of its old roof timbers in 1752 when it was owned by the Duke, as a plaque on it still records. Between 1743 and 1755 there was a change of tenant in the manor and its farm. The deeds survive of these tenancies among the Manvers papers now in the British Library. The new tenant, Henry Hunt, came after Thomas Hunt and his widow, who had inherited the tenancy from her husband. Henry saw the barn rebuilt, probably on the change of tenancy. The dismantling of the south range and evacuation of the east wing could also have been part of a reorganisation of the use of the house in the Hunts’ time. They were well established in their occupation of the Manor in the 18 th century. Henry’s son John was born there and they continued in their occupancy after its ownership changed in 1769.
The various tenants would have resented, as everyone did, the chimney tax, (at first called the hearth tax but chimneys were easier to count!), imposed by Parliament in 1662 to pay for the court of the new King, Charles II, who was famously extravagant.All had to pay this though those who were too poor to pay church or poor rates, ie if they occupied premises worth less than 20 shillings a year or if their property was not worth more than £10 were exempted. Between 1662-1688 it was the government’s main source of revenue. William and Mary repealed it as a popular gesture on their accession in 1689, only to follow it with the also unpopular window tax. This was repealed as late as in 1851.These taxes were levied from the occupiers of all residential property though sometimes landlords paid them for their tenants(adjusting their rent accordingly!). They were based on a flat rate for every house, plus at first two shillings for each chimney or later each window. Often people went to great lengths to avoid them by reducing the number of their chimneys or windows, though they were not heavy taxes by modern standards. As always the poor were hardest hit. There were three tenants of Great Chalfield during the time of the chimney tax, and one, John Sertaine was specifically relieved by John Hall in his lease from paying his tax as already mentioned. The lease stated, ’I am to pay all taxes which shall be due by Parliament.’ Like other rich people John Hall could well afford it though it is hard to believe he made this concession to any except very favoured tenants.

However even if that was so, all the tenants were willing to pay good rents throughout the period after the Civil War. The annual rental value of the estate in 1743 was £353. The probate valuation of £7,000 put on it after John Hall’s death, shows that it had increased considerably in value during his ownership and that it was his most valuable property after the Hall in Bradford. This strongly suggests that as it then stood it was in a reasonable state of repair and had not deteriorated since he bought it in 1673. Its woodlands would probably have recovered or may have been replanted and the estate was handed on as a profitable concern.


Great Chalfield Manor, Great Chalfield, nr. Melksham, Wiltshire. SN12 8NH - Tel: 01225 782 239