Thursday, 24 April 2014

U is for Upper Chute

I'll start with the local dialect words.  Do you know what upsides means?  What does up-along mean?  And what does it mean if a child is described as unbelieving?  The answers are at the end of this post.

Today's tale takes us to the village of Upper Chute which is 36 miles east of Trowbridge on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border. 
We need to go back to July 1593 and the terrible times of the Black Death.  The story is that when some of the villagers from Upper Chute and the surrounding villages unluckily contracted the plague they were persuaded by Reverend John Atkins, the vicar of Vernham Dean (about 4 miles away), to isolate themselves and so protect the other unaffected villagers.  They agreed to this and made a camp (referred to as a 'pest house') at Conholt Hill on Chute Causeway.  Atkins promised to support them and bring them supplies, but sadly he failed to keep his promise and they all died.  Whether he abandoned them through fear, laziness or neglect is not explained in the story.  He eventually contracted the plague himself and died, as did his wife and children. 
Looking north down Conholt Hill
© Copyright Hugh Chevallier and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Whether there is any truth to this story I don't know.  There is no doubt that there was a Reverend John Atkins incumbent at Hurstbourne Tarrant (which included the parish of Vernham Dean) from 1575 to 1593, and the date of his death tallies with the story.  He was apparently an inefficient vicar who neglected his work and his parishioners; there were hardly any baptisms recorded during the time he was there and for the most part the church records were blank.
John Atkins' ghost is said to be seen on the route up to the pest house on Chute Causeway although it never gets to the top, just as he failed to in life.  It is dressed in the costume of a clergyman of the late 16th century, but has only ever been seen in July - the time of year that the plague victims died!

All the images in this post were taken from
These are the answers to the dialect words:
  • upsides - to get even with someone
  • up-along - a short way up the road
  • unbelieving - disobedient (referring to the behaviour of a child)
I'll be back tomorrow with the letter V.


  1. Sounds like Karma to me. Enjoying your theme.

  2. That would be sad if the story was true, that they waited and he never came with the needed supplies. Such a pretty view in the picture though!