a little plot of land

with a little piece of history 

Ancient agricultural practices and countless seasonal cycles.

Fields trodden by bygone feet and tracks left by wild creatures.

Hedgerow foraging and meadow sunsets.

Layers of earth and rock. Layers of undiscovered stories.

All land has history. 

This peaceful plot at Meadowbrook is no different.

Let’s rewind for a moment to medieval times....

Medieval Meadowbrook sits but

a hop, skip and a jump away

from the Forests of Melksham.

Royal Forests, no less.

The special forests of Melksham have been granted royal status; allowing the King of England himself (along with his favourite peers) to enjoy exclusive hunting rights when the mood takes them. Twenty oaks from the forest are gifted to make stalls in the majestic Salisbury Cathedral. This early history continues to linger on in future place names like ‘Woodrow Road’, ‘Forest Farm’ and ‘Hunters Wood’ housing estate in the years to come.

So we know that royal footsteps trod near to Meadowbrook. But what about Meadowbrook itself?

Whose footsteps have walked

across its land?

footsteps of farmers

It’s the year 1838 and a chap by the name of Christopher Beaven owns the land. His fields are farmed by two tenant farmers: Esau Richards and John Sheppard.

Meadowbrook’s 2 ½ acres are divvied into two plots. Plot 1893 is under the care of John and Plot 1900 is Esau’s patch. They grow arable crops such as wheat, barley, and oats. Farming by hand entails serious hard graft in all weathers with  cumbersome hand tools.

Each man’s plot is carefully marked out and numbered in old fashioned script on the Tithe Award map of 1836. This map is a big deal. Up until 1836, farmers pay yearly taxes (tithes) to the local church and clergy. A tenth of your produce is handed over to the men in cloth; year after year.

However, in 1836, the rigid and unpopular tithe system finally gets the heave-ho. In comes a much fairer and flexible yearly ‘Corn Rent-Charge’. Out goes the ancient tax of a tenth. The status quo is challenged and as a result a much fairer tax system kicks in. Power to the people.

footsteps of cattle dealers

Fast forward to the 1920’s and the plot of land at Meadowbrook is now in the hands of the Hutton family. There's farming folk aplenty in these parts...

Fields abound, edged by thick bountiful hedgerows where berries  and deer shelter. Alfred Hutton dies, leaving his land to brother Tom as part of the Woodrow Farm Estate. Tom is a cattle dealer. His herd rotates regularly between the Woodrow farm fields. Tom’s cows happily graze at the main Meadowbrook field. 

 During these times the grass is chewed and consumed. The earth is trodden and trampled by the muddy hooves of the beloved herd. Months of manure make for fertile soil full of nutrients and goodness. Whilst Tom’s cattle are loved greatly, they ultimately exist to make him money.   

His herd is regularly part of livestock traded at the Market Place on alternate Tuesdays. As the Second World War takes hold, the historic town market vanishes. Further out on the fringes of town, the cattle gradually vanish from the fields of Meadowbrook. Times are a changing….

footsteps of businessmen

Next the meadow comes under the care of Joseph Crook. Joe is an interesting fella. Whilst his surname might be unfortunate for a man in business, he is quite the rising entrepreneur round these parts.

Meadowbrook’s 2 ½ acres are just little of the full 50+ acres owned by Joe in the Melksham area. Making his money in the years before the Second World war, he trades as ‘Joseph Crook & Sons’; a successful road haulage business dealing in carriers, highway contractors and furniture removals. Interestingly a good chunk of his money comes from taking a punt on an up-and-coming mode of transport some years before.

Photo courtesy of Melksham Memories.

Melksham has long been a key place on the transport scene; located on an old medieval road between Devizes and Bath as well as being on the main London to Bristol stagecoach route. Joe is a savvy, suited and booted chap of solid business acumen and he morphs into no less than a “pioneer” in the hiring of char-a-bancs.

These curiously named, old-fashioned motor coaches are fitted with rows of benched seats. There’s even the option of open top travel in fine weather.

Booking seats on a Crook char-a-banc means a rare chance for Melksham townsfolk to escape the humdrum and enjoy a much-needed adventure.

Whilst the Meadowbrook land plays a small part in the Crook company’s success story, it still matters. Sometimes when Crook’s char-a-banc is returning from another day trip it takes a detour via the back roads. Joe crooks his neck and smiles when he sees his pastures glowing in the late summer sun.


of dreamers and doers

Taking a big stride forward to the here and now, you meet today’s caretakers of the land; Grace and Ja Dalgleish.

In 2019 the couple get shown some bare, unloved, and unassuming land. The plot seems to be asking for a chance. Beckoning for a proper gift of TLC. The duo looks past the neglect and picture what it can become. They buy the land. It takes all they have in the coffers. Grace and Ja are changemakers with strong convictions.

 Both believe they have enough experience behind them to propel them forward. Even if it’s just one footstep at a time in these early days. They know that there are a whole lot of folks out there who will greatly benefit from this plot of land.  They can picture gatherings and growing areas, beehives, and better days.

They see yoga happening in a yurt and art being created in a future orchard. Land being reclaimed for wildlife and wildflowers. The space being brought to life with the sound of chatter and the smell of homegrown produce cooked up over a firepit. People coming to life as they get stuck into good stuff together – the stuff of life: stuff that matters.

Grateful thanks go to the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and our much-loved local Wiltshire libraries who enabled us to find out more about the lands history and previous owners. Obviously there is a sprinkling of artistic licence but we've tried to be as true and accurate to history is possible.....