Local History Feature


Old Postcards of Larkhill

Norman Parker

By Norman Parker, Local Historian

Larkhill Camp
Larkhill Camp
The Camp, General View
The Camp, General View
Main Road, The Camp
Main Road, The Camp
Commanding Royal Engineers
Commanding Royal Engineers
Larkill Camp, Looking West
Larkill Camp, Looking West
School of Gunnery, Larkhill
School of Gunnery, Larkhill

Although Norman says he has completed his last article he keeps finding more! If you can think of a History topic that you would like Norman to investigate please contact him.

Please call Norman Parker on 01980 622 087, or write to; No.1 Gauntlet Road, Amesbury.

Alternatively you can contact The Amesbury Society through us. Hopefully we can provide an answer.


The Gomeldon Water Meadows

By Terry Grace

Along the Bourne Valley, we are lucky to be able to still see the remains of the water meadows. The meadows are quite apparent at certain times of the year especially those at West Gomeldon. The meadows Idmiston, Porton and Winterbourne can also sometimes be seen in this way.

Gomeldon Water Meadows

For those of you not familiar with the term, a water meadow is a specially prepared area of a valley floor that can be deliberately flooded at the discretion of the owner. The flooding of the meadow would be the job of a Water Bailiff or “Drowner” as they were sometimes called as the flooding was often referred to as drowning. Confusingly, in some parts of the country, it is called “floating”.

So why would one want to “drown” a meadow? The object was to encourage early crop growth, usually hay for feeding livestock. In this way, it was possible to get 2 or sometimes 3 hay harvests in one season.

This was extremely important until well into the 20th century, as hay was not just food for cattle but fuel for the transport system of the time i.e. horses.

The system was in the form of a series of ridges and channels, as in the above picture, which could be flooded, usually from hatches in the river bank into a man-made waterway called the “Main Carriage”. In one place in the Gomeldon system, the water came from an underground spring rather than the river.

From these main carriers, water was fed into narrow trenches at the top of the ridges. These were called carriers. So, the water would flow along the top of the ridges, draining into the ditches at each side, getting oxygenated in the process. The whole system was extremely labour intensive which is one of the reasons it died out.

The entire meadow or just part of it could be flooded at any one time, control being by a series of hatches throughout the system. The meadow would only be flooded for a few days at a time.

The picture above shows the river in the foreground and three main carriages, two in the meadow are clearly visible and another is running along the line of trees in the background. This particular carrier continues under the bridge by Dean's Farm and then comes back at right angles towards the river.

Gomeldon Water Meadows

On the map, the main carriers can be clearly seen, including the part that transverses the river and continues down towards Winterbourne. As children, this part of the river was the place for swimming and in the middle of the river, there are two concrete piers, which I think we thought were part of an old footbridge, but were in fact the supports for the aqueduct carrying the “carrier” over the river and may have looked similar to the one shown which is part of the Harnham water meadows in Salisbury.

Gomeldon Water Meadows

Incidentally, the green carriers on the map reflect the original course of the river. The blue part from the top right of the picture to the ford is part of a man-made leat for the water mill which once stood there.

These water meadows were still in use in 1908 and probably much later.

Up until the 1990's John Sheppard of Winterbourne was the water bailiff for the local fishing syndicate and he used some of the hatches to control the water levels but this was to optimise the fishing, rather than to irrigate the meadows. I am not sure if this is still done.

For those of you interested in such things, I would highly recommend going on a tour of the Harnham Water Meadows. It is a really fascinating trip taking about 2-3 hours. Twice a year the meadows are still flooded which shows even more clearly how the process worked and how complex it was.

Incidentally, I don't know if any of you who have driven across the Central Car Park in Salisbury have ever wondered why it is so undulating. The reason is that it was originally a water meadow, which instead of being levelled properly was simply tarmacked over.