Market Lavington Museum

Fiddington Common

The villages of Market Lavington and Easterton in central Wiltshire are close neighbours and were, until late Victorian times, part of the same parish. However, until the boundaries were changed, the thin strip of land lying between them and known as Fiddington belonged to the parish of West Lavington. All these places had chalk land to the south, whilst their northern areas were on the greensand and we believe that Fiddington Common was in the northern part of Fiddington. (See Andrews and Dury, a post about a 1773 map of Wiltshire, which shows a Dr Batters marked at Feddenten Common.)

Fiddington Common is on the 1861 census as being home to farmer Joseph Webb and his wife and the Oram family of farm labourers. By the 1891 census, John Sainsbury, his wife Lydia and their ten children lived at Fiddington Common as did the Shergold family of market gardeners. We know of John Sainsbury at Parham Farm, before this area was disrupted by the construction of the railway.

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a copy of Hugh Spencely’s book about the house called Hawthorns, a little further to the east along Kings Road, which mentions Amram Saunders and Richard Box owning land on Upper Common and plantations. (Hugh’s book is also accessible online at

These references give some indication of the area of land referred to in the letter being considered in this blog post.

It is a newspaper cutting of a letter sent on 2nd July 1892 to the editor of the Wiltshire Telegraph and is a response to what Mr Samuel Saunders had written to the Devizes and Wilts Advertiser. We do not know who wrote this letter as it is just signed FIDDINGTON COMMON.

The writer was clearly aggrieved that land that had once been common land had been taken over by the Saunders. It seems that local people worked the land rent free for a couple of years and then paying £3 or £4 an acre until it was in good heart and beginning to turn a profit for them. At that stage it was put up for sale. The writer was of the opinion that the area should be restored to common land.