Thursday 28 April 1988

Smallbrook Farm, Warminster, 1905-1965, Review

Sixty years of a Warminster farm are chronicled in the latest book by town historian Danny Howell. The research and writing of Warminster’s chequered past has become Mr Howell’s trade mark and his fifth book - Smallbrook Farm, Warminster, 1905-1965 records for posterity part of the town which no longer exists.

Released today [1st April 1988], the paperback comprises the edited transcripts of tape-recorded interviews with Bert Dowding, the last to farm at Smallbrook, whose site is now occupied by the Prestbury Park residential estate. Also included is Bert’s sister Mrs Beatrice Young, and in their own words they tell the story of life both on and away from the land.

Bert, born at the farm in 1915, now lives at nearby Rock Lane. He took the farm over from his father, who came to Warminster in 1905. Beatrice, who was born at Smallbrook, spent the early part of her working life as a secretary and lives now at Willow Crescent, just 50 yards from her childhood home.

The book is more than just an account of Smallbrook Farm and the Dowding family because Mr Howell has added further information to the story, making it an even more enjoyable read, nostalgic and informative.

“I am sure the older Warminster residents will be stirred by the contents of this book, and younger ones and newcomers will certainly be able to glimpse what is now another part of the town’s history,” said Mr Howell. “I am pleased to know that I have, once again, been able to publish something ‘new’ about the town’s past, and I am glad to have had the chance to meet Bert Dowding and Beatrice Young, to record in print an account of Smallbrook Farm for all to enjoy and read.”

The 92-page book, which is a limited edition of only 400 copies, has 65 photos and illustrations, many of which have been loaned from the Dowding family’s personal collection. Among other aspects of Warminster’s past highlighted in the book are the heydays of the Warminster Cattle Market, which is now defunct; the coming of Clark’s shoe factory to the town; the building of Beckford Lodge and recollections of St. John’s School.

The farmhouse itself, demolished soon after 1964, was situated near today’s junction of Prestbury Drive and Southleigh View. Mr Howell said it was probably built in the 1830s and its site was on or near that of Olwey, the manor house of Smallbrook, a small manor mentioned in the Domesday Book.

More than 300 copies were ordered by subscribers and retailers before the book was despatched to the printers, an indication of the success of Mr Howell’s publications on local history. Smallbrook Farm, Warminster, 1905-1965 is published by Wylye Valley Publications at £3.50.

Wiltshire Times And News, Friday 1 April 1988.