The Bury by Dick Woodward

This article is included by courtesy of the Pirton Magazine, where it was first published in the July/August 2001 issue and the author  Dick Woodward


Some years ago an elderly resident of the village said to me that the Bury, together with the church and churchyard was “The heart and soul of Pirton”. As any Incumbent is charged with having “the cure of the souls of a Parish” that must mean that the Bury is the heart of Pirton. How very apt, as it was from this site that the lifeblood of our present village flowed.

As nationally important Scheduled Ancient Monuments, the Bury and Toot Hill are special in archaeological terms. They are even more special to the residents of Pirton as areas for quiet recreation, reflection and contemplation. You can sit on a ‘toft’ (the remains of an old dwelling) alongside the Hollow Way and imagine oxen carts travelling the loop of the Icknield Way, bringing horrific tales of Plague – or some new recipe for Gruel – or perhaps a new design for a sackcloth.

In 1992 the Parish Council had a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase the 10 acres of the Bury and 2 ½ acres of Toot Hill. With a generous 40% grant from English Heritage and a fixed interest loan from the Public Works Loan Board, the council were able to successfully tender for the land. Had the Council not been successful, the land could have been fenced into paddocks or, even worse, a developer may, at some time in the future, have been able to obtain Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent to develop areas – provided that an Archaeological dig financed by the developer was carried out first. Last year more than 50 Scheduled Ancient Monument consents were issued by the DETR.

By acquiring the land, for the village, the Council were able to give residents the “freedom of the Bury” and in order to preserve that freedom, in perpetuity, it was necessary to set up a Charitable Trust. After many meetings, and much correspondence, a Trust Deed, to the satisfaction of the Charity Commissioners, was formally registered. The objectives of the Deed are to preserve the Trust Property for archaeological, scientific, educational and recreational purposes to improve the quality of life of the residents of Pirton.

The Parish Council is the registered titleholder of the land but it is held in trust, as an endowment, by the four trustees. Two of the trustees, Jack Baines and Helen Hofton, have been appointed Life Trustees in recognition of their efforts, over many years, to secure the Bury for the village.

1993 The first meeting of the Bury Trust set up to manage the Bury which had been bought by the Parish Council for the village. L-R: Helen Hofton, chairman, Dick Woodward, Eric Franklin and Jack Baines, life trustee.

The management of the Bury and Toot Hill is carried out by a Management Committee comprising the Trustees, Parish Councillors and co-opted members. The land is managed under a formal Management Agreement with English Heritage whereby it gives a sum of money, over a period of 5 years, to cover the costs of maintenance. The Bury Trust is most fortunate that members of the Management committee have, over the years, given freely of their time and energy to carry out maintenance and improvement tasks at no cost. For instance, hedge laying, building the bridge opposite the Recreation Ground to establish a new footpath, establishing a new footpath on the Western Bailey, fencing with post and rail to replace worn out barbed wire, thistle spraying (a bit like painting the Forth Bridge), cutting Toot Hill (an important requirement of the Management Agreement with English Heritage). The Bury is normally grazed under a 9 month grazing licence but due to Foot and Mouth restrictions has had to be cut for hay this year. Thanks to the Lawtons for taking on this awkward piece of land.

My own involvement with the Bury started some 10 years ago, when the Parish Council of that time spent Sunday mornings burning the fallen trees in the moat – which perhaps unbelievably, was dry at that time. In my dotage I will be able to bore people with stories like “Eeh lad, I can remember when you could walk round moat in your Sunday shoes and still have change from a ten bob note.”

Since then I have enjoyed many a happy hour on this most special area of Pirton. If you have not yet ventured onto Toot Hill and the Bury, take a walk – look at the signboard (showing the old village) designed and drawn by Mike James and housed in a frame of English Oak made by Keith Parkin from the same tree as the Church Doors made by Steve Jaynes. Wander the Bury at will – being careful not to tread on the Great Crested Newts and Smooth Newts which inhabit the Bury. It really is a ‘Special Place’.

When I finally ‘pop my clogs’ I’d like my head in the churchyard and my feet, under the fence in the Bury. In 200 years time, who knows where the boundary of the village will be but the Bury will still be there, just as it is today.


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