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Concrete plinths discovered at The Devenish Nature Reserve

One day whilst working in a volunteer party in the Devenish Wildlife Reserve in 2019, your photo quiz compiler* stumbled, literally, on a concrete plinth completely obscured by undergrowth. Clearing the undergrowth revealed it was one of four, forming a 2.95 m square, one having fallen sideways. Each had on top but off centre a rusted metal plate and loop. There were no markings or inscriptions. They were not amongst the 200 year old beeches of the Devenish. The trees in and around the square were roughly aged, by species and girth at 100 ± 20 years. The undergrowth is now reclaiming these blocks.

No evidence of a structure was found on reviewing two hundred years of maps. The volunteers speculated it may have been some sort of defensive structure for the World War I airfields at Highpost and Old Sarum. The tree age would fit as would not being mapped. They were wrong.





These plinths were a base for a tower from which pigeons could be shot, above the treeline. It was erected at the same time and by the same builder whilst working on Salterton Farmhouse [1] in 1938. [2] The concrete was taken up from Salterton Farm by horse and cart. This was after the Devenishes had left for Canada and whilst the shoot was run by Desmond Verney. [1]

There is no mention of this structure in Dorothy Devenish’s memoirs [3] and her son Peter does not recall it.[4]

Little Durnford House and estate was held by the Young(e) family from the 16th C family till they sold it to Edward Hinxman in 1795. It passed on to his son, then grandson, then great grandson, all Edwards, till widow Charlotte sold it in 1896 to Matthew Henry Whitty Devenish, JP. Longhedge farm was part of the estate and son Henry Noel Devenish lived there for a while before moving back to Little Durnford House on his father, Matthew’s, death in 1913. His daughter Dorothy was born at Longhedge Farm a year before in 1912. She (1989) and her son after her (1995) gave the reserve, then a shoot, to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, a plaque in the reserve commemorates this. The gamekeeper had a licence from the Trust to continue running a small pheasant shoot until 2001.[5]


In memory of

Matthew Henry Whitty Devenish 1841 to 1913

Henry Noel Devenish 1874 to 1934

Dorothy Grace Whitty Bradshaw nee Devenish 1912 to 1991

who were long time residents of Little Durnford

“We always called it somewhat parochially the Hilltop. On the Hilltop

were a number of little spinneys.. each… had its own individuality..”

from A Wiltshire Home, a Study of Little Durnford by Dorothy Devenish

Donated by Peter Martin Devenish Bradshaw 1995


[1] Bray, Roy. 2021. Local Resident. Personal communication.

[2] Langdon, G as primary source for date, cited in A P Baggs, Jane Freeman and Janet H Stevenson, 'Parishes: Durnford', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 15, Amesbury Hundred, Branch and Dole Hundred, ed. D A Crowley (London, 1995), pp. 79-93. British History Online [accessed 2 November 2021].

[3] Devenish, Dorothy. 1948 “A Wiltshire Home. A Study of Little Durnford”. Pub Batsford.

[4] Devenish Bradshaw, Peter. 2020 Personal communication replying from Canada to a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust enquiry

[5] White, Ashley 2020. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Personal communication.

Photos:  2019 by permission of Paul Derwent, 2021 by the author



* Kerry O'Connor

January 2023

Access and visitor information for The Devenish Wildlife Nature Reserve is here:

This article supplies the answer to Question No. 55 in the website's

Local History Photo Quiz.

Click here to see all the questions.

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