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    The History Of Bulkington Families

Some of the families living in Bulkington have associations with the village going back several generations. Most of the information given here has come from their families or friends.

                  Breach Family and Manor Farm, Bulkington.   (Written April 2021)


The Breach family came to Bulkington from Seend. In 1859 John Breach (born 1830 in Chittoe) took over the Barge Inn, Seend, also known as Seend Wharf, with his wife Matilda and young son Herbert William (1858). He was a ‘coal merchant, beer retailer and shopkeeper’. He lived there for about ten years, during which time he added ‘farmer’ to his list of occupations. In about 1870 a bakery was built for him at the corner of Perry’s Lane. He moved into this and became baker/farmer. He lived to be over 90. Meanwhile Herbert William took over the running of their farm at Inmarsh with Matilda, but by 1899 was living in a dwelling house in Keevil Road, Bulkington, with his wife Selina. He had taken over the lease of Manor Farm, Bulkington but his nephew lived in the house as manager. By the turn of the century Herbert and Selina had moved into the farmhouse. Herbert Breach was Christ Church Warden 1900-1903.


Although Bulkington had been declared a Parish in 1884, the land, consisting mainly of 4 farms – Home Farm, Lawn Farm, Bulkington Mill Farm and Manor Farm - was still owned by Thomas Gaisford of Keevil.  In 1919 the entire estate, 845 acres, was sold to a syndicate of Bulkington tenants – HW Breach, Mr Tucker, Mr Rose and Mr Willis – for £40,000.  It was all split and settled by 1921 and Herbert Breach had gained Manor Farm. In 1923 Herbert sold it to his son John Herbert (Jack) Breach who had been living with his wife Gladys in a farm cottage in the middle of the village and already had the first of their four sons, William. In 1947 Westview (which had once been the village blacksmith’s) was bought by Jack and added to the farm shortly before his death in 1948. After his death the farm remained in the name of his second wife Kitty and was worked in partnership by sons William (Bill), Thomas (Tom), and Richard (Dick). The fourth son, Bob, had taken a different path in life, becoming a teacher. Dick left the partnership around 1960 to take up his own farm near Bath, and some years later Tom also left the partnership, so Bill Breach and his wife, Joan, continued to run the farm with their growing family. When the dust settled after Kitty’s death in 1990, Bill’s elder son John purchased Manor Farm and the younger son, Robert, took on Westview Cottage and various acreages which he farms with his wife Helen and their two grown children. Bill and Joan also had two daughters, Jane and Susan, who left the district on marrying. Bill dedicated much time and energy to the village and was also Church Warden for 50 years. He passed away in July 2002, less than a year after Joan. 

Meanwhile, John and his wife Gill had three sons and one of them, Alex Breach, is now working Manor Farm with brother Edward, and living in one of the semi-detached farm cottages in the middle of the village with wife, Hannah, and two young sons. John and Gill are in the process of retiring. Their third son, Ollie, and wife Harriet, with third child on the way, have recently returned to live in the village, having renovated Lawn Farm farmhouse. Lawn Farm had been split and sold for housing during the past decade.

The story continues!


Sources of information found in County Library, Wiltshire:

Seend, A Wiltshire Village, Past and Present. P.114

Kelly’s Dictionary: 1889, 1895,1899,1903

Electoral rolls 1895, 1897, 1899,1901

A History of Wiltshire


Plus Bill Breach’s memories.     Current family knowledge.


Aerial photographs of Manor Farm, Bulkington

The following are observations by Jane Coupe (nee Breach) on the two aerial photographs above:


I find the first photograph the most interesting as it shows Westview, which used to be the village blacksmith's. The house clearly has an early building with an extension. My brother Rob and wife Helen further extended when they moved in after their marriage. I lived in this house from birth till 3 years old and have a few early memories. Then we moved across into Manor Farm and my Uncle Dick moved into Westview with his new wife, Rose. At the same time, my grandmother moved down the road from the farmhouse into her newly built bungalow - it was a pretty white building but has now been sold and 'built over' - I'm afraid I don't like it now! Dick and Rose had three children (my cousins), then bought their own farm near Bath. Westview was rented for quite a while before Rob and Helen moved in. 

In that photo there is also the church and the church hall which was there all through my childhood but has since been demolished. It was used for all sorts of things from youth club, to choir clothes storage, to church meetings, harvest festival sales (each year Dad auctioned off the produce that decorated the church windows - there was always one huge pumpkin which was the final item of the night)  I think there were also whist drives there and Vicar Baron's wife taught Scottish Dancing. I also remember doing a basic first aid course in that hall as a teenager.  I can also see Aunty Rose's hen-house - the first one an old Nissan Hut which were cheap to buy after the war, and the much newer one. When Dick and Rose moved, my mother took over the henhouses. She never liked the 'battery' system - much preferring 'deep litter'.

The second photo shows Manor Farm House and if you look carefully as the side that's visible you can see a bricked-up window - that had to be done when the government brought in a 'light tax'. There's at least one more like it around the other side of the house. My mother painted them in the same colours as the rest of the windows so that they didn't show up as being different! The farmyards are very different now, having undergone several re-incarnations over the years. Even the cows are different as we used to milk Ayrshires, but then changed over to Freisians. The basic farm buildings around the yards haven't changed as I believe there is an historical preservation order on them, but the more modern buildings in the 'rick yard' (hay rick is the old name for a hay stack) keep on increasing in number! I remember the early ones being built and several more have been added since I left. Rob will know all about it.

Early in the 1920’s, The Well public house was known as The Bell and run by the Northcote family. John Northcote ran the pub for over twenty years from 1924 until he died in Bulkington in 1945. Before taking over the pub he was a serving officer with the Metropolitan Police. During WW1, when soldiers were being trained at Keevil, they would come through the village of Bulkington on training exercises. John is rumoured to have pints lined up for them to gulp down when they jumped over the pub garden wall.

John Northcote was born in Millom, Cumberland in 1877. We have recently been informed that his parents were Henry Northcote and Margaret Alice Wilson who married in June 1874. Both appear to have come from around Bootle, Cumberland.

John married Annie Elizabeth Forster (1885 - 1942). They had four  sons named Hartley, Victor Hugh, Leonard John and Henry Wilson. Hartley took over the pub when his father died and ran it until the late 1950’s. They also had four daughters - Joan, Ivy Ethel (known as Betty), Patricia and Phyllis Ann. Tragically, Phyllis Ann died in 1915 when she was only two years old and Patricia died in 1938 aged only 14 years old. Annie Northcote died in 1942. 

Northcote & Family-1.jpg

John and Annie Northcote and family outside the Bell, Bulkington

Before she married John, Annie Northcote was an assistant for vaudeville and silent screen siren Maisie Gay. Later in life Maisie took over as landlady of the Northey Arms in Box. Amongst her theatrical friends was Noel Coward who regularly visited  her there and is rumoured to occasionally have served behind the bar. Maisie Gay visited Ann at the Bell in Bulkington after she was married.

John’s younger brother Henry Northcote was born in 1883; he died in 1944. He married Emma Moss (1883-1946). He too was a London Policeman.

Hartley Northcote married Edith Ann Skilling (a second cousin). Before he took over the pub from his father he was in the Secret Service MI5. He also served with the Scots Guards and at one time was Batman for Lord Strathmore ( formerly Bowes-Lyon), the Queen Mother's father. He sold the pub in the 1950's and moved to Trowbridge. He died in 1980.

Victor Northcote worked for Spencers in Melksham but moved to Marshmead, Hilperton, when a housing scheme was developed there. He died a few years ago but is survived by his daughter who still lives there.

Henry Wilson Northcote was in the RAF but also served with the Canadian services. After the war he moved to Canada. 

Leonard John Northcote was another serving Police Officer.

Ivy Ethel (Betty) Northcote was Joan Northcote’s sister and married Jack Orchard at Christ Church, Bulkington. Jack was a 'Gentleman Farmer'. Betty eventually moved to Beckhampton where she ran the 'Wagon and Horses' public house.

Ivy Ethel Northcote wedding-1.jpg

Ivy Ethel (Betty) and Jack  Orchard's Wedding in Bulkington


The grave of John Northcote (1877-1945), Annie Elizabeth Northcote (1885-1942) and their son Hartley (1915-1980) is in the churchyard of Christchurch, Bulkington, where there is also a large memorial to Patricia Northcote, Victor Hugh Northcote (1927-2006) and his wife Josephine Dawn Northcote ( 1928-2001).

The Rose Family

George Herbert Rose was the second eldest of the four Rose bothers. In 1901 he was living in Church Farm and by 1911 he was living in Lawn Farm. His WWII records show he was wounded in WWI and was in France from May 1916 until September 1919.  He joined the RAF for WWII ( he was 46) as an engineer and was generally based around Swindon but sometimes was in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  He was discharged sometime during 1945 and died shortly afterwards of acute bronchitis following an accident in the dairy on 6 August 1945 (VJ day) where he inhaled gaseous ammonia following the explosion of a farm compressor. His address is shown as West View  - so he probably moved from Lawn farm when he was in the RAF. He in buried in the churchyard and has an RAF headstone as well as being in the family plot.

Rose Family Tree.jpg

The Rose Family Tree

George Herbert Rose.jpg
George Herbert Rose1893 - 1945.jpg

George Herbert Rose 1893-1945

The Northcote Family

Joan Northcote was born in Bulkington in 1930. She grew up there, and was married at Christ Church. She was actually born in the pub - in the bedroom upstairs, on the left side of the building. She lived there from 1930 to 1951 and fondly remembers all the villagers at that time. The Breach's, Jefferies, Griffiths, Hughes, Baths, Orchards, Newmans, Miss Brooks (she ran the village shop) and "old" Miss Willis who lived behind the Pub. Her sister, Ivy Ethel, got married in 1928 at the church to Jack Orchard, then moved into the big house next to the Pub. Most of her family is buried in the church yard. Joan now lives in Canada. The following information is based on Joan's memories of growing up in Bulkington.

The Hughes

Emma and Teddy Hughes purchased the land across the road from the Bell before Joan was born. They had five children - Mollie, Callie, Frenny, Violet and Mikey. They converted a huge galvanised barn into living quarters. Half the barn was their home and half was storage. They slept in their Gypsy Caravan but after Teddy Hughes passed away Emma built the bungalow that sits there today.

Joan Northcote’s mother Annie passed away in 1942 when Joan was only eleven years old and Emma Hughes was of great comfort to her afterwards. She would go to the galvanised barn home to visit her and has always remembered the large black lead cooker and coconut mat floors. Emma would treat her with tea, jam butties and cake. It was furnished nicely with lots of antiques and silver. The caravan was burned on Emma’s death.

Frenny’s pride and joy was his garden. He and Mikey also had a wood fire business. Frenny was also an excellent dancer and dressed to a ’T’ in tailor-made suits. He also had a business in Swindon so would travel there often. However, he rarely left the county.

Violet was in the Land Army during the war and was Joan Northcote’s best friend. Joan recalls her as “always a happy person”. Callie travelled all over painting barns. Mikey could sing very well and often entertained during events at the Village Hall. All the Hughes family liked to socialise at the pub.

Joan last visited Frenny and Violet in 1995. Both Frenny (1923-1996) and Violet (1916-1998) are buried in Christ Church, Bulkington.

Miss Willis

Miss Willis was a spinster who lived in the house behind the Bell pub. She was always dressed in long Edwardian skirts and wore button-up boots. She had a big garden and the village children loved her strawberries. She played the church organ on Sundays at Christchurch. Though she lead a solitary life her best friend was Miss Brooks who ran the village shop.

Miss Brooks

Miss Brooks ran the village store as her father did before her. Every year at Christmas a big black car could be seen pulling up to the store. It was always thought to be a relative but no one seemed to know for sure.

The Breach’s

John Breach was John Northcote’s best friend. His son Bill purchased John Northcote’s motorcycle and side car. He had at least four sons - Bill, Tom and two others. Their mother died tragically. All the boys worked on the farm which was noted for the smell of the silage plant. The smell was frequently a talking point at the pub. The Breach family still live in and work farms in Bulkington.

The Village

The Minister of the Wesleyan Church, Mr Brimbel, also ran the Post Office and Library. The books in the library were changed about every three months and it was Joan’s goal to read all the books before they were changed but that never happened. During the war spies were found with their vehicle parked in the lane between the Village Hall and the shop. The lane went down to Miss Willis’s garden. They were apparently taking wind measurements as the weather forecast was not broadcast during the war.One day Joan’s brother Victor and his friend Eddy Rose were getting in a vehicle to go to work when a German fighter plane swooped down and machine gunned them. Fortunately they missed and Victor and Eddy dove into a barn to escape. The same plane dove over Mill Lane farm and targeted Mr Golding. He dove into a ditch and escaped but his cows didn’t fair so well and one was hit and died.

According to Joan’s daughter, Suzette Milner, there are so many stories from her Mum’s years in Bulkington. These are just a few of the people she grew up with and fondly remembers.

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