Our photograph this week shows the ‘Farley Protestors’ who entered into a bitter struggle to maintain public rights of way 117 years ago.

In 1901, Mr. JW Garton who owned the Clarendon Estate, decided to close all footpaths declaring they were not public rights of way. His keepers were given instructions to stop anyone using the paths, and gates were secured by chains and locks.

The Pitton and Farley Parish Council reported the facts to the Rural District Council, asking them to take prompt action.

For months no official action was taken, which caused much disappointment. Parties of men in the village, organised by Mr. E. Pragnell, smashed the chains and locks repeatedly. Eventually Mr. Garton obtained an injunction against Mr. Pragnell and the smashing stopped.

The Rural Council then decided to try and substantiate the villagers’ claims. The case was heard at Devizes on Tuesday, January 12, 1903, and finished on the Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Pragnell organised some of the oldest inhabitants to give evidence about the use of paths by the public. The party numbered about 50 from Pitton, Farley, and Alderbury and they started their journey to Devizes early on the Monday morning in bitterly cold weather. Some had never been in a train before and others had never slept away from their village, but all were keen to undertake the journey.

At the end of the third day, the jury gave its decision. Two paths were declared public rights of way. One went from Pitton to Salisbury via King Manor Hill and Rangers Lodge Farm, and the other ran from Farley to Salisbury, joining the Pitton path on King Manor Hill. The path from Pitton to Alderbury was decided in favour of Mr. Garton. The villagers considered the results most satisfactory for the two most important paths had been declared public walks.