Snap: Exploring England’s Lost Villages
For several hundred years Snap was an outlying hamlet of Aldbourne in Wiltshire, its few inhabitants (never more than 40-50) eking out a precarious existence as agricultural labourers. 19th century changes in farming practice led to gradual depopulation and in 1905 Snap Farm and next-door Leigh Farm (now, confusingly, known as Snap Farm) were converted from arable to sheep. This was the death knell for Snap’s workforce – by 1909, following the death of her husband, only 83 year old Rachel Fisher was left and she moved out later that year.
Although its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon snaep meaning “boggy ground”, Snap lies in a dry chalk valley high on Aldbourne Chase, and this was another reason for its eventual decline – the water table can be 200 feet below ground level in summer and the village was entirely reliant on 3 wells.
How to Find Snap Village
From New Barn on the B4192 north of Aldbourne, take the right-hand byway signposted Upper Upham. After approx 1km/½mile, you’ll pass the Giant’s Grave, a Bronze Age round barrow now overgrown with trees in the corner of a plantation on the right of the track. Continue west on the track, past several more tumuli and a distinctive circular copse, to Upham House, built on the site of Upper Upham – yet another deserted village. From here, take the byway south down the hill (the bridleway leading diagonally across the field is currently obstructed by crops) and then turn right.
Follow the track west round the corner to the remains of a windpump standing over one of Snap’s three wells. Just on the next bend, under the trees, there’s a large sarsen boulder – a bollard to protect a long-vanished cottage from passing traffic – and a smaller memorial stone placed by Toothill School in 1991. As you face these stones, the bulk of the village would have been in front of you, under the trees that have grown up in the century since abandonment, but Widow Fisher’s cottage was directly behind you, next to a second well (still visible but capped off).
Most of the building materials from the village were swiftly reused elsewhere, but traces of the dwellings can still be seen and the few bricks mark the schoolhouse which doubled as a chapel (the craters that can be made out are the scars of WW1 target practice). More poignantly, box and snowdrops mark where gardens once stood, and there is a stand of 3 walnut trees at the west end of the copse, noted as having graced Snap Farmhouse. It’s a lovely and atmospheric spot.
Head back east down the valley to the main road, following the byway under the slope of High Clear Nature Reserve. About halfway, you’ll pass Lodge Lower Barn (now in a state of serious disrepair) – in 1643 this was the site of the Battle of Aldbourne: an inconclusive Civil War skirmish between Prince Rupert’s Royalist cavalry and Parliamentary footsoldiers led by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.
The Lost Village of Snap – 5 miles/8km – 2½-3hours – OS Explorer 157