The churches of S.E. Dorset in general are not of particular architectural distinction, except perhaps for
some of the 15th and early 16th-century towers, but they are of considerable interest in terms of historical
development. Structural remains of no less than five pre-Conquest churches survive in situ, at Wareham
(St. Martin), Winterbourne Steepleton, Studland, Bere Regis and Canford, and the complete nave and
aisles of a sixth stood until 1840 at Wareham (Lady St. Mary). Lady St. Mary's was rebuilt in 1841–2, but
the records of the old church (see p. 309) are sufficient to show that the building was as remarkable as
Brixworth, its near contemporary, which itself has been described as 'perhaps the most imposing architectural memorial of the seventh century yet surviving north of the Alps'. (fn. 1) Such was the importance of the
old Lady St. Mary's church that consideration of its date and context may properly be included here before
review of the other five later and less significant pre-Conquest buildings, interesting though they are.
Close dating must depend on the parallels that can be cited, (fn. 2) interpreted in the light of the known historical
development of Wareham.
The early inscriptions preserved in the new Lady St. Mary's, which were found reused as building
stones in the old church, are evidence of an important church existing at Wareham in the period before
the Saxon conquest, which took place in the third quarter of the 7th century; it was probably a clas,
similar to the monastic communities found in Wales and other British lands. (fn. 3) Inscription no. iii (see pp. 308,
311) is recorded as forming part of one of the piers of the S. arcade and was presumably part of the original
Saxon church. It is ascribed to the 7th-8th century and could have been reused as early as c. 700. The exact
position of the others is not recorded. The visit to Wareham by St. Aldhelm, bishop of Sherborne 705–9,
and the dedication of a church on an estate in the neighbourhood (fn. 4) implies that the state of affairs in Wareham itself was satisfactory, and should probably be interpreted to mean that the old British church in the
town had already been rebuilt. A century later Brihtric, king of Wessex, was buried at Wareham, (fn. 5) implying the existence of a substantial church. In the 9th and 10th centuries there was a nunnery (fn. 6) at this church
which would have ranked as a minster.
An aisled nave similar to that formerly at Wareham (plan, p. 305) existed at Brixworth where the
original arrangement seems to have had arches springing from pilasters demarcating the bays of continuous
nave-aisles, now destroyed; excavation has shown that the division of the north aisle by solid walls into
separate chapels was an alteration. (fn. 7) The arrangement of the easternmost compartments of the aisles,
flanking the choir but not extending its full length, is also an interesting parallel to that at Wareham.
Brixworth is generally accepted as a building of the late 7th century. (fn. 8) An 18th-century plan of the old
church at Jarrow destroyed in 1780 (fn. 9) also shows the aisles divided into bays by transverse walls. This
church was the 'basilica of St. Paul' dedicated under Abbot Ceolfrid in 685. Again, the division of the aisles
into separate chapels may have been a subsequent alteration, the dividing walls replacing arches as shown at
Wareham. Wing is another early church with an aisled nave, and recent examination has shown that this
part of it is older than the 10th-century polygonal apse and hall crypt; a date in the 7th century has been
proposed. (fn. 10)
The plan with an aisled nave may be considered characteristic of the 'old minsters' erected as the result
of the reforms initiated by Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus (668–90). It is sharply distinguished from the
plan of the post-Danish minsters of the 10th and 11th centuries, which are cruciform, often with the angles
of the crossing projecting beyond the line of the side walls of some or all of the four arms of the cross. (fn. 11)
Also a feature found in the 7th century is the separate room, as at Wareham at the eastern end of the
north aisle, overlapping nave and choir. It recalls not only the analogous arrangement at Brixworth but
even more closely the porticus in this position in the still older churches of the Kentish group, such as
St. Pancras at Canterbury, which is connected with the Augustinian mission, and Reculver founded in the
later 7th century. (fn. 12)
In regard to architectural features at Wareham, the simple abaci formed by projecting courses of brick
and stone are found in the 7th century at Brixworth and Wing; they are not confined to this period and
occur in the earliest work at Repton, which is post-Danish. (fn. 13) It is difficult to quote a close parallel to the
flat frame formed by the projecting outer order of the arches. It has little in common with the bold,
almost barbaric, ornament found in a similar position in late pre-Conquest work like that at St. Benet at
Cambridge. (fn. 14) It should rather be compared with the broad ornamented strip work and moulded strings of
early churches, as on the original porch at Monkwearmouth which dates from before 687. (fn. 15)
If the implications above be accepted, then the aisled nave of Lady St. Mary must be equated with that
at Brixworth. The dimensions are comparable, 64¼ ft. by 25½ ft. as against 62 ft. by 30 ft. Thus, by analogy,
beyond the eastern arch there would have been a rectangular choir and beyond this again an apsidal
sanctuary raised above a crypt. At both Wareham and Jarrow, which remained important churches after
the Norman Conquest, the obsolete raised sanctuary and crypt were replaced by normal square-ended
chancels. Even at Brixworth, a country parish, the same development took place later in the Middle Ages,
though there the original arrangement has been in part recovered and restored. Only at Wing does the
raised sanctuary and crypt survive, not indeed in their original form but as modified in the 10th century.
It has been suggested in the account of the old church (see p. 310) that the high porch in the middle of
the north aisle was a secondary feature. Porches in this position are recorded on both sides of the pre-Conquest cathedral of Canterbury, where they may be ascribed to 10th-century alterations. (fn. 16)
In view of the parallels cited, the early church at Wareham Lady St. Mary demolished in 1840, of
which pictorial records survive, should be ascribed to the time of St. Aldhelm (ob. 709). There is also
evidence of alteration in the later pre-Conquest period.
Of the century preceding the Conquest are the earliest parts of the churches at Wareham (St. Martin)
and Winterbourne Steepleton. Each consisted originally of a simple two-cell building, and both show the
technique of long-and-short work in the quoins. St. Martin's has been extended and largely refenestrated
but otherwise survives remarkably complete. Winterbourne Steepleton is most notable for the spirited
carving of an angel (Pl. 196), cut in high relief, which though reset on the outside of the nave is probably
contemporary with the building. It is almost certainly from a rood and from over the chancel arch, and is
closely comparable with the angels at Bradford-on-Avon. (fn. 17)
At Studland, the dating of the church by architectural historians has hitherto been inverted because of a
very extensive refacing of the tower and chancel in the mid 12th century, which has been taken at its face
value. Thus these compartments have been put later than the nave, which itself is a late 11th-century
rebuilding upon the foundations of an older nave. The present tower and chancel are structurally earlier
than the 12th century; considered together with the former nave they constitute a plan of the kind exemplified by the church at Dunham Magna (fn. 18) which has been assigned to the late pre-Conquest period, (fn. 19) and
a like date may be assigned to Studland. The thoroughgoing refacing of the old building in the mid
12th century is less surprising when the contemporary embellishment of the nave, then comparatively
new, is also considered.
Only by a process of deduction (see diagrams, p. 12) is it possible to determine the original form of
the church at Bere Regis. The earliest surviving walling retains in situ an early 12th-century fragment of an
altar-recess flanking the chancel arch, but the plan incorporating it is not of a form found in country
churches in the 12th century; the recess must therefore be secondary. The cruciform plan in which the
porticus appear as small transeptal chapels is one exemplified by Hadstock in Essex (fn. 20) and Worth in Sussex, (fn. 21)
again dating probably from within the century before the Conquest, though the absence of salient angles (fn. 22)
at Bere Regis suggests a date late in the period, possibly c. 1050. Comparable with it is the church at Canford
Canford Magna church is complex both historically and architecturally. It was a wealthy church with
an extensive parish. Bishop William of Salisbury in a document of 1256 (fn. 23) describes it as 'the church of
Kaneford with the Chapel of Pola [Poole] and the other chapels belonging to the said church'. One version
of the late 12th-century charter by which William (fitz Patrick), Earl of Salisbury, granted the church of
Canford to the Prior and Canons of the Augustinian Priory of Bradenstoke in Wiltshire states that they
are to hold it as it had been held by Philip the Clerk, Master Robert Winn, and Hugh of Candover. (fn. 24)
These facts together with the surviving architectural evidence described in the Inventory (p. 197) suggest
that Canford was the site of a minster of pre-Conquest type served by a small ecclesiastical community.
Remarkably enough the greater part of the nave and the crossing of the minster church of c. 1050 survives
though now forming the chancel of the present church; the rest of the cruciform building has been destroyed. One of the best preserved exemplars of the type is at Hadstock in Essex as mentioned above.
The gift by William, Earl of Salisbury, to Bradenstoke must be dated between 1190 and 1196, probably
towards the end of that period, when William seems to have withdrawn from English affairs and retired to
Normandy. A second version of the charter mentions 'my countess, Eleanor de Vitré' and was granted at
Morters, near Domfront in Normandy, after the death of Hugh of Candover, (fn. 25) which presumably extinguished the rights of the old canons. Earl William married Eleanor after the death of her second husband
Gilbert Crespin, Lord of Tillières, in the siege of Ascalon; Earl William died in 1196. (fn. 26) The alterations
and additions of c. 1200 at Canford, consequent upon the transfer and designed to provide a quasi-separate
parochial church, are also described in the body of the Inventory (pp. 197–8). At Breedon on the Hill,
Leicestershire, the similar addition west of the church of a parochial nave (there aisleless) was made c. 1150;
Breedon was a cell of the Augustinian Priory of Nostell as early as 1122. (fn. 27) Such provision at Canford was
in accordance with normal practice as stated at the Lateran Council of 1179, (fn. 28) which decreed that canons
regular should not be placed alone in parish churches but should remain in a large convent or with a few
brethren. In practice this was interpreted to imply three or, at the very least, two canons. The papal confirmation granted by Lucius III to Bradenstoke in 1184 is typical: it lays down that 'in the parish churches
which you possess you are permitted to place four, three or two of your canons and to present to the
bishop of the diocese one, to whom, should he be suitable, the bishop may commit the cure of souls, so
that he may answer to him in matters spiritual, but to you in matters temporal' [later interpolation, 'and
those concerning the observances of the Order']. (fn. 29) The end of the attempt thus to serve the church directly
was marked by appropriation to Bradenstoke and the institution of a vicarage authorized by William,
bishop of Salisbury, in 1256. (fn. 30) The earliest recorded institution, some fifty years later, shows the priory
presenting a priest who was clearly a secular. (fn. 31)
The 12th-century ecclesiastical buildings in S.E. Dorset are of interest for their decorative detail,
limited though it is in quantity, rather than for architectural distinction, except Studland. Most notable
sculpturally is the carved door-head of the S. doorway at St. George's, Fordington (Dorchester 4). This is of
c. 1100 and shows a spirited scene of St. George in battle (Pl. 97). He is bare-headed but his enemies are
wearing conical helmets with nasals. All are wearing long shirts with divided tails, or possibly all of a piece
with short trousers, which at the period were of mail though the links are not here depicted. The armour is
reminiscent of that shown in the Bayeux Tapestry of some twenty years or so earlier. The weapon is the
lance, though St. George is using his in reverse, and the shields show the round and kite-shape forms seen
in the Bayeux Tapestry. Formal architectural decoration of some elaboration occurs on the doorway to
the chapel in the Keep at Corfe castle which is here assigned to the early 12th century (p. 59; Pl. 86).
The church at Worth Matravers (Pl. 1) retains most of the nave, the north wall of the chancel and the
lower part of the west tower built in c. 1100. Thus it is an important survival. It is the more remarkable for
the incorporation within it of an elaborate chancel arch and S. doorway of the mid 12th century from
elsewhere (Pl. 206). The former was originally flanked by small altar-recesses and thus originally occupied
a very much wider nave than that at Worth Matravers: the inner reveals of the recesses now appear close
by the N. and S. walls. It is scarcely likely that large architectural features of the kind would have been to
spare until after the Dissolution.
A somewhat similar vicissitude accounts for the presence of the 12th-century chancel arch in St.
John's Chapel at Creech (Steeple 2; Pl. 161). There, however, the circumstances are known. In 1746 it was
brought from the disused church of the former Cluniac priory at East Holme near by (p. 132) and
incorporated in the Creech chapel then being built.
The remodelling of Studland church in the mid 12th century makes it, effectively, the most distinguished Romanesque building dating from after the Conquest in this area of Dorset. The robust detail,
bold recession of orders and forthright expression of basically simple forms endow it with a scale and
even grandeur remarkable in so comparatively small a structure (Pl. 161). More light-hearted elaboration
occurs in the sculptured corbel-table added to the earlier nave (Pl. 7).
Equally extrovert are the carvings on the capitals of the S. arcade at Bere Regis of c. 1160 which together
comprise the only Romanesque architectural scheme in S.E. Dorset showing an attempt at decorative
elaboration of a figurative as opposed to a formal kind. Of particular interest is the occurrence therein of
irrelevant details (Pl. 7) which are explicable only as debased forms of Anglo-Scandinavian spiral joints
of the kind seen on a number of pre-Conquest carvings in England. (fn. 32)
The latest 12th-century ecclesiastical building included in the Inventory is the remarkable St. Aldhelm's
Chapel (Worth Matravers 2) which stands, little altered, on St. Aldhelm's Head in an isolated and prominent position overlooking the sea (Pls. 205–6). It is a small, centrally-planned, four-square building with
four quadripartite stone vaults rising from wall responds and a large central pier. This last continues up to
support a squat circular stone base above the pyramidal roof. This has been identified as the stand for a
beacon, but there is no evidence of any easy means of approach for refuelling, or indeed for lighting,
and the more reasonable explanation could be that it provided the base for a tall seamark. Moreover,
historical evidence indicates that it was not a chantry foundation with a priest to tend the beacon.
In S.E. Dorset neither the 13th nor 14th century, to which so many churches in other parts of England
may be dated, was a period of building activity, but Church Knowle is interesting for the retention of
much of a small cruciform church with original fenestration dating probably from the end of the first
quarter of the 13th century (Pl. 1). The continuous roll-moulding of the window reveals is of a kind seen
in the grander context of Wells Cathedral where it is used from c. 1190 to c. 1215. Arne, built c. 1200, is
small and humble, consisting of a single cell, but interesting for that reason. The tower at Lytchett Matravers
of much the same date has architectural character expressive of strength and premeditated design, while
that at Broadmayne, of the later 13th century in the lower part, is unusual in being on the S. side of the
church. All the more notable towers recorded are of a later period. Important works of the 14th century
are lacking; excepting the building of Holy Trinity at Wareham (3), minor enlargements and alterations
alone are representative of an age of activity which elsewhere showed high accomplishment.
The churches of S.E. Dorset are predominantly of the 15th century, but, of such, particular attention
need here be drawn to only two: St. Peter's, Dorchester (3), and Wyke Regis, Weymouth (369). Both are
important as closely-dated buildings surviving almost unaltered; thus they are planning exemplars of their
period. In a will dated 1420/1 money was left to the fabric of the new construction of the body of the
church of St. Peter, and although the N. and S. chapels are of a different phase of building they are but
little later. St. Peter's is a town church, effectively with N. and S. aisles extending the full length of chancel
and nave; in this it is unique in Dorset. All Saints', Wyke Regis, was rededicated in 1455 and this clearly
was the culmination of an entire rebuilding, since the structure is homogeneous. The design is clear cut
and of considerable distinction (Pl. 187). Of humbler character is a third church, Lytchett Matravers, of
which the nave, N. aisle and S. porch are dated to the turn of the century: Margaret Clement who died in
1505 is recorded on her brass as 'generosa specialis benefactrix reedificacionis huius ecclesie'. The building
thus referred to shows economy in execution, but the carved heraldic allusions to the Maltravers and the
Arundels are unusual and interesting.
The series of notably more distinguished towers (Pls. 2, 3) begins in c. 1420 with St. Peter's, Dorchester,
followed by Corfe (1) and Wyke Regis of the mid 15th century, by Affpuddle and East Lulworth of the
later 15th century and by Bere Regis of the early 16th century. Affpuddle and Bere Regis in the chalk
downland show a chequer-pattern of ashlar and flint-work with satisfying decorative effect. The concept
of these towers is an architectural one, elegance, pattern and elaboration of skyline being the very conscious
aims. It differs widely from the almost exclusively functional notion which inspired the building of, say,
the strong, four-square tower of c. 1200 at Lytchett Matravers. The design of the 16th-century tower of
Whitcombe, though informed by a knowledge of the sophistication of its contemporaries, is essentially
rustic and visually entirely pleasing.
The towers of Bere Regis and Whitcombe mentioned above are the only noteworthy survivals of the
16th century in S.E. Dorset.
The 17th century here as elsewhere contributed comparatively little in church building. The more
interesting survivals of the period are the nave and chancel at West Stafford reconstructed in 1640 to form
a simple rectangular compartment and the Savage Pew added to Bloxworth church in c. 1680. The latter is
notable for the remains of a scheme of contemporary painted heraldic decoration within. At West
Stafford the hall-like effect was altered in the late 19th century when an eastward extension was made to
form a new chancel. However, several of the 17th-century fittings were retained, including the screen,
which was reset further east; thus the church though vestigially mediaeval presents a mid 17th-century
aspect at least internally (Pl. 151). The small church at Buckland Ripers (Chickerell 2) reconstructed in
1655 was too heavily restored in the 19th century to retain its 17th-century character.
By contrast, the S.E. Dorset churches of the 18th and 19th centuries are numerous. They exhibit
architectural variety, and often distinction, and some are of interest for their liturgical or social arrangements. The earliest, St. George's, Reforne (Portland 1), built between 1754 and 1766 to the designs of
Thomas Gilbert of Portland, 'architect and builder', is a remarkable creation for a man who came of a
family of masons in the local stone-quarrying business. The Gilberts supplied stone for the building of
St. Paul's Cathedral, and it seems from the elaboration of the tower at St. George's (Pl. 143) that Thomas
knew something of the west towers there and, from other features, that he had seen buildings by Hawksmoor and also Gibbs' work at St. Clement Danes and St. Mary le Strand. The early 19th-century liturgical
arrangement within (Pl. 144) is particularly interesting, the foci being the matching pulpit and reading
desk in the centre of the church, with the east block of seating facing west towards them and away from
the altar in the eastern apse. Indeed the high backs of the easternmost pews almost screen the altar from
Moreton church of 1776 is essentially an elementary composition, but the features and decoration in
the Gothic style give it much superficial charm. The symmetrical S. front (Pl. 112) presents 18th-century
formalism both architectural and social, the S. tower being central between the squire's family pew on
the E. and, originally, the squire's servants' pew on the W. Winterbourne Steepleton is one of the few
churches in Dorset with a spire; here the spire is an addition, probably of the 18th century, to an earlier
tower (Pl. 3).
East Lulworth Roman Catholic church of St. Mary, built in 1786–7 to the designs of John Tasker,
shows much originality in plan and elevational design. The secular, pavilion-like aspect of the S. front
(Pl. 104) facing towards Lulworth castle and park was probably dictated by two considerations. First,
so soon after the Relief Act of 1778 and the consequent Gordon Riots of 1780, it was no doubt prudent
not to advertise architecturally a place of Roman Catholic worship, and there is the tradition that
George III told the patron Thomas Weld to make it look as little like a church as possible. Secondly,
it serves as an 'eye-catcher' in the picturesque planning of the park. The workmanship throughout St.
Mary's church is of the highest quality.
In this same family and denominational connection there is the provision for worship in Bindon Abbey
House (Wool 7) built in 1794–98. Though not a place certified for such until 1852, the plan and the series
of large windows on the first floor suggest that the upper room was always a chapel (Pls. 201–2). It is
incorporated in a dwelling house. The whole has delightful embellishment in the Gothic style.
The two most notable churches of the 19th century are the earliest, St. Mary's, Weymouth (1), of
1815–17 generally in the Classical style, designed by the local architect, James Hamilton, and St. James',
Poole (1), of 1820 in the Gothic style by J. Kent of Southampton and J. Hannaford of Christchurch. The
former (Pls. 177–8) has an impressive if rather ponderous street front and a spacious interior with the piers
dividing nave and aisles comprising slender clustered shafts more Gothic than Classical; the whole is
obviously the work of a provincial architect. Piers of similar design and purpose occur at St. James',
Poole; but here appropriately in a ship-building town they comprise timber mast-like shafts bolted together,
and this simple expression of functionalism is the more satisfying visually. The rather arid exterior of St.
James' belies the elegance of the interior (Pl. 118) in which stylistically the revived Gothic is expressed by
the attenuated columns, shallow plaster vaults and a free use of moulded ribbing.
Kingston (Corfe Castle 2), designed by G. S. Repton of London, and Lytchett Minster by John Tulloch
of Wimborne, both of 1833, were comparatively cheap buildings. They are of little more significance than
Burton (Wool 2), of which it was reported in 1839 that 'a plan of an elegant, chaste and cheap church has
been furnished gratuitously by J. T. Parkinson of Jersey', excepting in so far as they represent the emasculation and impoverishment of the revived Gothic style at about the time of its revitalising by the Pugins,
whose inspiration converted it from a decorative style into an organic architecture. The effect of this
rebirth is demonstrated most impressively by the two churches in the one Kingston hamlet in Corfe Castle
parish: Repton's insignificant church of St. James mentioned above stands close by G. E. Street's extremely
lavish new church of St. James built in 1880 in the most thoroughgoing 13th-century style. An earlier
expression of true principles is All Saints', Dorchester (1), of 1843, a comparatively early and accomplished
work of Benjamin Ferrey, the Pugins' biographer.
Charborough (Morden 2; Pl. 107) and Creech Grange Chapel (Steeple 2) though of 18th-century
origin were extensively remodelled in 1837 and c. 1850 respectively. They, and St. Mary's on Brownsea
Island (Studland 2) built in 1853–4, though not all in fact proprietary chapels, have every appearance of
such and demonstrate the acquisitiveness of the mid 19th-century rich amateurs with antiquarian leanings
who built or restored them. Charborough and St. Mary's present an astonishing assemblage within of
decorative stone and woodwork disjecta membra of widely various dates and nationalities (Pls. 29, 30, 110).
Creech Grange Chapel also incorporates between chancel and nave a great Romanesque arch from
elsewhere (Pl. 161).
Finally, Holy Trinity, Weymouth (2), built in 1834–6, and the mediaeval church of Corfe Mullen are
interesting for their 19th-century adaptation to meet changing needs. The first shows a late (1887) reorientation to provide more accommodation. The addition in 1841 of the large south transept to Corfe Mullen
may have made similar provision, but the way in which it affords no view of the high altar demonstrates
the minor role assigned to the latter at about the time of the foundation of the Camden Society and shortly
before the influence of Tractarianism reached remote places.
Roofs: Restoration has left very few old church roofs. By far the most remarkable survival is the nave
roof of c. 1500 in Bere Regis church where false hammer beams are carved as human figures. The odd form
of structure and heaviness of design and the primitive quality of the sculpture give the roof a barbaric
appearance which does not occur in major works in timber elsewhere in the region. At Lytchett Matravers
the plaster has been removed from a barrel vault to show a trussed-rafter roof also of c. 1500. St. Peter's
church, Dorchester, has a plaster barrel ceiling, but the construction of the roof behind is not known;
a barrel ceiling also existed at St. George's, Fordington (Dorchester 4), before the present nave roof was
built. Bloxworth, West Stafford and Steeple churches have plaster barrel ceilings over the naves, all of the
Early Christian Inscriptions
The very remarkable collection of stones with Christian memorial inscriptions dating from the 7th to
the 9th centuries in the church of Lady St. Mary, Wareham, is fully described and discussed in the body of
the Inventory (pp. 308, 310; Pls. 165–6), but it is necessary to put them in their historical setting. Dorset lay
outside the area of primary Anglo-Saxon settlement. The oldest stratum of place names, represented by
forms in -ing (Uddens) and -ingaham (Gillingham), produces only single examples in the extreme east and
north of the county. (fn. 33) Extensive Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of pagan type have not been found and the few
isolated burials of this type need not represent more than the casualties suffered by raiding parties. (fn. 34) Nothing
therefore contradicts the traditional view that the conquest of Dorset took place in the 7th century; (fn. 35) the
battle at Badon 'for the second time' recorded in the old Welsh Annals under the year 665 (fn. 36) marks an early
stage in the process, if Professor Jackson's convincing identification of the site as Badbury Rings, near
Wareham, (fn. 37) be accepted. To this period belongs the earliest Saxon charter of which a good text has
survived, a grant of land near Fontmell by Cenred, the father of Ina. (fn. 38)
By this date Wessex was already Christian with a bishopric established at Winchester, where the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the building of the Minster under the year 642; (fn. 39) in or about 705 the
diocese was divided and a separate see set up for the lands west of Selwood. (fn. 40) The first bishop of the new
see was St. Aldhelm, a nobleman connected with the royal house of Wessex. The division took place in
the reign of King Ina (688–726), whose law code written about 694 shows that 'men and women of British
descent had been incorporated into early West Saxon society'. (fn. 41) St. Aldhelm himself had contacts with the
Britons of the south-west. There are extant the text of a letter which he wrote to King Geraint of Dumnonia
and his clergy and a poem addressed to him by a cleric whom he had sent on a mission into Devon and
Cornwall. (fn. 42)
Against this background the survival of people of British cultural traditions, still speaking British, in
the neighbourhood of Wareham and their continued use of the church as a burial-place is perhaps not
wholly incredible. Of the inscriptions, three appear to date after the conquest of Dorset, no. iv nearly a
century after and no. V even later; both are British in form and in epigraphy. The latest of these burials
took place at a date when the minster church had already been reorganised and rebuilt in the Saxon
manner and served as a burial-place for one king of Wessex. Christian Saxon penetration into the country-side is also attested at an early date when St. Aldhelm is recorded as having consecrated a church on an
estate which he possessed two miles from Wareham, probably at Corfe Castle. (fn. 43) These inscriptions mark
the end of known British survivals in Dorset as Asser's record of Brittonic place names affords no basis
for postulating a survival of Brittonic speech in Dorset as late as the end of the 9th century. (fn. 44)
The preservation at Wareham of these stones bearing early inscriptions is explained by the survival
until 1840 of an important early Saxon minster, erected on the site of, and partly with available material
from, an older Celtic church. By the 19th century such stones were prized for their historic interest. Such
circumstances are sufficiently unusual to explain the disappearance of similar inscriptions at other early
church sites in Somerset and Dorset. The nearest comparable inscriptions, in Devon and Somerset west of
the river Exe, are about 50 miles away, the outliers of a series numbering some fifty in the south-western
S.E. Dorset is singularly lacking in monastic remains; indeed important religious houses here were
always few. The only significant structural survival is of Bindon Abbey at Wool (3), a Cistercian house
established there in 1172, but even so the ruins stand only a few feet high or show no more than wall
footings. The plan has however been very largely recovered and follows the typical form. More unusual
are the remains in the western arm of the cruciform conventual church of the basis of the pulpitum
extended eastward to more than double the original depth in the 14th century, presumably to support a
great organ loft. Other interesting details include the evidence of a low arch forming a bridge at the
W. end of the Chapter House to support the passage from the night stair from the S. transept of the church
to the dormitory in the E. range of the claustral buildings, and the recessed vaulting shafts in the Chapter
House (Pl. 204). The building was adapted as a private house after the Dissolution and extended in 1608;
as a result the plan of the S. claustral range in particular is somewhat confused. The remains of the church
possibly also underwent some rebuilding and remodelling, for Thomas, 3rd Lord Howard of Bindon,
in his will proved in 1610 directed that he be buried 'in my chapel in my house at Bindon in an aisle
lately by me made and properly appointed'. It is of interest too that he directed his successors for ever
after to 'find continually one sufficient learned Minister, Professor of Divinity and Master of Arts at
least in one of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, continually to attend and say service and to
administer ecclesiastical rites according to the uniform order of the Church of England at or in the new
capital chapel lately erected in Bindon house as aforesaid', moreover, that the minister should have a
'convenient chamber and diet' in the house. In 1641 Bindon is described as a 'fair house sometime an
abbey but with many fair buildings added unto it. It is the ancient house of the lords Viscounts Bindon.
There is a fair chapel and a chaplain is allowed to read prayers and to pray there ...' (D.C.R.O. Weld
Papers. D10 E5).
Nothing of the monastery at Wareham mentioned by Asser in connection with events in 876 (see
p. 304) now survives, though the church of Lady St. Mary which stood until 1840 may have been identified
with it. A Benedictine priory was founded in the early 12th century perhaps on the site of the early monastery, as a cell of Lire (see p. 304), which in turn on the suppression of alien priories was given to the Sheen
Charterhouse (see p. 317). The present 'Priory of Lady St. Mary' (Wareham 11) is a dwelling house, no
part of the structure being earlier than the 16th century or obviously conventual. However, the adjacent
early 12th-century St. Edward's Chapel in the church of Lady St. Mary has a S. wall which shows the
matrix of a range extending southward which must have been a part of the claustral buildings of the
Fragments only of the Cluniac priory of East Holme, a cell of Montacute, survive and these are not
in situ; the most notable is the enriched mid 12th-century arch from the conventual church re-erected in
the 18th century in the chapel at Creech Grange (Steeple 2). 'Holme Priory' is an assumed name for a
private house standing near the site of the priory.
Nothing of the Franciscan friary in Dorchester survives, nor, certainly, of the house of the Knights
Hospitallers at Fryer Mayne (Knighton, West).
Altars: Five churches retain mediaeval stone altar slabs, recognisable by their consecration crosses.
A slab in Radipole churchyard may be a sixth, but it is too worn to be positively identified as such. A fine
stone altar table of c. 1390 from Salisbury Cathedral has been set up in St. George's, Fordington (Dorchester 4), in the present century, and the Roman Catholic church at East Lulworth has an impressive Italian
altar of the late 18th century.
Bells (fn. 45) : There are thirty mediaeval bells of which five are ascribed to the 14th century. Those at Coombe
Keynes and Turners Puddle can, by their similarity to a bell at Wraxall, be identified as being cast by
Thomas Hey. A 15th-century bell at Winterbourne Abbas was cast by John Sturdy of London, and the
early 16th-century treble at Steeple is by William Culverden of London (Pl. 5); a bell at Poxwell comes
from a Wokingham foundry; the Langton Matravers bell has a Bristol stamp; other mediaeval bells seem
to have been cast either in Dorset or at Salisbury. Post-mediaeval bells mostly bear the names or initials of
their makers, and the following occur: John Wallis, twenty-seven bells covering the period 1589–1622;
R. Austen, seven, 1623–35; J. Danton, one, 1624; Anthony Bond, three, 1634–36; George Purdue, five,
1602–17; William Purdue, two, 1615–55; Thomas Purdue, eight, 1656–97; J. Tosiear, one, 1684; Clement
Tosiear, four, 1691–98; R. Lott, one, 1699; Thomas Bilbie, six, 1732–50; J. Kipling, one, 1739; Thomas
and William Knight, one, 1709; William Knight, fifteen, 1718–46; Lester and Pack, one, 1764; J. Smith,
one, 1767; R. Wells, one, 1784; R. and J. Wells, two, 1790–1804; J. Wells, two, 1804–07; William Mears,
seven, 1785; Thomas Mears, one, 1816; William Dobson, eleven, 1821–29.
Brackets: Some of the brackets recorded are of interest as showing the existence of former rood-beams
or rood-lofts or of earlier roofs; a series of c. 1500 at Portesham is finely carved with angels.
Brasses and Indents: Evidence in the form of indents survives of two notable brasses. At Lytchett
Matravers is a large slab with incomplete inscription presumed to commemorate John, Baron Matravers.
1365; it contained a unique brass consisting of a great Matravers fret extending across the whole surface.
At Bindon Abbey is the indent of an early 14th-century abbot which indicates that the brass had that
monumental simplicity and consummate craftsmanship of such works of art of the period. Mediaeval
figure brasses are few. Examples of the 15th century survive at Corfe Mullen and Swanage, and at Lytchett
Matravers of a small tonsured figure in a shroud. A third brass at Lytchett Matravers, an inscription
commemorating Margaret Clement, 1505, is important for its bearing upon the date of the fabric of the
church. Elaborate tombs of the 16th and 17th centuries at Bere Regis, Church Knowle and Winterborne
Came have or have had brasses of small kneeling figures together with shields-of-arms and inscriptions.
Among curiosities is an inscription at Bere Regis to Andrew Loup, 1637, in an affected style of Latin
which virtually defies translation.
Carvings in Stone: The more important pre-Conquest to 12th-century stone carvings in situ or built into
structures have been mentioned earlier in this Preface (see pp. xliv, xlvi), so have the early inscribed stones
(p. xlix). Notable fragments of cross-shafts decorated with interlace and others of cross-shaft bases all
of the 10th or 11th century survive loose at Whitcombe and Wareham Lady St. Mary's respectively (Pl. 6).
Chests: The church chests are generally plain and simple, but two at Morden and Moreton are made
up with interesting carved panels, the one with 16th-century 'antique' heads, the other with figures
and heads of 16th-century Flemish work.
Clock: The decorative 18th-century works of a clock from Bere Regis church are now in the Dorset
County Museum (Plate 5).
Coffins and Coffin-lids: A fine stone coffin traditionally supposed to be that of St. Edward, King and
Martyr, is preserved in Wareham Lady St. Mary church; it is more probably of the 13th century.
Numerous coffin-lids survive which are mostly of the 13th and 14th centuries and carved with crosses,
but one of the 13th century at Bindon Abbey is carved with wyverns (Pl. 203) and another of the 14th
century at Sturminster Marshall bears an inscription. This last is a variant of an epitaph on a tomb once
in the chancel of Crediton church, which read: 'Quisquis eris qui transieris sta perlege plora Sum quod
eris fueramque quod es pro me precor ora' (Westcote, View of Devonshire (1845), 123). The sentiment
may be compared with that of the 'Three Living and Three Dead' in mediaeval wall-paintings.
Communion Rails: Few churches have old communion rails; at Winterborne Came the early 17th-century rails are arcaded; at West Stafford the rails are carried on boldly turned balusters of c. 1700.
Fonts: The lead font of the late 12th century at Wareham Lady St. Mary, though lacking something
of the delicacy of the Gloucestershire lead fonts and the elaboration of detail of the Brookland font, is one
of the finest of the twenty-nine lead fonts surviving in England, and it is unique in being hexagonal
(Pls. 167, 168). Other mediaeval fonts are of simple design; a few are of tub form, as at Studland, but most
consist of bowl, stem and base, the bowl sometimes being enriched with arcading or panelling; the best
examples are shown in Plate 8. There are two fonts of the 17th century in Wareham, one from Holy
Trinity church now in Lady St. Mary's, and one built against the W. end of the arcade at St. Martin's. The
mid 18th-century font at All Saints', Swanage, demonstrates the complete abandonment of the idea of total
immersion, and the early 19th-century font of mahogany on castors at Poole shows the emphasis on convenience rather than custom which characterised much 18th-century thinking on church arrangements (Pl. 9).
Galleries: There is evidence at Radipole for the existence of a gallery in the 16th century and at other
churches in the 17th century. The earliest galleries still in existence are at Winterbourne Abbas (1701), along
the N. side of the nave, and at Winterbourne Steepleton (1708) and West Stafford (mid 18th-century) in
the more usual position at the W. end. Thirteen churches have galleries of the first half of the 19th century;
most of those which can be more closely dated come within the decade 1830–40.
Glass: There is hardly any mediaeval stained glass in the area. Excepting two small late 15th-century
figures in the church at Lytchett Matravers, only a few small fragments survive. However, one of these
figures is of interest; it is identified on a scroll as St. Thomas of India. The collection of legendary lives of
the greater saints of the mediaeval church, the Legenda Aurea, contains a reference on the Festival of St.
Thomas 'post haec autem apostolus et Abbanes ad regem Indiae pervenerunt' (J. de Voragine, 1481 edn.).
The 'Golden Legend' had a wide circulation in English; it was printed by Caxton in 1483, and several
further editions had been issued by 1510. The later glass is scarcely more significant than the mediaeval.
At Lytchett Matravers again and at Creech Grange, Steeple, there is a little 16th and 17th-century heraldic
glass, and a few churches contain 19th-century glass. A window in the chapel beside Creech Grange is
signed by Thomas Willement.
Hatchments: The earliest hatchment recorded is at Portesham, 1672. East Lulworth has a good series from
1674 to 1820. A fine example in Dorchester of 1757 with rococo scrolls round the shield is illustrated in
Helmets: Sturminster Marshall and Winterborne Came are the only churches containing the remains
of funeral achievements. The helmet at the former is make-believe in the sense that it was made up for a
funeral in the 17th century or later. The Winterborne Came close helmet is essentially a genuine piece of
armour of c. 1600 though 'improved'.
Hourglasses: An attractive hourglass stand at Bloxworth church is illustrated in Plate 5; one from
Affpuddle has been transferred to the Dorset County Museum.
Inscriptions: See above p. xlix.
Monuments and Monumental Sculpture: At Bere Regis a stone tomb-chest partly recessed into the S. wall
under an elaborate arch is more complete than the other surviving remains of the 13th and 14th-century tombs.
At Wareham Lady St. Mary are two fine military effigies of the 13th century (Pl. 10), and at Dorchester
St. Peter's are two of the 14th century (Pl. 11). The only other mediaeval monumental sculpture is a small
figure of an ecclesiastic at Bindon Abbey, Wool (Pl. 203). S.E. Dorset contains a fine series of canopied
tombs (Pls. 14, 15) of the 16th century in which Gothic design continues with increasing curvilinear
elaboration until the end of the century, with the addition in the later examples of Renaissance details such
as the egg-and-dart enrichment which is prominent on the Skerne monument of 1596 at Bere Regis
(Plate 15). Tombs of this type in Purbeck marble have a wide distribution in England, and the freestone
examples, which are often late in the series, may well be derived from Purbeck marble originals. The
contrast between the Skerne monument and the Williams monument in St. Peter's at Dorchester (Pl. 13)
is striking; only twenty-one years separate them, but they show a complete change from the traditional
form of a mediaeval canopied tomb chest with tracery decoration to a Renaissance triumphal-arch design
with Corinthian columns. On the other hand, continuity from the mediaeval tradition is maintained in two
early 17th-century tombs at All Saints', Dorchester, and Winterborne Came (Pl. 12) each with a formal
recumbent effigy in mediaeval posture though in a more or less Classical setting. Again, these may be
contrasted with the Holles monument of 1699 in St. Peter's, Dorchester (Pl. 13), in which the concept is
Baroque: an effigy in animated posture and its almost theatrical setting are designed in unity, and yet,
though the intentional effect is dramatic, the essential composition suggests continuity from a static composition such as that of the All Saints' monument.
Between 1700 and 1780 no large or elaborate monuments with figure sculpture were set up. Small
wall monuments are either embellished with the Classical orders (Pl. 17) or treated as cartouches with freely
carved foliage, scrolls and draperies (Pl. 16). After 1780 the effect of neo-Classicism is seen in simplicity of
design and a return to figure sculpture, now of Grecian character and mostly in relief (Pls. 17, 18); among
carvings of specially high quality are those at Charborough church (Morden 2) by Richard Westmacott,
at Canford Magna (Poole 7) by J. Bacon and at Kingston (Corfe Castle 2) by Francis Chantrey. A series of
vigorously carved headstones at Portland and Osmington, all of the seventeen-seventies, shows a naïve
treatment more akin to that of the 12th-century capitals at Bere Regis than to the sophistication of contemporary carvings (Pl. 21).
Organs and Organ-cases: The Roman Catholic church at East Lulworth has a fine organ-case by Richard
Seede of Bristol dated 1785. Organs in parish churches are all later and of little importance.
Paintings: Little mediaeval wall painting has survived: there are traces of an elaborate sequence with
figures at St. Martin's church, Wareham, probably of the 12th century, and of arcading containing figures
of the early 14th century at Whitcombe. Both were probably of distinction, but little remains. Two 15th-century St. Christophers are traceable at Whitcombe and Winterbourne Steepleton. At Sturminster
Marshall is a painted panel from Northamptonshire. Other mediaeval work is confined to formal borders
and patterns. The replacement of pictorial wall painting by texts etc. and the Royal arms can be seen in
fragments of paintings in several churches, especially in St. Martin's, Wareham. Sir James Thornhill's
'Last Supper' in St. Mary's church, Weymouth, is the most important painting of a later date (Pl. 178).
Piscinae: The 13th-century piscinae are generally small and simple. At Wareham Lady St. Mary is one,
reset, with two drains, and at Fordington are the remains of a pillar piscina. Those of the 14th century are
more decorative, especially the one combined with the sedilia at Wareham Lady St. Mary and the two
respectively at Winterbourne Abbas and in the former chapel in Woodsford castle (Pl. 4).
Plate: A most notable 15th-century chalice from Coombe Keynes is now on loan to the Victoria and
Albert Museum in London (Pl. 22). A pre-Reformation chalice at Sturminster Marshall has the original
bowl and foot but a later stem. Open-bowl mediaeval chalices were generally replaced by deep cups in the
second half of the 16th century, and a number of cups and cover-patens of the late 16th century in this
area bear the mark of Lawrence Stratford of Dorchester; typical of these is the one at Church Knowle
(Pl. 23). Swanage has a distinguished set comprising cup, paten and flagon of 1692 (Pls. 25, 26), and the
Roman Catholic church at East Lulworth contains a fine collection of 18th-century pieces including a cup
by Benjamin Pyne and a cruet by Frederick Kandler (Pls. 22, 27).
Pulpits: The mid 16th-century pulpit at Affpuddle is an important example of early Renaissance woodwork (Pl. 66). The bench ends dated 1545 also in this church appear to be by the same craftsmen; thus the
assemblage is a remarkable one. The carving throughout is Flemish Renaissance in character, with both
rod-like and highly stylised foliate ornament, but it includes an inscription in English in which the vicar
at the time is named and this might suggest that the work was done in this country. A stone pulpit at
Fordington though bearing a number of carefully inscribed dates was apparently erected in 1592. A number
of 17th-century panelled pulpits of wood remain (Pl. 28); that at Winterbourne Steepleton, which is
partly modern, also has figures on the angles. Charborough church (Morden 2) includes in its collection
of miscellaneous works of art a pulpit made up with finely carved woodwork of various dates and
from various sources. The tall early 19th-century pulpit and reading-desk to match in St. George's
church at Reforne (Portland 1) make an interesting pair in a remarkable arrangement for worship
Reredoses: The two continental reredoses in Charborough church are notable pieces of carving of the
16th and 17th centuries. They are collectors' acquisitions though doubtless acquired for this church. The
earlier, from Antwerp, is a remarkable work of virtuosity in which the Passion scenes predominate
although, in the multiplicity of attendant scenes, the presentation is one of 'type and antitype' (Pl. 30).
Elsewhere, loose boards painted with the Creed, the Commandments, etc., are probably the remnants
of reredoses similar to the fine one of 1736 surviving in St. James's church, Poole (Pl. 29).
Royal Arms: Twenty-three churches contain royal arms. Most of them are painted on wood panels
or on canvas, but at St. Martin's, Wareham, and Winterbourne Steepleton they are painted on the walls.
At Dorchester and Poole are examples carved in wood (Pl. 60); at Fordington and Moreton are others cast
in iron. Perhaps the most notable examples, as specimens of wood carving, are in All Saints', Dorchester,
and the Town Hall at Wareham. The latter is something of a rarity in that it bears the arms of William III
Screens: Few mediaeval screens have survived and none calls for special comment. The post-mediaeval
screen at West Stafford is a comparatively rare example for its time; though not now in quite its original
position, it has since 1640 formed the only division between the nave and chancel in that church.
Seating: The fine 16th-century Flemish Renaissance bench ends at Affpuddle are important examples of
their style and period (see also Pulpits above). Those at Bere Regis though once possibly of comparable
distinction now give little indication of the disposition of the seating for which they were designed
(Pls. 65, 67). An interesting arrangement at St. George's church, Reforne (Portland 1), mainly of the early
19th century, is the only one surviving in S.E. Dorset which antedates the ecclesiological reforms of the
mid 19th century. The disposition of the pews in the former nave of Lady St. Mary's church, Wareham,
is shown on Plate 163.
Miscellanea: The altar-frontal at Wool, though made up, is interesting, and the cope at East Lulworth
Roman Catholic church is a beautiful example of continental embroidery (Pl. 31).
Nonconformist Meeting Houses
The earliest Nonconformist building surviving in the area is the former Presbyterian Meeting House in
Dorchester (5) of 1719. The Great Meeting House in Poole (12) dating from 1705 was rebuilt in the late
19th century and that at Wareham (4) was rebuilt immediately after the town fire of 1762. Both Poole
and Wareham have chapels of importance, the Congregational Chapel in Skinner Street, Poole (8), of
1777 being the principal Nonconformist building in this part of the county (Pl. 119). Other survivals from
the second half of the 18th century are the former Independent Chapel in Dorchester (7), the former
Methodist Chapel in Poole (10) of 1793 and the much altered former Congregational Chapel in West
Street, Wareham (6), of 1789. The Friends Meeting House in Poole (9) was largely rebuilt in 1795–6. The
conversion of a cottage at Affpuddle (29) into a Wesleyan Meeting Room also dates from the late 18th
Several small places of worship survive from the early 19th century, some of which are without any
architectural pretension, such as Langton Matravers (2) of 1842 and Portland (5) of 1849; others have limited
external display, such as the former Methodist Chapel in Weymouth (6) of 1805. The former Wesleyan
Chapel at Preston, Weymouth (303), of c. 1817 retains its original fittings. Though largely concealed by
surrounding houses, the Unitarian chapel in Wareham (5) of 1830 with an impressive Ionic portico (Pl. 179)
is the most important of the later buildings; the plan, with the pulpit on the longer axis, is typical of work
subsequent to the late 18th century and may be contrasted with the earlier square plan of the Congregational Chapel in Wareham (4) of 1762.
The Corporation insignia is included here, as in the Cambridge City Inventory, since, in the way of
church plate, it is not normally alienable. Moreover it is little known outside a small circle of officials.
Ll. Jewitt and W. H. St. John Hope's Corporation Plate and Insignia of Office, the only authoritative general
work upon the subject, was published as long ago as 1895 and illustrated solely by engravings. The opportunity has therefore been taken to illustrate the more important pieces surviving within the area covered
by the Inventory, and the survivals are remarkable, in particular of mediaeval seals. One (Weymouth 10:
vi) is of the 13th century, another (Dorchester 10: i) of c. 1300 and, for the rest, there are no less than
eight dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. Particularly fine is the aforesaid Dorchester Borough seal
showing the head of Edward I (Pl. 36), and the series from the port towns showing mediaeval ships from
the 13th century is of considerable interest (Pls. 35, 37). Other seals depict castles or embattled gates (Pls. 35,
36) and bridges (Pl. 37). Most include shields-of-arms and are thus primary heraldic sources.
The maces too are of some distinction, the earliest, at Corfe Castle (Pl. 38), dating from the late 16th
century. Those at Corfe (4), Poole (15: i–ii), Wareham (7) and Weymouth (10: i–ii) are all earlier maces
which were refurbished at or after the Restoration, with the addition of the Stuart royal arms. The pair at
Weymouth was made during the Commonwealth (Pl. 38).
Public Buildings and Constructions
Almshouses: Most of the almshouses in the area have undergone extensive restoration or rebuilding.
The most interesting group is Napper's Mite, Dorchester (19), of 1616 which has an open arcade along the
front in a style more common in Devonshire. It accommodated ten men in ten single rooms, one additional larger room being provided for assembly. The almshouses in East Street, Wareham (9), though
mediaeval in origin were rebuilt in 1741 and retain a robust brick front of this date with rusticated quoins
Bridges: Stonework reset in Trigon House, Wareham St. Martin (1), comes from a 12th-century
bridge at Wareham. The North Bridge at Wareham (8) may be partly mediaeval; Wool Bridge, Wool (6),
probably dates from the 16th century, and Holme Bridge, East Stoke (3), from the 17th century (Pl. 33).
Other bridges are mostly connected with early 19th-century improvements to roads and are built of
brick (Pl. 34). An iron bridge of 1836 survives in Moreton Park (Moreton 6).
Hospitals: Four hospitals, at Dorchester, Poole, Wareham and Weymouth, are conversions of Workhouse buildings erected following the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.
Schools: A number of small early 19th-century school buildings survive. Some of those in rural areas
are in the Tudor style, but none is architecturally very important.
Mills: The abundant supply of water power provided by the rivers Stour, Frome and Piddle and their
tributaries was used from early times to drive mill machinery; references occur not only to corn mills but
also to paper and fulling mills (e.g. Hutchins I, 104). Although many of the existing watermills stand on
earlier sites only those which have structural evidence of a date before 1850 have been included in the
Inventory. A tide mill formerly existed at Osmington, but of this nothing is now visible. Very little remains
which can be reliably dated before the 19th century, but the system of mill leats at Corfe Castle (178) is
probably earlier, and survivals from the 18th century include Corfe Castle (27), Corfe Mullen (6) dated
1714, Loud's Mill, Dorchester (154), and Bindon Mill, Wool (3a), dated 1770. The most complete example
is, however, Upwey Mill at Weymouth (341) dated 1802 which remains in use and retains all its original
machinery. Windmills are infrequent, the only two recorded here being in Portland (13) where their
presence may be accounted for by the lack of suitable water power; mounds of two others survive at
Langton Matravers (41) and Lytchett Matravers (38).
Railways: The earliest railway or 'Tram Road' to be opened in S.E. Dorset was the one on the Isle of
Portland (see p. 247). It was formed in 1825 to carry stone from the quarries to Castleton Quay and had
an inclined line worked by a winding drum and cable. It was still in operation in 1933 (fn. 46) but has since
been abandoned. The first passenger railway was the line between Dorchester and Southampton laid
down by the South-Western Railway Company and opened 1st June 1847. The original station for
Poole at the terminus of the branch line to Hamworthy may have been in existence by 1850; this and
other survivals of the period are treated together on pp. 416–17.
The former broad-gauge Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth line to link Weymouth, Dorchester and
Salisbury to the Great Western Railway was authorised in 1845. Some work had been begun by August of
that year, but driving the tunnel through Ridgeway Hill was delayed awaiting legal possession of the
ground. Conflicts between the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth and the South-Western Railway
Companies combined with a shortage of capital held up further work on the line, which was only resumed
after 17th March 1850 when the Great Western Railway Company assumed responsibility for it. Major
works included a timber viaduct at Elwell, (fn. 47) near Weymouth, of nine spans each of 40 ft., but this has
since been replaced. The line was not opened for traffic until 20th January 1857. It was linked to the Dorchester-Southampton line with which it was worked jointly by a section laid to mixed gauge.
Castles and Fortified Houses
The castles in S.E. Dorset are of much interest not only intrinsically but also by reason of their diversity
of date and character; among them Corfe castle is one of the most important survivals of its kind in the
country despite utter ruination by slighting in the 17th century and subsequent deterioration. Corfe,
begun in the Conqueror's reign, is entirely a mediaeval fortress and, being royal, includes work of the
highest quality in the van of fashion. Little is left of the mediaeval castle of Wareham or of that at Arne (47)
now a shapeless mound, if indeed it ever was a 12th-century adulterine castle, as has been suggested.
The 'Rings', a Norman earthen stronghold, also at Corfe, is only intelligible considered in relation to
Corfe castle. Rufus Castle (Portland 7) and Woodsford Castle too are mediaeval, but the former on the
cliff edge is little more than a strong tower designed for defence from landward as much as for seaward
look-out, while the latter is a fortified house.
Three other castles, Portland, Sandsfoot and Brownsea, present a totally different purpose and aspect,
being units in the series of coastal defences built in the reign of Henry VIII.
Corfe castle (Corfe Castle 10) is most spectacular, standing on a high knoll rising in the middle of a
gap in the long ridge of the Purbeck Hills whence it commands a great extent of country to N. and S. as
well as passage through the gap. A full historical account and description will be found in the body of the
Inventory and it is sufficient here to draw attention to four notable aspects of the building. In the W.
Bailey, the herring-bone walling and ashlar undercroft windows of the Old Hall assigned to the time of
William I indicate a building of quality for its time. Unfortunately nothing survives of the hall itself which
would seem to have been on the first floor. The Old Hall is on the site of a pre-Conquest building of
which a possible identification as the place where Edward the Martyr was murdered has been suggested
(see p. 57). Perhaps unexpectedly the great ditch dividing the Inner Ward from the Outer Bailey is a
secondary construction, of 1207, which actually involved the destruction of an earlier intermediate stonebuilt bailey. The motte-and-bailey plan usually included the dividing ditch as a primary feature. The great
Keep, which has been dated late in the reign of Henry I, is undoubtedly older, for the reasons stated
(on p. 59). Here a date c. 1105 has been assigned to it, but this is the terminus by deduction on historical
grounds; architectural analogy could indicate a slightly earlier date. Be that as it may, the Keep is one of
the earlier examples of the kind in England. The domestic alterations and elaboration of architectural
features soon made to it were perhaps connected with the enforced residence of Robert of Normandy,
brother of Henry I. The 'Gloriette' of 1201–2 in the Inner Ward, now fragmentary, must have been a
building of the greatest interest, being a courtyard house of an entirely domestic character, architecturally
distinguished and superlatively built.
The strategic importance of Corfe castle in relation to the Normandy campaign is mentioned in the
Inventory text. Moreover, in 1207 King John's plan for provincial castle treasuries was consolidated and
by 1212 Corfe had become one of the permanent depots; £1,000 of the profits from the ecclesiastical
estates in the years of interdict 1208–13 went ad custodiendum to Corfe and in 1213 in preparation for the
defensive war against the French some 50,000 marks were transferred here from Bristol. But the 'Gloriette'
is evidence that John also regarded Corfe as an eligible residence.
The visible remains of Wareham Castle (Wareham Lady St. Mary 80) consist of a much altered mound
with indications only of the bailey. Excavation of the mound has revealed the foundations and lowest
courses of a stone keep of very considerable size, some 63 ft. square. The building is not well documented
but it was certainly in existence by c. 1140; the date of destruction is not known.
The 'Rings' (Corfe Castle 176), though mutilated and much overgrown, is a rare example of an earthwork comprising a ring-motte and bailey constructed probably in 1139 as a stronghold for the besiegers
investing Corfe castle for Stephen during the Anarchy. The presumption is that it represents a defensible
place rapidly completed from which to launch and direct offensive operations.
Rufus Castle (Portland 7), known also as 'Bow and Arrow Castle', stands on the S.E. cliff edge of the
Bill and overlooks the in-shore passage to Portland Harbour though the defences comprising gun-ports
face mainly inland. It is a machicolated and parapeted 'tower', irregular on plan to fit the knoll it surmounts.
Though having a 12th-century origin, it is now ostensibly of the late 15th century, but little is known of its
history. 'Pennsylvania Castle' (Portland 8) is the romantic name for a private house near by built in 1800.
The licence to crenellate Woodsford was granted in 1335, and the fortified manor house which
resulted for the most part survives. The original plan of the house block, which comprised a long range
with corner towers, an intermediate tower and a defensible gate, is clearly deducible, and in it the domestic
aspect predominates. Thus the castle remains an inhabitable and inhabited house. A predecessor in general
plan form, but on a larger and grander scale, occurs at Acton Burnell Manor in Shropshire where licence
to crenellate was issued in 1284. Here again the building is of a thoroughly domestic character. In the
context of the fortified house, Godlingston Manor (Swanage 12), of c. 1300, has a place though the
defensive aspect is minimal, consisting of no more than a rounded tower with thick walls at the W. end
of a rectangular domestic range.
The Henrician castles include Portland, Sandsfoot and Brownsea, in the chronological order of their
building. None dates from the first phase of Henry's coastal defence undertaking in 1539, which, with
the single exception of Calshot, was restricted to the S.E., from The Downs to Camber, and the Thames.
Portland (6) appears in April 1540 in the list of places where fortifications were being made, but in the list
of the individual castles and bulwarks which records progress in construction and manning 'Portland
bulwark' is first mentioned on 5 December 1540. Sandsfoot (Weymouth 8) does not appear in the lists of
1540, whereas the appointment of a gunner in 1541 suggests completion. There is the difficulty that
both appear on a 'Survey of the Dorset Coast' of c. 1539 (see p. 336), but a rather earlier map of the
Cornwall and Devon coasts shows castles and bulwarks of which some existed, some were subsequently
completed and some were never built. Both maps may therefore illustrate unexecuted projects. Brownsea (Studland 3), built and maintained by the town of Poole, was finished in 1548. In the order named,
the three castles show a descending order of complexity. Basically they comprise a main block fronted by
a lower gunroom or a solid platform for guns. Generally the main block is three storeys high, Portland
with only two being the sole exception among Henry's major castles; it provided accommodation for
the garrison as well as for more guns. Brownsea was little more than a structural stand for guns (Pl. 158).
Lulworth Castle built c. 1608 is a castle in name only. (fn. 48) The round towers and battlements, suggestive
almost of pasteboard architecture, may have been devised as reminders or symbols of ancient authority,
but their aspect is rather in accord with Tudor pageantry and their affinity with Spenserian poetry. Preceding the Romantic Revival, they assume no other, and certainly no military, intent.
Domestic Dwellings (see also above Castles and Fortified Houses)
The earliest house still standing in the area is the late 13th-century Moigne Court, Owermoigne (2),
where the first-floor hall has fine original plate-traceried windows. Unfortunately, alterations, demolitions
and additions make assessment of the original arrangement somewhat conjectural. Barnston Farm, Church
Knowle (2), was built a little later than the foregoing, at the end of the 13th century, and has the hall on
the ground floor; the plan when complete conformed closely to that of the typical larger 'hall house' of
the later mediaeval period. Herringston, Winterborne Herringston (1), probably includes much of the walling of a 14th-century house built round a courtyard, but little of the mediaeval character has been retained.
There are remains of the manor house at Tyneham (2), including a fine 14th-century open truss to the hall
roof. At Godlingston Manor, Swanage (12), the tower of c. 1300 at one end suggests defence, and the
house is therefore considered with Castles etc. above. The 'Priory of Lady St. Mary', Wareham (11), was
built shortly before the Reformation; the name may be misleading for it is a domestic dwelling without
any obvious conventual arrangement. It may indeed have been a residence for a representative of the
Charterhouse at Sheen. Scaplen's Court, Poole (26), comes at the end of the mediaeval period; it was
always of two storeys throughout, with the hall on the ground floor. The foregoing were the houses of
the comparatively wealthy: on a more humble scale were the mediaeval hall houses of which there are
remains at Affpuddle (4), Corfe Castle (80), and Dorchester (112).
Analysis of the original arrangement of these mediaeval houses suggests that at Moigne Court the
solar was built at right angles to the hall; at Barnston it was built as a cross wing. The service end at Barnston seems to have formed a continuation of the hall; at Scaplen's the courtyard plan and restricted site
complicated the service arrangement. The other mediaeval houses, incomplete as they are, consist of straight
In a different category from all the foregoing is 'John of Gaunt's' Kitchen of the 15th century at Canford
Manor, Poole (30), which was evidently indeed a kitchen, though not John of Gaunt's. Now only a barnlike fragment, it was the adjunct of a house which must have been on the grandest scale.
The following post-mediaeval houses are grouped somewhat arbitrarily into larger houses, smaller
houses and houses in the vernacular building tradition. Obviously there is overlapping, but in general
the first two groups show intrusive influence either in Classical formality of plan or in elevational detail
and thus the involvement of sophistication, whereas the vernacular buildings are characterised by unsophisticated fitness for purpose.
Larger Houses: Lulworth Castle, a building of early Jacobean date, for convenience of reference is
discussed above in the setting of castles and fortified houses (see p. lviii) though the defensive aspect which
prompted the name is make-believe. Four large country houses of the late 16th and early 17th century,
Bloxworth House, Bloxworth (2), Creech Grange, Steeple (4), Poxwell House, Poxwell (3), and Stafford
House, West Stafford (5), were planned on an E or H-shaped lay-out; Warmwell House, Warmwell (2),
departs from normal arrangment and has an irregular Y-shaped plan. In all these houses except Warmwell the influence of the stereotyped late mediaeval plan is seen in the retention of the hall and screens
passage with 'solar' and 'service' cross wings. At Warmwell the irregular planning may be due to the
retention of parts of an earlier house, which cannot now be identified; the entrance front is an original
composition which, with its splayed wings and chimneys symmetrically arranged to compose with the
gables, inevitably leads to complications in planning; the recessed arcaded porch is an unusual feature
which was copied in the 19th century at Stafford House. Rather smaller and without cross wings is Tyneham House of 1583 to which the 14th-century remains mentioned above form an appendage.
Also of the late 16th and early 17th century is the remodelling of Herringston with a Great Chamber on
the first floor containing the finest plasterwork and woodcarving of the period anywhere in the county.
The rebuilding of Charborough House, Morden (3), by Sir Walter Erle during the Commonwealth
brought to the area architectural design of more strictly Classical proportions, but the original appearance
is now known only from 18th-century paintings. The Commonwealth plan of Charborough so far as it
can be recognised equates with that of the house at Encombe (Corfe Castle 11), though this too is now
identifiable only from documentary sources and vestigial remains. Both were 'double-pile' houses with
longitudinal spine walls set closely together to bound corridors and stairs. Though Inigo Jones may have
introduced this plan, its first appearance in distinct form, as at Charborough and Encombe, was at Coleshill
House, Berkshire, designed by Sir Roger Pratt c. 1650. Charborough is a known Commonwealth rebuilding, and in 1663–65 Pratt was building Kingston Lacy also in Dorset on rather further evolved
lines. These dates and the comparable plans give approximate termini for the date of the house at Encombe
before the extensive 18th-century remodelling.
Two houses of the early years of the 18th century though both in the Classical style show a contrast
in treatment: the simple elevations of Waddon Manor depend for their gracious dignity upon Classical
proportions, whereas the contemporary work at Smedmore, Kimmeridge (4), is adorned by accomplished
carving of the stonework of the centrepiece and the panels linking the bolection-moulded window surrounds, a sophistication which appears also in the Manor House in Wareham (12) probably by the same
craftsmen. These houses are distinguished creations of, probably regional, architect-builders.
Later in the 18th century a number of 'great' houses were newly built and older ones were extensively
altered. Encombe, Corfe Castle (11), one of the latter, is much the largest and the most interesting; as
remodelled after 1734, probably by an amateur, it is a highly original composition, which calls for some
discussion here. Both the uncommon elevational proportion and the unusual feature of solid tympana
to the round-headed windows indicate that the previous house, mentioned above, was retained and that
it was a lower building. The first addition to it was doubtless to the E., for the Morning Room contains
a Palladian ceiling, of Inigo Jones type, characteristic of c. 1735. The E. elevation of this addition is
remarkable; the balusters in the window openings are again typically Palladian, and the composition is
of a kind, characterised by an embracing pediment with short horizontal returns only of the cornices,
which occurs more than once in Nicholas Hawksmoor's drawings (e.g. K. Downes, Hawksmoor (1959),
pls. 28a, 38b, 76b) and was used by other English architects, notably William Kent. The form of pediment
was best known through Palladio's drawings of the Roman Baths. The main S. front shows signs of
improvisation over a long period. The straight Tuscan colonnades are subsequent to the E. addition
and probably of the mid 18th century. Straight colonnades, or screen walls, flanking the central house
block are noticeably rarer than quadrants in 18th-century planning on the grand scale. An exemplar
with Doric elevational treatment was Chesterfield House, London, built in 1748–9 to the designs of Isaac
Ware. The very heavy main cornice at Encombe is also probably intended to be Tuscan (cf. I. Ware,
Complete Body of Architecture (1756), pl. 25). The central dormer with curved sides and the round arches in
rectangular recessed frames which occur in the wings again suggest the influence of Vanbrugh or Hawksmoor, and both may be seen in juxtaposition on the west front of Hawksmoor's Christ Church, Spitalfields,
completed 1723–24 (Downes, ibid., pl. 65).
Another instance of only less extensive alteration is at Creech Grange where in 1738 Francis Cartwright of Blandford, architect and carver, designed a new S. front; this makes a surprising contrast to the
E. front there as rebuilt in 1846–7 in a very exact reproduction of the Tudor style. The mid 18th-century
alterations at Bloxworth House obscured the Jacobean aspect of the house without adding new
Among the new houses, Moreton House, Moreton (6), of 1742–44, shows in its elevation a curious
disproportion in scale (Pl. 116) which may suggest the employment of a builder not too well versed in
contemporary design; indeed the kitchen wing, which was built first, is archaic in its preservation of stonemullioned windows and plain eaves on the concealed side whereas the exposed side has hung sashes and a
Georgian eaves cornice.
Merly House, Poole (25), of 1752–60, has lost its late 18th-century side wings, but the remaining block
has a fine pedimented centrepiece. It was built by an 18th-century connoisseur, Ralph Willett, son of a
wealthy West India sugar planter, and a certain excellence of craftsmanship, perhaps superior to the
standard of the design, is everywhere apparent. The great staircase is veneered in lignum vitae and the rococo
plasterwork of the ceilings shows the style at its most exquisite. Time and circumstances have unfortunately
not improved the appearance of the house.
Came House, Winterborne Came (3), 1754–62, was also designed by Francis Cartwright of Blandford.
It is effectively a Palladian house of moderate size with a noble Composite portico to the entrance front,
again showing a superlative quality of craftsmanship; but, curiously, Baroque capitals deriving from
Borromini through Archer and the Bastards occur on the garden front. This last (Pl. 190) is less distinguished than the entrance front since it echoes the disproportion of parts seen already at Moreton. At
Came House some of the rooms have a quality of restrained elegance suggestive of metropolitan fashionable
taste. Messrs. Vile and Cobb of London were employed here, and to them, though essentially cabinet
makers, this character seems from surviving accounts to be attributable. Both Came and Moreton are of
interest for the planning of the first floor, with a staircase to one side of the house leading to a geometrically-shaped central space round which the bedrooms are grouped.
At Smedmore, Kimmeridge (4), the new front of 1761 shows the continued use of projecting architraves
to the windows though its two boldly projecting rounded bays and smooth ashlar without pilasters or
rustication presage the plainer and smoother style of the later 18th century. Urbanity contributes to
the sensibility of the design of Belfield, Weymouth (17), designed by John Crunden c. 1780. This is an
outstanding example of a small Classical villa, compact and interesting in plan and remarkably unified
and gracious in elevational design. The building is an epitome of 18th-century 'neatness' which minor
19th-century remodelling has done little to alter.
In 1810 the 17th-century Charborough was enlarged in an ingenious way and refronted with an impressive stucco façade with a simple Classical centrepiece; the florid Gothic interior of the Armoury is a
notable mid 19th-century addition. Other examples of the contemporaneous use of disparate styles in the
second quarter of the century are Upton House, Poole (28), continuing the Classical tradition, while the
new Canford Manor, Poole (30), was being built to the designs of Edward Blore in a late Gothic style.
Canford was continued by Charles Barry in the same general style about the middle of the century to
produce the vast 'romantic' house which now accommodates Canford School.
Between these larger houses and the smaller houses next described come certain categories of town
houses. The mansion houses of the Poole merchants of the 18th century are one of these; they form a
notable group of town houses far superior to anything else of the kind in other towns in the area. The
design and planning of town houses is discussed in the introductions to Dorchester, Poole and Weymouth
in the body of the Inventory.
Smaller Houses: Smaller houses of some architectural distinction include Woolbridge Manor, East
Stoke (4), and Hamworthy Old Rectory, Poole (330), both of the 17th century and among the earliest
surviving essays in brickwork used architecturally in S.E. Dorset.
Manor Farm and Glebe Court in West Stafford (6, 7) and Henbury House, Sturminster Marshall (7),
are of the early and mid 18th century and are planned with two wings enclosing three sides of a narrow
courtyard; the first two, which show very marked similarity of plan, are both remodellings of earlier
buildings. Later gentlemen's houses include 'Bindon Abbey', Wool (7), and Lewell Lodge, West Knighton
(6), both with Gothic detail, Planefield House, Poole (338), in the Regency style, and South Lodge, Dorchester (24), which is notable for its interior decoration.
Vernacular Buildings: The vernacular dwellings are described in the Inventory as 'houses' or 'cottages'
without any implied assessment of the social or economic status of the original or the present occupiers.
The term 'cottage' has been used as indicative of small physical size and humble appearance. The term
'heated room' or 'unheated room' has been used to denote a room with or without a fireplace.
Farmhouses and village buildings are generally of simple design. Very few houses older than the
18th century are dated, and in an area where vernacular building methods changed little between the late
16th and the late 17th centuries stylistic evidence does not provide a basis for close dating. The
characteristics in the S. and W. parts of the area are stone-mullioned windows and arched stone heads to
doorways, moulded stone labels and string-courses (Pl. 47); such stone-mullioned windows of Jacobean
type continued in use, with some change in proportion, into the 18th century (e.g. Portesham 6). Stonebuilt dormer windows are rare.
In the 18th century the use of large areas of plain walling between widely spaced windows (Pls. 43, 44)
gives an architectural effect of breadth and simplicity. Where chimneys stand in the end walls, roofs are
gabled; where there is no chimney, roofs more commonly have hipped ends (Pl. 48, 49) or, if the
roof is covered with stone slates, a small quarter hip or half hip is sometimes used (Pl. 45). Stone slates are
not only used for complete roof covering but also for the eaves courses of many tiled roofs, especially in
Wareham and neighbouring parishes (Pl. 43).
An attempt has been made in the Commission's Cambridgeshire I Inventory to apply a typological
grouping to vernacular house plans, and for purposes of identification the different types have there been
designated by letters. The figure on p. lxii shows them. In Dorset typological grouping has again been
found possible though the types in general are rather less distinctive; some do indeed correspond with
those in Cambridgeshire and they have therefore been given the same letters. The Dorset types are shown
in the figure on p. lxiii. The number of small mediaeval houses in the area is however insufficient to warrant
such treatment, and few links have been found between mediaeval and Elizabethan vernacular houses,
though an open hall of mediaeval type was built probably in the late 16th century at Lytchett Matravers (3),
into which an upper floor was inserted in 1674 so converting it into a normal type S house; and, again,
the adaptation of the mediaeval wing of Tyneham House in the 16th century may indicate an origin for
the type F house; it had a fireplace inserted across the lower end of the hall when this last was divided into
The identifiable Dorset types are as follows:—
Type F Three rooms and a through passage behind the fireplace of the middle room.
" I Two rooms with a central chimney between them.
" J As Type I but with a third room, thus giving a longer straight range.
" K As Type J with a fourth room in line.
" S Two rooms with one chimney only in an end wall.
" T Two rooms with a chimney in each end wall; this may be sub-divided into three groups:
T1 with the entrance directly into one room;
T2 with a central entrance hall or passageway between the two rooms;
T3 with the central space enlarged to provide a third, unheated, room in the middle of
" U A four-square house with two front rooms, two back rooms and a central entrance hall.
Classification of Houses in West Cambridgeshire
Types F and T may be enlarged by having additional accommodation in a back wing giving a T or
L-shaped plan. Houses with the fireplaces in the long back wall are too few for placing in the above typology and are regarded sui generis. A few houses of the 17th and early 18th century built on a one-room
plan occur, of which two, in Wareham, have an entrance passage partitioned off at one end. The plan is
however commoner in late terrace building of the poorer sort.
Type F (three rooms and a through passage) is the most common arrangement for the larger 16th and
17th-century farmhouses in the S. and W. parts of the area where building stone was abundant (Pl. 47).
It is not common in the areas to the N. and N.E. where cob was the general material prior to the introduction of brick. In this type of house the central room is the hall and has the main fireplace backing
against the passage; beyond the hall is a room, probably designed as a parlour, which may or may not have
an original fireplace; the third room, on the other side of the passage, is generally designed for humbler
domestic use, and more rarely has an original fireplace (see Corfe Castle, plans, p. 87). In Manor Cottage,
Winterbourne Steepleton (3), all three rooms are heated and domestic offices are provided in a back wing.
The staircase is often placed in line with the hall fireplace (i.e. across the building, not on the long axis)
and may project beyond the main line of the back wall as at Charity Farm, Osmington (14), which is the
only house in the area with the third room comprising a byre. The passage and the third room sometimes
appear as additions to a house of two-room plan but may in fact be a rebuilding of a pre-existing structure,
as at Middlebere Farm, Arne (3).
Type I (two rooms disposed one on each side of a central chimney-stack) has a central entrance leading
into a lobby at the side of the chimney. Most examples are of 17th-century date (Pl. 48), but a few are later.
The type is much less common in Dorset than in Cambridgeshire.
Type J (similar to Type I but with a third room added at one end) is not common.
Type K (similar to Type J but with a fourth room), though a recognised Cambridgeshire type, is
represented by one house only in S.E. Dorset. Other houses forming long ranges are generally an expansion of Type T.
Type S (two rooms, with one chimney at one end) is the most common form of small dwelling from
the late 16th to the early 18th century (Pl. 49). It has two ground-floor rooms of unequal size, the larger
having the fireplace. The entrance is either into the space at the side of the chimney or placed centrally in
the front elevation. In either plan it is necessary to go through the larger room to reach the second room.
The earlier examples are described as having a hall and inner room, the original purpose of the inner room
not now being determinable; the difference between the rooms is emphasised at Warmwell (3) and (7) by
the difference in size of the front windows. In later examples the smaller room seems sometimes to have
been intended as a parlour, but often it was evidently an inferior room used as a scullery.
Plan-types of houses in S.E. Dorset, based on the following typical examples: F, Corfe Castle (145); I, Affpuddle (17); J. Bloxworth
(15); S, Broadmayne (9), Arne (8); T1, Corfe Castle (106); T2, Church Knowle (23); T3, Morden (15); U, Wareham (75). The
plans are shown without alterations and additions.
Type T (two rooms with a fireplace in each end wall) occurs from the late 16th century onward, and
in the 18th century it became the most common form, one of the heated rooms being the parlour. The
type can be divided into three groups, all the houses having the entrance in the middle of the front wall:
T1 with the entrance leading directly into one of the rooms; to maintain the symmetry of the front
the room so entered is necessarily longer than the other;
T2 with the two rooms separated by an entrance hall, which, in the smallest, may comprise only a
lobby and a straight staircase or a through passageway, or may provide a more spacious stairhall
running the full depth of the house.
T3 like the larger T2 examples has a comparatively large central compartment but it contains the
entrance hall and staircase to the front and a third room behind them, unheated and probably intended
for domestic storage. Bere Regis (19) is a variation upon this plan, with a central unheated room
running the full depth of the house beside a narrow stairhall.
Type U (square plan, with two front and two back rooms and a central entrance hall) is found at the
Old Rectory, Hamworthy (Poole), in the mid 17th century and at the Manor House in Wareham at the
beginning of the 18th century, and it was used for a number of gentlemen's houses in the late 18th century
but, among farmhouses, North Holton, Lytchett Minster (8), is the only example. Up to the middle of the
19th century farmhouses continued to be built only one room thick though the impression of a substantial
four-square house was sometimes given by continuing the design of the main front on the back wing of an
L-shaped house so placed that the re-entrant angle is not immediately apparent.
Houses built on an L-shaped plan nearly always have the chimneys in outside walls. The most compact
is Morden (30), which comprised three rooms with chimneys in the ends of the wings. A more common
arrangement giving an L-shaped plan is the extension of Type T2 by a wing to the back, but L-shaped
plans do not conform to any particular type.
Ceilings: In a few 16th-century houses the beams and joists are designed to divide the ceiling up into a
number of small square panels; Lewell Mill, West Knighton (8), has the most richly moulded beams, and
the panels they form are each boarded separately, the direction of the boarding being changed from one
panel to the next.
The elaborate timber ceiling in the tower of the church on Brownsea Island, Studland (2), has a domestic
origin having been brought from a 15th-century house in the City of London. A 19th-century interpretation of such a ceiling is in the Armoury at Charborough House, Morden (3).
For other ceilings, see below under Plasterwork and Wall Painting.
Fireplaces: At Corfe Castle (112) is a fine 15th-century fireplace with shafted jambs. Few other fireplaces
dating from before the end of the 17th century depart from the standard pattern with a low four-centred
lintel, but at Morton's House, Corfe Castle (38), is a late 16th-century one of Renaissance design with side
pilasters and at Poxwell House is another, far more elaborate, of c. 1600 (Pl. 150). A rococo surround of
c. 1760 at Smedmore, Kimmeridge (4), is of lively and delightful design (Pl. 56). Others of fine quality
of the 18th century are at Came House, Winterborne Came, where the drawing-room fireplace is flanked
by female terminal figures and has unusual ironwork to the grate (Pl. 189), and at Moreton House,
where the dining-room fireplace is decorated with the attributes of Bacchus and the drawing-room
fireplace shows great delicacy of carving, which may perhaps be attributed to Vangelder, who carved a
monument in Moreton church. Sufficiently remarkable is the depiction of dried cod in the ornament of a
fireplace at the Mansion House, Poole (276), which is a topical reference to one of the main sources of
prosperity in the town.
Panelling: The Great Chamber at Herringston is partly lined with early 17th-century panelling very
richly carved with figure subjects and decoration almost in the round and of a quality which is rarely seen
in this country (Pl. 192). A room at Canford Manor contains a remarkable collection of panelling mostly
English and French of the 15th and 16th centuries. Elsewhere panelling is generally typical of its period.
Plasterwork: There are 16th-century decorated ceilings at Corfe Mullen Court House (Pl. 92) and
No. 14 High Street, Poole (99). The very fine and elaborate plasterwork at Herringston, Winterborne
Herringston (1) (Pl. 191), can be dated to 1616–25 on account of the badge of the Prince of Wales and the
initials C P included in it, or possibly even more closely, on circumstantial grounds, to 1616–17; the open
pendant with figures moulded in the round (Pl. 193) is very unusual, the nearest parallel being at Canons
Rococo plasterwork of c. 1760 occurs at South Lodge, Dorchester (25), with charming decorative
effect (Pl. 95), and at Merly House, Poole (29), and Came House, Winterborne Came (3); that at Merly
and Came is of very high standard both in design and execution (Pls. 56, 134–5, 190).
Staircases: In the small houses of the 16th and 17th centuries a winding newel stair was commonly
placed to one side of a chimney; a projection from the main structure to contain it is an unusual feature,
but it occurs at Charity Farm, Osmington (14), and perhaps at Broadmayne (9). On the other hand a few
larger houses of the same period have or have had a substantial rectangular projection to contain a staircase
of short straight flights round an open or closed well. A staircase of this kind remained at Tyneham (2)
until recently; Hyde House, Steeple (7), presumably had one. An 18th-century example is at Poole (205).
The open stone staircase at Warmwell House is unusual, but its shape is largely dictated by the exigencies
of an awkward plan. There are very few open timber staircases of the 17th century, but a number of 18th-century ones survive which are of high quality (Pl. 57). The most ornate is that at Charborough House
which incorporates a foliated and scrolled end to the handrail of a kind which appears also at Waddon
Manor and in three mid 18th-century merchants' houses in Poole. At Came House and Moreton House
the balustrades are of wrought ironwork. At South Lodge and Savernake House, both in Dorchester (24
and 66), wooden trelliswork in the 'Chinese' manner takes the place of the more usual balusters. In the
secondary staircase at Moreton House are substantial square newels of a kind which had been in fashion
half a century earlier. By the end of the 18th century turned balusters had been replaced by slats of square
section, as at Poole (276) where they alternate with pierced cast-iron balusters in a spacious staircase partly
carried on columns (Pl. 121). A use of more elaborate cast ironwork is in the supports of the handrail in
the Tower at Charborough (Pl. 111).
Wall Painting: The Baroque painting scheme on the walls and ceilings of the staircase at Charborough
House is among the finest of Sir James Thornhill's works surviving in a private house. It is dated 1718,
the year Thornhill was made History Painter in Ordinary to the King. The presentation both in aspect and
content is heroic and shows the artist's grasp of the scenographic possibilities of architecture (Pls. 108, 109)
Only one secular roof of trussed-rafter construction has been found, at East Almer Farm, Sturminster
Marshall (34); it is of the 15th century and once carried a plaster barrel ceiling. Other mediaeval roofs all
have trusses, some of cruck form, supporting purlins bearing the common rafters.
Fifteenth-century roofs remain at 'John of Gaunt's' Kitchen, Canford, Poole (30), and at the Town
Cellars, Poole (17). The former has simple trusses with tie-beams and collars and struts between them and
above the collars; the latter has arch-braced collar-beams alternately with and without tie beams. A little
later, dating from the late 15th or early 16th century, are the arch-braced collar-beam trusses at Scaplen's
Court, Poole (26); none of them has a tie beam.
Roof Trusses in Barns
Mediaeval cruck-trusses survive in late 15th-century houses at Affpuddle (4) and Corfe Castle (80),
the latter with well-constructed arch-braces under the collar. An isolated cruck-truss in Castle Street,
Poole (57), is also of late mediaeval date.
Cruck construction continued in use in barns through the 16th and 17th centuries, but later crucks are
commonly scarfed or jointed, as at West Stafford (10). A 16th-century barn at Poxwell (4) shows methods
of building cruck roofs in default of timbers large enough to reach from floor to ridge. Thus the crucks
are not only jointed but also raised so that their feet are housed in stone walls from a level some 8 ft. above
ground. Moreover, one of the trusses so raised is built up in two tiers, with a second pair of crucks rising
from the collar joining the heads of the lower crucks (Fig. p. lxv).
Plans of Barns
Good examples of post-mediaeval arch-braced trusses remain in the 16th-century barn at Woolbridge
Manor, East Stoke (4), and in the 'King Charles' public house, Poole (272), where the braces rise from false
hammer beams. An unusual form of truss found in several barns has a short horizontal member at each
side, where a tie beam might be expected, with its end tenoned into a 'sling brace' which extends from the
side of the wall post to the under side of the principal rafter; the earliest is at Woodford (3) with a pitch of
57° and probably of the 17th century (Fig. p. 400); later ones are of lower pitch and involve the use of iron
bolts and straps as well as of mortice-and-tenon joints (Pl. 53; Fig. p. lxv).
The most common form of truss is a simple frame with collar and tie beam carrying side purlins but
not always a ridge piece.
Barns: The earliest barn recorded in this Inventory is the building of c. 1500 now used as a smithy at
St. John's Hill in the middle of Wareham (47). It is not a large structure, and the only original doorway
surviving is a small opening for the entry of persons, not wagons. The typical barn has two large doorways
opposite one another; one is for the entrance of loaded wagons and may be protected by a high gabled
porch; the other, for exit, may have a low porch formed under a downward extension of the main roof.
Nowhere in the area has a barn been found on an aisled plan, with the roof supported by free-standing
posts. Walls are generally of plain stone or brickwork, timber-framing being unusual though occurring
occasionally. A number of barn roof-trusses and plans are illustrated here (pp. lxv, lxvi). Among the
former the two-tiered cruck-truss at Poxwell is exceptional. 'Sling-brace' trusses (see above) show an ingenious
method of dispensing with a full tie-beam (Bloxworth (28), Bere Regis (45)); an earlier method involved
the use of crucks which were usually scarfed or jointed (West Stafford (10)).
Among the later barns considerable standardisation in size is noticeable, particularly at Affpuddle where
at least two out of four barns were built by the same landlord to uniform size.
Mediaeval and Later Earthworks
Numerous settlements and field remains, castle and town defences, a moat, a park pale and ponds
comprise the mediaeval earthworks in S.E. Dorset and are referred to below, together with 'Pillow'
mounds, which are probably mediaeval.
Three classes of settlement remains are distinguishable. Of the first class, five sites, with earthworks
exceeding 10 acres in extent and now with no more than a scatter of associated buildings, are defined as
Deserted Mediaeval Villages; these are Holworth (Chaldon Herring 20), Fryer Mayne (West Knighton 19),
Ringstead (Osmington 27), West Burton (Winfrith Newburgh 31) and Winterborne Farringdon (Winterborne Came 8). Sites similar to the foregoing but where the surviving earthworks cover less than 10 acres
form the second class; they are more numerous than in the first, and those in Portesham (30, 31) and
Tyneham (6, 10) have been selected for detailed description. The third class covers settlement remains
immediately adjacent to a modern village; such remains may be evidence for a contraction or shifting in
the area of habitation, or mark a change of land use. Coombe Keynes (12) is the largest of this kind. Of all
three classes, only at Holworth has there been any modern archaeological investigation.
The plans of these settlements are mostly irregular; only Holworth has a neat arrangement of tofts and
crofts (a house-yard with a strip paddock strung out behind it), but an arrangement of substantially banked
closes in a long row exists at Winterbourne Steepleton (11) and at Rew, Winterborne St. Martin (20).
Holworth is an example of a type frequently met elsewhere, notably in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The position of houses may be indicated by platforms which range in size from about 60 ft. by 15 ft.
to as much as 90 ft. square, as at Holworth, where excavation revealing shallow stone footings has shown
that a small building stood within a toft beside a road. Sometimes the houses themselves are represented
by low banks, as in the deserted villages of Fryer Mayne, Ringstead and Winterborne Farringdon; banks
normally enclosed rectangles measuring from 32 ft. by 10 ft. to 60 ft. by 25 ft., some of the latter being
divided by a single cross-bank; opposed gaps sometimes occur in the banks on the long sides. Such remains
suggest a form of long-house, though any such identification is uncertain without excavation. At most sites
there is nothing on the surface to mark the exact position of houses or to indicate their size and form, and
the size of the platforms is little guide since these may also have provided for yards, outbuildings, or even
The closes and paddocks near the houses would have had many uses, but it seems that the larger closes
were occasionally cultivated, as at Tyneham (8). The 'hawes' at Corfe Castle (177) are either built up into
broad ridges or into a form of lyncheted strip fields; ultimately anyway they were not part of the normal
Roads or tracks run through, past or into virtually all the settlement sites. They often appear as hollowways, perhaps resulting as much from occupational build-up on either side as from wear. Their low position
and the abandonment of any former drainage system has sometimes resulted in their becoming marshy or
waterlogged, as at Warmwell (9). Terrace-ways cut along slopes are also found, for instance at Winterborne
Excepting the major deserted villages, the Commission has not dealt with the documentary history of
the settlement remains listed in the Inventory; certain general points are, however, worth noting. Only
a few sites, with evidence of a once substantial settlement now reduced to one or two dwellings, can be said
to be virtually deserted. Many of the remains indicate only shrinkage, to a greater or lesser extent, and even
this interpretation may be mistaken. There is sometimes no evidence from documents that a settlement was
ever much larger than it is today, and the remains themselves are often disused closes and paddocks with
few or no identifiable building sites. Typical examples are West and East Shilvinghampton (Portesham 30,
31) where neither the earthwork remains nor the documentary evidence indicates extensive habitation.
The total recorded population for both places in 1086 was only nine and this may have included a third
settlement (Domesday Book, Vol. I, f. 78b, 80a, 84b); only six taxpayers were listed in 1327 (P.R.O.
E. 179/103/4) and there were still at least three households in 1662 (C. F. Meekings, Dorset Hearth Tax
Assessments (1951), 11).
Even extensive earthwork remains, such as at Coombe Keynes (12) and Broadmayne (18), need not
imply depopulation. These again contain few definite building sites, and documentary evidence seems to
indicate only small decreases in population. At Coombe Keynes the recorded population of Domesday
Book cannot be calculated, but there seems little difference between the nineteen taxpayers recorded in 1327
(P.R.O. E.179/103/4) and the fourteen householders listed in 1662 (Meekings, op. cit., 79).
Three examples in the N. of the area, at Lytchett Matravers (34, 35) and Morden (51), though no doubt
the result of actual desertion or shrinkage of these particular sites, are likely to be only the reflection of a
purely local movement of population in an area of dispersed settlement, for there is no evidence of an
over-all reduction of population in the area; in fact the reverse is true. At Morden the recorded Domesday
population was thirty (Domesday Book, Vol. I, f. 79b, 82b, 83b, 84a), forty-three taxpayers were listed in
1327 (P.R.O. E. 179/103/4) and in 1662 there were seventy-nine households (Meekings, op. cit., 39, 82).
Evidence of extensive depopulation, both from the documents and the remains, is limited to a few sites:
Holworth (Chaldon Herring 20), West Ringstead (Osmington 27), Fryer Mayne (West Knighton 19),
Afflington (Corfe Castle 180), West Woodsford (Woodsford 4), East Lulworth (27) and West Burton
(Winfrith Newburgh 31). Except for East Lulworth, an example of the deliberate removal of part of a
village as a result of late 18th-century emparking, the limited documentary work that has been done
suggests two things: that these settlements were never large, and that most of them seem to have been
deserted gradually over a considerable period of time.
Thus, though the number of sites and their distribution (map opp. p. xxxvi) may suggest large-scale
shrinkage or desertion of mediaeval settlements in the area, this impression is probably misleading and
needs to be treated with every reserve.
Two main types of field remains are distinguishable, both largely the physical manifestation of mediaeval
open-field agriculture: strip lynchets and ridge-and-furrow.
These are long narrow terraces which cover many of the hillsides in the area and appear to be nothing
more than the extension of the normal type of mediaeval open fields over sloping ground. Their main
characteristics are as follows:
(i) extreme length in relation to breadth;
(ii) arrangement in furlongs or parcels of strips;
(iii) ends nearly always open;
(iv) lynchets, or 'risers', often varying in height along their length and diminishing considerably at
(v) treads, or cultivable areas, nearly always broadest near the centre and narrowest at the ends.
Strip lynchets may follow along (contour), obliquely across, or up and down a slope. The contour
type sometimes occurs with strips separated by unploughed slivers, as at Bincombe (11b). The up-and-down type may run up a slope of over 17°, though the ends are usually less steep (e.g. Kimmeridge 15); this
arrangement saves arable land because the lynchets, which build up on the secondary slope, are much
shallower and narrower than is usual with the contour type. Most strip lynchets are clearly built entirely
by plough action, but occasionally, as at Bincombe (11), there are suggestions of some artificial construction.
Headlands for turning the plough were often strips ploughed like the others. In Winterbourne Steepleton, however, comparison of the Tithe Map with the present remains shows that contour lynchets were
divided into furlongs by a system of ramps leading the end of one strip down to the level of another and
presumably easing the turning of the plough at the end of each strip. Occupation ways, occasionally found
among the field remains as lanes or grassy tracks, sometimes served as headlands, as at Kingston, Corfe
Strip endings can be classified into several types, helping to define strip lynchets: they may abut on a
neighbouring strip, headland or occupation way, run out on fallow or pasture, end in a quarter-round
turn, or be drawn out as the strip narrows.
Broad ridge-and-furrow, defined as ridges 5 yds. or more in width, was probably once the commonest form of mediaeval cultivation in the area. Little has survived modern destruction, and the most
interesting examples of the type are those which overlie earlier 'Celtic' fields (see Ancient Field Groups (1)
and (23) and preface to Ancient Fields, p. 622). They appear to represent the ploughing of marginal land
taken into temporary cultivation during times of land hunger.
Other types of mediaeval and later cultivation described in the Inventory include strips divided by
baulks or banks, e.g. Kingston, Corfe Castle (179). At Portland (95) such strips are still under cultivation,
and the general impression of these remains is that they are a late development. Narrow rig, with ridges
under 5 yds. wide, seems always to be later than all the other types of ridge-and-furrow and is probably
of the 18th or 19th century.
Castles: See Castles and Fortified Houses (p. lvi).
Moat: The only one, a ditched enclosure around a large house, is in Owermoigne (2).
Park Pale: The only surviving earthworks of a mediaeval empaled deer park in the area are in Lytchett
'Pillow' Mounds: These occur in S.E. Dorset in two groups, in Church Knowle (29) and Worth
Matravers (32). Their position suggests they are mediaeval. They are of two associated and presumably
contemporary types. Those of the first type (Pl. 207) are two to five times as long as they are broad, more
or less flat-topped and parallel-sided, with markedly squared ends and a continuous surrounding ditch.
Those of the second type are also rectangular and may be ditched but are shelf-like platforms cut back into
a slope. The purpose of 'pillow' mounds is unknown and may differ according to form. These examples
are unlikely to be artificial rabbit-warrens.
Ponds: Those listed in the Inventory were perhaps made as fish-ponds or stews, though the ones at
Bindon Abbey, Wool (43), have been altered in the laying-out of gardens.
Town Defences: The two examples, at Dorchester (173–4) and Wareham (79), are considered in detail
in the body of the Inventory (pp. 542–551 and pp. 304, 322–24 respectively). At Wareham, the Inventory
text postulates that the bank originally had a front revetment because excavation revealed that the strata
continued horizontally to where they had been cut back by later scarping. Clear evidence has emerged
at Tamworth of three rows of posts, indicating timber revetments to front and back of the bank, with the
third row of posts down the middle to provide fixing for backward ties (Lichfield and S. Staffs. Arch.
Soc., Trans. (1968)). Aethelflaed's borough at Tamworth was founded in 913 (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
ed. D. Whitelock (1961), 62). Traces of a similar system have been found at Cricklade.