32 MELCOMBE HORSEY (7702)
Melcombe Horsey, the Parish Church of St. Andrew
(O.S. 6 ins. ST 70 SW, ST 70 SE)
Melcombe Horsey, with an area of just over 2,000
acres, is roughly L-shaped and comprises two distinct
parts. The larger part, forming the foot of the L, is a
basin floored with Gault and Greensand, ringed by
Chalk hills, and drained by the Devil's Brook to the E.
and the Cheselbourne to the S.W. The smaller part, to
the N., lies beyond the Chalk scarp on Gault and
Kimmeridge Clay; it has always been thickly wooded
and was a mediaeval Deer Park. (fn. 1) The S. part of the parish
originally contained two separate villages; Bingham's
Melcombe to the E. and Higher Melcombe or Melcombe
Horsey in the centre. Today, both villages are almost
deserted; of the first there remain the church, the manorhouse and the rectory; of the second there remain only
the manor-house and a 17th-century chapel of ease.
The parish is unusually rich in monuments. The Iron
Age hill-fort on Nettlecombe Tout, together with the
settlement, dykes and 'Celtic' fields on Bowden's Hill,
form part of a remarkable complex of earthworks on
the high ground surrounding Lyscombe Bottom. The
parish church is of the 14th and 15th centuries. Both
manor-houses are of considerable interest and that of
Bingham's Melcombe is renowned as one of the most
beautiful houses in the county.
(1) The Parish Church of St. Andrew (Plate 5)
stands in the S.E. corner of the parish. The walls are
mainly of flint and rubble with dressings of Ham Hill
and local limestone; the upper stage of the tower is
partly of ashlar; the roofs are tiled, stone-slated and lead-covered. The Chancel, the Nave, the Bingham Chapel, the
Horsey Chapel, the South Porch and the lower stage of the
West Tower are of mid 14th-century origin. The upper
stage of the tower is of the first half of the 15th century.
In the second half of the 15th century the Horsey
Chapel was extensively rebuilt and the S. porch was
incorporated with it, one roof covering both; the S.
window of the nave is also of this period. In 1844 the E.
wall of the chancel was entirely renewed and the chancel
arch was rebuilt.
The church is pleasantly situated in the park of
Bingham's Melcombe House and is of considerable
architectural interest. Some surviving fragments of 14th
and 15th-century glass are notable, and an oak screen
of 1619 is interesting for comparison with the more
elaborate screen that was provided by the same benefactor at Iwerne Courtney (p. 126).
Architectural Description—The Chancel (14½ ft. square) has a
19th-century E. window of three ogee-headed lights with net
tracery in a two-centred head. In the N. wall is a mid 14th-century square-headed window of two trefoil ogee-headed lights
with pierced and cusped spandrels and a flat rear-arch. The S.
wall has a similar window with a chamfered rear-arch that is
flat in the centre and two-centred at the shoulders. The 19th-century chancel arch is two-centred, with narrow chamfers; the
jambs are continuous and pieces of window mullion are reused
The Nave (43 ft. by 15 ft.) has, near the E. end of the N. wall,
an archway of the mid 14th century, opening into the Bingham
Chapel; it is two-centred and of two chamfered orders dying
into chamfered responds. Above the arch is a square-headed rood-loft doorway, now blocked. The N. doorway, now blocked, is
of the late 15th century and has a chamfered segmental-pointed
head and a four-centred rear-arch. Adjacent is a square-headed
window similar to that on the N. side of the chancel but of
three lights; it has a square label with mutilated stops and a rear-arch with a raised centre. On the S. side of the nave, at the E. end,
is a two-centred archway to the Horsey Chapel (Plate 152); it is
of two chamfered orders dying into flat responds and appears
to be of 14th-century origin but altered, rebuilt and heightened
in the 15th century. The 14th-century S. doorway has a chamfered
four-centred head, continuous jambs and a chamfered segmental-pointed rear-arch. Further W. is a late 15th-century square-headed casement-moulded window of three cinquefoil-headed
lights under four small tracery lights; the square label has stops
decorated with the initials I.C. interlaced, and R.
The Bingham Chapel has in its E. wall a two-light window
similar to that in the S. wall of the chancel. Between the S.
jamb of the E. window and the E. respond of the archway from
the nave is the 15th-century doorway to the rood vice, now
blocked; it has a rebated segmental-pointed head and continuous
jambs. The window in the N. wall is uniform with that to the E.
The lead-covered roof is masked by a 15th-century parapet with
a moulded string-course from which, on the N., project two
The Horsey Chapel has a 15th-century E. window of three
cinquefoil-headed lights with moulded jambs and mullions, and
vertical tracery in a two-centred head. The rear-arch is two-centred and moulded, with continuous jambs; the restored
hood-mould retains one original stop depicting a grotesque
human head. The E. gable has a square finial with a fleur-de-lis
on each face. At the S.E. corner is a 15th-century diagonal
buttress of two weathered stages. In the lower part of the S. wall
the original 14th-century masonry is distinguished by its
coarser texture from the masonry of the 15th-century upper part.
Above, the S. wall has a three-light 15th-century window with
a shallow triangular head and a hollow-chamfered external
surround; the straight-sided hood-mould has original male and
female head-stops (Plate 18) of high quality; the opening is
casement-moulded internally, with a moulded surround. The
three lights are uniform with those of the E. window and above
them are simple vertical tracery lights. The South Porch is of
14th-century origin and integral with the Horsey Chapel; it has
a segmental-pointed archway of two chamfered orders. The
upper part of the porch is of the 15th century and the W. gable
is uniform with that at the E. end of the chapel.
The West Tower is of two stages. At the base is a hollow-chamfered plinth; the stages are separated by a moulded string-course and at the top, above a hollow-chamfered string-course,
is an embattled parapet with a weathered coping. A carved
gargoyle projects from the parapet string-course on the N. side.
The lower stage has buttresses of three weathered stages set
diagonally at the N.W. and S.W. corners and square-set at the
S.E. corner. The vice, at the N.E. corner, has a pyramidal
weathered stone roof slightly higher than the main parapet, and
a square-set N. buttress corresponding with the two lower stages
of the tower buttresses. The 14th-century tower arch is of two
chamfered orders; the inner order is two-centred and dies into
the jambs, the outer order is continuous. The vice doorway has a
hollow-chamfered segmental-pointed head, continuous jambs
and shaped stops. The W. window is two-centred, with three
trefoil ogee-headed lights under net tracery; it is of the 14th
century. In the second stage, each side of the tower has a two-centred 15th-century belfry window of two lights, with
chamfered jambs and trefoiled heads under a quatrefoil tracery
light; the moulded labels have square stops. The lights are closed
with stone slabs with quatrefoil perforations.
Fittings—Bells: two; tenor inscribed 'O beata Trinitas' in
elaborate Lombardic letters each with crown, with wreath and
cross stops; 2nd inscribed 'Regina Celi letare all'a all'a' in blackletter with stops similar to tenor; both bells c. 1500. Bracket: In
Horsey Chapel, on S. wall, half-octagon with hollow-chamfered
under-edge, late 15th century. Chair: of oak, with turned front
legs, moulded and carved rails, panelled back and shaped armrests, mid 17th century. Coffin-lid: In churchyard, immediately
W. of tower, tapering, with hollow-chamfered under-edge,
c. 1300. Coffin-stools: two, of oak, with turned legs and beaded
tops, late 18th century. Communion Rails: of oak, with turned
balusters and moulded rails, 17th century. Communion Tables:
In chancel, with turned legs and moulded rails, 17th century;
in Horsey Chapel, with turned legs, enriched rails and plain
stretchers, 17th century. Font: circular Purbeck stone bowl
with slightly tapering sides, c. 1200, on modern base; bowl
recently transfered from Higher Melcombe (3). Former font of
1751 now at Swanage, see Dorset II, 292. Glass: In N. window
of nave, in apex of lights, fragments of canopies in situ, 14th
century; reset in same window, two roundels with doves and
scrolls, two quarries with rudder device and two with rebuses
of Abbot William Middleton of Milton Abbey, all late 15th
century. In Bingham Chapel in E. window, fragments of canopy
in situ; reset below, crowned and nimbed male head flanked by
buttressed standards, also patchwork of fragments with heraldic
lions, oak leaves and canopies, all 14th century. In Horsey
Chapel, in tracery of E. window, black-letter IHS, seated figure
in cap and gown, nimbed, inscribed JERONIMO, and companion
figure, nimbed, inscribed AUGUSTINO, 15th century; reset in
S. window, nimbed figure in alb and amice holding shield-of-arms of Turges, also miscellaneous fragments including Christchild, probably from St. Christopher subject, female head,
nimbed head, fish with letter entwined, and fragment of shield-of-arms of Tregonwell, 14th and 15th century. Hatchment: In
Bingham Chapel, on canvas with moulded wooden surround,
achievement-of-arms of Bingham quartering Turberville,
Cadicott and Pottenger with escutcheon of Ridout, impaling
Halsey; 19th century. Graffiti: In S. porch, on sill of niche,
'G . . IC 1589'; on stone seats, scratchings dated 1777–1789.
Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In nave, on N. wall,
(1) of William Wynyard Bingham, 1821, white marble tablet
on slate ground; (2) of Richard Bingham, 1824, his wife Sophia,
1773, and his second wife Elizabeth, 1813, inscription panel in
Gothic niche with side standards, cusped head and crocketed
gable with arms. In Bingham Chapel, on N. wall, (3) of Rev.
George Bingham, 1838, white marble tablet with scrolled side
pieces and arms, on slate background, by Lester of Dorchester;
(4) of Thomas Bingham, 1711, and others later, white marble
tablet with arms; (5) of John Bingham, 1735, wall-monument
with scrolled side-pieces, round-headed pediment enclosing
cherub's head, urn finial and shaped apron with blank shield;
set up by Elizabeth Bingham, 1750; signed 'P. Schemakers Ft.'.
In churchyard, against N. wall of Bingham Chapel, (6) of
Philadelphia Bingham, 1757, table-tomb with panelled sides,
scrolled ends and cartouche-of-arms of Bingham quartering
Pottenger; (7) of Susanna, daughter of the foregoing, 1786,
tomb-slab. Floor-slab: In Bingham Chapel, reset on W. wall, of
Robert Byngham, 154, and his wife Joan [De la Lynde],
Purbeck marble slab with four raised shields-of-arms and incised
marginal black-letter inscription; one shield with arms of
Bingham, two with arms of De la Lynde, one defaced.
Niche: In S. porch, in E. wall, recess with richly moulded
cusped and sub-cusped cinquefoil ogee head, with hood-mould
and finial, chamfered sill and three pedestals, late 14th century.
Piscina: In Horsey Chapel, in S. wall, semi-octagonal bowl in
ogee-headed recess with moulded cinquefoil cusping; also traces
of former surround with standards carrying crocketed canopy,
now hacked off; 14th century. Plate: includes silver cup and
cover-paten of 1752, large silver flagon of 1733 inscribed in
memory of Thomas Bingham. Pulpit: of oak, with five sides
panelled in two heights, and moulded cornice; Bastard of
Blandford received £10 for this pulpit in 1723 (parish accounts,
D.C.R.O.); pedestal made up from 17th-century oak panels
with band of guilloche enrichment. Screen: (Plate 22) at entrance
to Horsey Chapel, in two heights, with panelled lower height
and open balustrade above; doorway flanked by fluted and
reeded posts; stiles between panels moulded on N., fluted and
reeded on S.; middle rail with guilloche enrichment on N. and
arcaded fluting on S.; balustrade of nine turned uprights; top
rail with strapwork frieze and dentil cornice on each side, with
enriched console brackets at intervals, central bracket inscribed
'STF' (Sir Thomas Freke?) on S. side, and '1619' on N. Seating:
includes six benches with shaped end-pieces and moulded top
rails, probably 16th century, restored; also two benches with
carved and panelled backs and panelled end-pieces, one with
turned front legs; 17th century. Stoup: In E. jamb of S. doorway,
with roughly rounded head, bowl filled in. Sundial: On S.E.
buttress of Horsey Chapel, scratch-dial, probably 16th century.
Tiles: In pavement of Horsey Chapel, several plain glazed tiles,
perhaps 16th century. Miscellanea: In nave, reset in W. wall, on
N. side of tower arch, part of font bowl with shallow two-centred arcading, c. 1200. Reset high up in side walls of porch,
two stone masks, perhaps mediaeval.
Chapel of Ease at Higher Melcombe, see Monument
(2) Bingham's Melcombe (771021), house and outbuildings, stands in a broad shallow valley at the head
of the Devil's Brook, between Henning Hill and Coombe
Hill. The various walling materials are described in their
context below; the roofs are covered with stone-slates
and tiles. The house is built round three sides of an
irregular courtyard, entered through a Gatehouse on
the S.E. In the 13th century Robert Bingham acquired
the property by marriage with Lucy, the daughter and
heiress of Sir Robert Turberville, and it remained in the
Bingham family until 1895.
The Gatehouse (Plate 153) has been attributed to the
14th century on the evidence of the form and moulding
of the main archways, but no other features equate with
such dating, and the whole is more probably of the early
16th century. Though remodelled superficially in c. 1730,
it is the earliest complete surviving part of the house.
Doubtless the Hall too was mediaeval, but only a
fragment of walling possibly of this period survives; it
was almost entirely remodelled in the mid 16th century
when the oriel (Plate 154) and adjacent circular stone
stair were built. Allegedly during the 18th century an
upper floor was inserted in the hall, involving the
destruction of the old roof and its replacement by a
roof of low pitch at raised eaves level. In 1893–4 the
greater part of the N. wall was rebuilt and the roof was
reformed nearer to the original pitch, though with
retention of the attics (Builder LXVI, 24th March 1894,
236). The building or rebuilding of the 'Parlour' Wing,
across the W. end of the hall, followed close upon the
mid 16th-century remodelling, and the northern threequarters of the West Range of the courtyard (Plate 153)
were added before 1561, as explained below. The latter
did not include the garderobe; this, now the N. half of
a Service Annexe, on the N.W. angle of the W. range,
is probably an early addition. The 'parlour' wing was
in part remodelled inside, c. 1600, further embellished
inside in the mid 18th century, when also the W. side
was largely refaced, and heightened in the early 19th
century; it now contains the Dining Room on the
ground floor. The East Wing, across the E. end of the
hall, was formerly the Service Wing but is no longer
recognisable as such, and it now serves a different
purpose, containing a Library on the ground floor, an
18th-century staircase, and a Drawing Room on the
first floor. It incorporates walling, typologically (at
Bingham's Melcombe) of the 16th century, which
suggests a rebuilding contemporary with the remodelling of the hall or the rebuilding of the 'parlour' wing, but
the whole was remodelled and the S. wall was entirely
rebuilt late in the first quarter of the 18th century,
shortly before the alteration of the gatehouse. Surviving
fragments of walling to the N. suggest that the Kitchen
may once have stood there. At the same time in the 18th
century the Porch to the hall was rebuilt, with re-use of
much old material, and in c. 1750 the garderobe,
mentioned above, was extended S. to double its
original size. The South Range of the courtyard,
extending W. from the gatehouse, is of the second half
of the 16th century. A narrow space between it and the
S. end of the W. range was at first left open; closure,
by southward extension of the W. range, was a work
of the mid 17th century. The S. range incorporates a
Kitchen which, presumably when the E. wing was
converted in c. 1725 from service to private use, became
the main kitchen. Thus the service corridor under a
lean-to roof across the full width of the courtyard side
of the W. range, linking hall and kitchen, is probably
an 18th-century addition. It is now ostensibly a work of
1893–4, but graphic evidence proves it to be older
(Joseph Nash, Mansions of England in the Olden Time,
IV (1872), plate xci). The general restoration of the
house in 1893–4, including the alterations already
mentioned, was under the supervision of Evelyn Hellicar,
architect, the builder being A. H. Green of Blandford.
Further careful restoration took place in 1949. Since
then the 18th-century E. wall of the courtyard has been
heightened and a new entrance doorway built in it.
There is little evidence, other than of style, for dating
the fabric. The arms of Mary I and Philip of Spain in
the window of the oriel may well belong there: 1554–58
is appropriate for the style of the remodelling of the hall.
Moreover, an 'Inventory of the household and personal
effects of Robert Bingham' taken in 1561 gives a
terminus, for the reference to andirons in the 'oryalle'
indicates a fireplace therein, a rarity in such a position,
which the oriel here has; also the residential rooms
listed can be identified reasonably with the present hall,
oriel, 'parlour' wing and first floor of the N. part of the
W. range. The sequence of development, complicated
though it is, is fairly clear.
Bingham's Melcombe, largely informal in plan and
elevation, forms an outstandingly picturesque group of
buildings, which is given distinction by the mid 16th-century architectural treatment of the hall oriel in the
early Renaissance Italianate style, probably evolved
through France. With the great front from Clifton
Maybank, now at Montacute, this is one of the best
examples of the work of a regional group of masonsculptors, centred probably at Ham, which includes
buildings, parts of buildings or surviving fragments at
Sherborne Abbey, Athelhampton, Mapperton, Toller
Fratrum, Sandford Orcas, Melbury House, Creech
Grange and Hammoon, and probably the Horsey
monument at Sherborne.
Architectural Description—The Gatehouse (41 ft. by 18¾ ft.),
of two storeys and of squared rubble with ashlar dressings, is
symmetrical in plan and in elevation to N. and S. At each end of
the central through-way (9½ ft. wide) is a large archway with a
high triangular head, the wave moulding of which continues
down the jambs to rounded stops; the chamfered rear-arch dies
into the side walls. On the S., two original buttresses of two
weathered stages with chamfered plinths divide the front into
three equal bays (Plate 153). Over the archway and on each floor
in the side bays are windows of c. 1730, each with eared architrave,
keystone, shaped brackets below the sill and segmental rear-arch. The N. front is similar but without buttresses. Most of the
windows retain their original glazing bars. The blocking of
wider earlier windows shows clearly in the N. wall. The E. and
W. ends are gabled, with plain copings; the E. end is plain; the
W. end is largely concealed by the adjoining S. range. The great
18th-century door of two leaves, hung on strap-hinges in the
S. archway to the through-way, is panelled and nail studded and
contains a small wicket in the W. leaf.
Inside, doorways open from the through-way to the flanking
rooms. The E. doorway has a depressed triangular chamfered
head, renewed, and chamfered jambs with rounded stops; the
opposite doorway is similar, but rounded instead of angled at
the springing. The latter contains an 18th-century panelled door.
The stair is of plank construction with a central newel and is
probably of the 18th century. On the first floor each gable wall
contains an original rectangular stone fireplace with a chamfered
or hollow-chamfered surround. The W. room contains 18th-century fielded panelling. The E. room (Plate 159) is lined up to
about 7½ ft. with early 17th-century panelling in four heights
with an enriched frieze and a rudimentary cornice; the elaborate
overmantel, contemporary with the panelling, has terminal
figures supporting an entablature and dividing and flanking two
round-headed arches containing panels carved with foliation
and strapwork in low relief. In the same room the extremities
of the moulded braces of the main roof of the gatehouse obtrude
below the ceiling; the roof is in four bays, divided by much
damaged and repaired arch-braced collar-beam trusses, with
sloping struts above the collars.
The principal range on the N. side of the courtyard, containing
the hall, is entered through a Porch (8 ft. by 6¾ ft.), rebuilt
in the 18th century, which is of rubble with worked dressings
and gabled to the S. The outer entrance has a rectangular
moulded stone surround, the jambs being 16th-century dressings
reused, and above it is a square-headed window which, despite
the illustration of it as a two-light window by J. Nash (op. cit.),
appears never to have had a mullion; the inner doorway has
16th-century stop-moulded jambs supporting a rough timber
lintel. This doorway formerly opened into the screens passage
at the E. end of the hall, but the division has been eliminated,
presumably long ago. The Hall (30 ft. by 18¼ ft.) stands with the
oriel to the S.W. and the porch to the S.E. The S. wall of the
hall is of Purbeck stone ashlar up to the window-head level and
of alternate bands of flint and stone above; it has a high plinth
with moulded members, in Ham Hill stone, which return round
the oriel but are stopped against the porch. In the restricted space
between the oriel and the porch is a single window of four
square-headed lights with Purbeck stone moulded reveals and
mullions. The N. wall is of flint with squared limestone bonding
courses; it is a complete rebuilding of 1893–4 except for an area
of rubble walling left low down at the W. end. The rubble may
be a relic of the mediaeval hall; it retains some dressings of a
doorway, blocked presumably in the mid 16th century when the
window over and impinging upon it was inserted. The position
of this doorway is appropriate for the N. entrance to a screens
passage, which implies that the hall was reorientated as well as
remodelled in the mid 16th century. The equivalent doorway
then provided at the E. end of the N. wall of the hall survives,
though rebuilt; it has moulded jambs and a renewed head. The
inserted window just mentioned is similar to that in the S. wall,
but the reset window further E., though similar again in form,
is smaller, hollow-chamfered and probably of the 17th century.
The other N. windows, the gabled dormers and the N. porch
are of 1893–4.
The mid 16th-century two-storey Oriel (11½ ft. by 13¼ ft.)
amounts to a small wing, with a fireplace in the room on each
floor. The gabled S. front presents a distinguished architectural
composition (Plate 154). On the ground floor, the E. window of
four lights and the S. window originally of six lights (the
middle mullion was removed more than a century ago, see
Nash, op. cit.) and, on the first floor, the S. window of four
lights, are generally similar to the S. window of the hall, but
with an additional moulded member in the reveals. The window
dressings are of Purbeck whereas the enrichments next described
are of Ham Hill stone. These comprise the moulded plinth
members returned from the hall, a continuous moulded string
across the heads of the lower windows, polygonal standards on
the salient corners and, on the S. front, an elaboration incorporating the upper window. The corner standards have pedestal bases
formed by returns of the lower members of the main plinth.
Each standard is in three stages divided by, first, a return of the
string already described and, secondly, a highly individual Ionic
capital and entablature block (Plate 155); the third stage is
crowned by a moulded capital supporting an enriched bulbous
base to a spiral-turned pinnacle surmounted by the eagle crest
of the Binghams (Plate 155). The elaboration of the S. front
consists of side-standards rising from shaped corbels with Ioniclike volutes at string level to flank, first a carved panel filling
the space below the sill of the upper window, and secondly the
window itself, being linked by a cornice across the window
head; thence the side-standards continue up through the gable
to finish in pinnacles above the gable coping. The panel (Plate
155) contains an achievement-of-arms of Bingham supported by
amorini carved in high relief, all within foliate framing, the whole
being a work of high accomplishment in the French Italianate
style. The side-standards are set diagonally and the entire height
of the free faces is carved with Renaissance foliated-rod ornament.
Inside, the hall and the oriel room off it are ceiled just above
window-head level and have an 18th-century moulded cornice.
This represents the original height of the ground floor of the
oriel, but possibly the hall was once open to the roof; there is
now an upper storey. The full width of the oriel is open to the
hall through a wide Purbeck stone archway with a moulded
four-centred head springing from moulded responds with
shaped bases and carved foliate capitals (Plate 156). The E.
respond is elbowed where it serves also as the N. jamb of the
adjacent oriel fireplace. The latter has a renewed matching
S. jamb, a flat triangular head with carved foliate spandrels,
partly renewed, and a moulded cornice. In the W. wall of the
oriel are two mid 16th-century doorways with shallow four-centred heads, continuously moulded stone surrounds and carved
foliate spandrels. That to the N. leads to the 'parlour' wing and
to the circular stair to the upper floor, but is now blocked; that
to the S., which is very low because it occurs below the circular
stair, opens on a small lobby with a S. doorway, originally
external, now leading to the service corridor against the W.
range of the courtyard. The setting of the doorway in the stair
structure is described below with the 'parlour' wing.
Few ancient fittings, excepting the heraldic glass, survive in
the hall. The panelling is of the early 20th century and the doors
in the N., S. and W. walls are of the early 18th century, being
in six fielded panels. The early 16th-century panelled dado in
the oriel was introduced in 1949; then too the floor, previously
raised, was lowered to its correct level, at which time a number
of red floor tiles (2½ ins. and 5 ins. square with an interlace in
white slip) were revealed in situ. The tiles are now reset at the
threshold of the doorway to the 'parlour' wing. The window
glass, apparently belonging where it is, is a notable survival in
a domestic building (Plate 160). It includes fourteen shields-of-arms distributed one in each light of the S. and E. windows of the
oriel and of the S. window of the hall, as follows—Oriel S.
window, E. to W.: (1) Strode quarterly of eight (i and viii
Strode, ii Bitton or Button and Furneaux quarterly, iii Fitchet,
iv Gerard, v Brent, vi Ledred (?), vii Hody and Cole quarterly)
all in a foliate frame; (2) probably Herbert, Earl of Pembroke,
quarterly of seven (i Herbert, ii Stratley (?), iii Gam, iv Clevedon
or Clifton, v Craddock, vi Horton, vii Cantelupe) all in a Garter
(Sir Richard Bingham served under Pembroke at St. Quentin,
1557); (3) Mary I, France modern and England quarterly all in
a Garter surmounted by a closed royal crown; (4) Philip II,
quarterly (i and iv Castile and Leon quarterly, ii and iii Aragon
and Sicily per pale) all in a foliate frame surmounted by a closed
royal crown; (5) Horsey, in a foliate frame; (6) Russell quarterly
(i Russell, ii Herring, iii Froxmer, iv Wise) all in a Garter. E.
window, N. to S.: (7) Bingham impaled; (8) Filiol impaling
Bingham; (9) De la Lynde and Herring quarterly impaling
Martyn; (10) Bingham impaling Basket and (defaced) quarterly.
The foregoing have acanthus foliation above and below to
represent shields of Italianate form. Hall S. window, E. to W.:
(11) Bingham impaling De la Lynde and Herring quarterly
(iv defaced); (12) Trenchard impaling Bingham; (13) Bingham
impaling Williams; (14) Storke impaling Bingham; all with
foliation and Italianate, as before. The arms, borders etc. are
mid 16th century, except shields (1) and (5), both 18th century,
the inaccurately renewed impaling arms of (7) and the foliation
of (14), both 19th century. In shield (2), quarters i–iv have at
some time been set inside-out, and reversed, and though now
properly reset are almost obliterated by weather.
The circular stair beside the oriel is described below with the
'parlour' wing which incorporates it. The upper chamber in the
oriel was above the original general level of the first floor, which
necessitated its own secondary stair; this was of stone and circled
to the S. immediately outside the doorway to join the head of
the circular stair. It is now covered by a straight 18th-century
flight of stairs with Roman-Doric newels. In the S.W. corner of
the chamber is a mid 16th-century stone fireplace with stop-moulded jambs, a moulded lintel and a hood, the latter partly
restored. The barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling is original.
Off the W. or 'upper' end of the hall is the 'Parlour' Wing
(16¾ ft. by 37½ ft.) which now contains the dining room on the
ground floor, (i.e. the 'parlour' of the 1561 inventory), with
a passage etc. on the S.; off the S.E. corner is the stone circular
stair which adjoins and is integral with the hall oriel. The round
of the stair is entered beneath a chamfered lintel cut to four-centred arched form, and the stone steps are shaped to a small
concave quadrant before merging into the newel; this last
supports a reused stone jamb at the stair head, but the whole is
much altered and retooled. The stair is in part housed in a pentroofed ashlar projection from the S. gable wall of the 'parlour'
wing, the two appearing between the oriel and the W. range of
the courtyard. The projection has a moulded ashlar eaves cornice
consisting of a return, vertical and horizontal, of the oriel string,
and it contains, on the ground floor, the doorway mentioned
above from the lobby W. of the oriel. The doorway has a
square chamfered head and the wall above is jettied, the jetty
being supported on a large stone moulding mitred over the
door-head; in the wall are a long and a short window, the latter
blocked, both with segmental heads and sunk spandrels. The S.
gable wall above the projection has a chequered facing in flint
and stone and contains a small blocked window with a depressed
ogee head; the gable has a Ham stone coping and, at the apex, a
chimney-stack which serves the fireplace in the upper room of the
oriel. The conditions described indicate that there is little
difference in date between the remodelling of the hall and the
building or rebuilding of the 'parlour' wing, but variations in
the plinth mouldings and in the character of the walling differentiate them; the explanation must be that the wing represents
a second phase in the mid 16th-century building operations.
The walls of the 'parlour' wing have a coursed rubble plinth
with a moulded Ham stone capping and a moulded string-course
at window-head level. Excepting an area of ashlar at the S. end
of the W. front, the walling is of alternating bands of high quality
squared flints and Ham Hill ashlar (Plate 158). The gabled N. end
is unaltered except for a reduction in the pitch of the gable by
lateral heightening in brickwork; the former degree is shown
by the weathering of the original gable apex, which remains on
the chimney-stack. In the N. wall is a six-light window on the
ground floor and a four-light window above; both windows
are blocked. The chimney-stack is of 18th-century brickwork
above a 16th-century stone base. The W. front, except for the
ashlar area already mentioned containing a mid 16th-century
four-light window and a doorway of the same date adjacent on
the N., appears to have been entirely refaced, and the string-course restored, in the mid 18th century; it was subsequently
heightened some 1½ ft. in brick and flint. The two rectangular
sashed windows and the french window symmetrically placed
between them on the ground floor, all with plain architraves
and all formerly extending down to floor-level, are of the mid
18th century; the two wide first-floor windows are of c. 1800,
and this dates the wall heightening and the consequent change
of pitch of the N. gable.
Inside the 'parlour' wing, the Dining Room (16 ft. by 21¼ ft.)
contains a mid 18th-century wood fireplace-surround with side
scrolls and a carved mask and scrolled foliage in the frieze below
an enriched cornice (Plate 157). The whole is surmounted by a
more elaborate overmantel of c. 1600, originally coloured and
gilded but now painted white and grey and gilded, incorporating
carved figures, possibly Adam and Eve, the angel of the Expulsion and Eve with Cain and Abel, which support a cornice
augmented in the mid 18th century; on the cornice stand Atlas
figures dividing and flanking gadrooned square and round-headed panels, the latter framing carved figures of Justice and
Faith. Above is a full entablature with satyr brackets in the
frieze; the cornice itself returns forward from, and is contemporary with, the main cornice of the room, which is of the mid
18th century. The elaborate plaster ceiling, though it accommodates the projection of the over-mantel cornice, is probably
of c. 1600. It has a pattern of moulded ribs forming circles,
octagons and lozenges, with a central floral pendant; in the
circles are shields, one of which is roughly scratched with
the arms of Bingham; in the lozenges are male masks and
rosettes. The room is lined with mid 18th-century panelling
comprising tall fielded panels above a panelled dado, and
the panelled window shutters are of the same date; the two
contemporary door-cases have all the members enriched,
including the entablatures with net decoration on the friezes.
More remarkable survivals, original parts of this decorative
scheme, are two looking-glasses in carved foliate frames 'hung'
from carved ribbons and garlands, and two marble-topped
rococo side-tables against the walls between the windows, all
retaining their original full gilding (Plate 157).
The East Wing off the E. or 'lower' end of the hall contains
the library on the ground floor, with a narrow stairhall on the
N., and the drawing room on the first floor. It perpetuates the
position and to some extent incorporates the structure of the
former service wing. The S. front, rebuilt c. 1725, is of squared
flints and dressed stone in alternate bands, three courses to one;
the W. limits of the rebuilding are indicated by quoins beside
the E. wall of the porch and above the porch roof. The rectangular
sashed windows, of the same date, have stone lintels with keystones. In the gabled E. end, older walling of random flints with
Ham Hill and Purbeck stone bonding courses forms the bulk of
the wall, though this last also includes the return of the 18th-century rebuilt S. front, marked by a ragged joint. In the older
walling are remains of the N. reveal of a first-floor window.
Northward, an obtuse change in the alignment of the wall and
the occurrence of more regular flint and stone coursing show the
extent of the 18th-century stairhall addition. The N. front shows
much patching and rebuilding. Two of the windows are 18th-century; the stone-mullioned four-light window is comparatively
modern. Projecting 11 ft. from the N.W. corner is a roughly
coursed rubble wall, now a garden wall; in part it bonds through
with the rubble W. wall of the stairhall and, together, they may
be a survival of a part of the W. wall of the old service wing; in it
is a blocked doorway, partly concealed by the N. porch to the
Inside, the Library (19 ft. by 18 ft.) has an early 18th-century
fireplace-surround of bolection-moulded black marble and,
above, a contemporary looking-glass with bevelled plates
engraved with flowers and birds. The room is lined with
bolection-moulded pine panelling of the same period, with
cornice and dado; one of the panels opens to reveal an arched
cupboard within the wall thickness. The staircase, of c. 1725, has
turned balusters incorporating small square blocks, turned newels
and a moulded and ramped oak handrail ending in a quadrant
turn at the foot; the balustrade returns in a quarter circle on the
first-floor landing (Plate 157). This landing is contained in an
18th-century panelled lobby protruding into the Drawing Room
(19¾ ft. by 27½ ft.). The fittings in the latter are entirely of 1893–4.
The N. part of the West Range (14 ft. wide) of the courtyard
represents a third phase in the mid 16th-century building
operations; it was completed before 1561, for with little doubt
the bedrooms on the first floor are mentioned in the inventory
of that year. Provision had already been made for it; the N. end
of the E. wall overlies two ashlar base courses projecting some
4½ ft. from the S.W. angle of the oriel staircase structure, of
which they are a part. In the event the range was built in rubble,
not ashlar. That it is subsequent to the 'parlour' wing was further
proved when the dressed S.W. angle of the latter was revealed
in the N. end wall of the range, during alterations in 1949.
Originally the W. range extended only so far S. (29½ ft. internally) as the N. side of the present boiler room. The last was then
an open space; so it remained after the S. range of the courtyard
had been completed, in the second half of the 16th century, and
it was not built up to link the two ranges until the mid 17th
The E. front of the W. range, now masked in the lower part
by the service corridor, retains over the modern doorway to the
boiler room a number of dressed quoin stones of the S.E. angle
of the original range; others survive in an equivalent position
in the W. front. Northward are two windows flanking a doorway. Each window is of two lights with chamfered reveals and
mullions, retains original wrought-iron bars and is rebated
inside for shutters, the pierced lug for the shutter-bolt remaining
in the mullion. The doorway has a moulded segmental-pointed
head, the mouldings continuing on the jambs, and a moulded
label with returned stops. It is of indeterminate date; the label
is probably of the 15th century, but the apparent resetting of the
whole head, at least, of the arch and the history of the range
itself go against the assumption that it is a mediaeval feature in
situ. The boiler-room doorway contains a reused 17th-century
oak door frame. Further S. is a reset two-light window of the
17th century. On the upper floor the three windows are in
gabled dormers; all are of four lights, but the northern two, in
the mid 16th-century range, have a rather more complex moulding that the ovolo-moulded window in the 17th-century link
to the S. The first two dormers are of ashlar, the third incorporates
The W. front of the W. range is concealed in the N. half by
the service annexe, which laps round the N. end wall. S. of the
annexe, the original range has a ground-floor window and a
small first-floor window, both modern; then, as already
described, the remains of the dressed S.W. angle of the range
are visible, interrupted above by a former opening, now blocked.
Next, the link building contains a ground-floor window of two
stone-mullioned lights similar to one in the S. range, and
possibly reset from there, and a single-light window above,
with a second, rather smaller window just to the S. Lastly, the
whole of the gabled W. wall of the S. range, though flush with
the foregoing, is clearly discernible; it has a modern brick
chimney-stack at the apex. The Service Annexe mentioned above,
now containing pantries etc., has paired gables to the W. The
N. gable corresponds in width with the original garderobe
building (8 ft. by 11½ ft.) which, returning round the N. end
of the range, stopped short of the face of the 'parlour' wing,
leaving a re-entry, about 1 ft. wide, at least on the ground floor.
The building was extended to the S. in the 18th century and the
two round-headed windows on the W. are of this period, the
more northerly being an insertion in the older building. Just
N. of the latter is a blocking, apparently of a small doorway
with a segmental head, above which is a reset blind-traceried
spandrel of c. 1500 with a quatrefoil circle and cusped mouchet.
The N. end of the annexe has a small culvert at the base, now
blocked, a reset two-light window to the ground floor and a
small trefoil-headed loop, also blocked, in the upper storey.
The S. end wall is butted up against the W. range and has a
two-light window to the ground floor, probably reset. The
interior is described below.
Inside, the ceiling of the ground floor of the original W.
range is divided into eight panels by heavy cross and axial
beams, all deeply chamfered. Opening to the 'parlour' wing at
the N. end is a doorway, probably not original, containing a
reset 16th or 17th-century timber door frame with a two-centred head. The passage leading S. from the doorway is
divided from the store on the W. by an 18th-century plank
partition with a ventilation grille along the top consisting of
shaped wood slats. The S. doorway from the passage to the
stair entry is fitted with a timber door frame, possibly of the
16th century and in situ, with a shouldered head; the stair
itself is of the early 19th century. On the first floor, again in
the original building and visible below the ceiling, are the ends
of very heavy arch-braces to the collar-beam trusses above; the
roof was originally open to the upper rooms and at least one
of the trusses retains traces of painted decoration (see drawing);
the tie beams are subsequent insertions. The N. chamber or Oak
Bedroom (14½ ft. by 14¾ ft.), is lined with restored 16th-century
panelling. The overmantel is made up of three mid 16th-century
panels from the hall, carved with the arms of Bingham supported
by amorini and with busts in comtemporary dress, in roundels
flanked by Renaissance foliation. The Nursery (14½ ft. by 15½ ft.),
extending over the boiler room, contains some early 18th-century panelling and a stone fireplace-surround of the same
period. The N. room in the service annexe was originally a
garderobe; in the mid 18th century, when presumably no longer
used as such, a fireplace with an enriched surround was inserted;
in 1949, when the room was made into a bathroom, the fireplace
was removed. The S. room in the 18th-century extension is
lined with original fielded panelling and fittings comprising
shelves, cupboards and drawers; it contains a fireplace with an
The South Range (47½ ft. by 16½ ft.) is of the second half
of the 16th century and has walls of roughly coursed rubble.
The N. side has, near the middle, a stone doorway with a pointed
cambered head; it is flanked on the E. by a modern two-light window and on the W. by an original two-light window,
now blocked. Close to the adjoining gatehouse are two small
windows, each cut out of a single stone; the one on the ground
floor has a pointed trefoil head, that on the floor above has a
rounded head; a similar small rectangular window also survives
on the first floor towards the W. end. All three windows are
blocked. The doorway enclosed by the service corridor on the
W. side of the courtyard has a 17th-century timber door frame
with a semicircular head. The S. side of the range is much
altered. Close by the gatehouse is a small blocked light with a
shaped head; further E. is a four-light stone-mullioned window
made up of two two-light windows of slightly disparate dates,
that to the E. probably being original. Traces of a blocked
doorway occur more or less opposite the N. doorway, and towards the W. end are vestiges of two original windows, long
since blocked, one above the other. The dormer windows are
of the 18th century and all the other openings are later. Inside,
the range is divided into four bays by original scarfed upper
crucks, of heavy scantling but otherwise plain, which stand upon
heavy stop-chamfered beams protruding below the ground-floor ceiling. Two original open fireplaces survive; the one at
the E. end has a cambered and stop-chamfered timber bressummer; that at the W. end is 11½ ft. wide, indicating that the
W. room was always a kitchen; it is segmental headed, with
head and jambs continuously wave-moulded. The kitchen also
contains a 17th-century fitted cupboard with vent holes, forming
patterns, drilled in the doors. The staircase is modern.
A number of ancillary buildings etc. stand near the house,
in the formal gardens and in the park to the S. The 18th-century
Barn incorporating stabling, close N.E., is of rubble and thatch.
The Ice House, 20 yds. N., is an early 19th-century structure
beneath an earth mound. Some 30 yds. N.N.W. is a circular
rubble-built Dovecote of the late 17th century, with a conical
roof (Plate 158). At the end of the formal garden and 80 yds.
W.N.W. is an 18th-century Summer House of brick with a slated
roof. It is semicircular in plan, with a wide open archway on
the chord facing E. The archway has a three-centred head
turned in brickwork of fine quality, with a keystone. The
original oak seating inside survives; it is fitted to the curve and
comprises slatted seats with splat backs divided and flanked by
fluted standards, scrolled arm-rests and turned legs. The building
is incorporated in a brick Garden Wall dated 1748.
At the entrance to the park, some 250 yds. S., is a late 18th-century Gateway (Plate 67); it is of fine Purbeck ashlar with
rusticated piers with moulded bases and cornices, surmounted
by the eagle crest of the Binghams; small side gates are flanked
by similar but smaller piers with pineapple finials. The ironwork of the gates is modern.
(3) Higher Melcombe (74950240), house, nearly
1½ m. W. of the parish church, is of one and two storeys
with attics and cellars. The walls are of banded flint and
ashlar; the roofs are slate-covered, with stone-slate
verges. Early in the 16th century the property came to
the Horsey family by the marriage of John Horsey with
Elizabeth Turges; about a century later it passed to the
Frekes of Iwerne Courtney. Coker (p. 81) states that the
house was built "in our fathers' days by Sir John Horsey"
but as there were three successive generations of Sir
Johns between 1531 and 1589 this is not as explicit as it
might be; nevertheless a large part of the building does
indeed appear to be of the mid 16th century. On the
other hand the great thickness of two walls at the S. end
of the W. range suggests the presence of an earlier
building, which might be of the 15th century. In the
early part of the 17th century Sir Thomas Freke
built the chapel in the N. range (Plate 159), as his
tomb at Iwerne Courtney (see p. 127) attests: 'this church
he built at his sole charges, as also the chappel of
ease at Melcombe'; Sir Thomas died in 1633. In
Hutchins's time the chapel was still a place of worship
(1st ed., 1774, II, 425) but later in the 18th century it was
divided into two storeys and became a brew-house and
a store-room (3rd ed., IV, 367). The upper floor has now
been removed and the building has become a hall.
A drawing of the house from the S.E., made in 1828
by J. Buckler (BM. Add. MS. 36361, f. 151), shows
the house very much as it is today, but with an attic
storey to the W. range. Sir Thomas Freke's chapel,
illustrating the continuity of mediaeval forms in the
17th century is of considerable architectural interest.
Architectural Description—The gabled E. wall of the former
chapel in the N. range was rebuilt c. 1936. The 17th-century
N. wall is of banded flint and ashlar; at the base is a chamfered
plinth. The banded facing material stops 2 ft. from the N.E.
corner, implying a former N. buttress or return wall, now
removed. Originally the N. wall of the chapel contained
three uniform windows with two-centred heads under moulded
labels with return stops. The easternmost of these windows was
made into a doorway in the late 18th century; externally it
retains the label and the chamfered and ogee-moulded two-centred head with continuous jambs; internally the reveal has
plain splayed jambs and a continuous two-centred head in place
of a rear-arch. The central window is blocked with 18th-century
brickwork; the internal sill has been cut, probably to form a fireplace, but the reveals and head are similar to those of the E.
window. The third window is also blocked but the original
mullion and tracery remain visible. The opening has two two-centred cinquefoil-headed lights under two trefoil-headed vertical
tracery lights with blind spandrels. The ashlar of the splayed
reveals is integral with that of the lights and tracery. Between
the central and the western window, at a lower level, is a small
window with a segmental brick head; it is evidently of the
period when the former chapel was divided into two storeys.
To the W. of the western two-centred window is a partly
blocked 17th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, splayed
reveals and a segmental rear-arch; the chamfered plinth is
stopped on each side of the opening, with mitred returns; the
original door-head has gone and the opening now contains a
square-headed two-light window of c. 1800. Further W., a
buttress of three weathered stages marks the W. end of the
former chapel. To the W. of the buttress the 17th-century
building is two-storied; the ground-floor room has a 19th-century two-light window and the first floor chamber has a
17th-century window of two lights under a hollow-chamfered
label with return stops. Beyond this is the gabled N. end of
the 16th-century W. range; its chamfered plinth and banded
masonry are continuous with those of the N. range and it was
presumably refaced in the 17th century. The ground floor
has no openings; on the first floor, an 18th-century wooden
three-light casement window is set in a 17th-century opening
with a moulded label; the attic has a similar two-light window;
at the apex of the gable is a modern chimney-stack.
The S. elevation of the N. range is of banded flint and ashlar.
The square-set ashlar buttress of three weathered stages at the
S.E. corner of the former chapel is not shown on Buckler's
drawing of 1828 and is presumably modern. To the W. of the
corner buttress is a small blocked opening, of uncertain date.
The western end of the chapel is marked by an original ashlar
buttress of three weathered stages and between the two buttresses is the symmetrical single-storied S. front of Sir Thomas
Freke's chapel. It has two large two-centred windows of 14th-century form, similar to those at Iwerne Courtney church, which
is dated 1610; each window is of three gradated lights under a
moulded two-centred label with square stops; these windows
flank a central doorway with a chamfered segmental-pointed
head, continuous jambs and a label with square stops. On the
roof, above the W. end of the chapel, is a 17th-century stone
bell-cote with a round-headed opening, a crenellated cornice
with dentils, and a conical finial. Beyond the W. buttress the
westernmost bay of the N. range is two-storied; on each floor
is a square-headed two-light window with chamfered and wavemoulded jambs and a moulded label.
The E. elevation of the W. range is of banded flint and ashlar.
Above the level of the first-floor window-heads the banding is
continuous with that of the N. range and is therefore probably
of the 17th century, but below that level the banded masonry
is of the 16th century. On the ground floor, at the N. end, is an
inserted 18th-century doorway. Further S. are two modern
windows: that to the N. has a reset 16th-century four-light
surround brought recently from elsewhere; that to the S.
comprises a large three-sided bay window, evidently of the
late 19th century. Buckler's drawing shows a blank wall where
the projecting bay now occurs, and a stone mullioned window
of three lights in place of the northern opening. Visible in the
masonry between the present ground-floor openings are the
jambs and four-centred heads of three former doorways, all
now blocked. On the first floor are two square-headed three-light windows, probably of the 17th century, with wavemoulded jambs and moulded labels; they are uniform, but that
to the S. is set at a higher level than the northern one. To the
S. of the southern opening is a small round light. The northern
window is flanked by two blocked earlier windows; that to the
N. was of two lights, that to the S. of one light. Buckler's
drawing shows two two-light attic dormer windows in stonefronted gables, but these have gone. The W. elevation of the W.
range is largely masked by late 19th-century additions, but near
the N. end the 16th-century walling is seen to be of mixed flint
and rubble in the lower part, and of banded flint and ashlar
above. On the first floor is a 17th-century two-light window
with a hollow-chamfered and moulded surround.
The short wing which turns E. at the S. end of the W. range
has N. and E. walls of ashlar. Where the N. wall adjoins the
E. wall of the W. range it is clear that the wing was built after
the 16th-century part of the W. range but before the 17th
century heightening of the E. elevation; it may therefore be
assigned to the late 16th century. Near the S.E. corner the ashlar
of the E. wall of the wing gives place to rubble, suggesting the
former existence of a wall at right-angles which might have
been the N. side of a former S. range; if so, the short S. wing
would have formed a square projection in the S.W. corner of a
courtyard; the fenestration suggests that the wing was originally
a stair tower, as it now is. It has a chamfered plinth and a
weathered and hollow-chamfered first-floor string-course. On
the E. side, the lower storey has a modern doorway and immediately below the first-floor string-course is an original
mezzanine window of three square-headed lights; in the gable is
a two-light attic window. On the N. side, the stair tower has
similar windows at ground-floor and first-floor levels, now
blocked. The S. side of the tower and the S. end of the W.
range are rendered and display no noteworthy features; nevertheless the thickness of the wall shows that it is old.
Inside, the former chapel has a wagon roof of trussed rafters
with arch-braced collars; they are now exposed but were
originally concealed by plaster. The roof is divided into eight
bays by moulded ribs which stood out below the former
plaster ceiling; each bay is similarly sub-divided into six panels
by moulded longitudinal members. The easternmost truss has
half-mouldings, confirming that the 19th-century E. wall of the
chapel replaces the original E. wall. At the intersections of the
moulded members are foliate bosses with painted emblems
including a cross formy, a sun, a whorl, a cross of St. George,
a star-fish, a star of eight points, two crescents, a cinquefoil and
conventional flowers. The wagon roof is probably of the 17th
century but several of the bosses have been renewed. A doorway
at first-floor level in the W. wall of the former chapel presumably
dates from the late 18th century when the building was divided
into two storeys.
The staircase in the S.E. wing is of the early 18th century;
it has five flights, with cut strings, twisted balusters and moulded
handrails; the walls have dados with bolection-moulded panelling. A cellar below the hall to the W. of the staircase has a
blocked window in the W. wall and, in the S. wall, a blocked
doorway, perhaps of the 15th century, with a hollow-chamfered
rounded head and continuous jambs; this doorway is set with
its external face to the N., confirming the former existence of
a building further S., now gone.
In the W. range, the drawing-room has a large fireplace with
a chamfered elliptical head and continuous jambs; the elliptical
head perhaps replaces one of four-centred form. The chamber
over the drawing-room has oak panelling of the early 17th
century in five and six heights, with a frieze of guilloche
ornament at the top. The stone fireplace surround has a moulded
square head and continuous jambs. On each side of the fireplace
the panelling terminates at Ionic pilasters, of oak, which stand
the full height of the panelling and flank an elaborately carved
wooden overmantel. Above the stone surround a frieze of
strapwork supports a ledge, enriched with foliate semicircles,
over which four vertical scroll brackets alternate with three
shallow round-headed niches; over these a second order of
brackets alternate with guilloche panels; at the top, an enriched
cornice is supported by the flanking Ionic pilasters. The rich
plaster ceiling, contemporary with the panelling, has interlacing
ribs with vine-scroll ornament surrounding panels on which
roses, thistles, pears, pomegranates and vines are modelled in
low relief (Plate 71). At the main intersection of the ribs are
foliate pendants. The adjacent chamber to the N. has a fireplace
with a chamfered four-centred head and continuous jambs. A
chamber at the N. end of the W. range is lined with reset 15th-century linenfold panelling in two heights surmounted by a
frieze of panels with scroll-work and guilloche patterns. The
ceiling of this room is of the early 17th century with moulded
plaster ribs forming panels of various shapes. The moulded
square-headed stone fireplace surround has a carved wooden
overmantel. The first-floor room above the vestibule at the
W. end of the former chapel has oak panelling of the mid 17th
century in five heights.
Preserved in the house is a fragment of a 10th or 11th-century
Cross Shaft with coarse two-strand interlace work on two
opposed faces; the third side is smooth, the fourth side is broken.
The fragment, only 6 ins. high, is said to have been recovered
about twenty-five years ago from a demolished cottage, 300 yds.
W. of the house. Other carvings believed to have been found
in the same place are now lost. Two fragments of 13th-century
Purbeck marble coffin-lids are also preserved. One lid is 1¼ ft.
wide at the head and tapers to the foot; the upper surface,
surrounded by a deep hollow-chamfer, is decorated with a
raised cross with crude scalloped enrichment.
(4) Cottage (76250260), at the parish boundary, ¾ m. N.W.
of the church, is single-storied with an attic; it has walls of
rubble with brick repairs, and a thatched roof. Inside are chamfered ceiling beams. The cottage is probably of the 17th century.
(5) Cottages, pair, 30 yds. S.W. of (4), are of one storey
with attics and have walls of flint and brick, with thatched
roofs. They are probably of the late 18th or early 19th century.
(8) Settlement Remains of Melcombe Horsey
(6) Cottages, range of four (75900215), 500 yds. S.W. of (5),
have walls partly of cob and partly of brick with flint coursing,
and thatched roofs. The two middle tenements are of the 18th
century; those at each end are of the 19th century.
(7) Cottage (76000234), single-storied, with flint and brick
walls and a thatched roof, is of the early 19th century.
Mediaeval and Later Earthworks
(8) Settlement Remains of Melcombe Horsey
(749025) lie in 'Chapel Close', 100 yds. N.W. of (3)
The village was one of two in the parish, both now
deserted. In Domesday Book, presumably, they are
noted together as Melcombe with a combined recorded
population of thirty-three. Subsequently the two settlements were divided into various manors (Hutchins IV,
363–4), but in the 14th-century Subsidy Rolls both
settlements were again recorded together. In 1333
twenty-one taxpayers were listed, which perhaps shows
some decline in population. The taxation of 1428 (Feudal
Aids, II (1899), 71) indicates that there were still more
than ten people in the parish, but both villages appear to
have been granted a tax reduction in 1435 (P.R.O.
E179/103/79). By 1662 (Meekings, 49) only nine households are recorded; three of them were apparently in the
two manor houses. Melcombe Horsey had a chapel, the
foundations of which were still visible in the late 18th
century (Hutchins IV, 368), but the site can no longer
be identified. The chapel in (3) presumably replaced it.
The remains, covering about 10 acres, have been damaged
by quarrying and by tracks. They consist of several roughly
rectangular closes, bounded by low banks and ditches only 2 ft.
to 3 ft. high, with a hollow-way running S.E.-N.W. through
them. To S. and W. of the closes the fragmentary remains of
rectangular building sites are defined by low banks, 3 ft. to
4 ft. wide and 6 ins. to 9 ins. high; an irregular circular mound
30 ft. in diameter and 3 ft. to 4 ft. high also remains.
(9) Settlement Remains of Bingham's Melcombe
(773020) lie on the W. side of the Devil's Brook,
immediately S. of (1); the village was one of two in the
parish, both now deserted; their populations were always
recorded together and it is impossible to separate them
(9) Settlement Remains of Bingham's Melcombe
The remains, covering about 10 acres, fall into two distinct
parts separated by an old road or hollow-way which runs from
W. to E. across the site. The hollow-way is 25 ft. to 30 ft. wide
and 3 ft. deep, but it has been damaged by a later hedge along
its line. To the N. of the hollow-way are the remains of seven
rectangular closes, orientated N.-S.; two of them have slight
remains of house sites at their S. ends. To the N. of the three
western closes four level rectangular platforms are set above a
wide terrace-way running E.-W. To the S. of the main hollowway another terrace-way runs first S., then W., and finally
fades out to the S.W.; it is surrounded by a number of irregular
closes bounded by low scarps and banks.
(10) Cultivation Remains. The date of enclosure of the two
open-field systems in the parish is unknown. Groups of strip
lynchets of the open fields of Melcombe Horsey lie around the
former village on the lower slopes of the surrounding ring of
Chalk hills (748030–742030–744021–753016). With one exception all the groups are of contour type, arranged in end-on
furlong blocks up to 300 yds. long; most of the strip lynchets
are in a fragmentary condition. On the S.E. side of the Dorsetshire Gap (745030) a series of strip lynchets runs obliquely across
the contours, with treads up to 35 yds. wide. Air photographs
(R.A.F. CPE/UK 1934: 3103–5 and 3179–81) show traces of the
extensions of these strips to the S.E., and also traces of many
other strip fields to the S.W. of (8). See also Hilton (29), (c), p. 113.
Strip lynchets of the open fields of Bingham's Melcombe are
found on the N. and the N.E. slopes of Henning Hill. To
the E. of Hill Barn (767017) are six contour strip lynchets, up to
200 yds. long; to the N.W. of Hill Barn (761019) are other
fragmentary contour strip lynchets. Some 600 yds. N.W. of
Bingham's Melcombe House there were formerly about 30
acres of strip fields but they have now been destroyed (R.A.F.
CPE/UK 1934: 3106–8).
Roman and Prehistoric
(11) Settlement (742019), Romano-British, on
Bowden's Hill, lies within an area of dykes and 'Celtic'
fields (see Group (44), p. 330). The settlement lies, at just
over 700 ft. above sea-level, on a gentle S.W. slope on
the spine of a spur which falls S.S.E. from Nettlecombe
Tout (12). The spur top is capped with flint gravel or
Clay-with-flints; to the W. the ground falls steeply to
Lyscombe Bottom. The site, now visible over 4 acres,
has been disturbed and part of it on the E. has been
destroyed by cultivation.
Towards the centre of the site are the remains of an approximately rectangular enclosure (100 ft. by 150 ft.) defined, where
best preserved, by two low banks with a ditch between them.
A trackway, about 12 ft. across and flanked by a ditch with a low
outer bank on the W., and by a slight ditch with a lynchet
above it on the E., approaches the site from the N.W.; it
is blocked by the outer bank of the enclosure and there is
no evidence that it continued beyond this point. Some 30 yds.
N. of the enclosure the remains of a smaller incomplete enclosure
are defined by a bank with an external ditch. Immediately S. of
the main enclosure a number of small platforms, probably for
buildings, are defined by low banks and scarps up to 4½ ft. high.
A low mound (17 ft. by 4 ft.) lies immediately S. of the track near
the main enclosure. A track of double-lynchet form approaches
the settlement from the S.W., through 'Celtic' fields; it enters a
triangular space of about ⅓ acre defined by slight banks and then
turns E. to run through the settlement which, S. of the track,
seems to be on former fields. From this settlement Warne
obtained Romano-British pottery, tiles and nails (Ancient Dorset
(1872), 83, 85–6).
(11) Romano-British Settlement on Bowden's Hill
(12) Nettlecombe Tout (737032), Iron Age hill-fort,
partly destroyed or unfinished, has a curving line of
bank and ditch facing S.E., with an entrance near the S.
end (plan on p. 174). The fort occupies a prominent
position over 800 ft. above O.D., on a broad, flat-topped
spur jutting N.W., with steep slopes on all except the
S.E. side. To the S.E. the site adjoins two elongated
spurs extending southwards, the nearer parts of which
are mostly enclosed by two dykes (13) and (14). For a
discussion of earthworks in this area, see 'Celtic' Field
The rampart, 350 yds. long, returns sharply N.W. at the N.E.
end, about 100 yds. short of the edge of the steep slope. It
probably joined, or was intended to join, the line that is now
marked by a scarp bounding the slope on the S.W. and N.W.,
thus enclosing about 15 acres. The scarp, 5 ft. high and more, is
partly ancient, but it has been added to by recent ploughing.
Near the S.W. end of the rampart the approach to the entrance
gap is shielded by a short detached length of bank and ditch,
now almost destroyed by ploughing. Where best preserved the
bank is 45 ft. across, 9½ ft. high above the interior and 11½ ft.
high above the ditch. The ditch is 35 ft. across.
'Celtic' Fields, see pp. 330, 332, Groups (44), (46).
(12) Iron Age Hill-fort on Nettlecombe Tout
Monuments (13–17), Dykes
Five dykes lie in the N.W. of the parish, on Lyscombe,
Bowden's and Hog Hills; (13), (14) and (15) are of
cross-ridge type. Of the gaps in them none is clearly
original. All the dykes are part of a complex discussed
in 'Celtic' Field Group (44).
(13) Dyke (73530291–73520273), runs N.—S. for some 315 yds.
across the ridge of Lyscombe Hill, at over 800 ft. above O.D.
The bank is about 25 ft. wide, up to 4½ ft. high on the E. and
7½ ft. high on the W., where the probable line of an original
ditch is followed by a modern ditch. A lynchet up to 9 ft. high
continues the line of the dyke to the N., around the S.W. and
N.W. sides of Nettlecombe Tout. From the S. end of the dyke
a corresponding lynchet, up to 6 ft. high, runs E. and S.E. for
about 220 yds., following the shoulder of the hill until it turns
(14)Dyke (73950245–74130255), runs W.S.W.—E.N.E. for
some 330 yds. at over 800 ft. above O.D., across the ridge of
Bowden's Hill. It comprises a bank with a ditch on the S. or
downhill side. The bank is 20 ft. across, 3 ft. high on the N., and
8½ ft. above the ditch bottom; the ditch is 20 ft. wide. The ends
of the dyke return towards the N. along the shoulder of the ridge,
and from the W. end a scarp with a small ditch at its foot
continues the line for about 80 yds. to meet a lynchet which links
it with (13). Fragmentary 'Celtic' fields lie S. of the dyke.
(15) Dyke (74000218–74120223), lies across the ridge of
Bowden's Hill, 300 yds. S. of and roughly parallel with (14).
The dyke is 140 yds. long and has its ditch on the N. or uphill
side. The bank is 24 ft. across, 3½ ft. high on the S., and 6½ ft.
above the ditch bottom; the ditch is 27 ft. across. On the W.
the dyke ends at the shoulder of the slope, whence a shallow
ditch of unknown date, 4 ft. across, continues in the same line
towards Lyscombe Bottom; on the E. it ends at dyke (16),
probably cutting its ditch. Some 40 yds. from the E. end is a
slight but marked change of direction northwards. The dyke
cuts a lynchet over 6 ft. high running N.—S., part of destroyed
'Celtic' fields. The embanked track from the settlement (II)
points as if to skirt the W. end of the dyke, but old disturbance
Excavations in 1957 showed that the bank stands 4 ft. high
above the old ground surface and that the ditch is funnel-shaped
in cross-section and nearly 8 ft. deep; coarse sherds of the Late
Bronze or Early Iron Age were found in the secondary silting.
At the W. end the ditch ended abruptly and stakeholes across
the end of the bank may have been for revetment (Dorset Procs.
LXXIX (1957), 115).
(16) Dyke (74100225–74210209), runs just above the rounded
shoulder of Bowden's Hill, immediately E. of dyke (15), which
appears to cut its ditch. The ditch lies on the W., uphill, side
and together with the bank measures some 40 ft. across, the
whole being much disturbed. The dyke begins 34 yds. N. of (15)
and extends S.S.E. for 230 yds., finally curving S.E.; beyond, the
line of the dyke is continued for at least a further 370 yds. as a
bank or scarp in arable ground. Just beyond the N.W. end are
fragmentary scarps, probably the remains of 'Celtic' fields.
(17) Dyke (74330165–74720160), lies on ground falling gently
S. at the S. end of Hog Hill. The dyke is almost certainly built
on the line of 'Celtic' field lynchets and this probably explains
its two stretches, set almost at right angles to one another. From
a point about 80 yds. S. of the settlement (II), the dyke runs S.E.
for 270 yds. and then turns N.E. for a further 200 yds. The ditch,
which lies on the uphill side, is 18 ft. across; the bank is 24 ft.
across, 5 ft. high above the ditch and nearly 7 ft. high on the
downhill side. At each end the dyke terminates at a valley-head.
The N.W. end has been destroyed by a quarry but the line is
roughly marked by a lynchet 7½ ft. high.
Monuments (18–20), Round Barrows
A small unidentified barrow opened by C. Hall
(C.T.D., Pt. 3, No. 98) appears to have contained a
cremation in an urn, probably primary, and an intrusive
extended inhumation that was associated with two
samian fragments and a coin of Antoninus Pius.
(18) Bowl (74460168), on a gentle W. slope below the crest of
Hog Hill, at about 650 ft. above O.D., has been heavily ploughed.
Diam. 54 ft., ht. 1½ ft.
(19) Bowl (75100175), on the brow of Highdon Hill and
facing N.E. at 625 ft. above O.D., has been almost obliterated
by ploughing. Diam. 54 ft., ht. 1 ft.
(20) Bowl (74640314), on the narrow spine of Nordon Hill,
lies 300 yds. E. of the Dorsetshire Gap and at about 725 ft. above
O.D. The mound is much disturbed. Diam. about 50 ft., ht. 3½ ft.
(21) 'Giant's Grave' (75770165), lies along the lower W.
slopes of Henning Hill in the extreme S. of the parish. Immediately above it the hillside rises steeply. The monument comprises
a terrace, from 9 ft. to 21 ft. in width, 210 ft. in length, and about
2 ft. high, which curves slightly W. towards the S. end. A
shallow ditch about 4 ft. across flanks the W. side and extends
around the N. end. A low rectangular mound (23 ft. by 18 ft.)
has been built on the terrace at the N. end. The terrace is almost
certainly the result of ploughing; it represents a strip lynchet
which has been truncated at the N. end and to which a mound
has been added. Despite 'strange popular traditions' (Hutchins
IV, 381) the Giant's Grave is probably comparable with the
pillow mound (22) which lies 40 yds. to the S.S.E.
The 'Giant's Stones' are two sarsen boulders. One, measuring
7½ ft. by 5½ ft. by 3½ ft., lies midway along the terrace of the
Giant's Grave. The other, 130 ft. to the N.W., is largely buried
at a field edge; the exposed portion is 5 ft. long. There is no
evidence that the boulders were ever connected with the mound
or that they have any structural significance.
(22) Pillow Mound (75750157), lies on the steep W. slope
of Henning Hill at about 500 ft. above O.D. immediately below
the line of an old track. The mound is 70 ft. long, 18 ft. across
and 1½ ft. high; its long axis extends up and down the slope. The
centre has been disturbed. Ditches 9 ft. across and 1 ft deep occur
along the sides of the mound, but they do not appear to return
around the ends; however, throw-out from the track may well
have obscured a ditch at the uphill end, and soil creep may mask
a ditch at the downhill end.
(23) Mounds (74070204–74130206), twenty, are irregularly
scattered over some 2½ acres on Bowden's Hill, between
Settlement (11) and Dyke (15). They lie on the gentle W. slope
of the ridge top at about 740 ft. above O.D. and vary in shape
from roughly round to kidney-shaped. They are from 7 ft.
to 30 ft. across and most of them are about 1 ft. high. Test
excavations in three mounds have yielded no archaeological data.