Geological Map of East Dorset
In the preface, numbers in square brackets refer to Plates:
those in round brackets denote the Monuments in the Inventory.
Topography and Geology
This Final Volume of the Dorset Inventory describes the Ancient and Historical Monuments of
twenty-five parishes on and near the eastern boundaries of the County, comprising a roughly rectangular area of 120 square miles bounded on the N. by Wiltshire, on the E. by Hampshire and on the S. by the
R. Stour and the expanding city of Bournemouth.
The underlying geological formation (map opposite) gives rise to two distinct landscapes. The N. and
W. of the area is part of the Chalk lands of Cranborne Chase. The Chalk slopes gradually down in a
south-easterly direction from the Wiltshire boundary, where it reaches over 450 ft. above O.D. and is
capped by Clay-with-flints, to altitudes between 150 ft. and 250 ft. where it is overlain by the Eocene
deposits of the Hampshire basin. Four roughly parallel streams drain this dip-slope: the Crichel and Gussage
Brooks and the headwaters of the rivers Allen and Crane; they give rise to a rolling landscape of shallow,
open valleys with relatively low, rounded interfluves. With the exception of the Crane, the streams are
tributaries of the Allen, which flows S. to meet the Stour at Wimborne Minster. Numerous dry re-entrant
valleys lead off the main valleys.
The surface in the E. and S.E. parts of the area is composed of Eocene rocks which outcrop south-eastwards in a series of widening bands. A narrow strip of sands and gravels of the Reading Beds is succeeded
by a somewhat wider band of London Clay, both outcrops being well-wooded; beyond this an extensive
area of sands and gravels of the Bagshot and Bracklesham Beds gives rise to rolling heathland, much of it
now planted with conifers. This land is mostly between 50 ft. and 200 ft. above O.D., but it rises to over
300 ft. on Cranborne Common; it is drained generally south-eastwards by numerous small tributaries of
Indigenous building materials in the Chalk lands of the N.W. are flint, greensand and cob for walls;
timber and thatch for roofs. In all mediaeval churches the walls are of flint with greensand dressings, or
wholly of greensand, while the original roofs were presumably thatched or lead-covered, although most
of them have subsequently been tiled. Heathstone at Cranborne parish church and manor house and in
the tower of Witchampton church is explained by the proximity of the Eocene region. In the church of
Gussage St. Michael some heathstone blocks were imported for the decoration of the tower arch. At
Cranborne manor house the early walls are of flint with stone dressings, and in other manor houses with
walls surviving from before the 16th century similar materials are generally found. Early cottages in the
Chalk region generally have cob walls on flint plinths, but in parts of the area adjacent to the Eocene
deposits, where oak was abundant, timber framework is found.
In the Eocene region mediaeval churches have walls of heathstone rubble with dressings of worked
heathstone and of imported Purbeck stone; the 11th-century walls of Wimborne Minster church provide
a good example. At Colehill the 15th-century manor house (1) has some surviving heathstone walls; in the
monastic buildings at Horton (6) the original walls were of timber framework. Early cottages to survive
in the S.E. region are usually of timber framework. Cob cottages at Verwood and at Hampreston are of
18th and early 19th-century date.
Brick makes its earliest appearance in East Dorset in the 16th-century manor house of Witchampton (3);
the fanciful design indicates that the material was a novelty, and it is suggested that this may be the earliest
brickwork in the county. By the beginning of the 17th century brick was commonly employed in superior
secular buildings, but until the 19th century it was generally thought inappropriate for churches; at Horton,
c. 1720, the walls of the church which were seen from the manor house garden were refaced in brick, but the
entrance façade and the church tower were rebuilt in stone. By the second half of the 18th century brick
was cheap enough for use in cottages; it also was used as a substitute for the wattle-and-daub which
previously had filled the panels of timber-framed buildings.
Roman and Prehistoric Monuments
Settlements and Enclosures
In East Dorset there is a variety of settlements and enclosures, of which the majority are dated and belong
to the later prehistoric and Roman periods; they represent many of the types of sites of that date so far
discovered in Wessex. The earliest is the late Bronze Age site on Handley Down, known as 'Angle Ditch'
(Sixpenny Handley (27)), which though not certainly a complete enclosure invites comparison in plan with
the contemporary settlement, also excavated by General Pitt-Rivers, less than 3 miles away on Martin
Down in Hampshire. Iron Age sites may be divided between hill-forts and settlements, and the latter may
be divided between those which were occupied, as far as is known, only before the Roman Conquest and
those which continued to flourish often long after it. The largest hill-fort, Badbury Rings (Shapwick (34)),
is a complex multivallate work with massive defences enclosing 17 acres . It occupies a prominent
Chalk knoll overlooking the Stour valley, on the S. edge of Cranborne Chase. Further E., on the Eocene
Sands, is Dudsbury, an 8-acre fort with strong double defences, now sadly mutilated. It lies on a river cliff
above the R. Stour, which would have been navigable at this point and which probably played an important
part in its economy. There are no large hill-forts in the heart of Cranborne Chase, and in the part of the
Chase covered by this volume there are only two small forts: on Penbury Knoll (Pentridge (18)) a univallate enclosure occupies 4 acres of a prominent hill-top, but the defences are weak and possibly unfinished,
though much damaged by quarrying. In Mistleberry Wood an unfinished univallate work of about 2 acres
is in a poor defensive position (Sixpenny Handley (25)).
The enclosed Iron Age settlement at Gussage All Saints (20) has recently been excavated . The site
was found to have been occupied throughout much of the Iron Age, but it was enclosed only in the last
few decades before the Roman conquest and was totally abandoned by c. A.D. 80. Finds of grain and
agricultural implements and the existence of 'Celtic' fields near by indicate arable farming, but the funnelled
approach and the presence of quantities of animal bones, especially of cattle, suggest the importance of live-stock. The enclosure Gussage St. Michael (8) is cut by the Roman road, and its size (8 acres) and form suggest
that it is of the Iron Age rather than earlier. A similar date would appear most likely for the construction,
if not for the total period of use, of the 12-acre enclosure at Sixpenny Handley (24). Both sites are integrated
with 'Celtic' fields, and the latter site is probably integrated with tracks and ditches.
At four sites there is evidence of occupation in both the Iron Age and the Roman periods. That at
Woodcutts (Sixpenny Handley (19)), the only one which has been extensively excavated, was progressively
enlarged and continuously occupied until well into the 4th century; a similar sequence is probably true of the
settlements on Gussage Hill (Gussage St. Michael (7)), on Oakley Down (Wimborne St. Giles (36)) and
King Down (Pamphill (70)). The composite layout of these sites also suggests lengthy occupation and
presumably reflects what is likely to have been the time of their greatest prosperity, the Roman period,
rather than earlier. Without excavation the Iron Age components in their structures are difficult to isolate
with certainty and, morphologically therefore, such sites are more readily comparable with native sites of
the Roman period. Finds indicate the existence of a number of the latter, some of which survive as earth-works, but only that at Woodyates (Pentridge (15)) has been substantially examined by excavation and it is
likely that some of the remaining sites will prove on fuller examination to have been begun in the Iron Age.
For example the enclosure and storage-pits associated with the settlement at Humby's Stock Coppice
(Sixpenny Handley (20)) suggest a pre-Roman origin.
Native settlements, whether they began in the Iron Age or after the Roman conquest, vary considerably
in size and form; from a single farmstead at Woodcutts with a relatively simple sequence of development to
substantial villages covering many acres, as at Gussage Hill or Jack's Hedge Corner (Cranborne (34)). The
settlements on Oakley Down, S.W. of Oakley Farm (Sixpenny Handley (21)) and beside Badbury Rings
(Shapwick (31)) lie within, or largely within, single irregular enclosures; those at Gussage Hill, at Woodyates, and apparently at King Down (Pamphill (70)), incorporate a number of enclosures of varying size.
At Gussage Hill are two small enclosures of a type found in other chalkland settlements in South Wiltshire
and, more particularly, in Hampshire and usually considered to be associated with some aspect of stockkeeping. Sometimes known as 'banjo enclosures' they are generally, as at Gussage Hill, less than an acre in
area and round in plan, with a narrow funnelled approach linked to other larger enclosures or linear boundary dykes. A comparable enclosure at Humby's Stock Coppice , also linked to boundary ditches, is
unusual in that it encircles a large number of storage-pits, though as some lie outside it the two features are
not certainly contemporary. There is little evidence of tracks associated with settlements, except at Woodcutts and Oakley Down, where they lead into and through the main occupation areas and at the latter site
appear to link it with the Roman road. Several of the downland settlements are associated with 'Celtic'
fields (see p. 117).
At a few sites masonry remains of substantial buildings indicate more pronounced Roman influence, but
none of these has been examined fully, or using modern techniques, and records are generally inadequate.
Best recorded is the villa near East Hemsworth (Witchampton (22)), where a complex of structures and
numerous mosaics  indicate an establishment of importance. What appears to be a villa was found at
Holwell (Cranborne (33)). Roman buildings found in Witchampton (23) are possibly those of a temple.
Remains of another building have been discovered at Stanbridge (Hinton Parva (3)).
The settlement sites at present known are unlikely to be a representative sample of those which once
existed, in particular as far as their distribution and siting is concerned. In areas of intensive post-Roman
activity, especially cultivation, many settlements will have been masked or destroyed, notably on the lower
ground in the vicinity of the present villages, most of which have been in existence for well over a thousand
years. Away from the villages, especially in areas of former downland pasture where the destructive processes are less advanced, early settlements are more readily detectable, though even here intensive arable
farming is now taking its toll. The Iron Age sites lie either on hill-tops or on upper slopes, in part a response
to the need for defence or at least for a good look-out in that generally unsettled period. Many Romano-British settlements occupy upland positions too, but it is noticeable that the Roman buildings at Holwell,
Stanbridge and Witchampton, and contemporary occupation sites at Shapwick (33) and West Parley (6),
all lie in or near the bottoms of valleys.
Roman roads played an important part in the appearance or continued development of settlements.
Certainly settlements on or close to roads appear to have flourished, as at Oakley Down and at Gussage
Hill. At the latter site, for example, a second occupation nucleus grew up, apparently in the later Roman
period, nearer the road. The Iron Age settlement at Gussage All Saints (20) did not survive into the Roman
period despite its proximity to a road. At Woodyates, where the Roman road from Old Sarum to Badbury
Rings passes through the late Roman defensive earthwork, Bokerley Dyke, the settlement occupies a special
position probably at the boundary between two administrative units. The focus of Roman roads at Badbury Rings, as at Old Sarum, led to the early appearance of an extra-mural settlement (Shapwick (31)),
probably the Vindocladia of the Antonine Itinerary, and is doubtless partly responsible for the concentration
of settlements, not all dated, in the vicinity of the hill-fort, notably in the parishes of Pamphill and Shapwick. Presumably contemporary with the establishment of the road from Poole Harbour to Badbury
Rings is the Roman military site at Lake Gates (Pamphill (69)). Its precise nature and extent are not yet
known, but selective excavation suggests that it probably was a supply-base, beginning c. A.D. 45, beside an
important crossing point of the broad, marshy valley of the R. Stour.
Linear dykes, constituting some form of boundary, are not common in Dorset; mostly they are found
N. and E. of the R. Stour, in Cranborne Chase, where they comprise the S.W. limit of a pattern of distribution which extends over the Chalk lands of Wiltshire and Hampshire. Significantly, two of the most
important dykes in the area lie near the boundary between Dorset and these counties. Grim's Ditch (Pentridge (17)) is part of an extensive complex of boundary ditches which extends for 9 miles, mostly in
Hampshire, and is itself part of a former system of land division and allotment. Almost certainly it evolved
over a lengthy period, from the later Bronze Age to Roman times. Its neighbour, Bokerley Dyke (Pentridge
(16)), most of which lies on the boundary between Dorset and Hampshire, is altogether different in character . It is a late Roman work and its course and dimensions indicate that it was a defensive barrier
or frontier, facing N.E., probably to defend a stretch of open downland between two wooded areas. It
possibly replaces the older non-defensive line represented by the Dorset section of Grim's Ditch.
Boundary dykes extending westwards into Tarrant Hinton and Tarrant Launceston (Dorset IV, 96, 105)
are found on former downland in Long Crichel (7). One with multiple low banks and intervening ditches
comes to an end on the W. side of the valley-bottom of the Crichel Brook, and reappears on the far slope
where it goes on to meet the Cursus earthwork. Similar multiple boundary banks occur in association with
the Iron Age and Romano-British settlement on Gussage Hill (Gussage St. Michael (7)); others are associated
with settlements of comparable date in South Wiltshire, such as Hanging Langford Camp (Steeple
Langford), Hamshill Ditches (Barford St. Martin), and Grovely Earthworks (Great Wishford).
'Celtic' fields are integrated with the dykes on Gussage Hill, and with shorter lengths of dyke such as
Gussage All Saints (21), also with those on Bottlebush Down and near Nine Yews in 'Celtic' Field Group (85).
Nearly all the dykes have been flattened or severely damaged by ploughing, leaving the ditch or ditches
visible only as crop or soil marks. An exception is the massive earthwork of Bokerley Dyke, but this too
has largely been flattened in the area N.W. of the Roman road.
Barrows and Burials
Iron Age and Romano-British Sites East Dorset
Eleven Neolithic Long Barrows and two probable examples are recorded in the area; they are all on the
Chalk and all but two lie in the parishes of Gussage St. Michael and Pentridge. All are sited prominently,
most of them on the summits of ridges or spurs, as on Thickthorn Down, Gussage Hill and Bokerley Down.
Nearly all are aligned S.E.–N.W., but Pentridge (19) and Wimborne St. Giles (38) lie N.E.–S.W. Some of
these barrows (mostly in Gussage St. Michael) are well preserved, but ploughing has damaged three (Pentridge (20–22)) and has severely mutilated Gussage St. Michael (13), Wimborne St. Giles (38) and the two
probable long barrows, Gussage St. Michael (10) and Pentridge (23). The mound of Wor Barrow (Sixpenny Handley (29)) was removed by excavation.
Nearly all the mounds are between 100 ft. and 200 ft. long and none exceeds 300 ft. Except where
reduced and spread by ploughing, all are between 50 ft. and 75 ft. wide and between 5 ft. and 10 ft. high. A
few mounds (Gussage St. Michael (14), Pentridge (19) and (20)) are both lower and narrower at their
northerly ends. The ditches associated with the mounds, where visible at all, vary in plan. The pattern
common to most long barrows, of twin, roughly parallel ditches flanking the sides of the mounds, is
found; two mounds set end-to-end (Pentridge (21) and (22)) appear to be flanked by continuous side
ditches. Three of the shorter mounds, all in Gussage St. Michael and associated with the Dorset Cursus,
have ditches U-shaped in plan; in long barrows (11) and (12) on Thickthorn Down the U opens away from
the Cursus; in long barrow (15) on Gussage Hill it opens towards it. At Wor Barrow the ditch encircled the
mound except for a few narrow causeways.
Only two of the long barrows have been excavated. At Wor Barrow, General Pitt-Rivers found Neolithic burials within a mortuary feature under the mound and also in the ditch. Of six burials under the
mound, three were articulated and three were in disorder; the state of the latter suggested that they had
been kept some time before interment. Numerous intrusive burials, probably Romano-British, were
found in the mound and in the ditch. At Thickthorn Down (Gussage St. Michael (12)) no burials were
found under the mound, but a range of Neolithic pottery was excavated from the ditch. Three secondary
burials, two accompanied by bell beakers, were found in pits dug into the mound.
There are at least three hundred and fifty-six Round Barrows in the area, but barely a quarter of them are
well preserved; ploughing and other agencies have flattened or destroyed nearly half the number and have
damaged the remainder. Seventy-one of the barrows, hitherto unrecorded, have been identified from air
photographs taken in recent years; they appear as ring-ditches, the mounds having been destroyed. There
can be little doubt that future aerial reconnaissance will reveal many more.
Over three hundred of the barrows lie on the Chalk, but they are by no means evenly distributed. The
majority occur in three major concentrations: just E. of Wor Barrow on Oakley Down (Wimborne St.
Giles (94–124)); on either side of the Dorset Cursus on and S. of Wyke Down (Gussage All Saints (23–57));
and around Knowlton Circles (Woodlands (29–65)). Nearly fifty barrows lie on the Tertiary sands and
gravels of the heathland in the E. and S.E. of the area, over half of them being scattered along the low ridge
between Colehill and West Parley in the extreme S.E. No barrows have been found on the Reading Beds
and London Clay which together give rise to a belt of heavier soils between the Chalk and the heathland.
As elsewhere in Wessex, some of the round barrows have been deliberately built close to long barrows,
suggesting a continuous tradition of burial in the area.
The majority of barrows whose form may be determined with some certainty are bowl barrows. They
vary considerably in size, but ploughing has distorted the dimensions of many mounds. Of other forms,
eleven bell barrows, eight disc barrows and one saucer barrow have been identified.
Records show that at least eighty of the barrows have been excavated or dug into, nearly half of them by
Sir Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington, working in the early years of the 19th century in the
Oakley Down group. Towards the end of the century General Pitt-Rivers opened numerous barrows in
Sixpenny Handley, and in 1938 a group in Long Crichel was examined by S. and C. M. Piggott. Structurally most of the barrows are unremarkable, but Sixpenny Handley (37) and (40) had each a penannular ditch,
the former very irregular in construction; the earliest feature under Long Crichel (14) was a small penannular palisade trench. Double concentric ditches indicating two main structural phases were found at Long
Crichel (18), (19) and (20), and air photographs show similar barrows, now levelled by ploughing, at Shapwick (62) and Woodlands (26), (39) and (48). Great Barrow (Woodlands (46)) is exceptional for the size of its
mound and for the diameter of its outer ditch.
Round Barrows demonstrably early in date are Long Crichel (19) and Pentridge (33) or (34) which produced beakers in a primary context, and Wimborne St. Giles (110) in which beaker burials succeeded a
crouched interment. Also likely to be early are the primary crouched interments from Long Crichel (18)
and (20), Sixpenny Handley (39), West Parley (9) and Wimborne St. Giles (98), (118) and (121). In Wimborne St. Giles the cremations from two unusually long mounds, (99) and (109), and from round barrow
(115) are again likely to be early. In addition to barrow burials, two beaker graves, apparently unmarked by
surface indications, were recorded by Pitt-Rivers: one (Sixpenny Handley (28)) was found when stripping
an area W. of Wor Barrow; the other was found by chance on Blackbush Down in Cranborne. Collared
urns of early type were found with primary cremations in Sixpenny Handley (31) and (35); similar urns
were found in Badbury Barrow (Shapwick (40) or (41)) apparently in association with food-vessels. The
Wessex Culture is represented by burials in Edmondsham (16) and Wimborne St. Giles (97).
From several of the remaining round barrows came primary cremations associated with urns of the
middle or later Bronze Age, and such were also found as secondary burials. The majority, however, occurred in flat cemeteries or urnfields in association with barrows, such as Hampreston (36–8) and (40), and
Sixpenny Handley (37), or in their near vicinity as elsewhere in Hampreston. Those cemeteries which have
been adequately excavated and recorded have been found to hold between forty and one hundred burials.
Numerous skeletons casually buried in disused storage-pits within the settlement at Gussage All Saints
(20) were of the late Iron Age. Probably of the late Iron Age too, is the primary cremation found under a
round barrow at Sixpenny Handley (30). The cremation burial found under a low mound or barrow at
Knob's Crook (Woodlands (18)) is clearly Roman and may be dated c. A.D. 80. Native Romano-British
burials, most of them inhumations, occur mainly within occupation sites and usually as a haphazard scatter,
as at Woodcutts (Sixpenny Handley (19)) and Woodyates (Pentridge (15)). At the latter site, however,
several burials lay in a small square enclosure, and at Oakley Down (Wimborne St. Giles (36)) four of the
five burials discovered were cremations. Romano-British inhumation burials, intrusive in earlier barrows,
have been found in Sixpenny Handley (29), (31) and (40). Pagan Saxon burials have been recorded in a
similar context at Long Crichel (20), Wimborne St. Giles (120)—and probably (88)—and in at least two
barrows in Pentridge, no longer identifiable with certainty, but near the Hampshire boundary. The tendency for pagan Saxon burials to occur on or near parish boundaries—themselves a reflection of earlier
estate boundaries—has been noted elsewhere in Wessex.
North-east Dorset contains some of the most remarkable ceremonial or ritual monuments of the Neolithic period in Britain. The Dorset Cursus (Gussage St. Michael (9)), which extends for over six miles across
Cranborne Chase, is the largest monument of its kind so far discovered. Nearly all the long barrows
and many of the round barrows in the area are clearly associated with it.
Barrows and Ceremonial Monuments East Dorset
Knowlton Circles (Woodlands (19–22)) are, as a group of earthworks, unique in Dorset, though now
sadly mutilated . The opinion that they represent a major ritual or ceremonial centre is reinforced by the
occurrence, in their immediate vicinity, of numerous round barrows, including the largest in the
See pp. 117–9, map opp. p. xxvi and plan in end-pocket.
The network of communications supplemented or replaced by Roman roads is largely unknown, and
any attempt to reconstruct it in detail must be highly speculative. Arguments can be drawn from the
distribution of pre-Roman sites and finds, especially such features as cross-ridge dykes, some of which
appear to have been sited to control movement along ridgeways, and from the existence of routes, supposed
to be ancient, occasionally mentioned in land charters of the later Saxon period. Lengths of track are
frequently found in association with native settlements and 'Celtic' fields, but they are often incomplete.
Doubtless, numbers of local tracks joined Roman roads or other through-routes. By no means all of them
are certainly pre-Roman in origin (Dorset II, 622–33; III, 318–46). It has been plausibly claimed that certain
major routes, mainly ridgeways, were used in prehistoric times. One such is the ridgeway which follows
the crest of the Chalk escarpment, curving S. and W. from near Ashmore, through Dorset to Beaminster
and beyond; another is the South Dorset ridgeway which extends from near Swanage to S.W. of Dorchester. Other routes have been suggested, such as that along the ridge between the rivers Piddle and Frome
or that between the Iwerne and the Tarrant; for the discussion of these, see Arch. J., CXIV (1973), 257–91;
XCIV (1938), 174–222; also L. V. Grinsell, The Archaeology of Wessex (1958), 295–301, and R. Good, The
Old Roads of Dorset, 2nd ed. (1966), 10–24.
The Romans introduced an entirely new element into the existing network of communications; that
of direct, planned and engineered roads with metalled surfaces, which quickly became the main arteries of
the system. They were designed to meet the needs—at first military, but increasingly administrative and
economic—for fast and efficient communications in a province where peace and a central administration
replaced the internecine strife and political divisions of the British.
The main Roman road in Dorset comes from London and Silchester, and runs S.W. from Old Sarum
via Badbury Rings to Dorchester, and thence W. to Exeter. At Badbury Rings it is crossed by a road
leading N.W. from Hamworthy, on Poole Harbour, to Donhead in Wiltshire and probably on to Frome
and Bath. From Dorchester there were links with Radipole, an inlet of Weymouth Bay to the S., and with
Ilchester to the N.W.; a branch road bypassed the town on the north. Roads from Dorchester to Radipole
(Road I) and from Badbury Rings to Hamworthy (Road II), together with the immediate portions of
other roads converging on Dorchester, are discussed in Dorset II (pp. 528–31; 539–42). Roads III–VII are
described below. Published accounts of the visible remains and courses of the roads are as follows: Hutchins's
History of Dorset, 1st ed. (1773), I, xiii–xvii; 3rd ed. (1861), I, v–viii; C. Warne, Ancient Dorset (1872), 162–
208; T. Codrington, Roman Roads in Britain, 2nd ed. (1918), 250–7; I. D. Margary, Roman Roads in
Britain (1967), 104–16; R. Good, op. cit., 24–9.
Roman Roads in Dorset
The influence of geology and physical topography on the alignment of the Roman roads within the
county is marked. The roads which converge on Badbury Rings from the N. and W., crossing the gently
undulating dip-slope of the Chalk, proceed in a series of long, straight alignments; very few minor deviations were necessary to negotiate awkward slopes. By contrast, in the very broken terrain beyond the
Chalk in West Dorset, the Dorchester-Exeter road was forced to take a much more irregular line to
avoid unacceptable gradients. Concerning the structure of the roads there is only limited information;
continuous post-Roman usage has often destroyed, or modern metalling has obliterated the evidence.
From what survives it would appear that few roads had an agger exceeding 3 ft. in height; a notable
exception, however, is the road from Old Sarum to Badbury Rings (Ackling Dyke), where the agger is
much more massive. Where cross-sections have been cut through roads the agger is normally found to be
composed of local materials capped by gravel metalling (where it survives). Side ditches, though occasionally visible on the ground, have often been obliterated by later tracks or ploughing; in arable they can
sometimes be seen on air photographs. It is not certain, however, that the roads were accompanied by
side ditches throughout their length; none was found, for example, in a recent excavation of the BadburyDorchester road in Thorncombe Wood (see Road V).
As yet little is known of the date and sequence of construction of the various roads, but that from
Hamworthy to Badbury, and perhaps to Bath, is likely to have been laid out in the early phases of the
Roman conquest. The settlement at Hamworthy, which has yielded evidence of Claudian occupation
(Dorset II, 603–4), appears to have been the port for Poole Harbour and one of the main ports of entry
into Britain from Gaul. Immediately beside the road, a few miles inland, is the Claudian military site at
Lake Gates (Pamphill (69), p. 51). If the road indeed continued to Bath it will have provided a valuable
direct link between the south coast and the Foss Way, which appears to have functioned as the spine of a
frontier system in the early years of the Roman conquest (Arch. J., CXV (1958), 49–98); Britannia, I (1970),
179–84). Air photographs suggest that this road is earlier than that from Badbury Rings to Dorchester, for
the side ditch of the latter appears to cut it, but excavation is needed to determine the relationship with
certainty. The probable existence of an early military site at Dorchester prompts the thought that the road
linking it with the coast at Radipole might also be a very early one; similarly, perhaps, the road which
continued to the Foss Way at Ilchester.
The roads cut a number of earlier features, most of them probably already obsolete, but some they may
well have put out of use. Ackling Dyke, for example, cuts Bronze Age disc barrows, an Iron Age enclosure
(Gussage St. Michael (8), p. 24) and probably 'Celtic' fields (Group (85), p. 118). The Ilchester and Exeter
roads from Dorchester both cut Iron Age enclosures. More important, however, is the apparent impact
of the roads on contemporary native settlements. Some of the largest and probably most thriving Romano-British rural settlements, whether pre-Roman in origin or not, lay close to Roman roads and by implication
derived much economic benefit from their presence. Examples are Gussage St. Michael (7), p. 24; Pentridge
(15), p. 55; Wimborne St. Giles (36), p. 100; Bere Regis (120), Dorset II, 594, and Tarrant Hinton (17–19),
Dorset IV, 99–100.
The main road S.W. across Dorset from Old Sarum to Exeter is also likely to be of early origin; a large
garrison was already established in Exeter before the end of Claudius's reign and Legio II Augusta is
known to have been in Dorset even earlier than this. The course of the road was followed by Iter XII and
Iter XV of the Antonine Itinerary. The distances from Old Sarum (Sorbiodunum) to Vindocladia (usually
identified with Badbury Rings), and from Vindocladia to Dorchester (Durnovaria) are given in the manuscripts as xii and viii Roman miles respectively. To agree with reasonable precision with the actual distances
of 23 and 20 Roman miles, an emendation of these figures is required to xxii and xviii, a solution explained
by the omission of an x from each (Britannia, I (1970), 61). The only names in the Ravenna Cosmography
which can probably be identified with sites in Dorset are Ibernio and Bindogladia; these occur as adjacent
entries in the Exeter-Winchester section. Ibernio, presumably on the R. Iwerne, is possibly identifiable
with the villa at Iwerne Minster (15), (Dorset IV, 40–1), suggesting a road running in that direction from
Badbury Rings (Arch., XCIII (1949), 25, 35). The suggestion (Dorset Procs., 89 (1967), 160–3) that the
Exeter-Winchester route followed a downland course across Dorset and that Bindogladia is the native
settlement at Woodyates (Pentridge (15), p. 55) has met with little support. Bindogladia and Vindocladia
are clearly identical.
Many of the Roman routes continued to be used as roads or tracks in post-Roman times. The roads
from Dorchester to Ilchester and Exeter and probably that to Radipole have remained in use as major
routes virtually throughout their length. The Old Sarum-Badbury road is followed by tracks for much of
its length, as to a lesser extent is its continuation to Dorchester. The Badbury-Donhead road, on the other
hand, is almost entirely ignored by them.
In addition to the known roads, certain other routes or features have been suggested as possible Roman
roads, but none of these is confirmed. A route from Dorchester to Wareham crossing Worgret Heath
has been claimed as Roman (Hutchins I, pp. vii and 78), but the evidence is entirely circumstantial (Dorset II,
539). The possibility of a road from the Ringwood area meeting the Hamworthy-Badbury road, S. of the
crossing of the R. Stour, is suggested by a possible agger running S.W. near Park Farm, Wimborne (SZ
034997), and by a straight earth ridge which is traceable for 200 yds. from N.W. to S.E. near Lake Farm,
Pamphill (Margary, op. cit., 95). This ridge was sectioned at SY 99949926, but there was no confirmation
that it was a Roman road (Dorset Procs., 87 (1965), 100). The presumed line would have crossed the present
course of the R. Stour three times. The straight parish boundary running N.W. from Badbury Rings has
suggested a road to Hod Hill, perhaps continuing N. as a ridgeway (Codrington op. cit., 255), but no
conclusive evidence of a road on this line has yet been found. The Roman fort at Hod Hill was evacuated
so early that it is unlikely that a metalled road had been built; such a road, however, might have relevance
to the site of Ibernio, mentioned above.
Roads I and II—see Dorset II, 528–31. Part of Road II is
illustrated on Plate 87 in Dorset V.
Road III. Badbury Rings to Donhead (Bath?).
At Badbury Rings the road from Hamworthy turns
sharply through 20° from N.W. to N.N.W. and
continues towards Bath (Margary's No. 46). At this
bend it is joined by the road from Old Sarum. Most of
its course in Dorset has been obscured by ploughing,
but a few fragments of the agger survive and much of
its line may be traced on air photographs. In arable just
N. of Badbury Rings the narrow side ditches, about
75 ft. apart, and the levelled agger are clearly visible
from the air (Plate 87) and at the crossing here they
appear to be overlain by the road to Dorchester. A
little further N. a ditched enclosure of about 5 acres,
one of a group of features now levelled (Pamphill (73)),
adjoins the road. From here the road is traceable on air
photographs almost without a break as far as Sing Close
Coppice (ST 956057) in Tarrant Rushton (CPE UK
1975:1002–3; 2102: 4248–9; 1893: 3072–3, 3096–7, 4073–
4; 1934: 1123–4, 3152–2; 1845:2053. C.U.A.P., ANC
Remains of the agger survive in Hogstock Coppice (ST
954072), but beyond, where it descends The Cliff to follow the
E. side of the Tarrant valley, its course has been obliterated. To
the E. of Tarrant Monkton and throughout Tarrant Launceston
the line of the road is marked by field boundaries, but in
Tarrant Hinton it is completely ignored by them, except for a
pronounced kink in a hedge at ST 94121131. In Tarrant
Hinton parish the road has been levelled or severely reduced
by ploughing, but its line is clearly seen on air photographs
(N.M.R., ST. 9510/1; CPE/UK 1934:2151, 4151). Northwards
through Eastbury Park, Tarrant Gunville and Ashmore there is
little left of the agger, but in some fields it is still visible as a very
low rise about 30 ft. across. On Main Down (ST 931145) it is
followed by a field hedge. To the N.E. of Mudoak Wood
(ST 92251705) it is clearly visible crossing an earlier boundary
dyke (Ashmore (16), Dorset IV, 3). Beyond this the road enters
Wiltshire and on Woodley Down in Tollard Royal it is met
and followed by a modern road to Ludwell. It is traceable to the
R. Nadder at Donhead St. Mary, but beyond this its course is far
from clear. It has been claimed that it continues N.N.W. on the
same alignment to link with the known Roman road from Bath
to Frome (J. B. Berry, A Lost Roman Road (1963)).
A number of sites lie close to the road, but so far only two
have yielded any evidence of occupation in the Roman period:
the villa near Hemsworth (Witchampton (22)) and the native
settlement at Tarrant Hinton (19), (Dorset IV, 100). The relationship to the road of enclosures at Tarrant Gunville (32) and (34)
and at Tarrant Launceston (19), (Dorset IV, 96, 106) is at present
Road IV. Old Sarum to Badbury Rings.
The road from Old Sarum to Badbury Rings
(Margary's No. 4c) enters the county just N.E. of
Woodyates, which presumably takes its name 'the gate
in the wood' from the passage of the road through
Bokerley Dyke, the massive late Roman defensive
earthwork which here forms the county boundary. At
this point the road changes alignment 17° towards the S.
and for a mile it is followed by the modern road (A 354),
which then diverges westwards. The Roman road
continues across Oakley Down and cuts two disc
barrows (Wimborne St. Giles (106) and (111)) on the
edge of a large group there. The well-preserved agger
(Plate 87), often flanked by later tracks on one or on
both sides, is now known as Ackling (?Oakley) Dyke.
On Wyke Down the agger forms the parish boundary
between Gussage All Saints and Wimborne St. Giles;
it then crosses the Dorset Cursus (Gussage St. Michael
(9)) and becomes the parish boundary between Gussage
All Saints and Gussage St. Michael. The agger survives
along the edge of The Drive Plantation, but beyond
Harley Down it is increasingly damaged by tracks and
after a short distance the line of the road is assumed by
James Cross Lane, which continues to the Gussage
Brook. On the far side of the stream, on Sovell Down,
the road bends S.E. and then back to its former line,
apparently to negotiate the slope; the angle is now
occupied by a chalk pit. Beyond this, in Moor Crichel,
its line is for part of the way a track, but in The Rookery
wood the agger is preserved and in the arable fields
near by it is still visible as a low ridge. Through Witchampton parish and into Pamphill the road is obscured
by a later track, but the agger survives on the edge of
the copse beside King Down Farm. The Roman villa
and the Roman temple in Witchampton (22) and (23)
lie on either side of the road, within a mile of it.
Road IV. Profile S. of Oakley Down (SU 017166).
The junction of roads N.E. of Badbury Rings is
described and illustrated in Dorset II (pp. 528–9). It
seems likely that the Old Sarum-Badbury road was
initially continuous with the road which comes from
Hamworthy and Poole Harbour, and that the branch
from Badbury to Dorchester, though also early, was
Where best preserved, as on Oakley Down, the road has an
agger 40 ft. to 50 ft. wide and from 4 ft. to 6 ft. high with
remains of gravelled metalling. Such a height seems unnecessary
on well-drained downland and it has been suggested that the
intention was either to overawe the native inhabitants, or to
make effective use of forced labour. The suggestion presupposes
that the present agger was an early feature of the road, an
hypothesis which as yet lacks support. The method of construction is known from several cross-sections. When cut at
Woodyates in the 18th century three successive layers, each 1½ ft.
thick, of gravel, chalk and flint were noted (Hutchins I, vi).
In 1888–90 General Pitt-Rivers cut two sections N.E. of Bokerley
Dyke. In trench IV the agger was 40 ft. wide and 3 ft. high
between V-shaped ditches 83½ ft. apart (centre to centre), 3 ft.
to 4 ft. wide, and 2 ft. to 4 ft. deep. Its construction consisted,
from the surface downward, of 5 ins. of surface mould, 6 ins. of
rammed chalk rubble, a layer of gravel 10 ins. thick, a further
6 ins. of rammed chalk and, resting on the old ground surface,
a single layer of nodular flints. In trench III the agger was lower
and contained sherds of New Forest Ware, nails and a glass bead;
the ditches were only 56½ ft. apart, centre to centre. Other
sections showed that the original W. road ditch cut into a 1st-century pit containing a burial. It was also found that the ditch
of Bokerley Dyke had been cut through the road in the late 4th
century, but was soon refilled and metalling laid down over the
filling; later it was recut and not refilled (Pitt-Rivers, Excavations
III, 21, 69–70, 74, 80, 91. Pls. clxvi, clxxi). A cutting made
through the road for a modern Forestry Commission track on
Oakley Down (SU 01931709) showed an agger 2 ft. thick
composed of layers of fine chalk, gravel and earth, sometimes
mixed, overlying a spread of flints.
Road V. Badbury Rings to Dorchester.
Road V. Profile N. of Badbury Rings (ST 962032).
The road from Old Sarum divides immediately
N.E. of Badbury Rings and one branch of it (Margary's
No. 4e) heads S.W. towards Dorchester. After a short
distance it crosses the Badbury-Bath road, which
appears on air photographs (Plate 87) to be structurally the earlier of the two; as yet, however, there
is no reliable evidence for the date of the layout of the
roads nor for their structural history (Dorset II, 528–9).
Along the N. side of the hill-fort and the Roman
settlement (Shapwick (34), (31)) the road survives as an
impressive agger, up to 65 ft. across and 5 ft. high,
scarred by quarrying and by numerous tracks, and
flanked in places by side ditches and outer banks;
in places the total width is 120 ft. Three prominent
barrows (Shapwick (47–49)), in line beside the road, are
no longer accepted as Roman (Ant. J., XLV (1965),
41–7). To the W. of the Blandford-Wimborne road
the Roman road has been destroyed by ploughing and
by the modern road to Shapwick, which approximately
follows its line. The road passes through the village,
where traces of early Roman occupation have been
found (Shapwick (33)), crosses the Stour just S. of the
church and continues as a slight agger across the floodplain of the river. For some 3 miles beyond this it has
been levelled by cultivation, but much of it is visible
on air photographs (CPE/UK 1934:3105–6, 3131–5,
5128–9). In Sturminster Marshall the former old fieldnames Greatstreet and Kingsway recall its presence. A
short length of the road survives as an earthwork, 40 ft.
across and 2 ft. high, immediately N. of the main ride
in Little Almer Wood (SY 906998). From Winterborne
Zelstone to Winterborne Kingston its line is marked by
field hedges and for much of the way by a lane. On the
summit of a spur, where the road crosses the parish
boundary into Anderson, it changes direction by 9°
to the N. Traces of the agger survive in Winterborne
Kingston, E. and S. of Abbot's Court, alongside a lane
known as East Street; the lane then follows the line of
the road into the village.
Road V. Profile in Little Almer Wood (SY 906998).
Beyond Winterborne Kingston the road has been largely
destroyed by cultivation, but the agger, some 40 ft. across and
4 ft. high, survives in Bagwood Coppice (SY 852971). Remains
of a substantial Romano-British settlement have been found on
either side of the road within and W. of this coppice (Bere Regis
(120), Dorset II, 594). On Bere Down (SY 846969) the road,
poorly preserved, passes through and probably cuts across
'Celtic' fields (Group (32), Dorset II, 633). A section through the
road at this point revealed metalling 20 ft. wide in the form
of a thin layer of flints and small stones on sandy clay over the
chalk rock. It lay between wide, but shallow side ditches,
59 ft. apart centre to centre (Dorset Procs., 71 (1949), 60). Fragments of the agger survive on either side of the valley of the
Milborne Brook: on the slope E. of Ashley Barn Farm (SY
816906) where it is flanked on the S. by a deep hollow way,
and S.W. of Ashley Barn Farm (SY 810904) where a wide ditch
flanks it on the N. side. The road is followed by a track to a point
just N.E. of Tolpuddle, but there is no certain trace of it on the
outskirts of that village, although a strip lynchet at SY 79509474
appears to mark its alignment. The drains and ridges of the
water-meadows have obscured the road where it crosses
obliquely the flood-plain of the R. Piddle, but its line is preserved in part of the S. boundary of Burleston parish.
In High Wood and Cowpound Wood, Athelhampton (SY
770937), where Reading Beds overlie the Chalk, a hollow way
and a terrace mark the line of the road. Its course in the arable
beyond is visible on air photographs (CPE/UK 1934:4074–5;
2018:3041–2). Traces of the agger survive, again on Reading
Beds, in Ilsington Wood and also on Castle Hill and Puddletown
Heath, now within the conifer plantations of Puddletown
Forest. Near the W. edge of the forest the road curves sharply
N.W. to avoid a steep-sided hollow, but after 160 yds. it resumes
its course S.W. across Duddle Heath. Here the agger is 30 ft.
across and up to 3 ft. high with occasional traces of side ditches
and outer banks. Just to the W., in Thorncombe Wood (SY
727920), a section cut across the agger showed that it was
composed of gravel laid directly on the ground surface; hollows
in the top were interpreted as wheel ruts; no side ditches were
found (Dorset Procs., 92 (1970), 147–8). A short length of the
agger survives in pasture on Hollow Hill (SY 71859167) and
slight traces of it are still detectable along the N. side of the
present road skirting Kingston Maurward Park. The alignment
if continued would carry the road down Stinsford Hill, N. of the
modern A 35, across the flood-plain of the R. Stour, towards the
presumed E. gate of Roman Dorchester at the foot of High East
Street. No convincing surface traces of this section of the road
have yet been found, but a ford (or bridge?) apparently of
Roman date, discovered in the bed of the Stour in the last
century, lies on the same alignment (Dorset II, 540). An uninscribed milestone, probably Roman, stands beside the line of the
road at the top of Stinsford Hill (SY 70899130; Dorset III, 257).
Road VI. Dorchester to Ilchester.
For much of its course the road N.W. from Dorchester (Margary's No. 47) has remained in use to the
present day and is perpetuated by modern roads. It
leaves the town as Poundbury Road, the E. end of
which points towards the traditional W. gate at Top o'
Town, and takes a fairly straight line towards Bradford
Peverell, diverging only to negotiate the steep-sided
re-entrant of Fordington Bottom. Within this distance
the road must have intersected the line of the Roman
aqueduct to Dorchester at least six times. Beyond
Bradford Peverell it crosses the Frome valley to
Stratton; according to Hutchins (I, vii) its line was
formerly visible in the water-meadows, but there is no
clear trace of it today. At Stratton the road meets
another road which appears to have served as a bypass
N. of Dorchester. This road (Margary's No. 470) leaves
the Badbury-Dorchester road at Stinsford and, except
for a short length near Charminster church, is followed
by existing roads and lanes. Evidence of Roman
occupation has been found close to the road-line at
SY 698914 (Dorset Procs., 94 (1972), 87). A marked kink
in the alignment at Westleaze (SY 685922), on the line
of the old road from Dorchester to Charminster via
Burton, raises the possibility that the latter, itself
probably part of a pre-Roman trackway, was incorporated in the Roman road network. For further
discussion of this road see Dorset II, 539, 541–2, 587.
N.W. of Stratton the Roman road has been largely flattened
by ploughing and by a track which follows its line, but just
N. of a disused railway (SY 646941) the agger survives as a
ridge 36 ft. across and up to 3 ft. high. To the W. of the Sydling
Water its line is assumed by Long Ash Lane, the modern road to
Yeovil (A 37), which climbs and follows the top of the ridge.
The agger, 30 ft. across and 2½ ft. high, survives in Hyde Crook
Belt (SY 627960) where the modern road deviates slightly to the
E. A cross-section here showed a metalling of angular flints
with some small pebbles on a foundation of brown loamy
earth (C. D. Drew, unpublished notes in D.C.M.). On Hog
Cliff Hill (SY 625965), where the road bisects an early Iron Age
enclosure, excavation has produced evidence of Roman metalling beside the modern road (Dorset Procs., 82 (1960), 83).
Beyond this the road follows the ridge as far as Wardon Hill,
where it curves W. to descend a spur and cross the valley at
Holywell. Along the E. side of Melbury Park and continuing
N.W. to Princes Place (ST 575093), the modern road follows a
more irregular line and presumably makes several minor
deviations from the course of the original road; no certain
traces of the latter have, however, been found to confirm this.
Beyond Princes Place a straight length of the modern A 37
carries the road to the Somerset border near Closworth.
Road VII. Dorchester to Exeter.
The road (Margary's No. 4f) leaves the former W.
gate of Dorchester at Top o' Town and for 3 miles is
followed by the present main road (A 35). Over much
of this distance the raised nature of the modern road
suggests that it lies astride an agger which has perhaps
been widened to accommodate it. On Lambert's Hill
(SY 632908) the A 35 turns S.W. and the Roman road,
followed by a minor metalled road, continues in a
series of straight alignments along the top of the Chalk
ridge as far as Two Gates (SY 552938), just S.E. of
Eggardon; again there is evidence of the agger at
intervals. From the outskirts of Dorchester to a little
beyond this point the road is followed without a break
by parish boundaries. Throughout this part of its
course the road passes close to settlements and 'Celtic'
fields (Dorset II, 623–4). N. of Long Bredy it crosses an
Iron Age enclosure at SY 575936 (Dorset Procs., 87
At Two Gates the metalled road turns N.W. towards
Eggardon and the Roman road continues W. as a
track. After nearly ½ mile it is joined and followed by
another minor road, the Spyway, running S.W. from
Eggardon Hill. In the obtuse angle between the two
roads (SY 545939) a short length of the agger survives;
it is about 25 ft. across, but damaged by shallow
quarrying. The Roman road makes its way along the
top of a spur and then makes a steep descent to Spyway
Green, just N. of Askerswell, where it leaves the Chalk.
Here traces of it were seen in the early 19th century
(J. Davidson, Roman Remains in the Vicinity of Axminster
(1833), 54). Beyond this its course is less well established,
but it seems likely that it continues as the present road to
Vinney Cross (SY 510929) where it is met and followed
by the main road (A 35) to Bridport. A possible
alternative route to the N. follows the Asker valley
beyond Spyway Green, via Matravers and Uploders as
far as Yondover, where it turns S.W. on the line of a
modern track to join the A 35, ½ mile E. of Bridport, at
From Bridport to Morecombelake the line of the
Roman road is essentially that of the present main road.
Both in Bridport and in Chideock remains of an older
road, probably Roman, have been found 2 ft. to 4 ft.
below the present road surface (Dorset Procs., 71 (1949),
61–2; 73 (1951), 102). Beyond Morecombelake the
Roman road probably crossed Stonebarrow Hill, on
the line of the present track, to Charmouth; the route
followed by A 35 is apparently a modern one. West
of Charmouth the road may have divided. The main
route, however, is almost certainly that followed by the
A 35 to Penn Cross (SY 348943), then by a minor
road as far as Penn and finally by A 375 to the Dorset
border on Raymond's Hill. It continues to Axminster,
where it must cross the S. end of the Foss Way; thence
to Exeter via Honiton. A possible second road W. from
Charmouth (Margary's No. 49) followed a more
southerly route, now marked by tracks over Timber
Hill (SY 350933) and by a minor road N. of Lyme
Regis, beyond which it leaves Dorset and is perpetuated
as far as Exeter in the modern A 35.
Mediaeval and Later Settlement
The pattern, siting and morphology of mediaeval and later settlement in East Dorset has been determined
to a large extent by the two distinct physical regions into which the area is divided.
The Chalk Lands of the North-West
As elsewhere in Dorset, settlement on the Chalk has, until recently, been mainly confined to the valleys,
where both water and shelter are most readily available. Documentary evidence, here and there supple
mented by earthworks, shows clearly that by the early mediaeval period lines of settlement—villages,
hamlets and farms—were strung out in the bottoms of the valleys. Most of these survive and are of similar
status today, though generally they have increased in size. Some, such as Bowerswain Farm in Gussage All
Saints (6), have remained isolated farms; others, such as Brockington (Gussage All Saints (19)), Hemsworth
(Witchampton (20)) and Knowlton (Woodlands (16)), have been reduced from more populous settlements
to single farmsteads, or have been abandoned altogether. Most of these settlements are of linear form,
lying along a single street, parallel to a stream as at Long Crichel, or sometimes along two streets as at
Wimborne St. Giles. Where a valley is very broad and shallow, and settlement is less constricted, compact
villages with an irregular street plan are to be found; e.g. Shapwick and Witchampton. As noted in other
parts of Dorset, most chalkland settlements are associated with narrow strips of land which extend back
from the streams on to the downland, on one or both sides; the boundaries of these strips are often perpetuated in the form of continuous hedgerows.
In the N. part of the area, towards the top of the dip-slope of the Chalk, where the valleys are shallow
and waterless, settlement is more dispersed; a thin scatter of farms and hamlets is found, but Sixpenny
Handley is the only large village. The number of Romano-British settlements known in this region suggests
that the area (if not the settlements themselves) has been continuously occupied since Romano-British times.
The Eocene Deposits of the South-East
Along the edge of the Eocene deposits, but just on the Chalk, a line of early settlements extends S.W.
from Cranborne to Wimborne Minster and then E. to West Parley. Only Chalbury lies on the Reading
Beds. Most of these settlements are small compact villages, usually of single-street type; e.g. Edmondsham,
Hinton Martell and Horton on the Chalk; Dudsbury, Hampreston and Longham on the valley-gravel terraces of the R. Stour. Wimborne Minster also developed on such a terrace, at an important crossing of the
R. Stour, near the junction of the Eocene and the Chalk. Within the Eocene deposits the pattern of settlement is dispersed and irregular. On the Reading Beds and the London Clay a general scatter of farmsteads
and cottages is found, together with straggling villages and hamlets; often they are centred on triangular or
irregular greens; Holt, Gaunt's Common, Pamphill, Woodlands and Woodlands Common are examples.
Within the heathland proper on the Bagshot Beds, an area thinly peopled until relatively recently, hamlets
and farmsteads are also found, but they tend to be restricted to the valleys of the small streams which cross
the outcrop. Some of these settlements on the Eocene deposits were in existence by the 11th century
(Petersham and Mannington Farms in Holt); others do not appear in documents until the 13th or 14th
centuries, although they may well be older.
Large numbers of late 18th and early 19th-century cottages on the edge of and within the heathland,
represent expansion of settlement on to marginal land at a time of growing population. Some of these
settlements (e.g. Holt (31)) have been abandoned.
The history of settlement in this area is reflected to a large extent in the distribution and size of the
parishes, notably the ecclesiastical parishes as they were until the 19th century. These were all centred on the
line of early settlements along the edge of the Eocene deposits. Some, e.g. Edmondsham, Chalbury and
Hinton Martell, were of moderate size and have remained so, but others were larger, incorporating extensive tracts of sparsely inhabited heathland, and these have since been sub-divided. From Cranborne, once
one of the largest parishes in Dorset (13,000 acres), have been taken the present parishes of Alderholt and
Verwood; from Wimborne Minster, little smaller than Cranborne, the parishes of Holt, Pamphill and much
of Colehill (the remainder is from Hampreston); from Horton has been taken the parish of Woodlands
which incorporates the lands of the former village and chapelry of Knowlton. The need for separate
parishes on the heathland less remote from the old centres of settlement was due to the steady increase of
population in this area, in particular from the early 19th century onwards. The increase has accelerated
rapidly in the present century with the northward expansion of the suburbs of Bournemouth, and this has
necessitated the creation of the civil parish of West Moors.
Mediaeval Settlements East Dorset
Mediaeval and Later Earthworks
Relatively few earthworks of demonstrably mediaeval or later date have been noted in East Dorset. Remains of former settlements within and near existing villages and farms include Long Crichel (4), Minchington (Sixpenny Handley (17)), Brockington (Gussage All Saints (19)), Hemsworth (Witchampton (20)) and
Didlington (Chalbury (8)). Only at Knowlton (Woodlands (16)) is the settlement site completely deserted.
At only two sites is shrinkage or desertion dated; at Moor Crichel (8) the village was demolished between
1765 and 1770 for the enlargement of the park at Crichel House; at The Leaze, Wimborne Minster (82),
excavations suggest a short-lived extension of the town in the 12th and 13th centuries. Little is known of the
date of and reasons for the shrinkage of other settlements. None has been excavated and documents have
so far proved of little help. At Knowlton, for example, the apparently high population recorded in 1333
(compared with later evidence) suggests that the village was deserted in the late 14th or early 15th century;
the figure for 1333, however, includes the population of outlying settlements in the parish as well as of
Knowlton village and is, therefore, of little value in determining the size of the village at that time.
Cultivation remains are negligible, but on the heathland numerous abandoned closes, such as Holt (31),
Horton (14) and Verwood (57), are evidence of temporary extension of farming on to marginal land. The
presence of a substantial motte-and-bailey castle at Cranborne (31) serves to confirm the early importance
of what is still one of the largest settlements in the area.
Mediaeval and Later Buildings
Cranborne. Saxon carving.
The Saxon stone carving  here illustrated was discovered in a pond at Cranborne in 1935 and is
probably a terminal knop from a mural cross. Measuring 19 ins. by 18 ins. overall, the fragment can hardly
belong to a free-standing cross as it is only 6 ins. thick
and the sides are convex, but it could be the end of one
limb of a cross built into a wall like the well-known
example at Romsey. Whether it should be seen as the
foot of the cross or as the end of the right-hand arm is
uncertain; the beast is sufficiently fantastic to be as
much at home in a vertical as in a horizontal posture.
One fore-foot is inserted in the mouth. The long
branched tail penetrates the body, a mannerism held to
indicate a 9th-century date (Kendrick, Anglo-Saxon Art
to A.D. 900, 145; Arch. J., CIV (1947), 162). The pre-conquest Benedictine Abbey of Cranborne, later a cell
of Tewkesbury, was founded c. 980 (Knowles, Religious
Houses of Mediaeval England, 61), but it probably
succeeded a group of secular canons serving an Old
Minster, to which Dugdale refers (Hutchins III, 381).
Another Saxon monument is represented by a fragment
of coarse tessellated pavement discovered in 1857 in the nave of Wimborne Minster church. Lying some 9
ins. below the present floor it may well be a part of the church built early in the 8th century by St.
Cuthburh, sister of King Ine of Wessex.
Before the Norman Conquest St. Cuthburh's original church at Wimborne was replaced by a cruciform
building with a square crossing slightly wider in plan than the arms of the cross, and with a round turret at
the external W. corner of each transept. Of this late Saxon building the W. walls of both transepts and the
entire N.W. turret continue to stand almost to their full original height , contradicting Hutchins's
assertion that 'no traces of the Saxon church can be discovered'. After the Saxon cathedral at Sherborne
(Dorset I, xlvii–l), Wimborne Minster church is the most important Saxon building to survive in Dorset.
In the 12th century the church at Wimborne Minster was greatly enlarged, the nave being rebuilt with
aisles and the eastern arms probably being provided with five apses, as at Shaftesbury (Dorset IV, opp. 58);
the apses have gone, but the nave and the richly arcaded central tower remain the most impressive examples
of Norman architecture in East Dorset. Also of 12th-century date is the village church, now a ruin, at
Knowlton, in Woodlands parish; it is interesting for having been built, at some distance from the settlement,
in the middle of a pre-Christian henge monument. Another early 12th-century monument is the W. tower
of the parish church of Gussage St. Michael, where the plain tower arch is purposely enlivened by the
contrasting colours of Greensand and Heathstone in alternate voussoirs. The adjacent hamlet of Gussage St.
Andrew, now in the parish of Sixpenny Handley, has a small 12th-century chapel, altered in the 13th century.
The parish churches of Shapwick and Edmondsham have simple 12th-century arcades. West Parley has a
good 12th-century N. doorway with a Heathstone lintel surmounted by a semicircular tympanum; to
heighten the opening, the underside of the lintel has at some time been given the form of a segmental arch.
Hampreston has a reset 12th-century doorway in which three joggled voussoirs form a flat lintel. The N.
doorway of Cranborne church is of the 12th century, but reset and altered in the 14th century; the nonradial arrangement of its voussoirs suggests that the pointed arch was originally segmental, a form noted
at Pimperne in North Dorset (Dorset IV, 52) and at several places in Central Dorset (Dorset III, xlviii). The
19th-century church of Hinton Parva has an elaborate and much restored 12th-century chancel arch.
In the first half of the 13th century the eastern arm of Wimborne Minster church was rebuilt, the hypothetical centre apse being replaced by a Lady Chapel, with a square E. end pierced by three lancet windows
surmounted by quatrefoil and six-lobed lights ; the carved stonework in these windows and in the
adjacent N. and S. archways is particularly noteworthy. Other 13th-century buildings in East Dorset include the chancel of Gussage St. Andrew (in Sixpenny Handley), and the nave arcades of Gussage St.
Michael. The domestic chapel of Cranborne Manor House, built in 1207, is represented by part of an altar
recess with a piscina and a small E. window.
Of the early 14th century is the spacious chancel and aisleless nave of Gussage All Saints church. Other
notable 14th-century buildings include the nave of Cranborne parish church , the vaulted crypt inserted
below Wimborne's 13th-century Lady Chapel , the chancel and W. tower of Hampreston church, and
the porch of Sixpenny Handley church .
Of the 15th century is the massive W. tower of Cranborne parish church . It dates probably from before
1438, at which time the W. doorway was inserted, with shields-of-arms and portrait label-stops apparently
commemorating the marriage of Richard, duke of York (Edward IV's father) and Lady Cecilia Neville;
it may be conjectured that Cranborne Manor House was occupied by this royal couple. Of the middle of
the 15th century is the W. tower of Wimborne Minster, with a tall, heavily moulded tower arch. Smaller
15th-century towers are found at Long Crichel, Witchampton, Edmondsham and Knowlton, the last in
Little church building of the 16th and 17th centuries is found in East Dorset; the most notable example is the
weighty parapet  of the central tower of Wimborne Minster, erected in 1608 after the collapse of the spire.
The 18th century church at Horton  has a N. tower built in 1722–3, with a round-headed window with
a plain keystone and architrave, a heavy modillion cornice and a pyramidal stone spire. These features were
paralleled in Vanbrugh's great mansion, Eastbury, 7 miles to the N.W. (Dorset IV, 90). The mason at
Horton was John Chapman (Colvin, 137) and it is probable that he also worked at Eastbury.
In 1732 (Hutchins, 1st ed., II, 219) the church at Wimborne St. Giles, the burial-place of the earls of
Shaftesbury, was rebuilt by the 4th earl; it has an elegant W. tower  of classical form, not unlike that of
Blandford Forum which was started in the following year, and a plain rectangular nave with large round-headed windows, also paralleled at Blandford Forum. The affinities suggest that the Bastard brothers were
responsible for the design of St. Giles's as well as the Blandford church, although there is at present no
documentary evidence to support the attribution. The interior of St. Giles's has been remodelled twice
since 1850 and once burnt out, and few of the 18th-century fittings remain.
Small churches at Chalbury and West Parley retain 18th-century furniture.
The 19th-century church of Moor Crichel, now disused, is a pleasing and well-built edifice in the 'gothic'
style, in striking contrast with the neo-classical mansion beside which it stands. It was built in 1850 at the
expense of Mr. H. C. Sturt. Affinities of style suggest that the designer was George Alexander of Highworth,
who in 1847 built Sutton Waldron church (Dorset IV, 84) 'on a piece of ground given by H. C. Sturt of
Crichel' (Hutchins IV, 108), but no documentary evidence can be found to support the attribution.
Non-conformist chapels of 19th-century origin include the modest cob-and-thatch meeting-house built
in 1807 at Cripplestyle in Alderholt (2), and a more impressive building at Hampreston (2), dated 1841.
Vaulting and Roofs
The oldest stone vault to remain in East Dorset covers the E. part of the crypt of Wimborne Minster
church with six bays of quadripartite vaulting of c. 1300 ; in the next generation three bays were added,
extending the crypt W. into the area of the former ambulatory. The earlier vaults have sunk-chamfered
ribbing; in the added bays the ribs are wave-moulded. The N. porch of the same church has quadripartite
vaulting of c. 1350, and the S. vestry has a 14th-century vault with moulded ridge and diagonal ribs meeting
at a foliate boss. The W. tower of Wimborne Minster has 15th-century vaulting extensively restored after
1850. Apart from Wimborne Minster the only remaining mediaeval vault in East Dorset is a 14th-century
ribbed barrel vault, two-centred in cross-section, covering the S. porch of Sixpenny Handley parish church
. It was taken down and rebuilt in 1877, but retains its original form. The mid 19th-century chancel of
Moor Crichel church has fan-vaulting in the style of the 15th century.
Wagon roofs are found in churches at Cranborne, Shapwick and West Parley. The most noteworthy is
at Cranborne , where the nave has a 15th-century roof of two-centred cross-section and the S. aisle
has a lean-to roof of similar form, spanning from the wall-plate to the nave wall in a single arc. The nave
of Gussage St. Michael has a low-pitched 15th-century roof with king-post tie-beam trusses with straight
angle-struts; the near-by church of Gussage St. Andrew, in Sixpenny Handley, has a more steeply pitched
15th-century roof with tie-beam trusses with curved angle-struts. In the extended W. bay of West Parley
church the wagon roof of the nave gives place to two late 16th-century trusses, designed to support a bell-cote.
Altar: A large, roughly rectangular heathstone monolith lying on the ground inside the ruin of Knowlton
church is perhaps the slab of a former altar, but no consecration marks are seen.
Bells: Few mediaeval bells survive in East Dorset. Two at Shapwick with inscriptions in Lombardic lettering are thought to be of c. 1380–1400 and from London, possibly cast by John Langhorne (Walters MS.);
a small bell with a black-letter inscription in the same church is by an unknown 15th-century founder. At
Cranborne the 5th, with Lombardic lettering, is of c. 1410 and from Salisbury. Gussage All Saints has three
Salisbury bells of c. 1440–50; Holt has a plain mediaeval sanctus brought from Wimborne Minster in the
19th century (Hutchins III, 200, note a). There are no 16th-century bells in the area. Edmondsham, the
Gussages and Long Crichel have 17th-century bells. Hampreston has three bells of 1738 by William Knight,
and Witchampton has five of 1776–7 by Wells of Aldbourne.
Books: The 15th-century library in Wimborne Minster church contains a collection of chained books
brought there in 1686; some are of the 16th century.
Brasses : A small 14th-century inscription plate is reset in a 19th-century tomb in Long Crichel
church. A figure representing King Ethelred in Wimborne Minster church is probably of 15th-century
origin, but the accompanying copper inscription plate appears to be of the 17th century. Shapwick church
has an early 15th-century figure of a lady and a 16th-century figure of a priest. Wimborne Minster has a
brass with a black-letter inscription in memory of Elenor Dickenson, 1571, and Moor Crichel has a similar
monument to Isabel Uvedale, 1572, with a figure of a lady. Small 17th-century brasses are found in the
churches of Sixpenny Handley, Wimborne Minster and Wimborne St. Giles.
Candlesticks etc.: St. Andrew's church at Gussage in Sixpenny Handley parish has an 18th-century brass
chandelier with three tiers of scroll-shaped sconce brackets projecting from a stout turned shaft with a large
ball finial below it. At West Parley church the 18th-century pulpit retains a pair of original brass and iron
candlesticks with swivelling brackets.
Carved Stonework: The only example of Saxon sculpture known in East Dorset, the carving at Cranborne, has been discussed on p. xxxvii. At Hinton Parva, part of the 12th-century chancel arch with
shafted responds with spiral and imbricate ornament is incorporated with the late 19th-century church;
the same church has a small stone panel, probably of the 12th century, on which a winged figure with a book
and a cross is somewhat inexpertly depicted ; Sixpenny Handley parish church has a more sophisticated,
but badly defaced 12th-century Christ-in-Majesty . Undoubtedly the best examples of 12th-century
carving to survive in East Dorset are the label-stops and keystones of the nave arcades in Wimborne
Minster, where human faces and animals are skilfully portrayed . Three 13th-century label-stops in the
eastern arm of the same church are no less noteworthy . Local 14th-century carving is exemplified in the
crude enrichment of a wall-recess at Gussage All Saints . That of the 15th century is represented by a
triangular Purbeck marble panel preserved in the library of Wimborne Minster church; carved on one side
with a crucifixion and on the reverse with the figure of a king , it is evidently part of a stone cross and it
has been suggested that it might come from the top of the spire which collapsed in 1600.
Chests: Wimborne Minster church has a notable collection of wooden chests ; the oldest, possibly of
the 13th century, comprises a massive oak trunk with a small recess hollowed out of it; it is closed by a
thick wooden lid with strong iron hinges.
Communion Tables etc.: Oak tables of the 17th century with stout turned legs and enriched rails are preserved in the parish churches of Gussage St. Michael, Hampreston and Horton, in the chapels of St.
Margaret at Pamphill and of St. Andrew at Sixpenny Handley, and in the crypt of Wimborne Minster.
Horton church has an elegant 18th-century reredos of carved and gilded wood.
Easter Sepulchre (?): An arched recess  containing a tomb-chest of 15th-century date, reset in the 19th-century chancel of Cranborne parish church, presumably comes from the mediaeval chancel; it is uncertain whether it was originally an Easter Sepulchre or an ordinary tomb.
Fonts : Twelfth-century fonts are found at Sixpenny Handley, West Parley and Woodlands. That of
West Parley has a tub-shaped bowl decorated externally with raised arcading; being of diminutive size the
original font now serves as the pedestal of a late mediaeval octagonal bowl. The early 13th-century font in
Cranborne church has an octagonal bowl with lancet-shaped panels, nine cylindrical supports and an
octagonal base with broached corners. The 14th-century font in Wimborne Minster is similar in form to
that of Cranborne, but it has trefoil-headed panels and is more elegantly proportioned; the spirally-fluted
centre support may be of 12th-century origin. Wimborne St. Giles has a 17th-century font brought from
Glass: Of English mediaeval stained glass East Dorset retains only a few 15th-century fragments. Panels
of 16th-century German or Flemish glass were reset in Wimborne St. Giles church and Wimborne Minster
church, the former in 1785, the latter in 1837.
Helmets (funeral) etc.: A well-preserved bascinet of c. 1510, now in the library at Wimborne Minster
church , hung until recently over the 15th-century monument of the Duke of Somerset (d. 1444). Two
mid 17th-century helmets with crests of the Okeden family are preserved in Moor Crichel church. Another
with the crest of Uvedale hangs over the monument of Sir Edmund Uvedale, 1606, in Wimborne Minster;
associated with the same monument is a wooden cap-of-maintenance.
Lectern: Wimborne Minster has a fine brass eagle lectern  dated 1623; the pedestal is modern.
Monuments and Floor-slabs: A recumbent effigy from an early 14th-century monument  in Wimborne
Minster church bears a shield charged with three lions in an engrailed border; three stone shields similarly
charged are built into the adjacent wall, the monument having been reassembled in the 19th century;
Hutchins (III, 213) supposes the arms to be those of St. Piers, Peters or Fitzherbert. An effigy of the late
13th century at Wimborne St. Giles (Hutchins III, 603) was destroyed by fire in 1908 and only the original
feet remain, the rest being modern. A mail-clad Purbeck marble effigy at Horton  bears a shield charged
with the arms of Braose and probably comes from the tomb of Giles de Braose, d. 1305; an approximately
contemporary effigy in the same church, carved in Ham Hill stone, is thought to represent his wife. Of the
15th century are splendid alabaster effigies in Wimborne Minster representing John Beaufort, Duke of
Somerset (d. 1444) and his wife Margaret (Beauchamp) ; they lie on a tomb-chest with panelled, cusped
and moulded sides, but without inscription (Hutchins III, 212).
Seventeenth-century effigies include that of Sir Edmund Uvedale, 1606, on an alabaster wall monument
 in Wimborne Minster church. Fine effigies of Sir Anthony Ashley (d. 1627/8) and his wife (Jane Okeover) are preserved in a magnificent tomb  in the parish church of Wimborne St. Giles. The kneeling
figure beside the bier presumably represents their daughter Anne, who died shortly after her father; as
there is no reference to her death the monument is closely dated between January and August 1628. It
was erected by Anne's husband, Sir John Cooper of Rockbourne, progenitor of the Ashley-Cooper
Canopied and mural table-tombs include one of 14th-century origin in Gussage All Saints church ;
it has been called an Easter Sepulchre, but when opened in 1864 it was found to contain bones (Dorset Procs.,
XVII (1896), 84). A 15th-century arched recess reset in the 19th-century chancel of Cranborne parish church
might also be a tomb in origin although we classify it doubtfully as an Easter Sepulchre (above). In Shapwick
church a small 15th-century arched recess with a Purbeck marble surround with cusped panelling contains
a tomb-chest of 1639. The 16th-century table-tomb of Gertrude, Marchioness of Exeter (d. 1558) on the N.
side of the chancel in Wimborne Minster retains part of the original brass margin-plate. William Bastard's
18th-century plan of the church (Bodleian Lib., Gough Maps 6, f. 48v.) shows this tomb on the S. side and
that of the Duke and Duchess of Somerset on the N. side of the chancel, but this must be a mistake in the
drawing since scratchings on the duke's effigy show that the N. side of the monument was easily accessible in 1641.
The more important of the 17th-century wall monuments in East Dorset are illustrated on Plates 14–16.
In design nearly all have much in common, but the Sherley monument at Shapwick is exceptional and of
more refined quality. Affinities of style suggest that the Cole monument at Witchampton and the Hussey
monument at Shapwick are from one workshop, and the same rather distinctive hand is probably seen in
some of the Coker monuments at Mappowder (Dorset III, 146).
The small tablet in memory of Elizabeth Lloyd of Hampreston is the best of the 18th-century monuments
in this part of the county . Edmondsham church contains seven Purbeck marble floor-slabs from 18th-century tombs of the Hussey family. Originally associated with a burial vault, the slabs are now set against
the walls of the N. aisle; in each slab the inscription is headed by a well-carved shield or lozenge-of-arms.
St. Andrew's church, Sixpenny Handley (2), has an interesting floor-slab  in memory of William
Williams of Woodcutts, 1625–1725, grandson of Sir John Williams of Herringston (Hutchins II, 524; III,
Paintings: Simple 13th-century wall decorations comprising a diaper of lozenges with lilies were formerly
seen in St. Margaret's chapel, Pamphill, but they have recently been obliterated . St. Andrew's church,
Sixpenny Handley (2), retains fragments of New Testament scenes painted in two zones on the N. wall of the
12th-century nave; they date from the second half of the 13th century and are superimposed on earlier
ashlar ruling. The 13th-century scenes are too fragmentary to reveal a coherent scheme, but a Crucifixion
can be discerned . Wimborne Minster has a panel of early 13th-century chequer pattern with roses and
frets painted on a wall built to close a 12th-century side chapel; above are the remains of a 13th-century
Crucifixion scene, repainted in the 14th century [Frontispiece]. Later, when the recess containing these
paintings had to be reduced for the widening of an adjacent archway, other paintings were superimposed.
Fourteenth-century paintings on the S. wall of the nave in Cranborne parish church  depict the Seven
Corporal Acts of Mercy and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Piscinae: The S. wall of the S. transept in Wimborne Minster has a much restored mid 13th-century
piscina recess with shafted jambs and a trefoil head with nail-head enrichment. Also notable is a trefoil-headed niche containing a scalloped piscina in the chancel of St. Andrew's church, Sixpenny Handley (2);
it is integral with the admirably proportioned late 13th-century S. window and adjacent doorway.
Plate: Shapwick church has a good example of an Elizabethan cup and cover-paten with the assay mark
of 1570 and maker's mark, a cup in an oval surround . A somewhat similar communion cup at West
Parley church, with an inscription of 1574, has the mark of Laurence Stratford of Dorchester. Cups by the
anonymous 'Gillingham' silversmith (Dorset III, liii) are found at Horton  and at Wimborne St. Giles.
A pair of silver flagons of 1636 in Moor Crichel church  bear the arms and donor's inscription of Sir
Nathaniel Napier. Seventeenth-century cups are found in the parish churches of Cranborne, Edmondsham,
Hinton Martell, Long Crichel, Wimborne Minster and Witchampton. Church plate of the 18th century in
East Dorset includes two sets by John Wirgman: one, with cup, stand-paten and alms-dish, is at Moor
Crichel; the other, with cup, flagon, two stand-patens, and alms-dish is at Hampreston. Edmondsham
church has a silver flagon  of 1759.
Pulpits : Cranborne parish church has a well-preserved circular oak pulpit of c. 1400 with panelled
sides enriched with blind tracery; the hollow-chamfered cornice includes bosses with the monogram TP
for Abbot Thomas Parker of Tewkesbury (1398–1421), Cranborne Priory having been a dependency of
Tewkesbury Abbey until the Dissolution. The 19th-century church at Holt is furnished with a handsome
early 17th-century octagonal pulpit with arcaded sides enriched with Corinthian columns; brought from
Wimborne Minster in the 19th century it probably dates from 1608, the year when the minster choir-stalls
were renewed following the collapse of the spire (Hutchins III, 208). West Parley church has a 17th-century
polygonal oak pulpit with chip-carving; adjacent is a clerk's pew and lectern with similar ornament, but the
panelled back-board and canopy are 18th-century additions.
Royal Arms: Wimborne Minster has a carved wood version of the Stuart royal arms  as borne until
1707. Wimborne St. Giles has the Hanoverian royal arms  also carved in wood. Several churches have
painted panels of no great merit; one at Cranborne displays the later arms of Queen Anne and is dated
Seating: The fine oak choir-stalls set up in Wimborne Minster in 1608 (Hutchins III, 208) were cut down
in 1866, but parts of the original work survive . Chalbury retains plain 18th-century panelled box-pews
in the nave and, in the chancel, a canopied manor-house pew with a balustrade . West Parley has box-pews of 1841.
Sundials: An interesting 17th-century sundial at Wimborne Minster, now on a pedestal beside the W.
tower, was formerly on the apex of the S. transept gable (Bodleian Lib., Gough Maps 6, f. 49). Gradations on
the vertical E., S. and W. faces of a rectangular stone pier receive shadows from metal rods held on brackets
at right-angles to the stonework; above is a cornice with strapwork cresting. As the cresting is typical of
the early 17th century, the date 1676 on the S. dial probably refers to some work of repair. At Horton, a
stone dial attached to the S. wall of the nave bears the date 1791 and an exhortation in Latin to 'take time
by the forelock'.
The double convent of St. Cuthburh at Wimborne Minster is represented by a fragment of coarse
mosaic pavement, possibly of the 8th century, in the nave of Wimborne Minster church.
The early foundation at Cranborne (Hutchins III, 381) is represented by the fragment of pre-conquest
carving described above (p. xxxvii), but no structural evidence of the cell is known. The Benedictine house
established at Cranborne in the 10th century, which became a priory of Tewkesbury Abbey from the 12th
century onwards, is represented by emblems of Abbot Parker of Tewkesbury (1398–1421) on a corbel
stone from a former tithe barn  and on the pulpit  in the parish church. Two early 17th-century
maps of Cranborne (C.P.M., supplement 18) show buildings and closes on the S. of the parish church; on
one of them, probably by John Norden, the words Priorie and Priory Orcharde are written. The buildings
were demolished in 1703.
The Benedictine priory at Horton may be represented by ancient walls incorporated in the parish church,
itself largely of the 18th century, and also by the substantial late mediaeval roofs of an adjacent house
'Abbey House', Witchampton, is a misnomer; there is no record of any monastic establishment in that
St. Margaret's Hospital, Pamphill (1) and (41–44), replacing a mediaeval leper hospital, has a chapel which
survives from the 13th century, but the dwellings are not older than the 16th century. At Wimborne St.
Giles a row of single-storeyed brick-built almshouses, established in 1624, stands close to the parish church
. Ten single-roomed dwellings are arranged five on each side of a two-storeyed common-room; an
eleventh dwelling above the arcaded porch of the common-room was perhaps for the person in charge. A
row of eight almshouses, ranged four on each side of a school-room, was built at Pamphill (3) in 1698 .
Courtenay's Almshouses, Wimborne Minster (13), now demolished, comprised a range of six two-storeyed
17th-century cottages, each with one room on each floor. Allen House, Wimborne Minster (51), recently
demolished, incorporated the 'handsome workhouse lately built', noted by Hutchins in the 18th century
(1st ed. II, 85).
The date 1666 inscribed on a stone bridge over the R. Allen (Horton (2)) is the year when the bridge was
repaired, but the date-stone itself may have been reset in subsequent alterations. An older bridge seen within
the present arches is perhaps identifiable with the original 'Stanbridge' or Pons Petreus of mediaeval documents (Dorset Procs., LIII (1931), 215). Wimborne Minster has two 17th-century bridges (4) and (5), the
latter dated 1636. Longham Bridge (Hampreston (4)) is mainly of 1792, but it probably incorporates some
part of the stone bridge built in 1728; before that the bridge had been of wood .
Cranborne Manor House [41–45], built early in the 13th century for King John's use while hunting in
Cranborne Chase, is one of the best-preserved early domestic buildings in England. Its survival is due to
Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury, who caused the ancient structure to be remodelled rather than rebuilt
when he acquired it at the beginning of the 17th century, an early example of architectural conservation.
The remains of another 13th-century manor house are found at Witchampton (2), but unlike Cranborne
this building has been disused for many years and its ruinous walls  are in danger of distintegration.
No 14th-century secular buildings are found in East Dorset and the 15th century is represented only by
small farmhouses at Cranborne (30) and perhaps at Pamphill (11).
The Manor House at Witchampton, now wrongly styled 'Abbey House', is a well-preserved 16th-century
building . If it be rightly assigned to the period 1505–21 its red brick walls, sprinkled with religious
and heraldic devices worked in blue bricks, are probably the earliest example of brickwork to survive in the
county; the distinction might, however, belong to a fragment of another 16th-century house  which
remains at Woodlands (3). The third early 16th-century house noted in East Dorset, Wimborne St. Giles
(21), has original walls partly of knapped flint with ashlar dressings and partly of timber framework.
The symmetrical façade of Edmondsham House, Edmondsham (4), bears the date 1589.
For the best example of early 17th-century domestic architecture in East Dorset we return to Cranborne
Manor House, where, c. 1605, new windows were cut in the walls of King John's hunting lodge, a S.E.
tower was built to balance that of the 13th century on the S.W., and elegant renaissance porches were
built on the N. and S. fronts of the mediaeval building. The interior was reconstructed at the same time,
with floors at levels different from the original. The early 17th-century E. and W. wings which were added
to the mediaeval house have gone, but the mid 17th-century reconstruction of the W. wing remains .
It was designed by Richard Ryder, subsequently Master Carpenter to the King (Colvin, 517); the windows
were remodelled during the 19th century.
East Dorset retains two important mid 17th-century country houses: the new building at St. Giles's
House , Wimborne St. Giles (4), started during the Commonwealth by Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper,
and Kingston Lacy, Pamphill (4), built soon after the Restoration for Sir Ralph Bankes by the architect Sir
Roger Pratt . In both buildings the 17th-century flavour has been obscured by later work; at St. Giles's
in the 18th century by Flitcroft and others (fn. 1) and at Kingston Lacy in the 19th century by Barry. Among the
lesser 17th-century houses of East Dorset, High Hall, Pamphill (7) and the Manor House, Pamphill (5) are
notable [29, 60].
Fairly well-preserved examples of smaller houses dating from the early years of the 17th century include
Lower Farm, Minchington  in the parish of Sixpenny Handley (9), and a town house  at Wimborne
Of early 18th-century houses the most distinguished is Cranborne Lodge . It was built at the turn of
the century by the Stillingfleets, local agents for the Cecils during much of the period when Cranborne
Manor House remained unoccupied. Another substantial house is Dean's Court , Wimborne Minster
(7), built in 1725 on the site of the mediaeval Deanery by Sir William Hanham, whose ancestor had acquired
the Manor of the Deanery after the Dissolution. The report that a mediaeval hall was still seen in 1868 beside
the 18th-century wing (Hutchins III, 232) may be due to the deceptive appearance of the 19th-century
structure; Hutchins himself makes no direct reference to it (1st ed., II, 77) and no mediaeval structure is seen
today. Abbey House, 'rebuilt in 1718 and enlarged and beautified' later in the 18th century (Hutchins, 1st
ed., II, 59) presents something of a puzzle since the structure now on the site (Horton (6)) is of mediaeval
origin, with an unpretentious brick façade of 1750 or thereabouts .
Crichel House, the most impressive building of its period in East Dorset, replaces an earlier house burnt
down in 1742; the architect of the new building was probably one of the Bastards of Blandford. In c. 1775,
after the property had passed by inheritance from the Napier family to the Sturts of Horton, the mid 18th-century structure was dwarfed by ranges of state rooms built on a scale to give it the 'appearance of the
mansion of a prince' (Hutchins III, 127); in fact it was occupied by the Prince of Wales during the
winter of 1797. The designer of these fine rooms has not been identified, but James Wyatt is a possibility;
anachronistic features may be attributable to re-use of mid 18th-century material, and perhaps also of material
from Vanbrugh's great house at Eastbury, demolished about 1775 (Dorset IV, 90).
Of later 18th and 19th-century houses, East Dorset has few important examples. At Boveridge, Cranborne
(20), erected in c. 1800 to the design of William Evans of Wimborne, the architect tried to solve a perennial
problem of design by placing the kitchens underground, thus achieving a house which could be viewed
with equal 'propriety' from every side; but during the second half of the century the plan was found
unpractical and ground-floor service rooms were added. Uddens House, Holt (3), a substantial building of
c. 1800 (Hutchins III, opp. 115), was demolished in 1955 after it had been recorded for the Inventory. In
1823 Jeffrey Wyatville built a town house  at Wimborne (49) for Edward Castleman the banker, who
later moved to Chettle House (Dorset IV, 11); it is now the civic headquarters. Barry's remodelling of
Kingston Lacy  is probably the most important architectural work of the first half of the 19th century
in East Dorset.
The Commission's system of grouping small 17th, 18th and 19th-century dwellings into classes based
on the arrangement and number of ground-floor rooms and the position of the fireplaces has been described
in earlier volumes (Dorset II, lxi–lxiv; III, lvii–lviii; IV, xxxv–xxxvi). By the same method the descriptions
of many 'vernacular' dwellings have been abridged in the present volume. Examples of the classes found
in East Dorset are shown on p. xlvi.
Ornamental Buildings: The earliest structures in East Dorset to be noted under this heading are the north
and south porches of Cranborne Manor House (Cranborne (4)). Dating from c. 1610 and neatly built in
fine Greensand ashlar to designs based on Italian forms, but with carved decorations of Flemish character,
they contrast delightfully with the mediaeval walls against which they are set [43, 45]. The rounded
crenellations of the S. porch include carved zodiacal signs of Libra and Virgo.
Classification of House Plans
Of c. 1700 is a gazebo with a domed roof , traditionally built as a place of study for the 'philosopher'
earl of Shaftesbury; it stands about a mile away from his residence, St. Giles's House. In 1748 the philosopher's son, the 4th earl, caused a castellated archway  to be built beside the artificial lake on the S.
of the house, and three years later he erected an artificial grotto (Wimborne St. Giles (6)) at the end of a
canal leading from the lake; presumably it was meant to give the impression of a spring supplying the
lake, as at Stourhead. At about the same time, in the near-by parish of Horton (7), Humphrey Sturt
astonished his neighbours with a lofty 'observatory' ; its empty and roofless shell still surprises the unprepared visitor.
Industrial Buildings: A 17th-century building, now a house, at Wimborne St. Giles (14) attracts notice
by the fact that whereas the exterior  is quite elaborate, having moulded stone window surrounds,
moulded brick copings and enriched chimneystacks, the interior was originally devoid of embellishment.
The original plan consisted simply of one very large room and one smaller room on each floor, the former
with open fireplaces at each end, the latter with one fireplace; the rooms are spanned by unmoulded beams
and the fireplace surrounds have no decoration. While the comparatively ornamental exterior may be
explained by the situation of the building in a village dominated by a rich and perhaps ostentatious landlord,
the plainness of the interior, together with a mill-race which once passed under the building, shows that its
purpose was industrial. Comparison with Harnham Mill, Salisbury (R.C.H.M., City of Salisbury (to appear
shortly); V.C.H., Wilts. vi, 46), a 15th-century building with many similar characteristics, suggests that
the building in Wimborne St. Giles may have been a paper-mill.
'Telegraph Cottage', Chalbury (4), now demolished, was an interesting relic of the early 19th-century
semaphore telegraph between London and Plymouth; the Inventory includes a photograph  taken
Fittings etc. in Secular Buildings
Ceilings and Plasterwork: The earliest and by far the most richly decorated ceiling in East Dorset, at
Kingston Lacy , is 16th-century Venetian work imported into Dorset at the beginning of the 19th
century. In contrast to its Italian splendour, the parlour of a small early 17th-century house in Wimborne
Minster (33) has a plainly decorated ceiling with moulded ribbing arranged in geometrical patterns; the
surrounding walls are embellished with a frieze of moulded scroll-work , interrupted at the window-head to give place to the exhortation in Lombardic capitals 'Al people refrayne from syn' . The next
example of plasterwork to survive in East Dorset is a fine ceiling of c. 1650 in one of the main rooms of
St. Giles's House, Wimborne St. Giles (4); typical of the period, it is comparable with contemporary
ceilings at Forde Abbey (Dorset I, Plates 190, 191) and with others, now destroyed, at Balmes House,
Hackney. Skilful plasterer's work of c. 1700 is found at Cranborne Lodge, Cranborne (5), where an upstairs
room has a classical entablature with a pulvinated frieze enriched with oak leaves ; recent cleaning has
revealed original polychrome decoration. The vestibule at Dean's Court, Wimborne Minster (7), has
plaster vaults with laurel-wreath enrichment, probably of 1725.
Henry Flitcroft's dining-room and music-room at St. Giles's House [75, 77] have good plaster enrichments of the period 1740–4. An outstanding example of the rococo style of the 1750s occurs in the ceiling
of the upstairs drawing-room at Cranborne Lodge, where delicate flower festoons and acanthus scroll-work
surround a centre panel with a spirited representation of Jove's eagle emerging from clouds and lightning,
all tinted and gilded ; this chef d'œuvre is closely paralleled in the drawing-room of Came House
(Winterborne Came (3), Dorset II, 384). At Crichel House (Moor Crichel (2)) the vestibule, which probably
originated as the staircase hall of the mid 18th-century house, has the ceiling handsomely enriched with
the arms of Napier. The rooms added to Crichel House in the 1770s have splendid neo-classical ceilings:
in the drawing-room a segmental barrel vault with delicate paintings in a 'Pompeian' style ; in the
stair hall a square dome; in the dining-room a coved ceiling with relief enrichment. The long billiards-room
over the portico has a coved ceiling of three bays, each bay with a small dome at the centre.
Chimney-pieces: The parlour of the Manor House, Witchampton (3), has an elaborately carved early 17th-century oak fireplace surround and overmantel, contemporary with the house, but not certainly in situ.
The chamber over the parlour has an original stone fireplace with a moulded four-centred head, continuous
jambs and shaped stops; rectangular stops interrupt the mouldings of the head. At Cranborne Manor House
the early 17th-century fireplaces have moulded stone surrounds with shallow 'Tudor' heads set in square
frames with modillion enrichment; in many rooms the stonework is framed by elaborate oak chimneypieces or overmantels; some are 16th-century work and must have been brought from elsewhere, but one
in the King's Chamber may well have been made when the house was remodelled early in the 17th century
. St. Giles's House has two chimneypieces of c. 1650. One in the N. drawing room is of polished stone
; the other, of carved wood simulating drapery , is in an upper room.
An interesting early 18th-century marble chimneypiece of high quality with accompanying carved wood
overmantel  was reset c. 1775 in the library of Crichel House; it may have been brought from Eastbury
(Dorset IV, 90). Different treatment of the same subject is seen in Flitcroft's dining-room at St. Giles's
House , a design which closely follows that of the chimneypiece of the Whistle-jacket room at Wentworth Woodhouse, also by Flitcroft. Other good chimneypieces of the period are found at High Hall
(Pamphill (7)) and in the S. hall at Cranborne Lodge (Cranborne (5)). Cranborne Lodge is the only house in
East Dorset to retain anything of the rococo style of the 1750s; the admirable ceiling noted above is matched
in the same upstairs drawing-room by a carved wood fireplace surround .
Doorways etc.: The late 16th-century front porch at Edmondsham House  has a well-proportioned
round-headed archway with panelled jambs, moulded imposts and a panelled archivolt with no keystone;
above is a carved shield-of-arms of Hussey. At Cranborne Manor House the early 17th-century N. and S.
porches were designed in the most up-to-date style of the period (above, p. xlv), but the stone doorways
which they sheltered, and others leading to the principal rooms inside the house, were given rather oldfashioned moulded four-centred heads, markedly arched in form, possibly in deference to the antiquity of
the house. A similar doorway is found in the so-called 'Priest's House', Wimborne Minster (33), no longer
in situ, but evidently the original main entrance, reset; it too is of the early 17th century. A stone doorway in the basement of the mid 17th-century part of St. Giles's House (Wimborne St. Giles (4)), with a
strongly moulded straight-sided 'four-centred' head under a label with returned stops and with continuous
jambs ending in moulded and broached bases, is certainly of the 16th century. No doubt it survives from
a building which was demolished to make way for the new house in 1650/1.
At Kingston Lacy (Pamphill (4)) the original main N. doorway designed by Sir Roger Pratt in 1663 has
gone and its place is taken by a large sashed window. The middle window of the S. front, on the other hand,
has an eared architrave with flanking brackets supporting a segmental pediment similar to that shown in
the 17th-century drawing supposed to be by Pratt .
Many 18th-century houses in East Dorset have dignified classical doorways, but none is of outstanding
merit. A pleasing early example with a heavily rusticated ashlar surround occurs at the centre of the S.E.
front of West Woodyates Manor House (Pentridge (2)). Another, at Dean's Court, Wimborne Minster
(7), has stone Ionic pilasters supporting a broken pediment with a cartouche-of-arms at the centre. Several
Wimborne houses have elegant Georgian door-hoods of carved wood.
Staircases: Cranborne Manor House retains the original stone vice of c. 1207; its only adornment is a
small hold-water moulding at the foot of the newel ; blocked original doorways at several levels seem
to have been square-headed and without mouldings. In the 13th century so modest a stair was thought
sufficient even for the king, but when the house was rebuilt, early in the 17th century, a spacious and
impressive oak staircase  was inserted in the S.W. tower, which appears previously to have had rooms
in two or three storeys. Between floors the continuous oak newel-posts of the 17th-century stairs have
the form of Doric columns; at the top they end in massive ball finials. Other stout oak staircases of 17th-century date are found at Edmondsham House, at Gussage House (Gussage All Saints (3)) and at the Manor
House, Pamphill (5). Sir Roger Pratt's fine house at Kingston Lacy (Pamphill (4)) now has a grand marble
stair by Barry, but woodwork reset in another part of the house  suggests that the stairs of 1663 had
carved balustrades with acanthus scroll-work peopled with birds and beasts, as in many Caroline houses.
The surviving fragments are of high quality.
The best 18th-century staircase in East Dorset is at Crichel House . In its present form and position
it is of c. 1775, but the style is of the first half of the century and it must be an adaptation of the stairs
installed, probably by the Bastards, after the fire of 1742. The oak steps have panelled ends and spandrels
with richly carved acanthus scroll-work; the balusters, three to a tread, have Tuscan columns alternately
fluted, twisted and plain; the newel posts have the form of Corinthian columns with the reversed volutes
often used by the Bastards (cf. Oswald, 32–5; also Dorset IV, 98); the handrail ends in the Dorset fist-scroll
(Dorset III, lxii) with acanthus enrichment. More modest wooden staircases of the same period are found at
High Hall, Pamphill (6) and in a house at Wimborne Minster (58).