Friday, 8 August 2014


Dorset has a varied coastline on the English Channel where Weymouth is one of the premier resorts. The town came into its own when George 111 took the first of many holidays here in 1789, entering a bathing machine to the strains of the National Anthem.

There is not much room in The  Smith’s  Arms  at Godmanstone , in fact the outside dimensions of the building are just 39’ 6” by 11’6”, and  warranting a place in the Guinness Book of Records, it is a claimant for the smallest pub in England title.

It was a blacksmith’s shop back in the 17th century when Charles 11 called in to have his horse shod.  Apparently the King asked for ale and when the blacksmith told him that he had no licence for ale, the King granted him one on the spot and it has been a pub ever since.



In the 1770’s, the Earl of Dorchester bought the village of  Milton  Abbas  together with the fine Abbey which had suffered as a result of the Dissolution.   With the exception of the Abbey church and nearby St Catherine’s chapel, the Earl demolished the lot and built himself a very fine house and park.   However, the Earl did also rebuild the village just one mile away and this ‘model village’ of thatched roofed cottages is still a sight to behold.   The Earl’s house is now a public school and the fine grounds remain.   






A very unusual grass staircase still gives access to St Catherine’s chapel, which, together with the Abbey church  is open to the public. 


An unusual incident occurred at the Abbey Church in 1603, when 5 years old John Tregonwell fell 100 feet from the roof.   John’s nurse had taken him up to  to admire the view.   As the boy reached out to grasp a wild rose growing on the parapet, he lost his balance and fell to the ground below.   The terrified nurse rushed down to the ground to find young John picking daisies on the lawn, completely unharmed.   It seems that his stiff Nanking petticoat as worn in those days, had acted as a parachute, floating him to the ground.
John lived to become High Sheriff of Dorset and when he died in 1680 at the age of 82, he was buried in the abbey.

          DURWESTON is a small rural village on the River Stour
near Blandford Forum.
Penalties for relatively minor offences were  harsh in 19th century.  The county of Dorset is rightly proud of the fine old bridges it possesses and a transportation tablet  can still be seen on several of them, notably on the graceful 15th century bridge over the River Stour at Dursweston.   It reads :

Any person wilfully injuring
Any part of this County Bridge
Will be guilty of Felony and
Upon conviction liable to be
Transported for life by the court.
7 & 8 Geo 4 C50S13 T.Fooks.



Hovis  is synonymous with brown bread.    Golden Hill in the ancient Dorset town of Shaftesbury, will long be associated with the T.V commercial for Hovis and a huge plastic Hovis loaf can be seen at the top of the hill.   The town was founded by King Alfred and King Canute died there in 1035.

In the 18th century Grosvenor Hotel in Shaftesbury is one of the finest pieces of carved furniture to be seen anywhere.  It is an enormous  Victorian  sideboard,  carved from a single block of oak in the 1860’s by Gerrard Robinson.  This fine piece depicts the events immortalised in ‘The Ballad of Chevy Chase,’ an ancient border song dealing with the rivalry between the English Earl Percy of Northumberland and the Scottish Earl Douglas.

A robin, perched on a plaque at the side of the altar in the church at Wimbourne-St-Giles, recalls a series of curious events.   The plaque reads :
Here while the respond to the arcade of AD 1887 was building, a robin nested.
Again during the building of a new arcade after the fire of 1908.”
Apparently the first family of robins nested near the altar during roof repairs in 1887.  Robins were sacred birds with the blood of Christ on their breasts and their arrival was a good omen.   When the fledglings had left the nest, the nest was put into a jar and built into the wall with an account of the event.    Amazingly 20 years later, when the church was badly damaged by fire, a pair of robins again nested in the same spot.  Once again the nest was built into the wall and it was then that the details of the first nest were revealed.


Some two miles of the B3082 on the approach to Wimborne Minster, is lined by 365 beech trees, forming a spectacular avenue.  These trees were planted in 1835 by the nearby Kingston Lacy Hall Estate (N.T) – one for each day of the year!

The little market town of Wimborne Minster gets its name from its fine twin towered collegiate church with architecture ranging from
the 12th to the 15th century. A very interesting  church.

One of the most eye catching features of this church is the Quarter Jack on the west tower clock. The figure of a grenadier strikes quarter hours
with a hammer.

There is an unusual sundial in the churchyard with three faces which together can show the time at any moment during the day.

Two great treasures of this church are a chained library and an astronomical clock thought to date from the early 14th century.

A custom which has survived at Wimborne Minster is that where the Verger walks round the Minster during the reading of the lessons at Matins and Evensong with a long wand – in order to keep the congregation awake!

Although the actual location of his tomb is not known, King Ethelred, the elder brother of Alfred the Great, was buried in the Minster in 871.
There are several fine tombs, not least that of Sir Edmund Uvedale who died in 1606.  His widow ‘in doleful duty erected this monument.’    On the tomb the reclining knight is probably a good likeness of Sir Edmund however, the figure has two left feet! which may be an error of restoration.


The most amazing tomb is that of Anthony Ettricke who was an eminent barrister in the town in the 17th century.   It is said that as he grew older, he became humerous, phlegmatic and credulous.’  Because he fell out with the inhabitants of the town, Ettricke made a solemn vow that he ‘would never be buried within the church or without it, neither below the ground nor above it.’   
However, he lived to regret his vow and managed to obtain permission to make a recess in the wall of the Minster for his coffin.   He was convinced that he would die in 1693 and had this date inscribed on a colourful black coffin, but in fact he died in 1703.   His coffin can still be seen in its recess in the Minster and the change of date is clear for all to see.

Bournemouth is the largest town in Dorset. Formerly in Hampshire, the town developed from a small seaside village in the early 19th century into the fine resort of today. With its miles of sandy beaches, wide open spaces and mild climate it is a popular all year round resort. 

In the churchyard of St Peter's Church is the Shelley tomb, burial place  of Mary Shelley (1797-1851), author of  the novel  Frankenstein.

On the western side of Bournemouth, Poole is situated on one of the largest natural harbours in the world.



Brownsea Island in the middle of the harbour is given over to a woodland nature reserve. It was here in 1907 that Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scout Movement.

A gravestone situated just outside the door of the church at Studland, a delightful seaside village to the south of Poole, tells, on one side, the remarkable story of Sgt William Lawrence, who saw active service with the 40th Regiment of Foot for some ten years.  He fought against the Spanish in South America in 1805 and then fought in most of Wellington’s battles in the Peninsular War.   He was severely wounded at the storming of Badajos, but recovered sufficiently to take part in the decisive battle of Vittoria.  He advanced with Wellington into France and fought in the ‘glorious battle’ of Waterloo.   He was awarded the silver medal and no less than ten clasps.  William ended up in Paris during the Allies occupation.

The other side of the stone simply reads:

Clotilde Lawrence nee A St Germain-en-Laye (France),
Decedee A Studland le 26 September 1853.

William had married Clotilde Clairet in France and brought her home to his native Studland where they kept a small inn.  When William died in 1869, his wish for a military funeral was respected and volunteers fired a farewell volley over the grave of this brave man.



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