An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1952.
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AN INVENTORY OF THE ANCIENT AND HISTORICAL MONUMENTS IN WEST DORSET
(The dimensions given in the Inventory are internal, unless otherwise stated. Monuments with titles printed in italics are covered by an introductory sentence to which reference should be made. The key-plans of those churches not illustrated by hatched plans are drawn to a uniform scale of 48 ft. to the inch. The change in the Commission's terms of reference when many of the blocks for the plans in this volume had been made has resulted in some inconsistency in hatching. Where variations from the accepted forms occur the dating sequences will appear if the plans are read in conjunction with the text.)
1 ABBOTSBURY (D.e.)
a(1) Parish Church of St. Nicholas (Plates 57, 58) stands to the S. of the village. The walls are of local rubble and ashlar with dressings of the same material; the roofs are covered with lead and slates. The N. wall of the North Aisle and the North Porch are mainly of early 14th-century date. Early in the 15th century the West Tower was built; the position of the tower may imply that at this time the nave was aisleless. At some later period in the same century a general rebuilding was begun at the E. end of the Chancel, with the addition of the North Chapel and a widening towards the S. This seems not to have been proceeded with and early in the 16th century the church was remodelled, the two arcades of the Nave and the South Aisle being built without regard to' the pre-existing E. window and tower-arch. The plaster ceiling of the chancel was inserted in 1638 and in 1751 the reredos was erected blocking the E. window. The church was restored in 1807–8 when the gallery was erected and again in about 1885 and in 1930.
Architectural Description—The Chancel and Nave (76¼ ft. by 14¼ ft.) are structurally undivided. The 15th-century E. window is well to the S. of the axial line and was blocked in the 18th century; it is of five cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with moulded label and defaced stops. The early 16th-century N. and S. arcades are of six bays with two-centred and moulded arches springing from hollow-chamfered piers, each with four attached shafts with moulded bases and carved foliage-capitals, some possibly modern; the first two capitals on the S. side have also the initials I.P. (ascribed to John Portesham, Abbot of Abbotsbury) and M.R.; there is also a beast on the second capital; the responds have attached half-piers. The early 16th-century clearstorey has, on each side, five windows, each of two four-centred lights in a square head; on the S. side is a panel referring to the restoration of 1807–8.
The North Chapel and Aisle (7¼ ft. wide) has a 15th-century E. window of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label and a head-stop. In the N. wall are four windows, the easternmost similar to that just described; the second and fourth windows are of the 14th century and of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head; the third window is of the 15th century and of three cinque-foiled lights in a two-centred head with moulded external reveals and label with returned stops; between the first two windows is the rood-loft staircase; the doorway has a four-centred head; immediately W. of the staircase is a blocked early 16th-century doorway with a four-centred head; it is set high in the external face of the wall; the 15th-century N. doorway has chamfered jambs and four-centred head. The embattled parapet has pinnacles standing on corbels carved with grotesque figures or heads of men and beasts, the bust of a man with toothache, a crouching man and a winged monster.
The South Aisle (8¾ ft. wide) is of early 16th-century date and has an E. window of three trefoiled ogee lights with vertical tracery in a three-centred head with moulded reveals and label. In the S. wall are six windows, similar to that in the E. wall; between the two easternmost windows is a 17th-century doorway with moulded jambs, three-centred head and label, and the date 1636; the S. doorway, now blocked, has chamfered jambs and a four-centred head. In the W. wall is a window similar to those in the S. wall.
The West Tower (12 ft. square) is of c. 1400 and of three stages with an embattled parapet and carved bosses on the parapet string-course. The tower arch is moulded and two-centred and the responds are shafted; the reveals and soffit have two ranges of trefoil-headed panels; the N. respond is largely covered by the N. arcade of the nave. The W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label with head-stops; the W. doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred head; above the window, externally, is a niche with side-buttresses and damaged head; it contains a carving of the Trinity. In the S. wall of the second stage is a square-headed window. The bell-chamber has, in the E., N. and W. walls, a window of two trefoiled lights in a two-centred head with a label and defaced stops.
The Roof of the chancel has a plaster ceiling (Plate 59) of barrel-form erected in 1638 by Sir John Strangways; it is of three bays each divided into four panels by moulded ribs; in the angles are conventional leaves, leaves with human faces and tortoises; in the main panels are seraphs with stars and angels holding scrolls inscribed "Goodwill towards men and on earth peace"; in the lower panels are strapwork cartouches of the alliances of the Strangways family—(a) Sir Gyles Strangways and Joan Wadham; (b) Henry Strangways and Margaret Manners; (c) Gyles Strangways and Joan Mordant; (d) John Strangways and Dorothy Thynne; (e) Sir John Strangways and Grace Trenchard with the date 1638; (f) Gyles Strangways and Susanna Edwards; on the W. face of this ceiling below the higher ceiling of the nave, are six cartouches of Strangways alliances, with Trenchard, Stafford, Edwards, Arundell, Orrel (?) and Talboys. The early 16th-century roofs of the aisles are of pent-type divided into panels by moulded purlins and principals; the roof of the S. aisle was restored in 1693.
Fittings—Bells: six; 1st, 2nd and 3rd by Thomas Bilbie, 1773; 4th by William Knight, 1724; 5th by Robert Austen, 1636; 6th by T. Purdue, 1666. Brackets: On N.E. respond of arcade, hollow-chamfered shelf, early 16th-century. In N. aisle—on E. wall, moulded semi-octagonal, with half-angel holding shield, 15th-century. In S. aisle—E. end of S. wall, semi-octagonal, moulded and carved with paterae, early 16th-century. Brasses: In S. aisle—on S. wall, (1) to Elizabeth Maurice, daughter of Rev. James Harris, 1796; (2) to Rev. James Harris, 1773, with winged hour-glasses and skulls; (3) to Grace Harris, window of Rev. James Harris, 1811, shield-shaped. Candelabrum (Plate 11): In nave—of brass with two tiers of eight branches, 18th-century. Chest: of cast iron with names of churchwardens and overseers, dated 1835. Churchyard Cross: S.W. of S. aisle, square to octagonal base with socket, mediaeval. Coffins: In churchyard—parts of three stone coffins with shaped heads; also small lid with plain raised cross. Font: Octagonal bowl, each face with two trefoiled ogee-headed panels, moulded under edge, plain stem, 15th-century, base modern. Glass: In N. chapel—in E. and N. windows, in the tracery heads, symbols and shields of-arms in ruby, brown, yellow and white, 18th-century. In N. aisle—in second window, in the tracery IHS, foliage and the Last Supper, 18th-century. In S. aisle— in second window, upper part of a female saint (Plate 16), probably the Virgin, fragments of borders and quarries with grisaille work, late 15th and early 16th-century; in the sixth window, a double fleur-delis, 15th-century; the S. windows also contain miscellaneous pieces of 18th-century glass mostly in the tracery; in W. window, Christ with a banner with half-length figure below, much faded, 18th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs.Monuments: In N. aisle—on N. wall, (1) to Maria, Countess Dowager of Ilchester, daughter of William Digby, Dean of Durham, and widow of Henry Thomas, Earl of Ilchester, 1842, stone wall-monument with inscription panel in elaborate frame of 15th-century style with crested top, flanking pinnacles and achievement-of-arms below. In S. aisle —on S. wall, (2) to Hon. Giles Digby Robert FoxStrangways, third son of Henry Thomas, Earl of Ilchester, 1827, white marble wall-tablet by Reeves and Son of Bath; (3) to John Jennings, 1836, and later inscription to Anne his wife, I860, white marble walltablet by Hellyer of Weymouth. In porch—(4) Purbeck marble slab (Plate 176) carved in relief with figure of abbot with chasuble and maniple, crozier in right hand, book in left, c.1200, lower part modern repair. On tower—on exterior of S. wall, (5) to Stephen Lock, 1774, and Elizabeth his wife, 1767, stone tablet. Floor-slabs: In tower—(1) to William Chilcot, 1691, and [Mary, his wife, 1669–70]. In churchyard—N.W. of church, (2) to Henry Bever (?), 1670; (3) fragment with the name German, 16..; S. of S. aisle, (4) to ... Richards, 1673. Piscina: In S. aisle—in E. wall, rectangular recess with round and perhaps quatre-foiled drains cut back, mediaeval. Plate: Includes a silver-gilt set of a cup and two patens by Daniel Piers, and a flagon by Paul Lamerie, all of 1748, given by Mrs. Strangways-Horner and engraved with her arms, and a bread-knife with blade marked Gillo in embossed sheath given by her in 1755. Pulpit (Plate 123): of oak, octagonal, with enriched pilasters and brackets at angles, enriched base-panels and frieze, two ranges of enriched arched panels in each face; sounding-board with enriched entablature and brackets at angles, on soffit, painted shield-of-arms of Egioke (?) impaling Denham; standard with three ranges of enriched arched panels, early 17th-century, with modern work. Recess: In N. aisle—in N. wall, small rectangular recess with stepped shelf. Reredos (Plate 66): of painted wood and plaster, with panelled centre-piece and Corinthian side-columns supporting an enriched entablature and pediment, given by Susannah Strangways-Horner in 1751. Royal Arms: on front of W. gallery, Hanoverian 1714–1800, carved in wood and coloured, mounted on panel with scroll border. Miscellanea: In tower—over W. window, formerly above the tower-arch, large plaster panel moulded in relief with achievement of quartered arms of Sir John Strangways, c. 1638 (Plate 56). In N. porch—panelled oak post, 15th-century; over N. doorway, panel with weathered carving of the Crucifixion, 15th-century. In churchyard—numerous architectural fragments from the abbey, 12th to 14th-century.
a(2) St. Catherine's Chapel (Plate 60) stands on a hill about 700 yards S.W. of the church. The walls are of local rubble and ashlar with dressings of the same material; the roof is covered with stone slabs. It was built by the Abbey of Abbotsbury late in the 14th century and is substantially unaltered. It was repaired in 1742 and again late in the last century; it is now in the charge of the Ministry of Works.
Architectural Description—The Chapel (41¾ ft. by 14½ ft.) is a heavily buttressed building with a projecting stair-turret on the N.W. angle and N. and S. porches. The buttresses are of three stages and finished with square embattled pedestals; the high parapet is pierced by three segmental-headed openings in each bay of the side walls through which the roof is continued on to the moulded eaves-cornice. The E. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a label with returned stops. In the second bay of the N. wall is a window similar to but smaller than the E. window and of two lights, but the mullion and much of the tracery is missing; the internal recess is carried down to the floor and the rear-arch is moulded; the corresponding window in the S. wall was probably similar but now has much modern repair. The N. and S. doorways both have jambs and two-centred arch of two chamfered orders. In the W. wall is a window similar to those in the side walls and lacking its mullion and tracery. The stair-turret rising above the main parapet is octagonal externally and finished with a projecting parapet; it gave access to the roof but most of the steps have been destroyed. The chapel has a pointed barrel-vault (Plate 61) of stone, springing from moulded cornices and divided into eight main bays by moulded ribs; each bay has two ranges of three panels with cinque-foiled heads; the bosses are carved with foliage, two figure-subjects, a beast and a man's head.
The North Porch has a trefoiled apex-stone to the gable. The two-centred outer archway is of two continuous orders, the outer chamfered and the inner moulded. The pointed barrel-vault of stone has sunk-chamfered ribs.
Fittings—Brackets: On E. wall, two square moulded brackets; higher up are two more moulded brackets, that on the S. coupled. Locker: In S. wall, small square recess, probably a locker. Piscina: In S. wall, recess with defaced trefoiled ogee head and cinque-foiled drain in the form of a leaf.
a(3) Abbotsbury Abbey, remains of church, out-buildings, gatehouses, barn, pigeonhouse, etc., stood mostly to the S. of the church (1). The surviving walls are of local rubble with ashlar and dressings of the same materials. The Abbey was founded by Orc in the time of Edward the Confessor for Benedictine monks. No remains seem to have survived of any building of this period, but there are remains of late 12th-century carved decoration and of architectural features of the 13th century built into walls on the site. The N.E. outbuilding is partly of early 14th-century date and the E. outbuilding was built later in the same century. The Gatehouses are also of the 14th century and the Great Barn of c. 1400. The surviving remains of the church appear to be part of a 15th-century reconstruction of the N. aisle of the nave. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539 and the site was bought by Sir Giles Strangways in 1543, who built or adapted a house out of part of the monastic buildings. This was besieged and largely destroyed in 1644 by the Parliamentary party. Some excavations were made in 1871 and subsequently on part of the site of the church which at that time lay immediately to the S. of the parish churchyard; the churchyard has now been extended over most of the site of the nave.
Architectural Description—The Abbey Church stood to the S. of the parish church. The surviving fragment, parallel to and 22 ft. to the S. of the parish church, stands a few inches above ground-level and consists of one bay of the N. wall (probably of the N. nave aisle) with moulded and shafted responds and internal wall or window-recesses; it appears to date from the 15th century and is only 10½ ft. wide from centre to centre of the responds. The wall was traced a considerable distance to the W. in 1871 and the line is marked by a row of loose architectural fragments in the existing churchyard. It has been supposed that the site of the transept was a short distance to the E. of the surviving fragment and the best evidence of this was the discovery of a thick wall running N. and S. on the supposed line of the E. wall of the S. transept. Remains of the S. wall of the nave were also found, giving an internal width of the W. arm of some 54 ft.; within the area of the nave several patches of tile pavement and two or more stone coffins have been found from time to time. Remains, considered to be those of the presbytery, were found extending to the E. of the supposed site of the crossing, but the presbytery cannot have been of any great length owing to the existence of the N.E. outbuilding which stands some 60 ft. to the E. of the supposed S. transept. The line of the S. and W. walls of the nave may be indicated by pronounced drops in the level of the modern churchyard.
The Cloister must have stood on the nearly level platform to the S. of the church, but no traces survive of it and its surrounding buildings except for the E. gable of a building a few feet to the E. of the supposed line of the E. range. This gable, called the Pynion End, is of c. 1400 and is ashlar-faced; it formed the E. end of a narrow building and has diagonal buttresses and a small central buttress. On the inside face is a fireplace-recess with a moulded segmental head. In the stump of the S. wall are remains of a doorway, perhaps to an undercroft. The gable was restored in 1846. It is now in the charge of the Ministry of Works.
To the E. of the site of the main block of buildings are two subsidiary buildings of uncertain attribution. The N.E. Building, already mentioned, now consists of a rectangular block with a square projecting bay on the N. part of the E. end. The whole of the N. wall appears to be of the 14th century together with the N.E. angle. In this N. wall are a doorway and two windows; the doorway, near the E. end, has a two-centred head rising only about 2 ft. above the external ground-level; the eastern window is of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head; the western window rises the full height of the wall and is of two trefoiled ogee lights with a cusped circle in a two-centred head with a label; further W. is a small rectangular light of much later date. On the internal face of the wall, flanking the eastern window, are remains of two moulded corbels indicating that this part of the building was of two storeys; the intermediate floor, however, could not have continued W. owing to the presence of the tall western window. The E. wall of the square projecting bay has a 15th-century window of four trefoiled and transomed lights in a square head; it is perhaps reset; at the E. end of the bay are two stone brackets and in the S. wall is a 14th-century piscina with trefoiled ogee head and foiled drain. In the upper floor of the bay there is a second 14th-century piscina with a round drain and moulded reveals. The main E. wall of the building, S. of the bay, has a 14th-century window of one trefoiled ogee light in a square head and a head-corbel of the same period. The S. and W. walls of the building have been rebuilt, the former incorporates a late 16th or early 17th-century window.
The E. Outbuilding, about 60 ft. S.E. of that just described, formed an L-shaped block of which the range running E. and W. is still roofed and in use. It was of two storeys, dates from the second half of the 14th century and formerly extended further to the W. The E. wall is ashlar-faced and has two square-headed lights to the lower floor; the upper floor has a single late 14th-century window of two trefoiled lights in a square head with a transom. The N. wall has no old features except a stone lintel in the wall above the later inserted doorway. The S. wall, W. of the S. wing, is ashlar-faced and has, on the lower floor, a skewed loop-light and a large 14th-century doorway with a two-centred head of two moulded orders and now blocked; further W. are some altered windows. The E. part of this wall was formerly covered by the S. wing and contains a large hatch or opening not carried down to the ground, with a square head of three chamfered orders; further W. is a doorway with a two-centred head. Inside the building there is an offset at the upper floor level and vertical chases in the S. wall probably for the wall-posts of the original roof. In the rebuilt W. wall is a small fireplace. The S. wing was of the same date but only the toothing of the E. wall remains. The W. wall is still standing to about 14 ft. high and is ashlar-faced. The ground floor has at the N. end a single square-headed light and S. of it a window of two trefoiled lights in a square head; further S. again is a doorway with a segmental-pointed head; beyond this are three ranges each of two single-light windows, set above one another; all have square heads except the southern on the ground floor, which has a trefoiled head.
The Great Barn (272 ft. by 31 ft.) stands on the N. slope of a hill on the S. side of the site about 200 yards S. of the parish church. It is faced with rough ashlar and originally had a roof of stone slates; the S.W. part, still in use, is now thatched; the N.E. part is ruined. The building (Plates 63, 64) is of twenty-three bays, with two projecting entrances on the southern and probably two porches, of which one survives, on the northern face. It was built probably c. 1400. The buttresses of the side-walls are of two stages and probably finished with square embattled pedestals above the parapet, but of these only the pedestals at the W. end survive. The moulded parapet has mostly gone but the mouldings are continued across the W. gable-end and there is a series of water-spouts. Alternate bays of the S. wall have narrow loop-lights and there are two loop-lights in each end wall. The projecting entrances on the S. side had formerly four-centred and chamfered openings but the eastern has been blocked and the western partly destroyed and altered. The N. face had presumably two porches and three intermediate doorways, but the wall of the sixth to the eleventh bay has been destroyed; the middle doorway retains its four-centred head but the other two have been blocked and altered; the surviving porch has diagonal buttresses and an outer archway with jambs and four-centred arch of two chamfered orders; above it the parapet-mouldings are carried across and in the gable is a window with a two-centred head and label but lacking its mullion; the gable has a gable-cross. In the W. wall is a doorway of which one jamb is original. The porch had a stone vault of which the chamfered wall-ribs, springers and moulded corbels remain; the upper floor was approached by a turret-staircase in the eastern angle. The W. gable-end of the barn has four small loop-lights above the parapet-moulding and the central buttress is carried up and finished with a triangular pinnacle with a shallow trefoil-headed niche in each face. The eastern gable has been destroyed. The existing roof of the western part of the barn is probably of the 17th century and is of trussed-rafter type with small hammer-beams at the plate-level; the roof of the upper storey of the porch is of trussed-rafter type with curved braces. Within a modern outbuilding, N. of the barn, is a stretch of walling with a deep plinth, probably mediæval.
The Pigeon House, E. of the barn, is a gabled rectangular building of uncertain date and in any case much altered in the 17th or 18th century. The interior is divided by a cross-wall and is fitted with nests.
The Precinct of the abbey was entered by an Outer and Inner Gatehouse, the former to the W. of the site of the abbey-church and the latter some 80 yards further S. The Outer Gatehouse stood across the road but is now reduced to fragments on both sides (Plate 62). It is perhaps of the 14th century. Of the outer archway the W. jamb and springing of the main segmental arch survive; within it is the springer of the arch of the small side doorway, the head of which was two-centred; the foundation of the opposite respond of the main arch survives on the E. side of the roadway. The N. wall extends W. of this opening for about 17ft. and terminates in a diagonal buttress. The inner archway of the gatehouse is represented by the lower part of its E. chamfered jamb, the interval between the two arches being about 8½ ft.
The Inner Gatehouse (Plate 62) stands on the W. side of the roadway and is now adapted as a house and a 17th century wing now blocks the W. archway. It appears to be of the 14th century and is a rectangular building gabled to the N. and S. The gatehouse itself occupied the S. part with the porter's lodge to the N. The S. wall has three buttresses, the angle ones of two stages and the middle buttress carried up higher. The W. face was formerly divided into two bays by buttresses; in the S. bay is a wide archway with the springers of a chamfered segmental arch; it is now blocked and covered by the added wing. The E. face has a main and subsidiary doorway both with chamfered jambs and four-centred head and the larger one now blocked; further N. are remains of a mediæval doorway, enlarged and altered. On the first floor are two windows, one original and of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head with a label; the other has a four-centred head and is now blocked. The position of this gatehouse is unusual, the face with the main and subsidiary entrances being towards the abbey-buildings. The Precinct Wall of the abbey is perhaps represented by two stretches on the E. and W. sides of the site. The former runs N. and S. about 80 yards E. of the E. outbuilding; it is partly built of ashlar. The western stretch is represented by a substantial rubble wall on the E. side of Chapel Lane and Rope Walk; this wall returns eastwards at the N. end of the large meadow (Broad Garden) forming the W. part of the site. Within this meadow is a berm perhaps representing a former road or trackway. The S. boundary of the precinct is no doubt represented by a bank and ditch extending S. from the E. wall mentioned above and returning W. to the S. of the great barn. Across the S.W. angle of the site is a bank probably representing a former dam. Various other banks to the E. and S.E. of the village and site no doubt represent monastic enclosures, and there are fishponds in Odden's Wood.
Fragments of mediæval carved and moulded stones are to be found in the churchyard, the abbey-house and in various buildings in the village. The late 12th-century carved stones (Plate 8) in the abbey-house include a corbel carved with a zodiacal crab, a small seated figure, conventionalised flowers and a capital with a man's head, all carved with considerable delicacy; the elaborate shafted base in the N. wall of the churchyard should also be noted. Remains of the slab with indents of the de Luda brass, probably formerly in the abbey, are now in the churches at Askerswell and Whitchurch Canonicorum.
The Swannery, dating from the Middle Ages (first mentioned in 1393), is an enclosed area adjacent to the brackish lagoon ¾ m. S. of the village. In it are a roughly square pond at any rate partly artificial and a duck-decoy, now with three pipes, first mentioned in 1655–6.
Immediately N. of the Swannery are a number of parallel banks about 48 ft. from centre to centre with cross-banks forming a series of long rectangular basins, probably irrigation works of late 18th-century date.
a(4) The Abbey House, 50 yards S.S.E. of the church is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of rubble and ashlar and the roofs are of stone slates and slates. It was built in the 17th century but has 18th-century additions on the E. and W. Two original windows remain in the N. wall. (See Monument (3) for the carved stones.) About 80 yards W. of the house is a 17th-century archway across the roadway; it has chamfered jambs and segmental arch.
a(5) The Old Manor House, 50 yards N.W. of the church, is of two storeys with cellars and attics; the walls are of rubble and ashlar and the roofs are covered with stone slates and slates. The front block and the N.W. wing were built late in the 16th century; the middle part of the house was built a little later and the S.W. wing was added in the 17th century. The house retains a number of 16th and 17th-century stone-mullioned windows of one to five lights. The front (Plate 39) has a two-storeyed gabled porch with the original doorway replaced by a window. The S.W. wing retains two 17th-century doorways. Inside the building there are two 18th-century staircases and some panelling of the same period. There are three original stone fireplaces with four-centred heads. The S.W. wing has a roof of collar-beam type, ceiled below the collars. The external staircase leading to the garden is of stone and of mid 17th-century date; the landing is semi-circular and has panelled pedestals and balusters; the pedestals have draped festoons and the balusters have foliage swags; the staircase was formerly at Kingston Russell. The S. wall of the adjoining house, the vicarage, is mediæval and contains a 14th-century window.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys. The walls are of rubble and the roofs are thatched or covered with modern materials. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams and original fireplaces.
a(23) Range of seven tenements, on the N. side of the street 90 yards N.N.E. of the church, were built at different times late in the 17th century. The third tenement has had the openings renewed and the front plastered.
b(28) East Elworth Farm, house 380 yards E. of (26), was originally two buildings. The S. and E. fronts have original stone-mullioned windows and doorways with four-centred heads. Inside the N. building is a muntin and plank partition. The outbuilding, N.E. of the house, is probably of the same period.
a(31) Abbotsbury Castle, hill-fort on Wears Hill (700 ft. above O.D.) 1½ m. N.W. of the church and partly in Puncknowle parish, has an internal area of 4½ acres and a total area of about 10 acres. The work occupies part of the top of a ridge, the enclosure being roughly triangular. The N., S. and E. sides, on which there is a steep scarp to the hill-side, are defended by two ramparts with a medial ditch following the natural contours. A certain amount of the inner scarp of the outer rampart has disappeared leaving merely a ledge in place of the ditch; this may be due to either a slip or an enlargement of the inner rampart. The inner scarp of the inner rampart is slight for much of its length.
At the S.E. end the defences consist of four ramparts, of which the innermost, now of slight elevation, appears to mark the original end of a single-ditched camp of the type associated especially with Iron Age A. This early rampart was superseded by a new bank, raised outside and largely obliterating the early ditch, and supplemented by two new and formidable ditches with outer marginal mounds. The addition forms a complex characteristic of Iron Age B, although whether these added features are themselves all of the same date can only be proved by excavation. They are associated apparently with a recutting of the main ditch of the camp, the addition or emphasis of its outer bank, and its extension into the new works at the S.E. end.
At the W. end there also appears to have been an enlargement of the defences, but here the most notable addition is that of a small internal squarish enclosure of slight elevation, with a ditch cutting through the main ramparts of the camp. It has been conjectured to represent a Roman signal-post, but there is no evidence. Immediately N. of this point a modern pathway enters the camp, but the opening near the middle of the N.W. rampart may be an original postern. There would appear to have been only one original main entrance, along the N.E. side at the S.E. end, where the (extended) main rampart forms an elbow to flank the approach.
Within the enclosure is a mound of 40 ft. diam. and 5 ft. high, and with traces of a surrounding ditch. There has been some disturbance at the top. To the E. and N.E. of this mound are traces of a number of huthollows, which are, with one exception, all about 20 ft. in diam. and surrounded by slight banks. The exception is about 15 ft. in diam. Loose stones on the surface may indicate former walling.
a and b(32) Barrows, on or near the ridgeway running along Wears Hill and White Hill on the N. side of the parish, form three groups. The first group consists of seven barrows with a possible outlier to the S. The most westerly (a), bowl barrow, ¼ m. E.S.E. of Abbotsbury Castle, is 31 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high with traces of a ditch; (b), 40 yards to the N.W., is shown on the O.S. but is not now visible; (c), 27 yards S.E. of (a), is 15 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high; (d), bowl barrow, 120 yards E. of (a), is 42 ft. in diam. and 5 ft. high; the middle has been disturbed; (e), 10 yards N. of (d), is 12 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high; the middle has been disturbed; (f), 43 yards E. of (d), is 12 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high; (g), 17 yards N.E. of (f), is nearly obliterated but was about 30 to 40 ft. in diam. The outlier (h) is 280 yards S.S.W. of (a) and is marked on the O.S. but is perhaps a natural mound; it is 86 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high. The second group consists of three barrows with an outlier to the W. The outlier (a), bowl barrow, 1,020 yards E. of Abbotsbury Castle, is 42 ft. in diam. and 4½ ft. high and has been disturbed in the middle; (b), bowl barrow, 3 2 5 yards E. of (a), is 49 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high; (c), bowl barrow, 40 yards E. of (b), is 39 ft. in diam. and 2½ ft. high and has been much disturbed; (d), bowl barrow, 50 yards E.N.E. of (c), is 44 ft. in diam. and 4½ ft. high with traces of a ditch. The third group consists of six barrows; (a), nearly 1¼ m. E. of Abbotsbury Castle, is 45 ft. in diam. and 7 ft. high; (b), probably a barrow, 22 yards E. of (a), is 20 ft. in diam. and 1½ ft. high; (c), bowl barrow, 150 yards N.E. of (b), is 42 ft. in diam. and 3 ft. high; (d), 65 yards N.N.E. of (c), is 27 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high; (e), 220 yards N. of (a), is 25 ft. in diam. and 6 in. high; (f), 60 yards W. of (e), is 38 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high.
a(33) Dyke on Wears Hill, ¾ m. N.N.W. of the church, is nearly 300 yards long, aligned approximately N. and S., cutting across the ridge. The bank is about 2 ft. high with a ditch on the W. 1½ ft. deep, overall width 23 ft. The S. end curves slightly to the E., the rest is straight.