An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.
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32 MELCOMBE HORSEY (7702)
Melcombe Horsey, with an area of just over 2,000 acres, is roughly L-shaped and comprises two distinct parts. The larger part, forming the foot of the L, is a basin floored with Gault and Greensand, ringed by Chalk hills, and drained by the Devil's Brook to the E. and the Cheselbourne to the S.W. The smaller part, to the N., lies beyond the Chalk scarp on Gault and Kimmeridge Clay; it has always been thickly wooded and was a mediaeval Deer Park. (fn. 1) The S. part of the parish originally contained two separate villages; Bingham's Melcombe to the E. and Higher Melcombe or Melcombe Horsey in the centre. Today, both villages are almost deserted; of the first there remain the church, the manorhouse and the rectory; of the second there remain only the manor-house and a 17th-century chapel of ease.
The parish is unusually rich in monuments. The Iron Age hill-fort on Nettlecombe Tout, together with the settlement, dykes and 'Celtic' fields on Bowden's Hill, form part of a remarkable complex of earthworks on the high ground surrounding Lyscombe Bottom. The parish church is of the 14th and 15th centuries. Both manor-houses are of considerable interest and that of Bingham's Melcombe is renowned as one of the most beautiful houses in the county.
(1) The Parish Church of St. Andrew (Plate 5) stands in the S.E. corner of the parish. The walls are mainly of flint and rubble with dressings of Ham Hill and local limestone; the upper stage of the tower is partly of ashlar; the roofs are tiled, stone-slated and lead-covered. The Chancel, the Nave, the Bingham Chapel, the Horsey Chapel, the South Porch and the lower stage of the West Tower are of mid 14th-century origin. The upper stage of the tower is of the first half of the 15th century. In the second half of the 15th century the Horsey Chapel was extensively rebuilt and the S. porch was incorporated with it, one roof covering both; the S. window of the nave is also of this period. In 1844 the E. wall of the chancel was entirely renewed and the chancel arch was rebuilt.
The church is pleasantly situated in the park of Bingham's Melcombe House and is of considerable architectural interest. Some surviving fragments of 14th and 15th-century glass are notable, and an oak screen of 1619 is interesting for comparison with the more elaborate screen that was provided by the same benefactor at Iwerne Courtney (p. 126).
Architectural Description—The Chancel (14½ ft. square) has a 19th-century E. window of three ogee-headed lights with net tracery in a two-centred head. In the N. wall is a mid 14th-century square-headed window of two trefoil ogee-headed lights with pierced and cusped spandrels and a flat rear-arch. The S. wall has a similar window with a chamfered rear-arch that is flat in the centre and two-centred at the shoulders. The 19th-century chancel arch is two-centred, with narrow chamfers; the jambs are continuous and pieces of window mullion are reused as imposts.
The Nave (43 ft. by 15 ft.) has, near the E. end of the N. wall, an archway of the mid 14th century, opening into the Bingham Chapel; it is two-centred and of two chamfered orders dying into chamfered responds. Above the arch is a square-headed rood-loft doorway, now blocked. The N. doorway, now blocked, is of the late 15th century and has a chamfered segmental-pointed head and a four-centred rear-arch. Adjacent is a square-headed window similar to that on the N. side of the chancel but of three lights; it has a square label with mutilated stops and a rear-arch with a raised centre. On the S. side of the nave, at the E. end, is a two-centred archway to the Horsey Chapel (Plate 152); it is of two chamfered orders dying into flat responds and appears to be of 14th-century origin but altered, rebuilt and heightened in the 15th century. The 14th-century S. doorway has a chamfered four-centred head, continuous jambs and a chamfered segmental-pointed rear-arch. Further W. is a late 15th-century square-headed casement-moulded window of three cinquefoil-headed lights under four small tracery lights; the square label has stops decorated with the initials I.C. interlaced, and R.
The Bingham Chapel has in its E. wall a two-light window similar to that in the S. wall of the chancel. Between the S. jamb of the E. window and the E. respond of the archway from the nave is the 15th-century doorway to the rood vice, now blocked; it has a rebated segmental-pointed head and continuous jambs. The window in the N. wall is uniform with that to the E. The lead-covered roof is masked by a 15th-century parapet with a moulded string-course from which, on the N., project two carved gargoyles.
The Horsey Chapel has a 15th-century E. window of three cinquefoil-headed lights with moulded jambs and mullions, and vertical tracery in a two-centred head. The rear-arch is two-centred and moulded, with continuous jambs; the restored hood-mould retains one original stop depicting a grotesque human head. The E. gable has a square finial with a fleur-de-lis on each face. At the S.E. corner is a 15th-century diagonal buttress of two weathered stages. In the lower part of the S. wall the original 14th-century masonry is distinguished by its coarser texture from the masonry of the 15th-century upper part. Above, the S. wall has a three-light 15th-century window with a shallow triangular head and a hollow-chamfered external surround; the straight-sided hood-mould has original male and female head-stops (Plate 18) of high quality; the opening is casement-moulded internally, with a moulded surround. The three lights are uniform with those of the E. window and above them are simple vertical tracery lights. The South Porch is of 14th-century origin and integral with the Horsey Chapel; it has a segmental-pointed archway of two chamfered orders. The upper part of the porch is of the 15th century and the W. gable is uniform with that at the E. end of the chapel.
The West Tower is of two stages. At the base is a hollow-chamfered plinth; the stages are separated by a moulded string-course and at the top, above a hollow-chamfered string-course, is an embattled parapet with a weathered coping. A carved gargoyle projects from the parapet string-course on the N. side. The lower stage has buttresses of three weathered stages set diagonally at the N.W. and S.W. corners and square-set at the S.E. corner. The vice, at the N.E. corner, has a pyramidal weathered stone roof slightly higher than the main parapet, and a square-set N. buttress corresponding with the two lower stages of the tower buttresses. The 14th-century tower arch is of two chamfered orders; the inner order is two-centred and dies into the jambs, the outer order is continuous. The vice doorway has a hollow-chamfered segmental-pointed head, continuous jambs and shaped stops. The W. window is two-centred, with three trefoil ogee-headed lights under net tracery; it is of the 14th century. In the second stage, each side of the tower has a two-centred 15th-century belfry window of two lights, with chamfered jambs and trefoiled heads under a quatrefoil tracery light; the moulded labels have square stops. The lights are closed with stone slabs with quatrefoil perforations.
Fittings—Bells: two; tenor inscribed 'O beata Trinitas' in elaborate Lombardic letters each with crown, with wreath and cross stops; 2nd inscribed 'Regina Celi letare all'a all'a' in blackletter with stops similar to tenor; both bells c. 1500. Bracket: In Horsey Chapel, on S. wall, half-octagon with hollow-chamfered under-edge, late 15th century. Chair: of oak, with turned front legs, moulded and carved rails, panelled back and shaped armrests, mid 17th century. Coffin-lid: In churchyard, immediately W. of tower, tapering, with hollow-chamfered under-edge, c. 1300. Coffin-stools: two, of oak, with turned legs and beaded tops, late 18th century. Communion Rails: of oak, with turned balusters and moulded rails, 17th century. Communion Tables: In chancel, with turned legs and moulded rails, 17th century; in Horsey Chapel, with turned legs, enriched rails and plain stretchers, 17th century. Font: circular Purbeck stone bowl with slightly tapering sides, c. 1200, on modern base; bowl recently transfered from Higher Melcombe (3). Former font of 1751 now at Swanage, see Dorset II, 292. Glass: In N. window of nave, in apex of lights, fragments of canopies in situ, 14th century; reset in same window, two roundels with doves and scrolls, two quarries with rudder device and two with rebuses of Abbot William Middleton of Milton Abbey, all late 15th century. In Bingham Chapel in E. window, fragments of canopy in situ; reset below, crowned and nimbed male head flanked by buttressed standards, also patchwork of fragments with heraldic lions, oak leaves and canopies, all 14th century. In Horsey Chapel, in tracery of E. window, black-letter IHS, seated figure in cap and gown, nimbed, inscribed JERONIMO, and companion figure, nimbed, inscribed AUGUSTINO, 15th century; reset in S. window, nimbed figure in alb and amice holding shield-of-arms of Turges, also miscellaneous fragments including Christchild, probably from St. Christopher subject, female head, nimbed head, fish with letter entwined, and fragment of shield-of-arms of Tregonwell, 14th and 15th century. Hatchment: In Bingham Chapel, on canvas with moulded wooden surround, achievement-of-arms of Bingham quartering Turberville, Cadicott and Pottenger with escutcheon of Ridout, impaling Halsey; 19th century. Graffiti: In S. porch, on sill of niche, 'G . . IC 1589'; on stone seats, scratchings dated 1777–1789.
Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In nave, on N. wall, (1) of William Wynyard Bingham, 1821, white marble tablet on slate ground; (2) of Richard Bingham, 1824, his wife Sophia, 1773, and his second wife Elizabeth, 1813, inscription panel in Gothic niche with side standards, cusped head and crocketed gable with arms. In Bingham Chapel, on N. wall, (3) of Rev. George Bingham, 1838, white marble tablet with scrolled side pieces and arms, on slate background, by Lester of Dorchester; (4) of Thomas Bingham, 1711, and others later, white marble tablet with arms; (5) of John Bingham, 1735, wall-monument with scrolled side-pieces, round-headed pediment enclosing cherub's head, urn finial and shaped apron with blank shield; set up by Elizabeth Bingham, 1750; signed 'P. Schemakers Ft.'. In churchyard, against N. wall of Bingham Chapel, (6) of Philadelphia Bingham, 1757, table-tomb with panelled sides, scrolled ends and cartouche-of-arms of Bingham quartering Pottenger; (7) of Susanna, daughter of the foregoing, 1786, tomb-slab. Floor-slab: In Bingham Chapel, reset on W. wall, of Robert Byngham, 154, and his wife Joan [De la Lynde], Purbeck marble slab with four raised shields-of-arms and incised marginal black-letter inscription; one shield with arms of Bingham, two with arms of De la Lynde, one defaced.
Niche: In S. porch, in E. wall, recess with richly moulded cusped and sub-cusped cinquefoil ogee head, with hood-mould and finial, chamfered sill and three pedestals, late 14th century. Piscina: In Horsey Chapel, in S. wall, semi-octagonal bowl in ogee-headed recess with moulded cinquefoil cusping; also traces of former surround with standards carrying crocketed canopy, now hacked off; 14th century. Plate: includes silver cup and cover-paten of 1752, large silver flagon of 1733 inscribed in memory of Thomas Bingham. Pulpit: of oak, with five sides panelled in two heights, and moulded cornice; Bastard of Blandford received £10 for this pulpit in 1723 (parish accounts, D.C.R.O.); pedestal made up from 17th-century oak panels with band of guilloche enrichment. Screen: (Plate 22) at entrance to Horsey Chapel, in two heights, with panelled lower height and open balustrade above; doorway flanked by fluted and reeded posts; stiles between panels moulded on N., fluted and reeded on S.; middle rail with guilloche enrichment on N. and arcaded fluting on S.; balustrade of nine turned uprights; top rail with strapwork frieze and dentil cornice on each side, with enriched console brackets at intervals, central bracket inscribed 'STF' (Sir Thomas Freke?) on S. side, and '1619' on N. Seating: includes six benches with shaped end-pieces and moulded top rails, probably 16th century, restored; also two benches with carved and panelled backs and panelled end-pieces, one with turned front legs; 17th century. Stoup: In E. jamb of S. doorway, with roughly rounded head, bowl filled in. Sundial: On S.E. buttress of Horsey Chapel, scratch-dial, probably 16th century. Tiles: In pavement of Horsey Chapel, several plain glazed tiles, perhaps 16th century. Miscellanea: In nave, reset in W. wall, on N. side of tower arch, part of font bowl with shallow two-centred arcading, c. 1200. Reset high up in side walls of porch, two stone masks, perhaps mediaeval.
(2) Bingham's Melcombe (771021), house and outbuildings, stands in a broad shallow valley at the head of the Devil's Brook, between Henning Hill and Coombe Hill. The various walling materials are described in their context below; the roofs are covered with stone-slates and tiles. The house is built round three sides of an irregular courtyard, entered through a Gatehouse on the S.E. In the 13th century Robert Bingham acquired the property by marriage with Lucy, the daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Turberville, and it remained in the Bingham family until 1895.
The Gatehouse (Plate 153) has been attributed to the 14th century on the evidence of the form and moulding of the main archways, but no other features equate with such dating, and the whole is more probably of the early 16th century. Though remodelled superficially in c. 1730, it is the earliest complete surviving part of the house. Doubtless the Hall too was mediaeval, but only a fragment of walling possibly of this period survives; it was almost entirely remodelled in the mid 16th century when the oriel (Plate 154) and adjacent circular stone stair were built. Allegedly during the 18th century an upper floor was inserted in the hall, involving the destruction of the old roof and its replacement by a roof of low pitch at raised eaves level. In 1893–4 the greater part of the N. wall was rebuilt and the roof was reformed nearer to the original pitch, though with retention of the attics (Builder LXVI, 24th March 1894, 236). The building or rebuilding of the 'Parlour' Wing, across the W. end of the hall, followed close upon the mid 16th-century remodelling, and the northern threequarters of the West Range of the courtyard (Plate 153) were added before 1561, as explained below. The latter did not include the garderobe; this, now the N. half of a Service Annexe, on the N.W. angle of the W. range, is probably an early addition. The 'parlour' wing was in part remodelled inside, c. 1600, further embellished inside in the mid 18th century, when also the W. side was largely refaced, and heightened in the early 19th century; it now contains the Dining Room on the ground floor. The East Wing, across the E. end of the hall, was formerly the Service Wing but is no longer recognisable as such, and it now serves a different purpose, containing a Library on the ground floor, an 18th-century staircase, and a Drawing Room on the first floor. It incorporates walling, typologically (at Bingham's Melcombe) of the 16th century, which suggests a rebuilding contemporary with the remodelling of the hall or the rebuilding of the 'parlour' wing, but the whole was remodelled and the S. wall was entirely rebuilt late in the first quarter of the 18th century, shortly before the alteration of the gatehouse. Surviving fragments of walling to the N. suggest that the Kitchen may once have stood there. At the same time in the 18th century the Porch to the hall was rebuilt, with re-use of much old material, and in c. 1750 the garderobe, mentioned above, was extended S. to double its original size. The South Range of the courtyard, extending W. from the gatehouse, is of the second half of the 16th century. A narrow space between it and the S. end of the W. range was at first left open; closure, by southward extension of the W. range, was a work of the mid 17th century. The S. range incorporates a Kitchen which, presumably when the E. wing was converted in c. 1725 from service to private use, became the main kitchen. Thus the service corridor under a lean-to roof across the full width of the courtyard side of the W. range, linking hall and kitchen, is probably an 18th-century addition. It is now ostensibly a work of 1893–4, but graphic evidence proves it to be older (Joseph Nash, Mansions of England in the Olden Time, IV (1872), plate xci). The general restoration of the house in 1893–4, including the alterations already mentioned, was under the supervision of Evelyn Hellicar, architect, the builder being A. H. Green of Blandford. Further careful restoration took place in 1949. Since then the 18th-century E. wall of the courtyard has been heightened and a new entrance doorway built in it.
There is little evidence, other than of style, for dating the fabric. The arms of Mary I and Philip of Spain in the window of the oriel may well belong there: 1554–58 is appropriate for the style of the remodelling of the hall. Moreover, an 'Inventory of the household and personal effects of Robert Bingham' taken in 1561 gives a terminus, for the reference to andirons in the 'oryalle' indicates a fireplace therein, a rarity in such a position, which the oriel here has; also the residential rooms listed can be identified reasonably with the present hall, oriel, 'parlour' wing and first floor of the N. part of the W. range. The sequence of development, complicated though it is, is fairly clear.
Bingham's Melcombe, largely informal in plan and elevation, forms an outstandingly picturesque group of buildings, which is given distinction by the mid 16th-century architectural treatment of the hall oriel in the early Renaissance Italianate style, probably evolved through France. With the great front from Clifton Maybank, now at Montacute, this is one of the best examples of the work of a regional group of masonsculptors, centred probably at Ham, which includes buildings, parts of buildings or surviving fragments at Sherborne Abbey, Athelhampton, Mapperton, Toller Fratrum, Sandford Orcas, Melbury House, Creech Grange and Hammoon, and probably the Horsey monument at Sherborne.
Architectural Description—The Gatehouse (41 ft. by 18¾ ft.), of two storeys and of squared rubble with ashlar dressings, is symmetrical in plan and in elevation to N. and S. At each end of the central through-way (9½ ft. wide) is a large archway with a high triangular head, the wave moulding of which continues down the jambs to rounded stops; the chamfered rear-arch dies into the side walls. On the S., two original buttresses of two weathered stages with chamfered plinths divide the front into three equal bays (Plate 153). Over the archway and on each floor in the side bays are windows of c. 1730, each with eared architrave, keystone, shaped brackets below the sill and segmental rear-arch. The N. front is similar but without buttresses. Most of the windows retain their original glazing bars. The blocking of wider earlier windows shows clearly in the N. wall. The E. and W. ends are gabled, with plain copings; the E. end is plain; the W. end is largely concealed by the adjoining S. range. The great 18th-century door of two leaves, hung on strap-hinges in the S. archway to the through-way, is panelled and nail studded and contains a small wicket in the W. leaf.
Inside, doorways open from the through-way to the flanking rooms. The E. doorway has a depressed triangular chamfered head, renewed, and chamfered jambs with rounded stops; the opposite doorway is similar, but rounded instead of angled at the springing. The latter contains an 18th-century panelled door. The stair is of plank construction with a central newel and is probably of the 18th century. On the first floor each gable wall contains an original rectangular stone fireplace with a chamfered or hollow-chamfered surround. The W. room contains 18th-century fielded panelling. The E. room (Plate 159) is lined up to about 7½ ft. with early 17th-century panelling in four heights with an enriched frieze and a rudimentary cornice; the elaborate overmantel, contemporary with the panelling, has terminal figures supporting an entablature and dividing and flanking two round-headed arches containing panels carved with foliation and strapwork in low relief. In the same room the extremities of the moulded braces of the main roof of the gatehouse obtrude below the ceiling; the roof is in four bays, divided by much damaged and repaired arch-braced collar-beam trusses, with sloping struts above the collars.
The principal range on the N. side of the courtyard, containing the hall, is entered through a Porch (8 ft. by 6¾ ft.), rebuilt in the 18th century, which is of rubble with worked dressings and gabled to the S. The outer entrance has a rectangular moulded stone surround, the jambs being 16th-century dressings reused, and above it is a square-headed window which, despite the illustration of it as a two-light window by J. Nash (op. cit.), appears never to have had a mullion; the inner doorway has 16th-century stop-moulded jambs supporting a rough timber lintel. This doorway formerly opened into the screens passage at the E. end of the hall, but the division has been eliminated, presumably long ago. The Hall (30 ft. by 18¼ ft.) stands with the oriel to the S.W. and the porch to the S.E. The S. wall of the hall is of Purbeck stone ashlar up to the window-head level and of alternate bands of flint and stone above; it has a high plinth with moulded members, in Ham Hill stone, which return round the oriel but are stopped against the porch. In the restricted space between the oriel and the porch is a single window of four square-headed lights with Purbeck stone moulded reveals and mullions. The N. wall is of flint with squared limestone bonding courses; it is a complete rebuilding of 1893–4 except for an area of rubble walling left low down at the W. end. The rubble may be a relic of the mediaeval hall; it retains some dressings of a doorway, blocked presumably in the mid 16th century when the window over and impinging upon it was inserted. The position of this doorway is appropriate for the N. entrance to a screens passage, which implies that the hall was reorientated as well as remodelled in the mid 16th century. The equivalent doorway then provided at the E. end of the N. wall of the hall survives, though rebuilt; it has moulded jambs and a renewed head. The inserted window just mentioned is similar to that in the S. wall, but the reset window further E., though similar again in form, is smaller, hollow-chamfered and probably of the 17th century. The other N. windows, the gabled dormers and the N. porch are of 1893–4.
The mid 16th-century two-storey Oriel (11½ ft. by 13¼ ft.) amounts to a small wing, with a fireplace in the room on each floor. The gabled S. front presents a distinguished architectural composition (Plate 154). On the ground floor, the E. window of four lights and the S. window originally of six lights (the middle mullion was removed more than a century ago, see Nash, op. cit.) and, on the first floor, the S. window of four lights, are generally similar to the S. window of the hall, but with an additional moulded member in the reveals. The window dressings are of Purbeck whereas the enrichments next described are of Ham Hill stone. These comprise the moulded plinth members returned from the hall, a continuous moulded string across the heads of the lower windows, polygonal standards on the salient corners and, on the S. front, an elaboration incorporating the upper window. The corner standards have pedestal bases formed by returns of the lower members of the main plinth. Each standard is in three stages divided by, first, a return of the string already described and, secondly, a highly individual Ionic capital and entablature block (Plate 155); the third stage is crowned by a moulded capital supporting an enriched bulbous base to a spiral-turned pinnacle surmounted by the eagle crest of the Binghams (Plate 155). The elaboration of the S. front consists of side-standards rising from shaped corbels with Ioniclike volutes at string level to flank, first a carved panel filling the space below the sill of the upper window, and secondly the window itself, being linked by a cornice across the window head; thence the side-standards continue up through the gable to finish in pinnacles above the gable coping. The panel (Plate 155) contains an achievement-of-arms of Bingham supported by amorini carved in high relief, all within foliate framing, the whole being a work of high accomplishment in the French Italianate style. The side-standards are set diagonally and the entire height of the free faces is carved with Renaissance foliated-rod ornament.
Inside, the hall and the oriel room off it are ceiled just above window-head level and have an 18th-century moulded cornice. This represents the original height of the ground floor of the oriel, but possibly the hall was once open to the roof; there is now an upper storey. The full width of the oriel is open to the hall through a wide Purbeck stone archway with a moulded four-centred head springing from moulded responds with shaped bases and carved foliate capitals (Plate 156). The E. respond is elbowed where it serves also as the N. jamb of the adjacent oriel fireplace. The latter has a renewed matching S. jamb, a flat triangular head with carved foliate spandrels, partly renewed, and a moulded cornice. In the W. wall of the oriel are two mid 16th-century doorways with shallow four-centred heads, continuously moulded stone surrounds and carved foliate spandrels. That to the N. leads to the 'parlour' wing and to the circular stair to the upper floor, but is now blocked; that to the S., which is very low because it occurs below the circular stair, opens on a small lobby with a S. doorway, originally external, now leading to the service corridor against the W. range of the courtyard. The setting of the doorway in the stair structure is described below with the 'parlour' wing.
Few ancient fittings, excepting the heraldic glass, survive in the hall. The panelling is of the early 20th century and the doors in the N., S. and W. walls are of the early 18th century, being in six fielded panels. The early 16th-century panelled dado in the oriel was introduced in 1949; then too the floor, previously raised, was lowered to its correct level, at which time a number of red floor tiles (2½ ins. and 5 ins. square with an interlace in white slip) were revealed in situ. The tiles are now reset at the threshold of the doorway to the 'parlour' wing. The window glass, apparently belonging where it is, is a notable survival in a domestic building (Plate 160). It includes fourteen shields-of-arms distributed one in each light of the S. and E. windows of the oriel and of the S. window of the hall, as follows—Oriel S. window, E. to W.: (1) Strode quarterly of eight (i and viii Strode, ii Bitton or Button and Furneaux quarterly, iii Fitchet, iv Gerard, v Brent, vi Ledred (?), vii Hody and Cole quarterly) all in a foliate frame; (2) probably Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, quarterly of seven (i Herbert, ii Stratley (?), iii Gam, iv Clevedon or Clifton, v Craddock, vi Horton, vii Cantelupe) all in a Garter (Sir Richard Bingham served under Pembroke at St. Quentin, 1557); (3) Mary I, France modern and England quarterly all in a Garter surmounted by a closed royal crown; (4) Philip II, quarterly (i and iv Castile and Leon quarterly, ii and iii Aragon and Sicily per pale) all in a foliate frame surmounted by a closed royal crown; (5) Horsey, in a foliate frame; (6) Russell quarterly (i Russell, ii Herring, iii Froxmer, iv Wise) all in a Garter. E. window, N. to S.: (7) Bingham impaled; (8) Filiol impaling Bingham; (9) De la Lynde and Herring quarterly impaling Martyn; (10) Bingham impaling Basket and (defaced) quarterly. The foregoing have acanthus foliation above and below to represent shields of Italianate form. Hall S. window, E. to W.: (11) Bingham impaling De la Lynde and Herring quarterly (iv defaced); (12) Trenchard impaling Bingham; (13) Bingham impaling Williams; (14) Storke impaling Bingham; all with foliation and Italianate, as before. The arms, borders etc. are mid 16th century, except shields (1) and (5), both 18th century, the inaccurately renewed impaling arms of (7) and the foliation of (14), both 19th century. In shield (2), quarters i–iv have at some time been set inside-out, and reversed, and though now properly reset are almost obliterated by weather.
The circular stair beside the oriel is described below with the 'parlour' wing which incorporates it. The upper chamber in the oriel was above the original general level of the first floor, which necessitated its own secondary stair; this was of stone and circled to the S. immediately outside the doorway to join the head of the circular stair. It is now covered by a straight 18th-century flight of stairs with Roman-Doric newels. In the S.W. corner of the chamber is a mid 16th-century stone fireplace with stop-moulded jambs, a moulded lintel and a hood, the latter partly restored. The barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling is original.
Off the W. or 'upper' end of the hall is the 'Parlour' Wing (16¾ ft. by 37½ ft.) which now contains the dining room on the ground floor, (i.e. the 'parlour' of the 1561 inventory), with a passage etc. on the S.; off the S.E. corner is the stone circular stair which adjoins and is integral with the hall oriel. The round of the stair is entered beneath a chamfered lintel cut to four-centred arched form, and the stone steps are shaped to a small concave quadrant before merging into the newel; this last supports a reused stone jamb at the stair head, but the whole is much altered and retooled. The stair is in part housed in a pentroofed ashlar projection from the S. gable wall of the 'parlour' wing, the two appearing between the oriel and the W. range of the courtyard. The projection has a moulded ashlar eaves cornice consisting of a return, vertical and horizontal, of the oriel string, and it contains, on the ground floor, the doorway mentioned above from the lobby W. of the oriel. The doorway has a square chamfered head and the wall above is jettied, the jetty being supported on a large stone moulding mitred over the door-head; in the wall are a long and a short window, the latter blocked, both with segmental heads and sunk spandrels. The S. gable wall above the projection has a chequered facing in flint and stone and contains a small blocked window with a depressed ogee head; the gable has a Ham stone coping and, at the apex, a chimney-stack which serves the fireplace in the upper room of the oriel. The conditions described indicate that there is little difference in date between the remodelling of the hall and the building or rebuilding of the 'parlour' wing, but variations in the plinth mouldings and in the character of the walling differentiate them; the explanation must be that the wing represents a second phase in the mid 16th-century building operations.
The walls of the 'parlour' wing have a coursed rubble plinth with a moulded Ham stone capping and a moulded string-course at window-head level. Excepting an area of ashlar at the S. end of the W. front, the walling is of alternating bands of high quality squared flints and Ham Hill ashlar (Plate 158). The gabled N. end is unaltered except for a reduction in the pitch of the gable by lateral heightening in brickwork; the former degree is shown by the weathering of the original gable apex, which remains on the chimney-stack. In the N. wall is a six-light window on the ground floor and a four-light window above; both windows are blocked. The chimney-stack is of 18th-century brickwork above a 16th-century stone base. The W. front, except for the ashlar area already mentioned containing a mid 16th-century four-light window and a doorway of the same date adjacent on the N., appears to have been entirely refaced, and the string-course restored, in the mid 18th century; it was subsequently heightened some 1½ ft. in brick and flint. The two rectangular sashed windows and the french window symmetrically placed between them on the ground floor, all with plain architraves and all formerly extending down to floor-level, are of the mid 18th century; the two wide first-floor windows are of c. 1800, and this dates the wall heightening and the consequent change of pitch of the N. gable.
Inside the 'parlour' wing, the Dining Room (16 ft. by 21¼ ft.) contains a mid 18th-century wood fireplace-surround with side scrolls and a carved mask and scrolled foliage in the frieze below an enriched cornice (Plate 157). The whole is surmounted by a more elaborate overmantel of c. 1600, originally coloured and gilded but now painted white and grey and gilded, incorporating carved figures, possibly Adam and Eve, the angel of the Expulsion and Eve with Cain and Abel, which support a cornice augmented in the mid 18th century; on the cornice stand Atlas figures dividing and flanking gadrooned square and round-headed panels, the latter framing carved figures of Justice and Faith. Above is a full entablature with satyr brackets in the frieze; the cornice itself returns forward from, and is contemporary with, the main cornice of the room, which is of the mid 18th century. The elaborate plaster ceiling, though it accommodates the projection of the over-mantel cornice, is probably of c. 1600. It has a pattern of moulded ribs forming circles, octagons and lozenges, with a central floral pendant; in the circles are shields, one of which is roughly scratched with the arms of Bingham; in the lozenges are male masks and rosettes. The room is lined with mid 18th-century panelling comprising tall fielded panels above a panelled dado, and the panelled window shutters are of the same date; the two contemporary door-cases have all the members enriched, including the entablatures with net decoration on the friezes. More remarkable survivals, original parts of this decorative scheme, are two looking-glasses in carved foliate frames 'hung' from carved ribbons and garlands, and two marble-topped rococo side-tables against the walls between the windows, all retaining their original full gilding (Plate 157).
The East Wing off the E. or 'lower' end of the hall contains the library on the ground floor, with a narrow stairhall on the N., and the drawing room on the first floor. It perpetuates the position and to some extent incorporates the structure of the former service wing. The S. front, rebuilt c. 1725, is of squared flints and dressed stone in alternate bands, three courses to one; the W. limits of the rebuilding are indicated by quoins beside the E. wall of the porch and above the porch roof. The rectangular sashed windows, of the same date, have stone lintels with keystones. In the gabled E. end, older walling of random flints with Ham Hill and Purbeck stone bonding courses forms the bulk of the wall, though this last also includes the return of the 18th-century rebuilt S. front, marked by a ragged joint. In the older walling are remains of the N. reveal of a first-floor window. Northward, an obtuse change in the alignment of the wall and the occurrence of more regular flint and stone coursing show the extent of the 18th-century stairhall addition. The N. front shows much patching and rebuilding. Two of the windows are 18th-century; the stone-mullioned four-light window is comparatively modern. Projecting 11 ft. from the N.W. corner is a roughly coursed rubble wall, now a garden wall; in part it bonds through with the rubble W. wall of the stairhall and, together, they may be a survival of a part of the W. wall of the old service wing; in it is a blocked doorway, partly concealed by the N. porch to the hall.
Inside, the Library (19 ft. by 18 ft.) has an early 18th-century fireplace-surround of bolection-moulded black marble and, above, a contemporary looking-glass with bevelled plates engraved with flowers and birds. The room is lined with bolection-moulded pine panelling of the same period, with cornice and dado; one of the panels opens to reveal an arched cupboard within the wall thickness. The staircase, of c. 1725, has turned balusters incorporating small square blocks, turned newels and a moulded and ramped oak handrail ending in a quadrant turn at the foot; the balustrade returns in a quarter circle on the first-floor landing (Plate 157). This landing is contained in an 18th-century panelled lobby protruding into the Drawing Room (19¾ ft. by 27½ ft.). The fittings in the latter are entirely of 1893–4.
The N. part of the West Range (14 ft. wide) of the courtyard represents a third phase in the mid 16th-century building operations; it was completed before 1561, for with little doubt the bedrooms on the first floor are mentioned in the inventory of that year. Provision had already been made for it; the N. end of the E. wall overlies two ashlar base courses projecting some 4½ ft. from the S.W. angle of the oriel staircase structure, of which they are a part. In the event the range was built in rubble, not ashlar. That it is subsequent to the 'parlour' wing was further proved when the dressed S.W. angle of the latter was revealed in the N. end wall of the range, during alterations in 1949. Originally the W. range extended only so far S. (29½ ft. internally) as the N. side of the present boiler room. The last was then an open space; so it remained after the S. range of the courtyard had been completed, in the second half of the 16th century, and it was not built up to link the two ranges until the mid 17th century.
The E. front of the W. range, now masked in the lower part by the service corridor, retains over the modern doorway to the boiler room a number of dressed quoin stones of the S.E. angle of the original range; others survive in an equivalent position in the W. front. Northward are two windows flanking a doorway. Each window is of two lights with chamfered reveals and mullions, retains original wrought-iron bars and is rebated inside for shutters, the pierced lug for the shutter-bolt remaining in the mullion. The doorway has a moulded segmental-pointed head, the mouldings continuing on the jambs, and a moulded label with returned stops. It is of indeterminate date; the label is probably of the 15th century, but the apparent resetting of the whole head, at least, of the arch and the history of the range itself go against the assumption that it is a mediaeval feature in situ. The boiler-room doorway contains a reused 17th-century oak door frame. Further S. is a reset two-light window of the 17th century. On the upper floor the three windows are in gabled dormers; all are of four lights, but the northern two, in the mid 16th-century range, have a rather more complex moulding that the ovolo-moulded window in the 17th-century link to the S. The first two dormers are of ashlar, the third incorporates some rubble.
The W. front of the W. range is concealed in the N. half by the service annexe, which laps round the N. end wall. S. of the annexe, the original range has a ground-floor window and a small first-floor window, both modern; then, as already described, the remains of the dressed S.W. angle of the range are visible, interrupted above by a former opening, now blocked. Next, the link building contains a ground-floor window of two stone-mullioned lights similar to one in the S. range, and possibly reset from there, and a single-light window above, with a second, rather smaller window just to the S. Lastly, the whole of the gabled W. wall of the S. range, though flush with the foregoing, is clearly discernible; it has a modern brick chimney-stack at the apex. The Service Annexe mentioned above, now containing pantries etc., has paired gables to the W. The N. gable corresponds in width with the original garderobe building (8 ft. by 11½ ft.) which, returning round the N. end of the range, stopped short of the face of the 'parlour' wing, leaving a re-entry, about 1 ft. wide, at least on the ground floor. The building was extended to the S. in the 18th century and the two round-headed windows on the W. are of this period, the more northerly being an insertion in the older building. Just N. of the latter is a blocking, apparently of a small doorway with a segmental head, above which is a reset blind-traceried spandrel of c. 1500 with a quatrefoil circle and cusped mouchet. The N. end of the annexe has a small culvert at the base, now blocked, a reset two-light window to the ground floor and a small trefoil-headed loop, also blocked, in the upper storey. The S. end wall is butted up against the W. range and has a two-light window to the ground floor, probably reset. The interior is described below.
Inside, the ceiling of the ground floor of the original W. range is divided into eight panels by heavy cross and axial beams, all deeply chamfered. Opening to the 'parlour' wing at the N. end is a doorway, probably not original, containing a reset 16th or 17th-century timber door frame with a two-centred head. The passage leading S. from the doorway is divided from the store on the W. by an 18th-century plank partition with a ventilation grille along the top consisting of shaped wood slats. The S. doorway from the passage to the stair entry is fitted with a timber door frame, possibly of the 16th century and in situ, with a shouldered head; the stair itself is of the early 19th century. On the first floor, again in the original building and visible below the ceiling, are the ends of very heavy arch-braces to the collar-beam trusses above; the roof was originally open to the upper rooms and at least one of the trusses retains traces of painted decoration (see drawing); the tie beams are subsequent insertions. The N. chamber or Oak Bedroom (14½ ft. by 14¾ ft.), is lined with restored 16th-century panelling. The overmantel is made up of three mid 16th-century panels from the hall, carved with the arms of Bingham supported by amorini and with busts in comtemporary dress, in roundels flanked by Renaissance foliation. The Nursery (14½ ft. by 15½ ft.), extending over the boiler room, contains some early 18th-century panelling and a stone fireplace-surround of the same period. The N. room in the service annexe was originally a garderobe; in the mid 18th century, when presumably no longer used as such, a fireplace with an enriched surround was inserted; in 1949, when the room was made into a bathroom, the fireplace was removed. The S. room in the 18th-century extension is lined with original fielded panelling and fittings comprising shelves, cupboards and drawers; it contains a fireplace with an enriched surround.
The South Range (47½ ft. by 16½ ft.) is of the second half of the 16th century and has walls of roughly coursed rubble. The N. side has, near the middle, a stone doorway with a pointed cambered head; it is flanked on the E. by a modern two-light window and on the W. by an original two-light window, now blocked. Close to the adjoining gatehouse are two small windows, each cut out of a single stone; the one on the ground floor has a pointed trefoil head, that on the floor above has a rounded head; a similar small rectangular window also survives on the first floor towards the W. end. All three windows are blocked. The doorway enclosed by the service corridor on the W. side of the courtyard has a 17th-century timber door frame with a semicircular head. The S. side of the range is much altered. Close by the gatehouse is a small blocked light with a shaped head; further E. is a four-light stone-mullioned window made up of two two-light windows of slightly disparate dates, that to the E. probably being original. Traces of a blocked doorway occur more or less opposite the N. doorway, and towards the W. end are vestiges of two original windows, long since blocked, one above the other. The dormer windows are of the 18th century and all the other openings are later. Inside, the range is divided into four bays by original scarfed upper crucks, of heavy scantling but otherwise plain, which stand upon heavy stop-chamfered beams protruding below the ground-floor ceiling. Two original open fireplaces survive; the one at the E. end has a cambered and stop-chamfered timber bressummer; that at the W. end is 11½ ft. wide, indicating that the W. room was always a kitchen; it is segmental headed, with head and jambs continuously wave-moulded. The kitchen also contains a 17th-century fitted cupboard with vent holes, forming patterns, drilled in the doors. The staircase is modern.
A number of ancillary buildings etc. stand near the house, in the formal gardens and in the park to the S. The 18th-century Barn incorporating stabling, close N.E., is of rubble and thatch. The Ice House, 20 yds. N., is an early 19th-century structure beneath an earth mound. Some 30 yds. N.N.W. is a circular rubble-built Dovecote of the late 17th century, with a conical roof (Plate 158). At the end of the formal garden and 80 yds. W.N.W. is an 18th-century Summer House of brick with a slated roof. It is semicircular in plan, with a wide open archway on the chord facing E. The archway has a three-centred head turned in brickwork of fine quality, with a keystone. The original oak seating inside survives; it is fitted to the curve and comprises slatted seats with splat backs divided and flanked by fluted standards, scrolled arm-rests and turned legs. The building is incorporated in a brick Garden Wall dated 1748.
At the entrance to the park, some 250 yds. S., is a late 18th-century Gateway (Plate 67); it is of fine Purbeck ashlar with rusticated piers with moulded bases and cornices, surmounted by the eagle crest of the Binghams; small side gates are flanked by similar but smaller piers with pineapple finials. The ironwork of the gates is modern.
(3) Higher Melcombe (74950240), house, nearly 1½ m. W. of the parish church, is of one and two storeys with attics and cellars. The walls are of banded flint and ashlar; the roofs are slate-covered, with stone-slate verges. Early in the 16th century the property came to the Horsey family by the marriage of John Horsey with Elizabeth Turges; about a century later it passed to the Frekes of Iwerne Courtney. Coker (p. 81) states that the house was built "in our fathers' days by Sir John Horsey" but as there were three successive generations of Sir Johns between 1531 and 1589 this is not as explicit as it might be; nevertheless a large part of the building does indeed appear to be of the mid 16th century. On the other hand the great thickness of two walls at the S. end of the W. range suggests the presence of an earlier building, which might be of the 15th century. In the early part of the 17th century Sir Thomas Freke built the chapel in the N. range (Plate 159), as his tomb at Iwerne Courtney (see p. 127) attests: 'this church he built at his sole charges, as also the chappel of ease at Melcombe'; Sir Thomas died in 1633. In Hutchins's time the chapel was still a place of worship (1st ed., 1774, II, 425) but later in the 18th century it was divided into two storeys and became a brew-house and a store-room (3rd ed., IV, 367). The upper floor has now been removed and the building has become a hall.
A drawing of the house from the S.E., made in 1828 by J. Buckler (BM. Add. MS. 36361, f. 151), shows the house very much as it is today, but with an attic storey to the W. range. Sir Thomas Freke's chapel, illustrating the continuity of mediaeval forms in the 17th century is of considerable architectural interest.
Architectural Description—The gabled E. wall of the former chapel in the N. range was rebuilt c. 1936. The 17th-century N. wall is of banded flint and ashlar; at the base is a chamfered plinth. The banded facing material stops 2 ft. from the N.E. corner, implying a former N. buttress or return wall, now removed. Originally the N. wall of the chapel contained three uniform windows with two-centred heads under moulded labels with return stops. The easternmost of these windows was made into a doorway in the late 18th century; externally it retains the label and the chamfered and ogee-moulded two-centred head with continuous jambs; internally the reveal has plain splayed jambs and a continuous two-centred head in place of a rear-arch. The central window is blocked with 18th-century brickwork; the internal sill has been cut, probably to form a fireplace, but the reveals and head are similar to those of the E. window. The third window is also blocked but the original mullion and tracery remain visible. The opening has two two-centred cinquefoil-headed lights under two trefoil-headed vertical tracery lights with blind spandrels. The ashlar of the splayed reveals is integral with that of the lights and tracery. Between the central and the western window, at a lower level, is a small window with a segmental brick head; it is evidently of the period when the former chapel was divided into two storeys. To the W. of the western two-centred window is a partly blocked 17th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, splayed reveals and a segmental rear-arch; the chamfered plinth is stopped on each side of the opening, with mitred returns; the original door-head has gone and the opening now contains a square-headed two-light window of c. 1800. Further W., a buttress of three weathered stages marks the W. end of the former chapel. To the W. of the buttress the 17th-century building is two-storied; the ground-floor room has a 19th-century two-light window and the first floor chamber has a 17th-century window of two lights under a hollow-chamfered label with return stops. Beyond this is the gabled N. end of the 16th-century W. range; its chamfered plinth and banded masonry are continuous with those of the N. range and it was presumably refaced in the 17th century. The ground floor has no openings; on the first floor, an 18th-century wooden three-light casement window is set in a 17th-century opening with a moulded label; the attic has a similar two-light window; at the apex of the gable is a modern chimney-stack.
The S. elevation of the N. range is of banded flint and ashlar. The square-set ashlar buttress of three weathered stages at the S.E. corner of the former chapel is not shown on Buckler's drawing of 1828 and is presumably modern. To the W. of the corner buttress is a small blocked opening, of uncertain date. The western end of the chapel is marked by an original ashlar buttress of three weathered stages and between the two buttresses is the symmetrical single-storied S. front of Sir Thomas Freke's chapel. It has two large two-centred windows of 14th-century form, similar to those at Iwerne Courtney church, which is dated 1610; each window is of three gradated lights under a moulded two-centred label with square stops; these windows flank a central doorway with a chamfered segmental-pointed head, continuous jambs and a label with square stops. On the roof, above the W. end of the chapel, is a 17th-century stone bell-cote with a round-headed opening, a crenellated cornice with dentils, and a conical finial. Beyond the W. buttress the westernmost bay of the N. range is two-storied; on each floor is a square-headed two-light window with chamfered and wavemoulded jambs and a moulded label.
The E. elevation of the W. range is of banded flint and ashlar. Above the level of the first-floor window-heads the banding is continuous with that of the N. range and is therefore probably of the 17th century, but below that level the banded masonry is of the 16th century. On the ground floor, at the N. end, is an inserted 18th-century doorway. Further S. are two modern windows: that to the N. has a reset 16th-century four-light surround brought recently from elsewhere; that to the S. comprises a large three-sided bay window, evidently of the late 19th century. Buckler's drawing shows a blank wall where the projecting bay now occurs, and a stone mullioned window of three lights in place of the northern opening. Visible in the masonry between the present ground-floor openings are the jambs and four-centred heads of three former doorways, all now blocked. On the first floor are two square-headed three-light windows, probably of the 17th century, with wavemoulded jambs and moulded labels; they are uniform, but that to the S. is set at a higher level than the northern one. To the S. of the southern opening is a small round light. The northern window is flanked by two blocked earlier windows; that to the N. was of two lights, that to the S. of one light. Buckler's drawing shows two two-light attic dormer windows in stonefronted gables, but these have gone. The W. elevation of the W. range is largely masked by late 19th-century additions, but near the N. end the 16th-century walling is seen to be of mixed flint and rubble in the lower part, and of banded flint and ashlar above. On the first floor is a 17th-century two-light window with a hollow-chamfered and moulded surround.
The short wing which turns E. at the S. end of the W. range has N. and E. walls of ashlar. Where the N. wall adjoins the E. wall of the W. range it is clear that the wing was built after the 16th-century part of the W. range but before the 17th century heightening of the E. elevation; it may therefore be assigned to the late 16th century. Near the S.E. corner the ashlar of the E. wall of the wing gives place to rubble, suggesting the former existence of a wall at right-angles which might have been the N. side of a former S. range; if so, the short S. wing would have formed a square projection in the S.W. corner of a courtyard; the fenestration suggests that the wing was originally a stair tower, as it now is. It has a chamfered plinth and a weathered and hollow-chamfered first-floor string-course. On the E. side, the lower storey has a modern doorway and immediately below the first-floor string-course is an original mezzanine window of three square-headed lights; in the gable is a two-light attic window. On the N. side, the stair tower has similar windows at ground-floor and first-floor levels, now blocked. The S. side of the tower and the S. end of the W. range are rendered and display no noteworthy features; nevertheless the thickness of the wall shows that it is old.
Inside, the former chapel has a wagon roof of trussed rafters with arch-braced collars; they are now exposed but were originally concealed by plaster. The roof is divided into eight bays by moulded ribs which stood out below the former plaster ceiling; each bay is similarly sub-divided into six panels by moulded longitudinal members. The easternmost truss has half-mouldings, confirming that the 19th-century E. wall of the chapel replaces the original E. wall. At the intersections of the moulded members are foliate bosses with painted emblems including a cross formy, a sun, a whorl, a cross of St. George, a star-fish, a star of eight points, two crescents, a cinquefoil and conventional flowers. The wagon roof is probably of the 17th century but several of the bosses have been renewed. A doorway at first-floor level in the W. wall of the former chapel presumably dates from the late 18th century when the building was divided into two storeys.
The staircase in the S.E. wing is of the early 18th century; it has five flights, with cut strings, twisted balusters and moulded handrails; the walls have dados with bolection-moulded panelling. A cellar below the hall to the W. of the staircase has a blocked window in the W. wall and, in the S. wall, a blocked doorway, perhaps of the 15th century, with a hollow-chamfered rounded head and continuous jambs; this doorway is set with its external face to the N., confirming the former existence of a building further S., now gone.
In the W. range, the drawing-room has a large fireplace with a chamfered elliptical head and continuous jambs; the elliptical head perhaps replaces one of four-centred form. The chamber over the drawing-room has oak panelling of the early 17th century in five and six heights, with a frieze of guilloche ornament at the top. The stone fireplace surround has a moulded square head and continuous jambs. On each side of the fireplace the panelling terminates at Ionic pilasters, of oak, which stand the full height of the panelling and flank an elaborately carved wooden overmantel. Above the stone surround a frieze of strapwork supports a ledge, enriched with foliate semicircles, over which four vertical scroll brackets alternate with three shallow round-headed niches; over these a second order of brackets alternate with guilloche panels; at the top, an enriched cornice is supported by the flanking Ionic pilasters. The rich plaster ceiling, contemporary with the panelling, has interlacing ribs with vine-scroll ornament surrounding panels on which roses, thistles, pears, pomegranates and vines are modelled in low relief (Plate 71). At the main intersection of the ribs are foliate pendants. The adjacent chamber to the N. has a fireplace with a chamfered four-centred head and continuous jambs. A chamber at the N. end of the W. range is lined with reset 15th-century linenfold panelling in two heights surmounted by a frieze of panels with scroll-work and guilloche patterns. The ceiling of this room is of the early 17th century with moulded plaster ribs forming panels of various shapes. The moulded square-headed stone fireplace surround has a carved wooden overmantel. The first-floor room above the vestibule at the W. end of the former chapel has oak panelling of the mid 17th century in five heights.
Preserved in the house is a fragment of a 10th or 11th-century Cross Shaft with coarse two-strand interlace work on two opposed faces; the third side is smooth, the fourth side is broken. The fragment, only 6 ins. high, is said to have been recovered about twenty-five years ago from a demolished cottage, 300 yds. W. of the house. Other carvings believed to have been found in the same place are now lost. Two fragments of 13th-century Purbeck marble coffin-lids are also preserved. One lid is 1¼ ft. wide at the head and tapers to the foot; the upper surface, surrounded by a deep hollow-chamfer, is decorated with a raised cross with crude scalloped enrichment.
(4) Cottage (76250260), at the parish boundary, ¾ m. N.W. of the church, is single-storied with an attic; it has walls of rubble with brick repairs, and a thatched roof. Inside are chamfered ceiling beams. The cottage is probably of the 17th century.
(6) Cottages, range of four (75900215), 500 yds. S.W. of (5), have walls partly of cob and partly of brick with flint coursing, and thatched roofs. The two middle tenements are of the 18th century; those at each end are of the 19th century.
Mediaeval and Later Earthworks
(8) Settlement Remains of Melcombe Horsey (749025) lie in 'Chapel Close', 100 yds. N.W. of (3) The village was one of two in the parish, both now deserted. In Domesday Book, presumably, they are noted together as Melcombe with a combined recorded population of thirty-three. Subsequently the two settlements were divided into various manors (Hutchins IV, 363–4), but in the 14th-century Subsidy Rolls both settlements were again recorded together. In 1333 twenty-one taxpayers were listed, which perhaps shows some decline in population. The taxation of 1428 (Feudal Aids, II (1899), 71) indicates that there were still more than ten people in the parish, but both villages appear to have been granted a tax reduction in 1435 (P.R.O. E179/103/79). By 1662 (Meekings, 49) only nine households are recorded; three of them were apparently in the two manor houses. Melcombe Horsey had a chapel, the foundations of which were still visible in the late 18th century (Hutchins IV, 368), but the site can no longer be identified. The chapel in (3) presumably replaced it.
The remains, covering about 10 acres, have been damaged by quarrying and by tracks. They consist of several roughly rectangular closes, bounded by low banks and ditches only 2 ft. to 3 ft. high, with a hollow-way running S.E.-N.W. through them. To S. and W. of the closes the fragmentary remains of rectangular building sites are defined by low banks, 3 ft. to 4 ft. wide and 6 ins. to 9 ins. high; an irregular circular mound 30 ft. in diameter and 3 ft. to 4 ft. high also remains.
(9) Settlement Remains of Bingham's Melcombe (773020) lie on the W. side of the Devil's Brook, immediately S. of (1); the village was one of two in the parish, both now deserted; their populations were always recorded together and it is impossible to separate them (see (8)).
The remains, covering about 10 acres, fall into two distinct parts separated by an old road or hollow-way which runs from W. to E. across the site. The hollow-way is 25 ft. to 30 ft. wide and 3 ft. deep, but it has been damaged by a later hedge along its line. To the N. of the hollow-way are the remains of seven rectangular closes, orientated N.-S.; two of them have slight remains of house sites at their S. ends. To the N. of the three western closes four level rectangular platforms are set above a wide terrace-way running E.-W. To the S. of the main hollowway another terrace-way runs first S., then W., and finally fades out to the S.W.; it is surrounded by a number of irregular closes bounded by low scarps and banks.
(10) Cultivation Remains. The date of enclosure of the two open-field systems in the parish is unknown. Groups of strip lynchets of the open fields of Melcombe Horsey lie around the former village on the lower slopes of the surrounding ring of Chalk hills (748030–742030–744021–753016). With one exception all the groups are of contour type, arranged in end-on furlong blocks up to 300 yds. long; most of the strip lynchets are in a fragmentary condition. On the S.E. side of the Dorsetshire Gap (745030) a series of strip lynchets runs obliquely across the contours, with treads up to 35 yds. wide. Air photographs (R.A.F. CPE/UK 1934: 3103–5 and 3179–81) show traces of the extensions of these strips to the S.E., and also traces of many other strip fields to the S.W. of (8). See also Hilton (29), (c), p. 113.
Strip lynchets of the open fields of Bingham's Melcombe are found on the N. and the N.E. slopes of Henning Hill. To the E. of Hill Barn (767017) are six contour strip lynchets, up to 200 yds. long; to the N.W. of Hill Barn (761019) are other fragmentary contour strip lynchets. Some 600 yds. N.W. of Bingham's Melcombe House there were formerly about 30 acres of strip fields but they have now been destroyed (R.A.F. CPE/UK 1934: 3106–8).
Roman and Prehistoric
(11) Settlement (742019), Romano-British, on Bowden's Hill, lies within an area of dykes and 'Celtic' fields (see Group (44), p. 330). The settlement lies, at just over 700 ft. above sea-level, on a gentle S.W. slope on the spine of a spur which falls S.S.E. from Nettlecombe Tout (12). The spur top is capped with flint gravel or Clay-with-flints; to the W. the ground falls steeply to Lyscombe Bottom. The site, now visible over 4 acres, has been disturbed and part of it on the E. has been destroyed by cultivation.
Towards the centre of the site are the remains of an approximately rectangular enclosure (100 ft. by 150 ft.) defined, where best preserved, by two low banks with a ditch between them. A trackway, about 12 ft. across and flanked by a ditch with a low outer bank on the W., and by a slight ditch with a lynchet above it on the E., approaches the site from the N.W.; it is blocked by the outer bank of the enclosure and there is no evidence that it continued beyond this point. Some 30 yds. N. of the enclosure the remains of a smaller incomplete enclosure are defined by a bank with an external ditch. Immediately S. of the main enclosure a number of small platforms, probably for buildings, are defined by low banks and scarps up to 4½ ft. high. A low mound (17 ft. by 4 ft.) lies immediately S. of the track near the main enclosure. A track of double-lynchet form approaches the settlement from the S.W., through 'Celtic' fields; it enters a triangular space of about ⅓ acre defined by slight banks and then turns E. to run through the settlement which, S. of the track, seems to be on former fields. From this settlement Warne obtained Romano-British pottery, tiles and nails (Ancient Dorset (1872), 83, 85–6).
(12) Nettlecombe Tout (737032), Iron Age hill-fort, partly destroyed or unfinished, has a curving line of bank and ditch facing S.E., with an entrance near the S. end (plan on p. 174). The fort occupies a prominent position over 800 ft. above O.D., on a broad, flat-topped spur jutting N.W., with steep slopes on all except the S.E. side. To the S.E. the site adjoins two elongated spurs extending southwards, the nearer parts of which are mostly enclosed by two dykes (13) and (14). For a discussion of earthworks in this area, see 'Celtic' Field Group (44).
The rampart, 350 yds. long, returns sharply N.W. at the N.E. end, about 100 yds. short of the edge of the steep slope. It probably joined, or was intended to join, the line that is now marked by a scarp bounding the slope on the S.W. and N.W., thus enclosing about 15 acres. The scarp, 5 ft. high and more, is partly ancient, but it has been added to by recent ploughing. Near the S.W. end of the rampart the approach to the entrance gap is shielded by a short detached length of bank and ditch, now almost destroyed by ploughing. Where best preserved the bank is 45 ft. across, 9½ ft. high above the interior and 11½ ft. high above the ditch. The ditch is 35 ft. across.
Five dykes lie in the N.W. of the parish, on Lyscombe, Bowden's and Hog Hills; (13), (14) and (15) are of cross-ridge type. Of the gaps in them none is clearly original. All the dykes are part of a complex discussed in 'Celtic' Field Group (44).
(13) Dyke (73530291–73520273), runs N.—S. for some 315 yds. across the ridge of Lyscombe Hill, at over 800 ft. above O.D. The bank is about 25 ft. wide, up to 4½ ft. high on the E. and 7½ ft. high on the W., where the probable line of an original ditch is followed by a modern ditch. A lynchet up to 9 ft. high continues the line of the dyke to the N., around the S.W. and N.W. sides of Nettlecombe Tout. From the S. end of the dyke a corresponding lynchet, up to 6 ft. high, runs E. and S.E. for about 220 yds., following the shoulder of the hill until it turns towards (14).
(14)Dyke (73950245–74130255), runs W.S.W.—E.N.E. for some 330 yds. at over 800 ft. above O.D., across the ridge of Bowden's Hill. It comprises a bank with a ditch on the S. or downhill side. The bank is 20 ft. across, 3 ft. high on the N., and 8½ ft. above the ditch bottom; the ditch is 20 ft. wide. The ends of the dyke return towards the N. along the shoulder of the ridge, and from the W. end a scarp with a small ditch at its foot continues the line for about 80 yds. to meet a lynchet which links it with (13). Fragmentary 'Celtic' fields lie S. of the dyke.
(15) Dyke (74000218–74120223), lies across the ridge of Bowden's Hill, 300 yds. S. of and roughly parallel with (14). The dyke is 140 yds. long and has its ditch on the N. or uphill side. The bank is 24 ft. across, 3½ ft. high on the S., and 6½ ft. above the ditch bottom; the ditch is 27 ft. across. On the W. the dyke ends at the shoulder of the slope, whence a shallow ditch of unknown date, 4 ft. across, continues in the same line towards Lyscombe Bottom; on the E. it ends at dyke (16), probably cutting its ditch. Some 40 yds. from the E. end is a slight but marked change of direction northwards. The dyke cuts a lynchet over 6 ft. high running N.—S., part of destroyed 'Celtic' fields. The embanked track from the settlement (II) points as if to skirt the W. end of the dyke, but old disturbance precludes confirmation.
Excavations in 1957 showed that the bank stands 4 ft. high above the old ground surface and that the ditch is funnel-shaped in cross-section and nearly 8 ft. deep; coarse sherds of the Late Bronze or Early Iron Age were found in the secondary silting. At the W. end the ditch ended abruptly and stakeholes across the end of the bank may have been for revetment (Dorset Procs. LXXIX (1957), 115).
(16) Dyke (74100225–74210209), runs just above the rounded shoulder of Bowden's Hill, immediately E. of dyke (15), which appears to cut its ditch. The ditch lies on the W., uphill, side and together with the bank measures some 40 ft. across, the whole being much disturbed. The dyke begins 34 yds. N. of (15) and extends S.S.E. for 230 yds., finally curving S.E.; beyond, the line of the dyke is continued for at least a further 370 yds. as a bank or scarp in arable ground. Just beyond the N.W. end are fragmentary scarps, probably the remains of 'Celtic' fields.
(17) Dyke (74330165–74720160), lies on ground falling gently S. at the S. end of Hog Hill. The dyke is almost certainly built on the line of 'Celtic' field lynchets and this probably explains its two stretches, set almost at right angles to one another. From a point about 80 yds. S. of the settlement (II), the dyke runs S.E. for 270 yds. and then turns N.E. for a further 200 yds. The ditch, which lies on the uphill side, is 18 ft. across; the bank is 24 ft. across, 5 ft. high above the ditch and nearly 7 ft. high on the downhill side. At each end the dyke terminates at a valley-head. The N.W. end has been destroyed by a quarry but the line is roughly marked by a lynchet 7½ ft. high.
A small unidentified barrow opened by C. Hall (C.T.D., Pt. 3, No. 98) appears to have contained a cremation in an urn, probably primary, and an intrusive extended inhumation that was associated with two samian fragments and a coin of Antoninus Pius.
(21) 'Giant's Grave' (75770165), lies along the lower W. slopes of Henning Hill in the extreme S. of the parish. Immediately above it the hillside rises steeply. The monument comprises a terrace, from 9 ft. to 21 ft. in width, 210 ft. in length, and about 2 ft. high, which curves slightly W. towards the S. end. A shallow ditch about 4 ft. across flanks the W. side and extends around the N. end. A low rectangular mound (23 ft. by 18 ft.) has been built on the terrace at the N. end. The terrace is almost certainly the result of ploughing; it represents a strip lynchet which has been truncated at the N. end and to which a mound has been added. Despite 'strange popular traditions' (Hutchins IV, 381) the Giant's Grave is probably comparable with the pillow mound (22) which lies 40 yds. to the S.S.E.
The 'Giant's Stones' are two sarsen boulders. One, measuring 7½ ft. by 5½ ft. by 3½ ft., lies midway along the terrace of the Giant's Grave. The other, 130 ft. to the N.W., is largely buried at a field edge; the exposed portion is 5 ft. long. There is no evidence that the boulders were ever connected with the mound or that they have any structural significance.
(22) Pillow Mound (75750157), lies on the steep W. slope of Henning Hill at about 500 ft. above O.D. immediately below the line of an old track. The mound is 70 ft. long, 18 ft. across and 1½ ft. high; its long axis extends up and down the slope. The centre has been disturbed. Ditches 9 ft. across and 1 ft deep occur along the sides of the mound, but they do not appear to return around the ends; however, throw-out from the track may well have obscured a ditch at the uphill end, and soil creep may mask a ditch at the downhill end.
(23) Mounds (74070204–74130206), twenty, are irregularly scattered over some 2½ acres on Bowden's Hill, between Settlement (11) and Dyke (15). They lie on the gentle W. slope of the ridge top at about 740 ft. above O.D. and vary in shape from roughly round to kidney-shaped. They are from 7 ft. to 30 ft. across and most of them are about 1 ft. high. Test excavations in three mounds have yielded no archaeological data.