15 KIMMERIDGE (9179)
(O.S. 6 ins. SY 97 NW)
Kimmeridge is a small roughly rectangular coastal
parish covering just under 1,000 acres, lying almost
entirely on Kimmeridge Clay, and sloping steeply
south-westward from the limestone crest of Smedmore
Hill at over 600 ft. above O.D.
There were three mediaeval settlements in the parish,
Kimmeridge, Smedmore and Little Kimmeridge, each
associated with a rectangular block of land stretching
from the sea to Smedmore Hill; their boundaries are
still preserved as continuous hedge-lines. Only Kimmeridge village at the N. end of the parish remains as a
sizable settlement, but strip fields (Monument 15) of all
three settlements remain. The village is grouped round
a street running S. from the church and comprises small
houses and cottages of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The parish is remarkable for the layers of bituminous
shale contained in the Kimmeridge Clay. The richest,
known as 'blackstone', was used in prehistoric and
Roman times for the manufacture of ornaments and
other objects, the circular pieces of 'coal-money' being
the waste from turned armlets of Iron Age 'C' and
Roman date; numerous working sites are known. In the
17th century Sir William Clavell proposed to extract
alum from the blackstone and also use it, as the Romans
had done, as fuel for boiling sea-water to extract salt.
These enterprises, and plans for the manufacture of
glass, using blackstone for fuel, came to nothing. In the
19th century oil was, for a time, extracted from the
shale, and an Act of 1847 gave powers to construct
'railways, . . . inclined planes, cause-ways etc.' (D.
Maxwell, Unknown Dorset (1927), 20); it was probably
under these powers that a tramway was laid right down
to the pier from the workings to the E.
Smedmore House (Monument 4) is the principal
(1) The Parish Church (dedication unknown)
stands at the N. end of the village. The walls are of
stone rubble with ashlar dressings and the roofs are
covered with stone slates. The chancel and nave are
structurally undivided; the Nave is of 12th-century
origin and retains the original S. doorway. There was
formerly a 13th-century chancel arch, the moulded
voussoirs of which remain loose in the churchyard, but
the Chancel and the whole of the N. wall and part of the
S. wall of the nave have been rebuilt at various dates
since the Reformation. In the 15th century a bell-cote
and a buttress were added to the W. wall. The South
Porch is of early 13th-century origin. Extensive rebuilding took place in 1872, and the Vestry is modern.
Architectural Description—The Chancel and Nave form a
simple rectangular building (56 ft. by 16 ft.) with a bell-cote
over the W. gable. The E. and S. windows are of the late 19th
century. The S. doorway has roll-moulded jambs, a semi-circular-arched head of a single roll-moulded order, moulded
imposts and a chamfered label. At the S.W. corner is the
base of a destroyed buttress. The W. windows are single
two-centred lights of the early 19th century arranged in two
tiers to accommodate a former W. gallery. The W. buttress
is of two weathered stages with a moulded plinth. The bell-cote
has an arched opening with four-centred head, but all the
upper part is rebuilt. The South Porch (8 ft. by 4½ ft.) has an
outer archway with two-centred head of two chamfered
orders and continuous jambs.
The Parish Church, Kimmeridge
Fittings—Bell: one, inscribed 'ave g[racia plena]', 15th-century. Brass: in nave, in floor, of Richard Clavell, 1637/8,
small inscription plate. Coffin-lids: in churchyard—S.E. of
chancel, (1) tapered and hollow-chamfered slab with traces of
an eight-armed cross, 13th-century; S. of chancel, (2) tapered
and moulded slab with traces of a cross on a Calvary, 15th-century; E. of S. porch, (3) tapered slab with plain top, of
uncertain date. Communion Table: with turned legs, fluted
bearers and plain stretchers, early 17th-century, with modern
top. Font: rough circular stone bowl, probably 12th-century,
set on modern stem and base. Inscriptions and Scratchings: on E.
jamb of S. doorway, initials, probably c. 1600. Monuments
and Floor-slabs. Monuments: in chancel—on N. wall, (1) to
William Clavell, 1817, erected by his widow Sophia (Bingham)
and his brother, white marble tablet with cornice, urn and
shield-of-arms against a grey background; in nave—on S.
wall, (2) to Sophia (Bingham), widow of William Clavell,
1841, white marble tablet with cornice against a black background, signed Tyley, Bristol; in churchyard—loose against
vestry, (3) to George Foot, 1693, headstone. Floor-slab: in
chancel—to Frances Swaine, daughter of Roger Clavill, 1701.
Painting: over S. doorway, on rear arch, painted scroll-work
border, possibly 16th-century. Plate: cup, 1825, and paten,
1824. Miscellanea: loose in churchyard, mediaeval moulded
stones including parts of a 13th-century chancel arch and
fragments from 15th-century windows.
(2) 'Clavel Tower' (909786), 'folly' (Plate 58), of
three storeys above a semi-basement, is of brick and
rubble covered with stucco and with ashlar dressings.
It was built by the Rev. John Richards, who assumed
the name of Clavell on inheriting Smedmore in 1817
and died in 1833 (Hutchins I, 571).
The tower is circular; the first stage is surrounded by a
colonnade for which the basement forms a projecting podium;
the upper stages are divided by a moulded string-course, and
at the top is a cornice with mock machicolation and a parapet
pierced with quatrefoils. The door and window openings are
(3) Pier, Sea Wall, etc., on the E. side of Kimmeridge
Bay (908787), were built probably by Sir William
Clavell in the early 17th century, in connection with
The Pier, built of large blocks of squared stone, laid dry, is
approximately 75 yds. long and 26 ft. wide at the base of
sloping sides; extending N.E. from the pier are the tumbled
remains of a Sea wall of similar construction.
Tramway, behind Hen Cliff (909787–912782), survives as an
embankment, cuttings and terracing. It is 4 ft. to 6 ft. wide and
runs for 1,900 ft. from the cliff edge above Yellow Ledge
down a carefully made gradient of about 1 in 40 to a terraced
platform, about 110 ft. by 15 ft., on the top of the cliff above
the pier. It is not known whether this tramway is also the
work of Sir William Clavell.
In the 19th century a further Tramway, nearly a mile long,
was laid from workings at 916782 and 915787 down to the
shore to just N. of the earlier structures, where a timber pier,
now destroyed, projected from a length of sea wall; this last
survives in fair condition. The tramway is shown on the 1930
edition of the 6 ins. O.S. map (sheet LV S.E.).
(4) Smedmore House (924788), of two storeys with
attics and a small cellar, has walls of local stone and roofs
covered with stone slates. It was built by Sir William
Clavell early in the 17th century but the form of the
original house cannot now be determined. In the early
18th century the house was entirely remodelled with a
new and sophisticated S.W. elevation; in 1761 a new
range comprising entrance hall and reception rooms was
built across the N.W. end of the old house, involving
the destruction of part of the early 18th-century S.W.
elevation which had presumably been symmetrical. An
estimate for the completion of the work survives in
the house. Also in the second half of the 18th century
a kitchen wing was built to the E. This was extended to
the N.E. towards the end of the century and widened
to the N.W. later. The S.E. wing was added c. 1800.
Smedmore House, Plan
The elevations of the early 18th century and of 1761
are both of high-class workmanship and make an
interesting contrast. The interior retains some good
Architectural Description—The main front (Plate 99) to the
N.W. is faced with Portland ashlar under a simplified modillion
cornice and parapet; it is symmetrical. The central doorway
with flanking engaged Ionic columns and pediment is flanked
by hung-sash windows, with plain architraves and keystones,
which are repeated on the first floor. To each side is a projecting
semicircular bay with similar windows. The ashlar facing
returns some 3 ft. along the N.E. gable end, the rest of which
is of 17th-century rubble with the remains of an original
mullioned window, now blocked.
The S.W. elevation comprises the gabled end of the N.W.
range, mostly of stone rubble and without openings, the
principal elevation of the centre block and the side of the S.E.
wing. The centre block (Plate 98), of Purbeck stone rubble
with Portland dressings, has a moulded cornice and ashlar
parapet. Over the doorway is a hood carried on console
brackets and linked by panels to the scrolled and finely carved
surround which encloses the architrave of the window above.
The ground and first-floor windows have bolection-moulded
architraves and are linked vertically by ashlar panels. Similar
windows are reset in the S.E. elevation of the projecting part
of the N.W. range. The openings on the S.E. return of the
centre block have later architraves with keystones. The S.E.
wing is also of stone rubble with cornice and ashlar parapet
and has on each floor four windows with simple moulded
architraves, of which three are modern. The S.E. end is gabled
and has a reset 18th-century doorway. The N.E. elevation of
the wing is built in the traditional style, with overhanging
eaves and two-light stone-mullioned windows, those on the
ground floor having transoms.
Lead rainwater heads of 1761 are embossed with the Clavell
crest, a buck's head pierced by an arrow.
The kitchen wing projects to the N.E. and is of one storey
only and, with the later extension to the N.E., is covered by
three parallel roofs with half-hips to the S.E.; under the middle
hip is a Palladian window and to each side a window with
plain architrave under a pointed arch.
In the N.W. range the central Entrance Hall has the walls
decorated with dado rail, plaster panels and enriched modillion
cornice; on the S.E. wall are two console brackets with sprays
of foliage; over the doors are moulded cornices. The Dining
Room to the N.E. has dado rail, plaster panels and cornice, all
enriched, and the principal panels are scrolled at the top and
decorated with floral swags below. The fireplace has a surround in white and coloured marbles. Leading out of this room
is a 17th-century doorway with chamfered four-centred head.
The Drawing Room to the S.W. has an enriched dado rail and
cornice; the marble fireplace has side pilasters with acanthus
decoration and a frieze panel carved with a pastoral scene
(Plate 54). In the central block the Cedar Room is lined with
bolection-moulded panelling. The Study has a bolection-moulded Purbeck marble surround to the fireplace. The
Staircase is of the early 18th century with balusters alternately
turned and partly twisted. In the Pantry is a stone archway,
moulded on both sides, of the early 17th century, reused. In the
kitchen wing the Old Kitchen has a plaster barrel ceiling and
a large fireplace with three-centred head between flanking
arches. On the first floor a small room in the N.W. range has
a fireplace with an elaborate rococo surround of c. 1760 and an
iron grate decorated with figures in medallions (Plate 56).
The Brewhouse, to S.E., is of 17th-century origin, remodelled
in the early 19th century; it has an original doorway with
moulded four-centred head and a four-light window with
stone mullions. The Stable Building, of the early 18th century,
is U-shaped on plan and has a central rusticated archway
under a pediment.
(5) The Old Parsonage (20 yds. E.), of two storeys with
stone walls and stone-slated roofs, was built in 1837 in the
Jacobean style with stone-mullioned windows.
(6) Kimmeridge Farm (immediately W.) is of two storeys
with stone walls and stone-slated roofs. It was remodelled and
enlarged to its present form early in the 19th century and the
back wing bears a date stone of 1829. Over the front entrance
is a later shield-of-arms of Mansel.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of one storey with attics with walls of stone rubble
and thatched roofs.
(7) Post Office (110 yds. S.S.W.) is a single-storey cottage
probably of the late 18th century. Inside is a plaster barrel-vaulted ceiling.
(8) Cottages, Nos. 25–30, 15 yds. E. of (7): Nos. 29 and 30
were built as one house in the 17th century on a two-room
plan with a central chimney. Early in the 19th century the
house was divided and Nos. 25–28 were built, each with a
living room, scullery and detached outhouse, and another
cottage with tiled roof was added to the N.
(9) Cottage (160 yds. S.S.W.) is dated 1848.
(10) House and Cottage (220 yds. S.S.W.) were built
probably in the 17th century as a single house on a two-room
plan with a central through passage. Extensions were made to
the two ends in the 18th and 19th centuries.
(11) Cottage, now two tenements (220 yds. S.), was built
in the 18th century as one dwelling with a central entrance. An
addition with a slated roof is probably of the 19th century.
(12) Cottages (330 yds. S.S.W.) comprise a small early
17th-century house built on a two-room plan with end
entrance, a through passage and third room both added in the
18th century and later additions.
(13) Cottages (390 yds. S.) are probably of the 18th
(14) Kimmeridge Dairy (920786) is of one and two storeys
and has roofs covered with stone slates and tiles. It was built
in the 18th century on a two-room plan with central entrance
and end chimneys, and later lengthened. Abutting the S.W.
end of the house is an 18th-century Barn nearly 90 ft. long.
Mediaeval and Later Earthworks
(15) Strip Lynchets, of marked up-and-down form, occur
in four isolated groups on the S. face of Smedmore Hill. All
are in pasture and nearly all run across the contours, some as
steeply as 20° but in places easing to 5° before termination.
Treads are 5 yds. to 23 yds. wide with risers to the up-anddown lynchets in some instances as much as 5 ft. high. The
strips around 920798 belonged to Kimmeridge village itself,
the two groups at 925794 and 927793 to the former settlement
of Smedmore (now Smedmore House) and those at 930787,
cut by bench quarrying, to the former hamlet of Little
Kimmeridge. A roughly-shaped stone (92417941), 5 ft. long
and parallel-sided, lies below a group of strips and may have
marked a boundary associated with them. On the N.W. slope
of Metherhills, around 916794, are remains of very slight and
indistinct contour strip lynchets formerly part of the open
fields of Kimmeridge. (Fägersten, 134, 135; R.A.F. V.A.P.
CPE/UK 1821: 3410–11, 5415–18.)
Other Earthworks and Allied Monuments
(16–18) Roman Remains, p. 601.