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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This Volume contains, in addition to the official Report, an illustrated Inventory of the monuments in West Dorset, a Sectional Preface, which, under subject headings, calls attention to any particularly interesting examples entered in the Inventory; a list of monuments that the Commissioners have selected as especially worthy of preservation; a glossary of the architectural, heraldic and archæological terms which occur in the volume; a map showing the topographical distribution of the scheduled monuments, and an index. In 1946 permission was given to the Commission to extend its investigation to monuments erected since 1714 and this is the first Inventory completed by the Commission in which monuments of the 18th century and first half of the 19th century have been included. An armorial of heraldry before 1850 will be printed in the last Volume devoted to the county.
The monuments will be found, as in the Westmorland and Middlesex Inventories, under the heads of the parishes arranged alphabetically, with an introductory paragraph calling attention to the more noticeable among them in each parish. The chronological sequence chosen is not perhaps scientifically perfect, but it has been found a workable basis for classification. The order adopted is as follows :—
(1) Roman monuments and Roman earthworks.
(2) English ecclesiastical monuments.
(3) English secular monuments.
(4) Earthworks and megalithic monuments.
In addition to dwelling-houses, the English secular class (3) includes such earthworks as mount and bailey castles, homestead moats, etc. To section (4) are assigned all earthworks, not Roman or definitely mediæval, whether dated or not; this permits the grouping together of earthworks of the same type, some of which may have been excavated and their date determined.
The descriptions of the monuments are of necessity much compressed, but the underlying principle on which accounts of any importance are based is the same throughout.
In the first place, the Parish is located by letters in brackets which refer to the square where it is to be found in the map at the end of the volume ; reference is also given where necessary to the Ordnance sheets (scale 6 inches to the mile) by small letters in front of the number of each monument. The description of churches begins with a few words on the situation and material of the fabric, together with a statement on the development of its various parts. A second paragraph calls attention, when necessary, to its more remarkable features. This is followed by a concise description, mainly architectural, of its details. A fourth paragraph deals with the fittings, in alphabetical order. The accounts of less important buildings, whether secular or ecclesiastical, are still further compressed, and, for secular monuments, consist of a single paragraph, or of a mere mention of their situation if they belong to a group with certain characteristics described in a covering paragraph.
The standardisation of the spelling of proper names in the Commission's inventories has always presented considerable difficulties, and almost any system is open to criticism. It is well known that during much of the period covered by our terms of reference the art of spelling was in a very fluid state, proper names especially being subject to a wide variation, dictated partly by their phonetic values and partly by individual caprice. In the absence, therefore, of any final court of appeal, it has been thought best to abide, in the matter of place-names, by the spelling adopted by the Ordnance Survey, without prejudice as to its accuracy.
In the matter of personal names, in treating of individual funeral-monuments etc., the actual spelling of the memorial has been reproduced, while in the rest of the text the normal spelling of the name has been followed.
The illustrations are derived, with a few exceptions, from photographs taken expressly for the Commission and reproduced by H.M. Stationery Office, whose work, I think, deserves special recognition. The illustration of the de Luda indent at Askerswell and Whitchurch Canonicorum is based on the photograph of a drawing kindly lent by the Dorset Natural History and Archæological Society. All the air-photographs were taken for the Commission, and are reproduced by kind permission of the Curator in Aerial Photography in the University of Cambridge. The plan of Sherborne Old Castle is based on plans kindly lent by Mr. C. E. Bean, F.S.A.
Where required, to ensure clearness of description, churches not illustrated by historically hatched plans have been provided with key-plans to a uniform scale of 48 feet to the inch. The dimensions given in the Inventory are internal unless otherwise stated.
It may also be well again to draw attention to the fact that our record cards for the County may be consulted by properly accredited persons who give notice of their intention to our Secretary at 37, Onslow Gardens, S.W.7. The cards contain photographs, drawings of tracery and mouldings, as well as plans and sketches of the monuments. They form the complete National Inventory. Copies of the photographs may be purchased on application to the Secretary.
We have followed our unbroken practice of including no monument that has not actually been inspected, and the account of every monument of importance has been checked in situ by a member of our own investigating staff. In a work of such intricate detail there must be mistakes. But I hope these are neither numerous nor serious. A further guarantee of accuracy lies in the fact that my fellow Commissioners, Professor Hamilton Thompson and Dr. Rose Graham, have revised the reports of the Inventories of secular and ecclesiastical monuments, while my fellow Commissioners, Sir Cyril Fox and Professor R. E. M. Wheeler, have supervised the reports on earthworks, and my fellow Commissioner, Dr. I. A. Richmond, has revised the Roman entries. The heraldry of the Inventory has been checked by my fellow Commissioner, Mr. H. Stanford London. Nevertheless my colleagues and I shall welcome any corrections and criticisms that may be sent to me with a view to their possible inclusion in some future edition.