Knighton, West

Pages 135-140

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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In this section

16 KNIGHTON, WEST (7387)

(O.S. 6 ins. aSY 78 NW, bSY 79 SW)

The parish of West Knighton, 3½ m. E.S.E. of Dorchester, covers about 2,600 acres near the W. edge of the S. Dorset heathland and is curiously irregular in shape. It is bounded on the N. by the river Frome and stretches S.W. across a broad area of Plateau Gravel giving rise to an extensive flat heathland at about 200 ft. above O.D. This in turn gives way to an area of Reading Beds on which the village stands; beyond, the land rises gradually on Chalk to the extreme E. end of the S. Dorset Ridgeway at over 400 ft. above O.D.

The irregular shape of the parish is due to the combination of four earlier mediaeval settlements together with their associated land blocks. The central part of the parish belonged to the present village, the open fields of which, finally enclosed in 1785, lay all round (Enclosure Award in D.C.R.O.; see also Map of Manor of West Knighton, 1742, D.C.R.O.); the village now includes two farms of 17th-century origin.

The N. part of the parish belonged to the mediaeval settlement of Lewell, or East Stafford, now represented by Lower Lewell Farm (7) and Lewell Mill (8), situated on a river terrace of the Frome. The long narrow projection of the parish S.W. from the S.W. corner was the land of Little Mayne (20), now reduced to a single farm, while the similar S.W. projection from the S.E. corner was the land of the settlement of Fryer Mayne (19), now deserted except for the manor house (2).

The church is the principal monument.


a(1) The Parish Church of St. Peter stands to the S.W. of the village. The walls are mostly of stone rubble with some flint, and the roofs are covered with stone slates, lead and tiles. The church was built in the 12th century, but of this date only the E. wall and part of the N. wall of the Nave remain, together with the beginnings of the side walls of the chancel. Early in the 13th century the Chancel was rebuilt and slightly widened towards the N., the nave was lengthened, a South Aisle with its arcade was added and the lower part of the West Tower was built. In the 14th century the North Porch was added; it was subsequently rebuilt, largely with the old materials. In the 15th century the nave was heightened and large windows were inserted in the N. wall; the nave walls were again heightened before the 17th century when the W. part of the N. wall was completely rebuilt. The upper part of the tower was completed in the 15th century. In the 16th century the E. part of the former S. aisle was enlarged to form the present South Chapel and in the 18th century the W. part of the aisle was destroyed and the W. arches of the arcade were blocked. The church was restored, reputedly under the supervision of Thomas Hardy, in 1893–4, when, too, the Vestry was probably added.

The Parish Church of St. Peter

The church is of some interest for the involved archi tectural history which typifies the piecemeal development of many English village churches.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (18½ ft. by 16 ft.) has a plinth on the E. wall only. The E. window is probably of 14th-century origin but mullions and tracery have been removed. In the N. wall is a doorway with chamfered two-centred head and chamfered jambs and a single small lancet window. In the S. wall is a modern doorway to the vestry. The chancel arch has been rebuilt; it is stilted segmental, of one chamfered order with chamfered imposts, and is flanked by square-headed squints covered with modern plaster, perhaps 19th-century.

The Nave (40 ft. by 18 ft.) has at the E. end of the N. wall a shallow 12th-century buttress; between this and the porch the wall has been heightened, first above a weathered offset and secondly above a moulded string. W. of the porch a projecting base course finishing just W. of the window probably indicates the length of the 12th-century nave; the junction between the 17th-century rebuilding of the N. wall and the 13th-century W. wall is masked by a later buttress. The doorway has a restored four-centred head. A 15th-century window to the E., of three lights with restored vertical tracery, originally rose into a gable above the eaves of the nave roof. A similar window to the W. is reset and extensively restored. The S. arcade has four segmental pointed arches, of two chamfered orders, carried on circular piers with moulded capitals and chamfered bases. The W. respond has an attached shaft with a moulded capital; the E. respond is similar but the shaft is missing. The two W. arches are blocked and in the blocking of one is a reset 16th-century window of three trefoiled lights in a square head.

The South Chapel (17 ft. by 14 ft.) has a N. arcade against the nave arcade of two round arches springing from a chamfered rectangular pier and responds with chamfered imposts. In the E. wall is a 13th-century lancet window; in the S. wall is a 16th-century window of three uncusped two-centred lights in a square head; the W. wall has been rebuilt in flint with a 13th-century lancet window reset. The West Tower (5¼ ft. square) is divided externally into three stages by weathered string-courses and has a plain parapet with moulded coping; the upper part is faced internally with modern brickwork. In the lower stage the E. wall has a two-centred arched doorway to the nave; in the W. wall is a restored lancet window. In the second stage there is in each wall a window of two trefoiled lights with pierced spandrels in a square head. In the E. wall is the weathering for a former steeper nave roof, before the nave was heightened. The North Porch (6¼ ft. by 7½ ft.) has an outer doorway with chamfered arched head and continuous jambs with a flat lintel behind the arch.

The Roof to the S. chapel has a flat ceiling, perhaps of the 18th century; the chancel and nave roofs are of 1893–4.

Fittings—Bell: one, by John Wallis, 1603. Brackets: In nave in N.E. and S.E. corners, moulded stone brackets for rood beam, one with roll moulding and carved palmette, the other plain, 13th-century. Chests: in vestry, two small plain oak chests, 31 ins. and 36 ins. long, late 18th or early 19th-century. Graffito: on N. wall of nave by N.E. buttress, IOHN BOW 1.J.76. Monuments: In chancel—on S. wall, (1) to Elizabeth, wife of Richard Warde, 1635, grey marble tablet on moulded stone panel. In nave, (2) to John Adair Hawkins, 1842, and Jane (Williams) his wife, 1863, shield-shaped black marble tablet on grey ground. In churchyard—N.E. of porch, (3) to William [Meer, 16]79, table-tomb carved with symbols of mortality; N.W. of porch, (4) to John Trenchfild, 1688/9, table-tomb. Paintings: in nave—high on E. wall, [Jahveh] within a rayed triangle, early 18th-century; on S. wall over arcade and largely concealed by monument (2), Lord's Prayer, c. 1800. Plate: includes cup and cover paten of 1572, inscribed 1573; paten of 1847, inscribed 1850. Tables of the Creed etc.: in chancel and nave, on E. walls, four stone tablets with cinque-foiled four-centred heads and in moulded frames, inscribed with Lord's Prayer, Creed and Decalogue, all mid 19th-century. Miscellanea: in nave on W. wall above gallery, lead from roof cast with initials, names and dates of churchwardens, HS CW 1815, GEO. HOLDEN CHA. BOOLOCK CW 1744, LEVI GROVES CHURCH WARDEN 1831.


a(2) Fryer Mayne, manor house (737865), two-storeyed, has stone walls and tiled roofs. A mediaeval house of the Knights Hospitallers stood on this site, but the present house was probably built by John Williams soon after 1600. It probably consisted of three ranges round a courtyard open to the W., but the E. and S. ranges were rebuilt in the second quarter of the 19th century and the courtyard partly filled in. The N. range has a central projection of which the lower part forms a porch with original arched entrance; some of the stone-mullioned windows are also of the 17th century. The interior is entirely modernised, but reset in the hall and in the yard wall are 15th-century stone corbels carved with angels and other stones carved with quatrefoils. In the garden wall are the moulded arch and broken bowl of a late mediaeval piscina, and other mediaeval worked stones reset to form an archway. The site of a deserted mediaeval village (Monument 19) lies to the N.W.

a(3) West Knighton Farm, house (40 yds. N.W.), is of two storeys with brick walls and slated roof (Plate 44). Hutchins (II, 498) records that 'the Richards's had a seat here built by James Richards Esq.' in the late 17th century, and the existing house is probably of that date although much altered. The hung-sash windows, the slated roof and most of the internal partitions and fittings are of the 19th century, so too is an added wing to the E. The walls are built in English bond with a first-floor plat-band; doorways and windows have segmental arched heads. On plan, the house comprises an entrance hall and staircase flanked by two heated rooms with a kitchen beyond one of them, giving a long straight range divided into four compartments.

a(4) Higher Lewell Farm, house (170 yds. E.S.E.), of two storeys, has mainly tiled roofs with stone slates at the verges. The original house was built with stone walls in the 17th century, probably on a two-room plan with end chimneys. Between 1760 and 1769 it was enlarged in brick by the addition of an entrance hall and a third room and heightened. The initials and date RSP 176 are worked in the wall in blue headers; the last figure of the date has been lost with the insertion of a 19th-century bay window.

a(5) House (180 yds. N.N.E.), of two storeys with brickfaced walls and thatched roof, is dated 1719, but is probably of 17th-century origin. The date, with initials LP MP, is worked in vitrified headers on the E. front and repeated on a stone in the S. chimney. The windows are fitted with early 19th-century cast-iron casements.

a(6) Lewell Lodge (732884) is of two storeys with cellars and attics and has brick walls, mostly rendered in stucco, and slated roofs. It was built c. 1796 by Adair Hawkins, an eminent surgeon, (Hutchins II, 500) and was extended shortly afterwards by the addition of a wing to the N.E. Further minor additions were made later. The house is designed on a straightforward rectangular Georgian plan with a central through hall containing the staircase, and two rooms to each side. The detail is Gothic. The porch has a two-centred arched entrance and the windows are of two and three pointed lights under square heads with labels. This Gothic detail is repeated in the N.E. wing. Inside, the staircase has cusped tracery between the balusters and there are stained glass shields-of-arms in two of the windows; otherwise the fittings are in the ordinary Classical style of the period and include some original decorated iron fire-grates.

a(7) Lower Lewell Farm (742896) is an interesting group of buildings comprising farmhouse, dairy house, cottages and barn (Plate 50).

House (a), of two storeys and attics with walls of squared rubble and brick and a tiled roof with slates and stone slates at the eaves, was built in the early 17th century and enlarged in the early 18th century. The original part has stone walls with a moulded string across the S. gable wall and windows with hollow-chamfered mullions and dressings and moulded labels; of these one survives on the ground floor, of two lights now blocked, and one on the first floor, altered to take hung sashes. The original plan consisted of a main range with a chimney at each end and a small back wing. In the 18th century the house was partly refronted and extended to the N. in brickwork of Flemish bond with vitrified headers similar to the brickwork of the barn dated 1704 (see below) and probably of about the same date. The northward extension provided a new kitchen on the ground floor and the original part was remodelled with a new staircase in a central entrance hall. The entrance porch was added at the same time. A 17th-century door-frame in the attics may be reset; the roof is carried on tie and collar-beam trusses. Outbuildings: Cowshed, S. of the house, with stone walls largely rebuilt in brick and a thatched roof, is of early 17th-century origin and retains parts of five jointed-cruck trusses of this date; it was enlarged to the S. in the 18th century. Dairy House (b), W. of the house, of two storeys with brick walls and a modern slated roof, is of the early 18th century. Doorways and windows have segmental-arched heads and the first floor is marked by a plat-band. The S. half of the building forms a dwelling with a two-room plan and an original fireplace in the northern room. The N. half is the dairy. Barn, S.W. of the house, is of brick with a thatched roof and is dated 1704 with the initials IR in the brickwork. It is of eleven bays of which the central one is larger than the others and set between two porches. The bay divisions are marked by two-stage buttresses and each bay is lit by a narrow slit light which has been lengthened. The E. porch is gabled, with a moulded coping to the gable parapet, and has a plain brick label above the doors, the brickwork between the label and the door-head being rebuilt. The W. porch has a hipped roof. The main roof is carried on collar-beam trusses (Plate 53) and is half-hipped at each end. Cottages, two, N. of the barn, are of the second half of the 19th century but incorporate some stone walling probably of the early 17th century.

Lower Lewell Farm

b(8) Lewell Mill, on the S. bank of the river Frome (738900), is a 16th-century building with rubble walls, which comprised the mill itself and a miller's house attached; it has been enlarged, partly rebuilt and partly refaced in Broadmayne brick in the late 19th century and later; the whole now forms two dwellings.

The mill building is of two storeys, faced with brick and entirely converted to domestic use. The mill wheel was in a lower wheel-house projecting at the N. end. The miller's house was an L-shaped building against the S. end of the mill, with wings to W. and S.; the W. wing has a stone-built gable end with a three-light window with hollow-chamfered mullions and a label and other original windows now blocked. The arrangement of the windows suggests that there was a staircase in this wing.

The S. wing has been rebuilt. In the N.E. angle of the house the ground-floor room has richly moulded beams dividing the ceiling into twelve square panels each containing three joists carrying boards running parallel with them.

Monuments (9–18)

The following monuments unless otherwise described are of one storey and attics or two storeys, with walls of cob or stone and thatched roofs, and of the late 18th or early 19th century.

a(9) Cottage (20 yds. E.) is built on a two-room plan comprising living room and scullery, with an end chimney.

a(10) Cottages, seven (70 yds. E.), with modern corrugated iron roofs, were originally built as a range of five cottages which has been extended at both ends.

a(11) Cottages, four (70 yds. N.E.), on W. side of road, originated with the two middle cottages built as one dwelling, perhaps c. 1700.

a(12) Cottage (160 yds. N.N.E.), on E. side of road, dated 1803, has been refaced later in brick and a later cottage has been added to the N. end. (Demolished)

a(13) Cottage (205 yds. N.N.E.), on E. side of road, has been largely refaced in brick and the N. end wall rebuilt on the demolition of an adjoining cottage.

a(14) The New Inn (250 yds. N.) has a tiled roof with stone slates at the verges and incorporates in the lower parts of the walls stonework which may be of earlier date.

a(15) Cottages, five, three N. of (14), on W. side of road, and two opposite.

a(16) Cottages, a pair (745897).

a(17) Brake Cottage (748899) has rendered walls and slated roof.

a(18) Cottage, at Little Mayne (723871), has the lower parts of the walls of stone rubble with brick and cob above. There is no evidence to support the suggestion that the stone walling belongs to the former chapel of St. Stephen; the walls are only 19 ins. thick and therefore unlikely to be mediaeval. (See Monument (20); Dorset Procs. LIX (1937), 29; Hutchins II, 503.) The Barn, S.W. of Little Mayne Farmhouse, originally of rubble, was partly rebuilt in brick and re-roofed in the 19th century. It has two gabled porches and flush doorways opposite to them.

Earthworks, Etc.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

West Knighton. (19) Fryer Mayne, deserted mediaeval village.

a(19) Fryer Mayne (Fig. p. 139), deserted mediaeval village remains (735866), mostly destroyed in May 1963, lay about 1,200 yds. S.S.E. of the church in a 10 acre meadow bounded on the W. by the parish boundary with Broadmayne. The settlement remains of Broadmayne (18) lie just beyond. On the S.E. is the drive leading to Fryer Mayne house (2) near which is the site of a chapel described as 'slighted' in 1650. Perhaps other features once connected with the old village are concealed here. The history of the settlement is difficult to determine since references to 'Mayne' held by the Knights Hospitallers from the 13th century could in some early cases refer equally well to Little Mayne ((20) below) though a water-mill mentioned in 1338 was probably at Fryer Mayne. (Hutchins II, 500 ff.; Fägersten 154.)

The site is on a gentle slope falling N.W. from about 190 ft. to about 160 ft. above O.D. towards a small stream flowing E. to join a tributary of the Frome. The subsoil is sand and clay of the Reading Beds. When recorded, the earthworks were relatively well preserved in spite of much quarrying on the S.E. A well-defined hollow-way ran approximately W. to E. through the settlement along relatively flat ground. Where it entered the meadow at the W., continuing the line of the parish boundary, its S. scarp was 8 ft. deep but elsewhere was nearer 3 ft.; to the E. it faded out into a relatively level area. Lining it to the S. for over 200 yds. was a virtually continuous row of house sites and N. of it were others, fewer in number; where there were no house sites the roadway was demarcated by a bank up to 3 ft. high. The houses, defined by low banks or scarps, varied in size from 12 ft. by 20 ft. to 35 ft. by 90 ft. Those N. of the hollow-way were on platforms up to 3 ft. high. To the S. the platforms were levelled back into the natural slope. Immediately after being ploughed, the walls of some houses showed clearly as spreads of cob, and there was also stone rubble. Potsherds brought to the surface were probably 14th-century, though there was much later debris in the quarried area to the S.E. On the S.W., short low parallel ridges, nowhere more than about 9 ins. high, seemed never to have extended any further than when recorded; they were most unlikely, therefore, to have been the remains of ploughing.

The closes running back from the house sites were bounded by banks or scarps generally 2 ft. to 3 ft. high and varied in size from about 1/9 acre to ¼ acre. The shallow linear depressions which divided some of them might have marked ditches since they did not seem to give access to the main hollow-way. The pattern to the E., though broken by quarrying, suggested that a different type of feature was represented. (R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1934: 1051–2.)

a(20) Little Mayne, settlement remains (723871), cover over 5 acres W., S.W. and N. of Little Mayne Farm from which the ground falls gently to the S. and S.W. The bedrock N., S. and E. of the farm is Upper Chalk but the farm itself and the area immediately W. are on Reading Beds. Many large sarsens of normal Reading Beds type are scattered about (see p. 513). The first documentary reference to Little Mayne (Parva Maene) seems to be in 1201–2, though 'Maine' is found in Domesday Book. The name is plausibly linked with the Welsh maen, 'a stone' (Fägersten, 154). Hutchins records a free chapel of St. Stephen: its earliest recorded rector was instituted in 1326 and the last in 1491; the living was a sinecure (Hutchins II, 503; see also Monument 18). An estate map, now in D.C.R.O., shows that in 1742 the boundary with the manor of West Knighton ran N. along the hollow-way, described below, from Little Mayne Farm.

Scarped closes lie N. of the farm around a well-marked hollow-way, 2 ft. deep, running N. between low banks. Small sarsen stones protrude from the crest and scarp on the E. It could not be traced N. of the slight double bend in the hedge which it meets at 72478729. Warne calls it a 'straight avenue' and would link it with former stone circles, but it is far more likely to be mediaeval (C. Warne, 'Illustrations of the History of Dorset' (1847), 232 (MS. in D.C.M.); Dorset Procs. LIX (1937), 28). (R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1934: 1053–4.)

Other Earthworks and Allied Monuments

(21–24) Round Barrows, p. 445.

(25) Mound, p. 482.

(26–27) Roman Remains, p. 602.