Langton Matravers

Pages 140-144

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


(O.S. 6 ins. aSY 97 NE, bSZ 07 NW, cSZ 08 SW)

The parish, covering some 2,160 acres, is a roughly rectangular strip of land, lying between the sea and the Purbeck Hills, immediately W. of Swanage. The S. half of the parish on the hard limestones of the Purbeck and Portland Beds is a treeless and stony tableland, between 300 ft. and 400 ft. above O.D., intersected by drystone walls and scarred by tip heaps, quarries and mineshafts. To the N. the land falls gently over the Upper Purbeck outcrops, the source of Purbeck marble from Roman times, into a wooded valley in soft Wealden sands and shales. Beyond, the land rises steeply to the high Chalk hog's-back ridge of the Purbeck Hills, at over 600 ft. above O.D.

The present village is strung out along the road from Kingston to Swanage in the centre of the parish; this is probably the result of the growth of the mediaeval extractive industries of the area. Originally, as elsewhere in the Isle of Purbeck, there was a scatter of tiny settlements, most of which were already in existence by 1086 (Domesday Book), each with a small area of land, the boundaries of which can still be traced in the continuous hedgelines. These settlements were either on the N. edge of the limestone outcrop, such as Acton, Leeson and Coombe, or in the central valley and on the S. slope of the Purbeck Hills, such as Wilkswood, Knitson and Knaveswell.

The buildings in the parish are nearly all of Purbeck stone with stone-slated roofs; some of the isolated houses are of the 17th century, but few buildings in the present village are older than the 18th century.


a(1) The Parish Church of St. George stands in the middle of the village. The West Tower, of squared and coursed rubble with a lead-covered roof, was built in the middle of the 15th century; at the S.E. corner is a vice, rebuilt in 1876. The rest of the church was rebuilt in 1828 and again in 1875–6 to the designs of G. R. Crickmay.

Architectural Description—The West Tower (9 ft. by 10 ft.) is of three storeys divided externally into two stages by a weathered offset and has a moulded plinth and diagonal buttresses to the lower stage. At the top is a parapet string and an embattled parapet, partly modern. In the E. wall the archaic tower arch is two-centred, of two wave-moulded orders with continuous jambs. Above is the outline of the low roof of a mediaeval nave some 6½ ft. narrower than the present nave. The rectangular W. window has casementmoulded jambs and lintel; the mullions have been removed and the window has been extended to form a doorway and fanlight. The first floor is lit by small rectangular windows in the N. and S. walls. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of two trefoiled lights with sunk spandrels in a square head; that to the E. is below the level of the present nave roof and is blocked. Across it runs the line of the roof of the nave of 1828.

Fittings—Bells: one, with inscription 'S[a]ncte Ihonas ora pro nobis' and stamp of a mediaeval ship with stern-castle, made in Bristol by John Gosselin, early 15th-century; two 18th-century bells were disposed of in 1941. Bell-frame, probably 17th-century, restored. Brass: In nave—S. of chancel arch, to [John] Havelland, 1607, and Mary his wife [1587], also of Thomas their eldest son, 1624, inscription plate, made 1630, now incomplete (Dorset Procs. LII (1930), 20; Hutchins, 1st ed. I, 215). Font: octagonal bowl with two trefoil-headed panels in each side, on octagonal stem with eight engaged shafts, 13th-century, retooled, set on modern base. Monument: In S. aisle, to the Rev. Samuel Serrell, 1842, and Harriot (Digby) his wife, 1848, white marble tablet with cornice on slate backing. Plate: includes an Italian cup of the early 16th century, a cup and flagon both of 1735, and a small salver of 1766. Miscellanea: In S. aisle, on S. wall, oak panel carved with St. George and the Dragon and subsidiary scenes, 16th-century, probably German; in S. aisle over S. door, part of plain gable cross; in W. tower, flanking head of W. window, two carved stone heads, reset.

a(2) Wesleyan Chapel (350 yds. W.S.W.) has rubble walls rendered with stucco and roofs covered with stone slates; it is dated 1842. A schoolroom was added later at the S. end. A new chapel was built immediately E. of the old in 1875. The old chapel is a simple rectangular building with a small projection at the S. end of the E. side. The entrance doorway is in the N. gable wall and has plain stone dressings; it leads into an internal porch under a plain gallery across the N. end. The windows are rectangular and plain under plain stone lintels. On the frontage are contemporary iron railings having standards with urn finials and spear-headed uprights.


a(3) Former School, opposite the church, is of one storey with rubble walls and slated roof. It is dated 1845 and is built in the Tudor style. It was enlarged in the present century.

b(4) Leeson House is of two storeys with attics. The walls are of stone or covered with stucco and the roofs are slated. On the W. side are the remains of a 17th-century farmhouse, remodelled and retaining no original features; this was enlarged in the early 19th century, and further, more extensive, additions were made towards the middle of the 19th century and later.

The house is built on an irregular plan. The main block faces E. and has the E. wall carried up to two gables flanking a central gabled dormer, all finished with octagonal stone finials. The finials are repeated on a small lower wing to the N. and on the S. porch, which has octagonal corner buttresses and a four-centred arched doorway. Inside, the principal doorways have four-centred heads, and some of the rooms have exposed ceiling joists carried on shaped brackets. The staircase has two-centred arcaded balustrades. Many fragments of Flemish carved woodwork of the 17th and 18th centuries have been reused in combination with 19th-century work to form doors, fireplace surrounds and window shutters. Outbuildings include a coach-house and stable block of the early 19th century with an elliptical-arched entrance, now blocked.

Monuments (5–38)

These monuments, unless otherwise described below, are small houses and cottages, generally of two storeys with rubble walls and stone-slated roofs, and of the late 18th or early 19th century. Some have a central entrance with a window to each side, but several of those in the village street are built on a narrow frontage with one ground-floor front window only. Buildings numbered on the village maps but for which there is no individual entry below are covered by this general description.

a(5) The Rectory is mostly of the mid and late 19th century but incorporates a 17th-century building at the S.W. corner, which has been refronted and refenestrated at the later date.

a(6) Wilkswood Farm (995795) is an interesting complex of buildings, including two separate early 17th-century houses originally of much the same size and probably similar in plan, grouped round one farmyard (see Sectional Preface, p. xxxvii). In the 17th century it was the home of the Havelland family (Dorset Procs. LII (1930), 20).

The Farmhouse is largely of the mid 19th century, but it incorporates in the western half the walls of a 17th-century house of hall and inner room type. The original hall fireplace, with chamfered stone jambs and four-centred head, and a small window in the W. end wall remain. The lower part of the W. wall projects to the S. into a later addition and may originally have been continued to form a small enclosure in front of the house.

A few yards from the E. end of the farmhouse and at right angles to it is another small 17th-century House of one storey and attic. At the S. end is a chimney-stack, now capped with brick. In the late 17th or early 18th century a Dairy House, also of one storey and attic, was built on the W. side parallel with the farmhouse, forming a small courtyard. The dairy house is divided into two by a stone cross wall; the W. room has a fireplace, two chamfered ceiling beams and a stone staircase. The E. part has a window closed by wooden slats and has probably been used as a cheese room.

c(7) Knaveswell Farm (001808) has been modernised internally.

c(8) Knitson Farm, house (004807), of one storey and attics, was built in the 17th century; the date 1634 is said to be carved on the N.E. corner of the house but is now hidden by later additions. The front is symmetrical with a central doorway flanked by two casement windows above which are two dormer windows with hipped roofs. The plan comprises two rooms with gable fireplaces and opposed doorways at one end of the hall. There are additions to the S. and E. (Modernised)

Knitson Farm Cottage, 60 yds. S.E. of the farmhouse, of one storey and attics, was probably built in the 18th century as a cottage and small barn under one roof. It has been altered in modern times. Barn, N.W. of the farmhouse, was built in the 18th century and has a modern roof. (See also Monument 40.)

b(9) Langton Manor Farm, house, of two storeys and attics, was built in the 18th century and later extended towards the E. It may incorporate parts of an earlier building. A Cottage, 33 yds. S.W. of the foregoing, was built in the early 18th century and later licensed as a public house.

b(10) Oakridge (006790), a house of one storey and attics, was built in the early 18th century, the original part consisting of the kitchen, with entrance lobby and staircase partitioned off at the S. end. Later in the same century the living room at the S. end was built or rebuilt; at a later date a porch was added to the W. front and a larder and store room were added at the N. end.

b(11) Coombe New Buildings, six cottages, are of two periods. The four E. cottages are late 18th-century, the E. two after 1841.

Langton Matravers (W)

b(12) Cottages, three, of one storey and attics, comprise a house probably of the late 17th century divided into two tenements with gable-end chimneys, a single-storey wing added at the back and a two-storey cottage added in the second quarter of the 19th century. (E. cottage modernised)

b(14) Cottages, a pair, were built as a single house in the late 16th century; a mullioned window and rear staircase outshot remain from this date. The building was drastically altered in the early 19th century. (Modernised)

a(16) 'King's Arms', public house, was built at the end of the 18th century. The interior was altered and a porch added in the 19th century.

a(17) House, of two storeys and attics, is rendered in stucco and with a stone plat-band.

a(19) Forge Cottage was reconstructed in 1955.

a(23) House is L-shaped on plan and has been enlarged.

a(27) Spyway Barn (998777) is of the mid 19th century with a modern roof.

a(29) Houses, three, at Acton (989784), form one range. The middle house, probably of the late 16th or early 17th century, was built on a two-room plan with chimneys in the gable-end walls; stop-chamfered ceiling beams are the only original features remaining. Additions at each end are of the early 19th century.

a(30) House (990789).

a(31) Court Pound, house (991787), originally two cottages, is built on an L-shaped plan with a projecting chimney-stack at the end of one wing. The Pound, 70 yds. N. of the house, a rectangular enclosure some 28½ ft. by 26½ ft. with dry-stone walling 4 ft. high, is said to have been used for donkeys straying from local quarry-workings. It is 18th-century or later.

a(32) Cottage is of one storey and attics. The W. part was probably built in the 17th century, on a hall and inner room plan, aligned from W. to E. down a slope, with the hall chimney at the E. end and the entrance beside it. A third room with a new entrance sheltered by a porch was added to the E. end in the 18th century. A new doorway has been made near the W. end and the windows have been altered.

a(33) House, with stone inscribed 'S.C. 1799', has a later addition at the S. end.

a(36) Cottage, of one storey and attics, is of the 17th century, probably first built on a single-room plan and doubled in size later in the same century. There are lean-to additions at the back and the building has been divided into two tenements. One stone-mullioned window remains. (Demolished)

a(38) Durnford House is of two storeys and attics with walls of ashlar and rubble with ashlar dressings. It is dated 1725 but was rebuilt in the mid 20th century with old material; the former house was five bays wide with a symmetrical S. front, but the new house is only three bays wide. The S. front incorporates an entrance doorway with a moulded eared architrave and a date stone within the pediment above and hung-sash windows of rather squat proportions with moulded architraves and diagonal glazing bars, all of 1725.

Langton Matravers (E)

Earthworks, Etc.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

b(39) Strip Lynchets (001788–002784), of contour and up-and-down types, cover about 10 acres 300 yds. S.E. of the church and S. of Putlake Farm. The very fragmentary remains are arranged in butting furlongs and are extensively cut into by later quarries. (R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1821: 5400.)

c(40) Strip Fields around Knitson (004808), a settlement first recorded in 1318 (Fägersten, 123) which lies just over 1¼ miles N.N.E. of St. George's church, Langton Matravers (1). In 1774 Knitson was described as 'an hamlet and little farm in Afflington tithing' (Hutchins, 1st ed. I, 214).

Extensive remains of strip fields lying within an area of 90 acres to the E. and S.E. have now been largely destroyed, but many appear on vertical air photographs. Contour strip lynchets with the treads cultivated still partly survive N.E. of the farm (Monument 8); they are arranged in furlongs along a slope of some 10°, butting against others to the E. running directly against a slope of 18°. Risers are up to 6 ft. high. To the S.E. of the farm, strips ran N.-S. down an 8° slope, at the S. end of which (near 005802) they were from about 10 yds. to 25 yds. wide, divided by low banks. All the strips except this last block, which must have lain outside the bounds of the then open field, tally with the pattern of furlongs in the 'Common Field' on the Tithe Map of 1841. A funnelmouthed droveway runs N. through the settlement to Nine Barrow Down and S., as a hollow-way, to former pasture some 350 yds. S.E. of the farm. (R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1821: 2399.)

Other Earthworks and Allied Monuments

(41) Mound, for a windmill, p. 482.

(42–44) Roman Remains, p. 602.

Ancient Field Group (28), p. 632.