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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'Hilton', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970) pp. 109-113. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol3/pp109-113 [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section

22 HILTON (7803)

(O.S. 6 ins. ST 70 SE, ST 70 NE)

Hilton covers an area of nearly 3,050 acres, straddling the summit of the Chalk escarpment, which at this point is considerably broken. The S.E. part of the parish, between 400 and 700 ft. above sea-level and mainly on Chalk, is drained by the headwaters of the Devil's Brook and the Milborne Brook. Except for the Chalk spur of Bulbarrow, the N.W. part of the parish is lower and lies on Greensand, Gault and Kimmeridge Clay; here the land is drained by streams flowing N. to the R. Lydden. The village of Hilton, in the S.E., is surrounded by extensive areas of strip fields (29, a). To W. and N.W. lie the hamlets of Lower and Higher Ansty, perhaps secondary settlements and apparently without open fields. Further to the W. and N. lie the farmsteads of Cothayes, Hatherly and Rawlsbury; these are associated with old enclosed fields (29, b) and are more certainly secondary. Newton Farm at the S. extremity of the parish may have a similar origin. (fn. 1)

Hilton, the Parish Church of All Saints


(1) The Parish Church of All Saints is built partly of squared rubble and partly of flint with bonding courses and dressings of ashlar. The roofs are covered with slate and with lead. That there was an early church on the site is attested by a late 12th-century font, by several detached fragments of 12th-century architectural ornament and by the anomalous position of the S. porch, which shows that the S. aisle was formerly narrower than at present; part of the S. wall of the chancel and the base of a ruined buttress at the S.E. corner of the tower may survive from this period. Capitals reset in the N. arcade of the nave suggest that an aisle was built in the 13th century, but little trace of it remains; the position of the porch shows that it was to the S. The West Tower and South Porch are of the late 15th century. The church took its present form in the 16th century when the Nave, South Aisle and Chancel were rebuilt and the North Aisle was added, the N. arcade probably being set on the foundations of the original N. wall. The N. Aisle extends E. to embrace part of the chancel, forming a North Chapel which is entered from the chancel through a side arch; the N. wall of the aisle includes a row of 15th-century windows and buttresses, almost certainly from Milton Abbey. In 1569 the S. Aisle was widened, without altering the position of the 15th-century porch, and a South Chapel was formed to correspond with that on the N., but separated from the aisle by a N.-S. wall in line with the chancel arch; this wall was not removed until the end of the 19th century and an old photograph preserved in the church shows that it was pierced by a small round-headed window, suggesting that it may have been a 12th-century survival.

The church is of some architectural interest, particularly for the N. windows, and it has a fine tower. Painted wooden panels from Milton Abbey are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (23¼ ft. by 16 ft.) has a 19th-century three-light E. window. The N. wall contains a four-centred 16th-century archway to the N. chapel, of two hollow-chamfered orders springing from responds with quarter and three-quarter shafts with moulded caps and plain plinths. The E. part of the S. wall may perhaps be of the 12th century, but it has been much restored. The opening to the S. chapel has a two-centred arch of three orders, the outer and inner orders ogee-moulded, the middle order hollow-chamfered; the arch springs from responds similar to those of the N. archway but slenderer and with subsequently recut capitals. An opening with a flattened triangular head in the S.W. corner of the chancel was probably cut in the 16th century to give access to a pulpit; this opening intersects the former rood vice. The early 16th-century two-centred chancel arch has two ogee-moulded orders springing from attached shafts with moulded caps and plain plinths; the shafts are separated by hollow-chamfers decorated with leaf sprays at capital level. The rood-vice was entered through a four-centred doorway in the N.W. corner of the S. chapel and it ended at an ogee-headed doorway in the W. side of the S. abutment of the chancel arch, directly over the later pulpit opening.

The Nave (34¾ ft. by 20¼ ft.) has N. and S. arcades of three bays. In the N. arcade the arches are two-centred and of two moulded orders springing from piers and responds with attached shafts separated by hollow-chamfers; the shafts have moulded caps and the bases are set on octagonal plinths; the heads of the hollow-chamfers on the easternmost respond are carved with fleurs-de-lis and foliage. The moulded caps and part of the shafts of the second pier are reused 13th-century material, and similar material occurs in the W. respond. The S. arcade has segmental-pointed arches of three orders, the outer and inner orders moulded, the middle order hollow-chamfered and continuous on the piers and responds; the moulded orders spring from attached shafts with coarsely moulded caps and with bases on octagonal plinths.

The North Chapel (13 ft. by 13¾ ft.) and North Aisle (10¾ ft. wide) differ in width but have no other structural division. Externally the walls have chamfered moulded plinths in three heights, the topmost moulding forming the window-sill; above the windows is a parapet with two moulded strings. The E. wall contains a window of four cinquefoil-headed lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head under a label; the surround is hollow-chamfered externally and moulded internally; at the apex of the moulded rear arch is a boss carved with oak leaves. The N. wall, almost certainly from Milton Abbey (see p. 184), is of six bays separated externally by buttresses of two weathered stages which continue up as standards to the parapet string-course and end at gargoyles: a beast's head, a man playing bagpipes, a winged beast, a devil swallowing a man, a grotesque man with a barrel (Plate 181). The E. and W. end bays are narrower than the others; they have two-centred blind arches with hollow-chamfered orders showing externally and internally; externally the chamfer dies into the responds, internally it is continued on the jambs. The windows of the intervening bays (Plate 142) are similar to that in the E. wall of the aisle and internally have carved apex bosses with foliage and the heads of a man and a woman. The mouldings of the rear arches spring from attached shafts with caps carved with conventional foliage. These are the lateral shafts of triple clusters in which the shafts are separated by hollow-chamfers; the central shafts originally supported vault-ribs but these have been omitted and their truncated springings have been notched to resemble small weathered buttresses. The moulded pedestals of the clusters project from the wall some 4 ft. above the aisle floor-level. Corresponding wall-shafts with similar capitals and truncated vaulting-ribs occur on the N. wall of the N. transept at Milton Abbey. The W. wall of the N. aisle contains a modern doorway to the vestry.

The South Chapel (13½ ft. by 11¼ ft.) and the South Aisle (10¼ ft. wide) are now without structural division but until late in the 19th century they were separated by a thick wall, as described above. The external walls have a moulded plinth and cornice. In the E. wall is a late 15th-century window with five ogee-headed cinquefoil lights and vertical tracery in a two-centred head; the reveals and rear arch are casement-moulded and the mouldings of the rear arch are continued on the jambs; the external label has square stops enclosing flowers. To the E. of the porch the S. wall has two square-headed windows each of three lights with four-centred heads under a square label and with a plain segmental rear arch; between them is a narrow doorway with a four-centred head, continuous chamfered jambs with shaped stops and a moulded label with a raised centre and a moulded and foliated corbel on the apex. In the ashlar above the windows are three sunk panels inscribed respectively T.I., AO 1569', 'W.F', and 'H. W., AO 1569'. The S. doorway, set inside the line of the 16th-century S. wall, is of the second half of the 15th century; it has a moulded two-centred head and continuous jambs with run-out stops. To the W. of the porch the S. wall is pierced by a window which incorporates late 14th-century elements, including two trefoil ogee-headed lights in a square head.

The West Tower (10¾ ft. by 12 ft.) is of the late 15th century. It has three stages, with a moulded plinth, weathered stringcourses, square-set buttresses in four weathered stages, an embattled parapet and crocketed pinnacles rising from gargoyles at the corners of the parapet string-course; other parapet gargoyles occur at the centre of each side. The vice is in an octagonal turret projecting from the E. part of the N. face. The two-centred tower arch has a panelled soffit with two moulded ribs springing from attached jamb-shafts with moulded caps and chamfered plinths; the jambs contain two heights and the arch soffits one height of paired stone panels, rounded at head and foot. The doorway to the vice has a monolithic four-centred head and continuous chamfered jambs with shaped stops. The W. doorway has a moulded two-centred head with continuous jambs and shaped stops; inside is a monolithic hollow-chamfered rear arch with a raised centre. Over the W. doorway is a casementmoulded two-centred window of four transomed lights, with four-centred openings below the transom, two-centred cinquefoil openings above and vertical tracery in the head. The S.E. buttress of the tower incorporates a baulk of masonry that seems to survive from an earlier stage of development; much of the ashlar facing has broken away but the chamfered plinth is suggestive of the 12th century. In the second stage of the tower, the E. wall has a casement-moulded window of two trefoil ogee-headed lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head. The top stage has, in each face, a belfry window similar to that of the second stage but larger.

The South Porch (8 ft. square) projects some 4½ ft. into the S. aisle; it was built late in the 15th century and is of Ham Hill ashlar, with a moulded plinth. The entrance has a moulded two-centred head and continuous jambs. Inside, a stone fan vault springs from angle corbels, three with foliage and one carved with a human head. The vault has moulded ribs and trefoil-headed panels; the square centre compartment has four quatrefoil panels with bosses at the intersections; these are carved with foliage, a rose, and the arms of Milton and Abbotsbury Abbeys.

The very low-pitched lean-to Roof of the N. chapel and N. aisle is probably of the mid 16th century; it is of twelve bays and is divided into square coffers by heavily moulded transverse and longitudinal beams with foliate bosses at the intersections; moulded joists, four to each coffer, run from E. to W. The roof of the S. chapel and S. aisle is of twelve bays and has moulded transverse beams with slightly raised centres; these and similarly moulded longitudinal beams and wall-plates form coffers as in the N. aisle. Foliate bosses mask the intersections of the principal members. The joists in alternate coffers run E.-W. and N.-S.

Fittings—Bells: six; 3rd, from Salisbury foundry, inscribed in black-letter 'Non nobis Domine non nobis', 15th century; 4th, by Thomas Purdue, 1684; 5th, by Roger Purdue, 1637; 6th, by John Danton, 1626; others modern. Brackets: In chancel, in E. wall, four octagonal stone brackets with hollow-chamfered under-edges, perhaps mediaeval. Chairs: pair, with high backs and scroll framing to cane panels, shaped octagonal legs with gadrooned knops, curved diagonal stretchers with turned finial at intersection, early 18th century, perhaps foreign. Chests: two; one with plain lid, panelled front and ends, moulded framing and three plain lock-plates, top rail inscribed MH ANNO DOMINI 1638; another, of oak, to contain bible, with sloping lid, and front enriched with guilloche ornament, 17th century. Coffin-lid: In churchyard, immediately S. of tower, tapering slab, 4¾ ft. long, with double hollow-chamfered edge and traces of cross, early 14th century, broken. Coffin-stools: two, with moulded tops, turned legs, moulded rails and stretchers, c. 1700. Door: In S. doorway, in two leaves, with nail-studded boards and double-hinged strap hinges with fleur-de-lis terminals; 15th century with modern repairs. Font: In tower, square Purbeck marble bowl with four round-headed panels on each side, c. 1200, stem and base modern. Graffiti: On tower vice doorway, 18th-century initials and dates; on porch arch, 17th-century scratchings; on S. doorway, Richard Michel 1625; on S. door, A.L. 1720.

Monument and Floor-slabs. Monument: In N. chapel, on E. wall, stone panel (28 ins. by 25 ins.) with moulded border surrounding shield-of-arms (unidentified 2), 17th century. Floor-slabs: At E. end of N. chapel, (1) illegible, 'MA ...' perhaps mid 17th century; (2) anonymous, with crude skull and cross-bones; at W. end of N. chapel, (3) probably of a vicar of Hilton, 17th century, with later inscription mainly illegible. Niches: In S. porch, in E. wall, trefoil-headed recess in square surround with foliate cusps and spandrels, and ribbed vaulting with rosettes at intersections, early 16th century; externally, above entrance to porch, trefoil-headed recess with hollow-chamfered jambs, early 16th century. Paintings: In W. tower, twelve wooden panels (7¼ ft. by 1¼ ft.) depicting apostles, late 15th century in modern framing, removed from Milton Abbey (Hutchins, 2nd ed., IV, 230), (Plates 25, 137). Piscina: In chancel, plain recess with projecting sill and shallow circular bowl, date uncertain. Plate: includes silver cup of 1662, stand-paten of 1695 and alms-dish of 1778. Pulpit: of oak, polygonal, with three sides composed of late 16th-century panels carved with diaper pattern and foliate tracery between moulded stiles, fourth side with incised 17th-century line ornament, and fifth side with two heights of mid 17th-century plain panels in moulded stiles and rails; book-ledge and stone base modern. Royal Arms: Over S. doorway, arms of Victoria in painted cast-iron. Stoup: In N.E. corner of porch, remains of round bowl hollowed from a block of stone, with stop-chamfered outer edge, 15th century. Sundials: On top of S.E. corner of S. aisle, sculptured stone tablet dated 1690, with scrolled top carved with sun face from which projects fretted wrought-iron gnomon. High up on S. wall of S. aisle, towards E. end, scratch-dial, probably of 1569. Miscellanea: In W. wall of N. aisle, (1) reset hollow-chamfered stone panelling, perhaps from a parapet, consisting of diagonal squares, some cusped, with shields: (i) Earl of Cornwall, (ii) a device representing a nail threaded through a tau-cross and piercing a heart, (iii) Cerne Abbey, early 16th century. In external plinth of S. wall of S. chapel, (2) chamfered stone ledge, perhaps dole-stone. In S. aisle, high up at W. end of S. wall, (3) reset grotesque corbel with human head and winged beast body, 15th century; on W. wall, (4) angel corbel, 15th century. Detached, (5) various architectural fragments including cushion-capital and base of attached shaft, intermediate stone of attached shaft, and abacus with chevron ornament, all 12th century. In N. vestry, (6) two panels from lead roof with initials and dates 'I W, S F, 1722' and 'M A, I D, 1741'. In W. tower, (7) two pairs of cherub heads, carved wood, 18th century.


(2) Village Hall (76470313), at Lower Ansty, is of one storey and was originally a malthouse; it was built in 1777 by Charles Hall, reputedly with material from Higher Melcombe, Melcombe Horsey (3), see p. 168. The malthouse was remodelled and extensively rebuilt in 1948 when it was converted into a hall. The N. and part of the W. walls are original; the W. wall incorporates several transferred 17th-century features, including a doorway and parts of three two-light stone-mullioned windows.

Monuments (3–27)

Unless otherwise described the following monuments are two-storied dwellings of the 18th century. In early examples the walls are of cob or, occasionally, rubble; later examples are of rubble and flint with brick bonding courses; the roofs are generally thatched. Many cottages have exposed ceiling-beams.


(3) Hilton Lower Farm (78380286), house, has been more than doubled in size by 19th-century additions on the N. side. The original 18th-century dwelling, a two-bay cottage facing S., has brick walls in Flemish bond with vitrified headers. The 19th-century building is of flint with brick bonding-courses and has a small contemporary wrought-iron porch to the N. An open fireplace in the original kitchen has a heavy chamfered bressummer.

A nearby Granary, now demolished, was of brick with a tiled roof and was built late in the 18th century; it was raised above ground on an arcaded brick substructure.

(4) Cottage (78280298) is single-storied with an attic.

(5) Cottage (78300288), formerly the Crown Inn, incorporates an early 18th-century single-storied cob cottage.

(6) Cottage (78290289) is of the early 18th century.

(7)–(10) Cottages (78280295), (78240300), (78300306) and (78170310).

(11) Cottages (78050310), two adjacent; that to the E. is of squared rubble and dates from the 17th century; it has been extended to the W. in brick and flint at two periods.

Higher Ansty

(12) Range, of three dwellings (76730398), is of the late 18th and early 19th century; the flint walls have brick bondingcourses and quoins.

(13) Lower Farm (76680395), house, is single-storied with dormer-windowed attics. The walls of the original range are of rubble with rough ashlar dressings; in the extensions they are of rubble, flint and brick; the roofs are thatched. The original range is of the early 16th century; in the 17th century it was extended to the S. and in the 18th century a pair of cottages was added to the N., at right-angles to the original range. On the W. side the 16th-century range has a square-headed stone doorway with a hollow-chamfered and ogee-moulded surround; carved on the lintel is 'R.G. 1695'. The E. side retains a dormer window with a moulded wooden surround. Inside, the original range has a ground-floor room with a coffered ceiling of nine panels formed by intersecting beams and wall-plates, with ogee and hollow-chamfered mouldings.

(14) Cottages (76700400), two adjoining, have rubble walls with inserted brick dressings. The E. cottage probably dates from late in the 17th century and has an E. extension in cob; the W. cottage is of the 18th century.

(15) Cottages, two adjoining (76830398), are now united as a single house. The E. cottage is of the 16th century but it has an 18th-century façade with a plat-band and a coved cornice to the S. front; a stepped brick chimney-stack projects from the gabled E. end wall. Inside, a ground-floor room has a six-panel ceiling with intersecting deep-chamfered beams. The W. cottage is of the 19th century.

(16) Higher Ansty Farm (76790399), house, has an 18th-century symmetrical three-bay S. front.

(17) Pleck Farm (76670417), house, was built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century. A lead pump in the garden is initialled and dated C.H.E. 1831.

Lower Ansty

(18) House (76520320), formerly several dwellings, is Ushaped in plan and has walls of banded flint and brick. The N. and W. ranges date from c. 1800; the S. range is modern.

(19)–(22) Cottages, are located as follows: (19) 76440308, (20) 76400296, (21) 76260282, (22) 76240278; the last comprises two adjoining three-bay cottages, that to the N. is of the early and that to the S. is of the late 18th century.

(23) Post Office (76270267), has an L-shaped plan and is built of cob. The date 1735 scratched on a piece of clunch that was found during recent alterations is probably the date of building. Two iron-framed casement windows with leaded lights are preserved.

(24)–(25) Cottages (76600314, 76650313) are of the 19th century; in its lower part (25) incorporates the walls of an earlier building.

(26) Aller Farm (76700302) probably originated in the 17th century but it was subsequently enlarged and may at one time have become several dwellings. Early in the 19th century the house was remodelled and no early features remain visible inside. Squared rubble quoins in the S.W. front provide evidence of earlier fenestration.

(27) Cottages, two (769029), one N. and one S. of the road, were built late in the 18th or early in the 19th century; they have walls of flint with brick quoins, and brick bonding-courses at intervals of approximately 1¼ ft.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

(28) Settlement Remains (784029) cover 7 acres on the S.E. side of Hilton village. The remains are all within an area that is bounded to N.E. and S.E. by a bank 2 ft. to 3 ft. high and 20 ft. wide; they consist of closes of various sizes and shapes, with sides up to 80 ft. long, bounded by low banks and scarps. Within the closes are platforms, probably of houses; they occur most conspicuously along the existing road to the S.W., where there are at least seven platforms up to 20 ft. by 60 ft. Many of the closes and the boundary bank were still in use in 1771 (Map by Wm. Woodward, 1771, see p. 183) although the house sites had been abandoned.

(29) Cultivation Remains: (a) A three-field system existed at Hilton in the 14th century (H. L. Gray, English Field Systems, 1915, appx. II, 461) but the date of enclosure is unknown. Strip lynchets of these fields cover about 60 acres around the village. Due W. of Manor Farm (776037) a particularly well-preserved set, of contour type with massive risers, appears in part to overlie 'Celtic' fields. On Thomas's Hill (793026) a series of narrow contour strip lynchets, in part cut by the Hilton-Milton Abbas road, curves E. round the spur and runs into and over 'Celtic' fields (see Group 52, p. 337). A more extensive group of contour strip lynchets E. of the village (789029) was formerly arranged in interlocking furlongs with run-out and ramped ends. At a subsequent period but before 1769 (see Woodward's map, 1771, and Tithe Map of Hilton, 1842) the area was divided into rectangular closes and the lower treads were reploughed; this has resulted in the treads having squared-off ends delimited by old hedge banks.

(b) In the N. of the parish around Rawlsbury Farm (765054) are extensive areas of ridge-and-furrow, 5 yds. to 7 yds. wide, confined within fields which appear to have been enclosed direct from the waste.

(c) In the S.W. of the parish (757030) are the massive risers of two cross-contour strip lynchets. These can only be explained as part of the former open fields of Melcombe Horsey (see p. 172), whence it appears that the parish boundary must have been changed at some period.

Roman and Prehistoric

'Celtic' Fields, see pp. 333–7., Groups (48–52).

Rawlsbury Camp, see Stoke Wake (6), p. 259.

(30) Bowl Barrow (77730136), at the S. end of the parish, 350 yds. S.E. of Newton Farm, lies on a N.W. slope just off the top of a spur. The barrow was excavated in 1916 by Maj. C. Ashburnham and proved to be of two main periods. A primary crouched interment in a cist cut into the natural chalk lay under a flint cairn about 38 ft. in diameter and surrounded by a ditch. The cairn was later enlarged to its present diameter and a second ditch was cut. Numerous inhumations and one cremation, probably all secondary, were found in the mound, and two cremations, one with a small bronze awl, were found in ridged Food-vessel urns in the inner ditch (Dorset Procs. XXXVIII (1917), 74–80; Arch. J. CXIX (1962), 65, s.v. Bingham's Melcombe). A large hollow in the centre and an apparent berm on the W. are presumably the result of Maj. Ashburnham's excavation. Diam. 68 ft., ht. 8 ft.

(31) Bowl Barrow (78230490), 160 yds. W.N.W. of Hill Barn and 800 ft. above O.D., lies on the gentle S.W. slope of a broad ridge. Much ploughed. Diam. about 40 ft., ht. 1 ft.


(32) Valley Bottom Enclosure (777016), of 9 acres, lies in Coombe Bottom immediately E. of Newton Farm. The flat bottom of a narrow E.-W. dry valley is enclosed on the N., E. and S. sides by a bank, 10 ft. wide and 2 ft. high, with an outer, uphill, ditch 8 ft. wide and 2 ft. deep. The bank and ditch do not extend across the mouth of the valley. There is an entrance 20 ft. wide in the centre of the short E. side, at the head of the valley. In at least two places the enclosure bank lies over lynchets of 'Celtic' fields (Group 48).


  • 1. Fägersten, 189, 190; Hutchins IV, 355, 356.