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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'Bryanston', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970) pp. 46-48. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

In this section

7 BRYANSTON (8706)

(O.S. 6 ins. ST 80 NE)

Bryanston parish extends over some 1,500 acres, rising from an altitude of 100 ft. on the S.W. bank of the R. Stour, which forms its eastern boundary, to 500 ft. above sea-level in the W. Three dry valleys cross the area from W. to E., draining into the Stour. Quarleston Down at the S.W. end of the parish was until recently divided between Winterborne Clenston and Winterborne Stickland. The original village of Bryanston lay in the vicinity of the church, now the Portman Chapel (1), at the mouth of a dry valley. In mediaeval times it was a relatively large settlement; twenty-three taxpayers are recorded in the 1333 Subsidy Rolls (P.R.O., E. 179/103/5), but in 1662 the number of households had dwindled to six (Meekings, 69). Early in the 18th century the site of the village was occupied by a large house and its dependencies, the seat of the Berkeley Portman family from the 17th century onwards. In 1778 the house was demolished and replaced by another, and in 1890 this house was in turn demolished and replaced by the great mansion which still stands some 500 yds. to the N.W. of the first site. It is now part of Bryanston School. In 1898 a new parish church was built on or very near the site of the former houses.

Bryanston, Portman Chapel


(1) The Portman Chapel (87460705) stands on the site of the mediaeval church. Hutchins (I, 263) states that the chancel of the old parish church was rebuilt in 1745, and by this he probably means that the present undivided Nave and Chancel took the place of the old chancel, the rest of the mediaeval church being demolished. The antecedent nave had been rebuilt in the 16th century but nothing visible today is earlier than the 18th century; only the flint plinths in the E. part of the chapel may incorporate earlier masonry. A Vestry with rendered brick walls to the S. of the chapel is of the 19th century.

The 18th-century chapel has walls of rendered flint and rubble, with ashlar dressings and rusticated stone quoins forming angle pilasters; the roofs are slate-covered, with lead ridges. The N. and S. walls have stone cornices with modillions, and the E. and W. walls have pedimented gables with moulded cornices. Above the W. gable is a wooden bell-cote with a clock and a small bell under a concave lead-covered cupola. On the outside of the E. wall is a blind Palladian window. The chapel is lit by two Venetian windows in the N. wall and by a round-headed window to the S.; the latter was originally a doorway and is flanked externally by a pair of Ionic columns supporting an entablature with a reeded frieze and paterae. The square-headed W. doorway is flanked by Ionic columns carrying a segmental pediment.

Inside, the combined Nave and Chancel form a chamber measuring 49½ ft. by 15½ ft., rectangular, except that the two W. corners are convex, making space in the S.W. corner for a wooden vice to the bell-cote and in the N.W. corner for a closet. Plaster cornices with acanthus mouldings run the length of the N. and S. walls but do not return to E. and W.; over them, coves lead up to a flat plaster ceiling with a moulded border.

Fittings—Doorway: At W. end of nave, with carved oak internal architrave and scroll pediment, 18th century. Monuments: On N. wall, at E. end, (1) of H. W. B. Portman, 1796, and others of same family, marble wall-tablet with fluted and enriched border. Opposite, on S. wall, (2) of Henry William Berkeley Portman, 1761, and his wife Ann Fitch, 1781, marble wall-monument in form of obelisk, with arms. In churchyard, reset in pavement W. of W. doorway, (3) of Henry Wills, 1741 (?); (4) of John Gaun ..., 1715; (5) of William M. t ..., 1753, stone slabs; (6) of Robert Kingston, 1741, Purbeck stone slab with moulded border, probably from former table-tomb. S. of vestry, (7) of John Tomson, 1765, stone slab; also several other slabs, illegible. Panelling: On nave walls, of oak, with two heights of fielded panels, from 18th-century box pews, recently reset and restored. Plate: recorded by J.E. Nightingale (Church Plate of Dorset, 140), now at Durweston (see p. 91). Pulpit: hexagonal, panelled oak, on hexagonal pedestal, with oak stair; 18th century, restored. Reredos: On E. wall, of painted plaster and wood with pedimented entablature on foliate console brackets; central panel with tables of Decalogue, side panels with festoons of flowers and various emblems in relief; 18th century. Royal Arms: Formerly over W. door of chapel and now transferred to modern church, arms as used 1714–1800, carved in wood.


(2) Bryanston House. Reference has been made in the parish introduction to the history of the site. The house demolished in 1778 is known from J. Kip's engraving (Britannia Illustrata, 1714, pl. 77) and from a perspective view included in Bastard's plan of Blandford Forum (Plate 104). Kip shows it as standing about 50 yds. S. of the old church (1). The house that replaced it was designed by James Wyatt; it probably stood a little S. of the first house, on the site that is now occupied by the church of 1898. Wyatt's house was pulled down in 1890, but its appearance is recorded by Hutchins (I, facing p. 263), and in photographs and paintings in possession of the Portman family. It was replaced by a mansion (870074) designed in the grand classical manner by Richard Norman Shaw, with a great central block, inspired by Coleshill in Berkshire, and lower flanking wings set well back from the S.E. or garden front and extending N.W. to flank a large forecourt; it is one of the largest English country houses to be built in modern times.

Of the two preceding houses some traces remain. Wyatt's house is represented by an Annex, probably part of the service range; it stands some 50 yds. S. of (1) and is single-storied, with walls of Greensand ashlar and a slated roof. The E. front has a pedimented centre bay of three arched recesses flanked by lateral wings, each of three bays. The middle recess contains a square-headed doorway, that to each side has a sashed window and all three recesses have lunette windows above. Each lateral wing originally had three round-headed sashed windows. The W. side of the structure is sunk in sharply rising ground and two massive ashlar chimneystacks rise from the W. wall. Inside, there are three large rooms with moulded plaster cornices and plain ceilings.

The Stables, 30 yds. W. of (1), were probably built towards the middle of the 18th century; Bastard's plan of Blandford Forum (see Plate 104) shows that they are later than 1731. They are single-storied with lofts and comprise three ranges on three sides of a courtyard open to the E.; each range is traversed by a central carriage-way. The walls are of brick. The hipped roofs, with lead dressings, are partly slate-covered and partly tiled; they rise from lath-and-plaster modillion cornices. The W. range is more decoratively treated than those to the N. and S.; the central archway on the E. front is outlined in rusticated ashlar and opens in a pedimented feature set a little in front of the main wall-face and defined by rusticated ashlar quoins; a round attic window in the pediment has a rusticated stone surround. On either side of the central bay are two round-headed windows. The N. and S. ranges have central carriage-ways flanked, on the courtyard side, by round-headed windows with gauged brick archivolts and white stone impost blocks and keystones. The E. ends of the N. and S. ranges have blank walls embellished with false Palladian windows. Inside, some loose-boxes retain original cast-iron fittings. To the N. of the N.W. corner of the stables is a projecting annex, now a cottage but originally a coach house. Its three wide doorways have elliptical brick heads with stone imposts and keystones; these openings have been blocked and the cottage door and windows are inserted in the blocking.

The Gateway (88330592), nearly I m. S.E. of (1), is of Greensand ashlar with Portland stone dressings; presumably it was designed by James Wyatt c. 1778 and it comprises, on the E. front, an archway flanked by Doric columns supporting a pedimented entablature; attached to each side of the entry are single-storied lodges, each with one tall sashed window. To right and left stone walls curve forward to the roadside, bounding a broad exedra; each wall ends at a large stone pier surmounted by a heraldic beast with a shield (Plate 67).

Earthwork Remains (875073) of gardens and outbuildings of the house which preceded that of 1778 lie N.E. of (1) on land which slopes gently E. to the R. Stour. Low banks and scarps, much obscured by later work, and rectangular platforms, appear to represent the northern third of the gardens and outbuildings of the house depicted by J. Kip (loc. cit.); presumably they were abandoned c. 1778.

(3) Bryanston Farm House (87030692) is L-shaped in plan; the main block, facing N., is of the late 18th or early 19th century while the S. wing may be an earlier 18th-century building, altered when the N. wing was added. The house is of two storeys, with attics in low-pitched slated roofs; the walls are rendered. The symmetrical N. front has a central doorway in a projecting porch, two sashed windows on each side and five in the first floor; the windows of the three middle bays are grouped together while the outer windows are set further apart and are wider than the others. Inside, the N. wing contains nothing of note, but a first-floor room in the S. wing is lined from floor to ceiling with 18th-century fielded oak panelling with moulded skirtings and oak cornices.

(4) Model Farm, immediately S. of (3), dates from the first half of the 19th century; it does not appear on the O.S. map of 1811. The extensive buildings are laid out around a narrow courtyard, at the S. end of which remains the moulded stone base of a factory chimney, now demolished. The buildings, in English-bonded brickwork, are two-storied with slated roofs. Many of the openings are spanned by elliptical gauged brick arches.

(5) Cottages, in a row, parallel with the E. range of (4) and 50 yds. to the E., are of brick in two storeys, with slated roofs. Most of the cottages are probably contemporary with the Model Farm, but the Post Office at the N. end may be a little earlier; it has a tiled roof.

(6) Broadley Cottage (85080628) is a two-storied dwelling with rendered walls and a tiled roof; the central part, with a symmetrical E. front of three bays, is probably of the late 18th century.

(7) Ranges of estate cottages on each side of the road (88330579), five to the N. and three to the S., have brick walls and tiled roofs and are probably of c. 1825. Each tenement is two-storied with a dormer-windowed attic. The original ground plan of each cottage probably comprised a single room with stairs against the side wall, but later improvements have caused the stairs and an entrance passage to be partitioned off and a kitchen annexe to be added at the back.

(8) Berkeley Lodge (88350583) stands on the W. side of the Dorchester road, 100 yds. S. of the gateway of (2). It is two-storied with rendered walls and slate-covered roofs and was built in the second half of the 18th century. The symmetrical E. front has a central doorway sheltered by a flat-roofed Doric porch with two free-standing fluted columns and two engaged half columns. A sashed window opens on each side of the porch and there are three corresponding windows on the first floor, each with a narrow keystone. The six openings are set in a slightly projecting central feature, to either side of which the wall-face is blank. The eaves have a coved cornice which breaks forward around the central feature and returns on the gabled end walls. The S. elevation includes the gabled end of the E. range and, to the W., the side of a two-storied rear wing, the house having an L-shaped plan. On the W. side of the E. range, to the N., is an early 19th-century wrought-iron trellis-work veranda, now glazed to form a conservatory. Inside, the close-string staircase has turned balusters, a moulded oak handrail and oak steps.

Mediaeval Earthworks

(9) Cultivation Remains. Nothing is known of the open fields of the parish or of the date of their enclosure. On the S. side of a dry valley, W. of Bryanston Farm (866068–869068), are three contour strip lynchets up to 500 yds. long. The very uneven nature of the risers suggests that the strip lynchets were formed by ploughing over earlier 'Celtic' fields; the latter continue, largely undamaged, immediately to the W. (Group (60), p. 341).

Roman and Prehistoric

'Celtic' Fields, see Group (60), p. 341.

(10) Inhumation Burial and Occupation Debris (870075), Romano-British, were found in 1958 at Bryanston School at about 300 ft. above O.D. on a chalk ridge. The burial, an extended adult male in a shallow grave, had been deposited in a wooden coffin. Some 16 ft. to the N. a circular pit, 5½ ft. deep and 4½ ft. in diameter, contained chalk rubble, flints, 2nd-century to 4th-century pottery including a samian sherd, and a bronze brooch. There were traces of another pit to the S.E. Previously other coins and pottery had been found in the area. (Dorset Procs. XXVIII (1907), xxxix; LXXX (1958), 108–10.)