Fifehead Neville

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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, 'Fifehead Neville', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970) pp. 92-94. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

. "Fifehead Neville", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970) 92-94. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

. "Fifehead Neville", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970). 92-94. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

In this section


(O.S. 6 ins. ST 70 NE, ST 71 SE)

The irregularly shaped parish covers 1,350 acres, undulating between 200 ft. and 300 ft. above sea-level. The land is drained by the R. Divelish in the E. and by a minor tributary of the R. Lydden in the W. Most of the parish is on Corallian Beds but there is a narrow strip of Kimmeridge Clay in the E. and S.E., and an area of Oxford Clay in the W. around Deadmoor Common. Until 1920 the parish was divided into two distinct parts, each with its own settlement; to the N. was Fifehead Neville, and to the S. was Lower Fifehead or Fifehead St. Quentin, a detached part of the former parish of Belchalwell. Each village presumably had its own mediaeval open fields. Woodrow, a later settlement on the edge of Deadmoor Common, is first recorded in the 14th century.

The most important monument in the parish is an extensive Roman Villa and its outbuildings.


(1) The Parish Church of All Saints, in the N. part of the village, has walls of rubble with ashlar dressings in local limestone and Greensand; the roofs are tiled. The 14th-century chancel arch indicates a Chancel and a Nave of that date. The North Aisle was added in c. 1500, and in 1736 new windows were inserted in the S. wall of the nave and in the N. wall of the aisle; the Porch also is of 1736. A former W. tower was demolished and the tower arch was blocked up, probably in the same year. The chancel was rebuilt in 1873.

Architectural Description—Above the apex of the 19th-century three-light E. window of the Chancel is a reset label-stop in the form of a bishop's head, probably a Gothic-revival work of the 18th century but of unknown provenance; above is the date stone of the 1873 reconstruction. Of the two windows in the N. wall, the W. includes elements of another 18th-century Gothic window; as restored it has two trefoil-headed lights and a central quatrefoil; over these is a hollow-chamfered label with head-stops representing a king and a bishop. The S. wall is entirely of 1873. The 14th-century chancel arch is two-centred and has two continuous chamfered orders; parts of both responds have been cut away on the W. side.

The Nave (27 ft. by 15 ft.) has a N. arcade of c. 1500, of three two-centred arches, each of two orders, the inner wave-moulded and the outer hollow-chamfered; these spring from moulded hollow-chamfered capitals enriched on the chamfer with leaf paterae and lozenges. The columns comprise four attached shafts and four hollow-chamfers. The E. respond is similar except that the capital is embellished with an angel, partly defaced; the W. respond has a corbelled shaft with a polygonal capital. The S. wall is of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings; at the S.E. corner is a two-stage buttress of c. 1500. On each side of the S. doorway is a round-headed 18th-century window with plain jambs and archivolt, projecting impost blocks and keystone; the leaded panes retain much original glass. The S. doorway, of c. 1500, has a chamfered four-centred head and continuous jambs; a large horizontal stone with faint traces of eliminated decoration, possibly a former cross-shaft, is built into the wall about 1 ft. above it. A weathered buttress of five stages at the S.W. corner of the nave is of the 18th century. The W. wall of the nave is rendered inside and out but shows traces of a blocked opening, which is presumably the arch of a former tower. The W. gable culminates in a small 18th or 19th-century bell-cote with one bell. The N. wall of the North Aisle (9 ft. wide) has two round-headed windows uniform with those of the nave. In the S.E. corner of the aisle, about 5 ft. above the floor, is a disused rood-loft doorway with a chamfered four-centred head. The South Porch (5½ ft. by 4½ ft.) has a square-headed ashlar opening with a keystone on which is carved the date 1736.

Fifehead Neville, the Parish Church of All Saints

Fittings—Benefactor's Table: On W. wall, slate tablet in moulded stone surround recording benefaction of Roger Goodfellow, 1730. Communion Rails: with turned oak balusters, moulded rail and concealed centre gate, late 17th century. Door: In S. doorway, of oak, with vertical outside boards fastened with iron studs to horizontal inner boards; with iron strap hinges, early 16th century. Font: octagonal bowl of grey Purbeck stone chamfered underneath and resting on a pedestal of Greensand, square at base and octagonal above, with carved stops; 14th century, bowl retooled. Glass: Reset in tracery of E. window, quarry with date 1464.

Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In nave, on S. wall, (1) of William Salkeld, 1715, draped cartouche with Latin inscription and arms of Salkeld, with inescutcheon of Ryves; (2) of William Salkeld, 1782, marble tablet. In N. aisle, on N. wall, (3) of Robert Ryves, 1658, Anne Ryves, 1672, and their son Robert, 1673, marble tablet in painted clunch surround with arms of Ryves, erected c. 1673 (Plate 33); (4) probably of a member of the Rawles family and of the 17th century, illegible clunch tablet with pilasters, mask and strapwork decoration. In churchyard, N. of N. aisle, (5) mausoleum of Brune family in form of large table-tomb with inscriptions from 1707 to 1760, and arms of Brune impaling several others. Floor-slabs: In N. aisle, (1) of William Harbin, 1678; (2) of an infant son of John and Mary Ryves, 1681. Panelling: Nave and aisle lined to level of window-sills with 18th-century fielded oak panelling, probably reset woodwork of former box pews. Plate: includes silver cup and cover-paten of usual Elizabethan form with date-letter for 1571; also two pewter alms-dishes, 18th century. Pulpit: with fielded oak panels and moulded cornice and ledge, 18th century.


(2) Footbridge (77181114), over the river Divelish, is probably mediaeval although much restored; it is of coursed rubble, 6 ft. wide, and spans 34 ft. The two pointed arches, practically straight-sided, rest on a central pier with a cutwater on the upstream side only (Plate 51). The kerb is of rubble stones set on edge.

(3) The Manor House, a few paces W. of the church, is two-storied, with rendered walls and slated roofs. It dates from the late 17th century but has been much altered and retains few features that are earlier than the 19th century. Some 18th-century wrought-iron casement-windows occur in the E. wall of the kitchen wing, and the dining-room contains a late 17th-century moulded and beaded plank-and-muntin partition. The Stables are of the late 18th century. A Roman Column set up in the garden is described below; see Monument (13).

(4) Lower Fifehead Farm (77291040), house, ½ m. S. of (2), is two-storied and of coursed rubble with slated roofs. The L-shaped plan incorporates a nucleus which appears to be of the late 16th or early 17th century. The N.W. front has, on the ground floor, a hollow-chamfered stone mullioned window of four lights with four-centred heads in an ogee-moulded surround with a moulded label. The first floor has two similar windows of three-centred lights below cable-moulded labels; another such window occurs on the ground floor of the S.E. front. All other windows and doorways are modern. Internally there are some stop-chamfered ceiling beams. The adjacent farm buildings are of the early 19th century and include a weather-boarded Granary on staddle stones and a rubble Cowshed with lunette windows.

(5) House (77171019), is now two-storied with rendered rubble walls, modern openings and a modern tiled roof, but it was until recently single-storied with attics. The plan comprises three rooms, perhaps originally with a through-passage. Stonemullioned window frames and other 17th-century features were recently removed.

(6) Fifehead Farm, house, 50 yds. E. of the church, has a late 17th or early 18th-century nucleus consisting of a singlestoried rubble cottage of two rooms; it was extended W. in the later 19th century.

(7) Cottage, 90 yds. S.S.E. of the church, of one storey with rubble walls and dormer-windowed attics in a modern tiled roof, is of the late 17th or early 18th century.

Monuments (8–11)

The following 18th and 19th-century buildings have rubble walls and are of two storeys, or of one storey with dormer-windowed attics; (8) has a tiled roof, the others are thatched.

(8) Fifehead Mill stands 100 yds. S.W. of (2). The mill-house dates from the early 18th century and has modern brick additions. The water mill, of rubble with an iron roof, now contains a turbine engine.

(9) Cottages, three, 30 yds. W. of (8), are now a single house. The middle tenement is of the 18th century and the two end ones are of the 19th century.

(10) Cottage (75961084), is of the 18th century. A room lies on each side of the central entrance passage and the chimneys are in the end walls.

(11) Cottages (75991090), two adjacent, are of the late 18th century.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

(12) Cultivation Remains. Nothing is known of the date of enclosure of the two former open field systems within the present parish. Traces of ridge-and-furrow, arranged in curving furlongs and corresponding neither with the existing nor with the Tithe Map field boundaries, can be seen on air photographs (R.A.F. CPE/UK 1974; 2179–84 and 3178–81); they lie S. of Lower Fifehead (774096). Ridge-and-furrow exists in old closes W. of the Manor House (765110); the ridges are 6 yds. to 8 yds. wide, with headlands 9 yds. wide.

Roman and Prehistoric

(13) Roman Villa. A mosaic pavement was found in 1881 about 90 ft. E. of the R. Divelish, N. of Fifehead Mill (77281121). It lay on Corallian limestone some 210 ft. above O.D. In 1902–5 this pavement was re-excavated, two more mosaics were exposed and a further wing of an extensive building was traced.

The wing containing the mosaics was orientated E. to W. and measured over 120 ft. by 50 ft., with rooms projecting to the S. at both ends. (fn. 1) The E. and W. extremities were apparently not fully cleared and the building probably continued further to the W. There appears to have been a range of five or more large rooms with corridors to the N. and S.; that to the S. was divided by three cross-walls and was 9 ft. wide.

At the W. end, the floor found in 1881 occupied a room measuring 13 ft. by 12 ft. The design (Plate 133) consisted of a two-handled chalice set in a circle within two concentric borders, the inner containing seven fish and the outer, wider band, four dolphins. The circle and borders were set in a square and the four triangular spaces at the corners were filled with patterns of stylised leaves. At the N. and S. were strips of dentil pattern and the whole was surrounded by a border of crowstep pattern in red and white within a plain edging of blue-grey tesserae. The colours of the main panel were red, brown and blue-grey on a white ground.

To the S. of this room was a rectangular plunge bath (9 ft. by 4 ft.) with sides of red cement and a bottom of large tiles. In it was found the limestone column which is now set up at the Manor House (3); it is 5 ft. 1½ ins. long, including the moulded capital and base (Plate 133). There was a lead outlet pipe 2¾ ins. in diameter at the bottom of the bath. To the W. of the first room were the pilae of a hypocaust system which had supported a white mosaic floor. A large column base was found in position some distance away.

(13) Roman Villa at Fifehead Neville

after plan in Digby Estate Office

The principal discoveries of 1902–5 were made at the E. end of the same block. The mosaic floor of a room 19½ ft. square had a design consisting of a central roundel containing a female bust with a staff or spear, surrounded by geometric designs (Plate 133). Some tesserae were of Kimmeridge shale. There was evidence for a concrete floor under the pavement, possibly of an earlier phase.

To the E. of this room another of similar size was reached through an opening 12 ft. wide. Only fragments of the mosaic pavement remained, including a circle with a palmette star and a border with a double pelta pattern, both designs being in red on white. A room to the S. measured 19 ft. by 17 ft. and its damaged mosaic floor, with a design of 'heads in a circle', was carried on a hypocaust with five channels radiating from the centre, four running to the angles of the room and the fifth to a stokehole in the E. wall.

To the S.E. of the main block, a building 160 ft. long by 24 ft. wide ran N. to S. This may be interpreted as two barns, of which the northern was divided into a central room 46 ft. long flanked by rooms 8 ft. and 12 ft. long. A series of post-holes, 5 ft. apart, continued the line of the S. wall of the S. barn and another series apparently ran parallel to the W. wall, 14 ft. from it. A ditch 3 ft. wide at the bottom with an outer scarp 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. high enclosed the buildings and court on the N., S. and E.

The finds included coins of Trajan and of Gallienus to Gratian. The principal discovery was a hoard, buried in the floor of a room at the W. end of the main block, consisting of two silver rings (see below), a silver necklace or girdle fastener, nine bronze bracelets and fragments of others. Each ring bore on the bezel a Chi-Rho, in one case below a dove and olive branches. Window glass, roofing tiles and stone roofing slabs, painted wall plaster with blue, white, green, black and red designs, brooches and shale beads were also found. Some of the finds survive, including five bracelets in the D.C.M. and roofing tiles in the B.M. (P.S.A. Ser. ii, VIII (1881), 543; IX (1882), 66; Dorset Procs. XXIV (1903), 172–7; L (1928), 92–6; also unpublished notes, plans and photographs in D.C.M. and Society of Antiquaries Library, London).

Fifehead Neville. Bezels of silver rings.


  • 1. Two plans exist, both drawn in 1904 but differing in details and measurements. One, by Miss M.E. Hartley, is preserved in the Dorset County Museum; the other, made for Messrs Rawlence and Squarey probably by J.E. Batchelor, is in the Digby Estate Office at Sherborne. The latter forms the basis of the accompanying plan. There are also two drawings of the best preserved mosaic, by Miss Hartley and by C. H. Goater, both in D.C.M.; the former is used for Plate 133, since a note by J. E. Acland and photographs suggest that it is the more accurate of the two.