Fontmell Magna

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 4, North. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1972.

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'Fontmell Magna', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 4, North, (London, 1972) pp. 21-27. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 ins., ST 81 NE, ST 81 NW)

The parish, covering some 3,200 acres, occupies a narrow strip of land extending E.-W. across the Chalk escarpment. The E. extremity, on the dip-slope beyond the top of the escarpment, falls eastwards from 700 ft. to 420 ft. above sea-level. To the W. the almost precipitous Chalk scarp stands 300 ft. high and has two dry re-entrant valleys cutting into it, Longcombe and Littlecombe Bottoms. From the foot of the scarp the land slopes gently W., on Upper Greensand and Gault, into the valley of the Fontmell Brook which flows from N. to S. about 200 ft. above sea-level. Further W. the land rises to a low N.-S. ridge of Lower Greensand and then falls to the valley of the Twyford Brook. N.W. of the latter, a roughly circular area of land named Hartgrove is joined with the rest of the parish by a narrow neck; it is entirely on Kimmeridge Clay and lies between 180 ft. and 380 ft. above sea-level. Although considered part of the parish for civil purposes during the 19th century, Hartgrove was originally a division of East Orchard, itself formerly a chapelry of Iwerne Minster; the scattered settlement, the irregular field shapes, and the existence of Blackven Common all indicate late occupation of the area, and this is supported by the fact that the name Hartgrove does not appear in documents until as late as 1254 (Fägersten, 30).

Fontmell Magna village stands at the foot of the escarpment and is undoubtedly the earliest settlement in the parish. Bedchester, a scattered hamlet on the Lower Greensand ridge, is almost certainly of pre-conquest origin (Fägersten, 23). Hill Farm, on the Chalk dip-slope, first recorded in 1333, is a later settlement than Bedchester.


(1) The Parish Church of St. Andrew, near the middle of the village, has walls of Greensand ashlar and lead-covered roofs. The lower stages of the West Tower are of the second half of the 15th century. The Nave, South Aisle and South Porch are probably of mediaeval origin, but they were rebuilt in c. 1862 and no original work remains. The Chancel, North Vestry and North Aisle are of 1862. When the N. aisle was built a carved parapet of 1530 (Plate 10) was transferred to it from its former position on the old S. aisle and S. porch (Hutchins III, plate opp. 557). The architect for these works was G. Evans of Wimborne (Faculty, Sarum Dioc. Regy.).

Architectural Description—Reset in the N. wall of the N. aisle are four restored 15th-century windows, presumably from the former nave; each is of two trefoil-headed lights with a central quatrefoil in a two-centred head under a moulded label. Above each buttress the string-course is interrupted by a gargoyle, and above the gargoyles are pinnacles with panelled sides and crocketed finials. The reset parapet of 1530 has two heights of square stone panelling between a moulded string-course and a moulded coping; the merlons shown in Hutchins's engraving have gone. The lower height of the parapet is blind; the upper height is pierced. Many of the lower panels enclose carved figures of men with weapons or implements; others enclose quatrefoils with foliate bosses or with shields charged with heraldic emblems, or words in black-letter composing an inscription. The words are no longer in order, and even in their former position on the S. aisle were only partly intelligible (Hutchins III, 558); nevertheless Hutchins noted the date 1530. The heraldic devices include roses, a portcullis, two stags, a knot, a heart, a fret, arms of Milton Abbey and arms of Stourton. One of the lower panels has a three-line black-letter inscription 'O man kyn bare tho' y' min'. In the upper height of the parapet each square panel has four triangular openings with cusps. Inside, the E. pier of the N. arcade has a reset 15th-century base, probably from the original S. arcade. A turret at the S.E. corner of the N. aisle probably survives from a former rood-loft vice turret, but it has been rebuilt and altered to accommodate a stair leading to the pulpit.

Fontmell Magna, the Parish Church of St. Andrew

The West Tower is of four stages, with a moulded plinth, moulded string-courses between the stages and an embattled parapet with pinnacles. The top stage and parapet are of 1862, but the three lower stages are original; they have diagonal buttresses of five weathered stages, and a rectangular vice turret on the S. The tower arch is two-centred and of two orders, the inner order ogee-moulded, the outer order with a casement moulding, both continuous on the responds and ending at hollow-chamfered plinths. The W. doorway has a moulded four-centred head and continuous jambs and a four-centred label with square stops. The W. window has a hollow-chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs, partly original; the three transomed lights and the vertical tracery are of 1862. The vice doorway has a chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs; higher up, rebuilt masonry indicates a former doorway to a W. gallery, now gone. In the second stage a small quatrefoil loop opens eastwards into the nave, and square-headed loops occur on the N. and W. In the third stage each side of the tower has a window of two cinquefoil-headed lights with a central quatrefoil under a two-centred casement-moulded head with continuous jambs; the moulded labels have square and head stops. These were originally belfry windows, but they now are glazed and the belfry has been transferred to the 19th-century top stage. Reset in the fourth stage are fragments of capitals representing angels bearing scrolls, perhaps from the former nave arcades.

Fittings—Bells: six; 2nd inscribed 'Prayes ye the Lord. I.W. 1618'; 4th by W. Purdue, inscribed 'In God is my' (sic) in crowned letters alternating with 'Thomas Redout, William Vinson, 1641, W.P.'; 5th with black-letter inscription 'In Ter Sede Pia Pro Nobis Virgo Maria', c. 1450; 6th with 'Ave Maria' in crowned Lombardic letters, 15th century; others modern. Chest: of oak, with beaded stiles and rails, and three locks, late 17th century. Clock: perhaps 18th century. Coffin stools: four, with turned legs and plain stretchers, 17th and 18th century. Communion Table: In N. aisle, with turned legs, moulded stretchers and enriched top rail, mid 17th century. Font: of Greensand, with cylindrical stem, and round bowl carved in high relief with foliate scroll and birds (Plate 11), mid 12th century; base modern. Font-cover: of oak, with enriched border, probably 17th century. Lectern: with eagle, stand and base of cast-iron, mid 19th century (Plate 13).

Monuments: In vestry, reset on N. wall, (1) of Ann Bowles, 1696, small marble tablet. In W. tower, (2) of Jeremiah Sharp, 1787, oval marble tablet on pyramidal backing. In churchyard, set against S.E. corner of S. aisle, (3) of William Ridout, 1665, stone with oval inscription panel with scrolled surround, originally part of table-tomb.

Panelling: In vestry, made up to form closet, ten panels, each carved with arched surround enclosing finial with leaf and scroll-work, early 17th century; stiles, rails and additional panels modern. Plate: includes silver cup with plain conical bowl, stout knopped stem and moulded foot, mid 17th century, date-marks obliterated; silver stand-paten, probably 1666; pewter flagon 1¼ ft. high, with moulded base, handle shaped to be held in both hands, and domed cover with acorn finial, late 18th century, no marks; pewter alms-dish, c. 1800.

Royal Arms: In W. tower, on canvas, of George III. Screen: reset under tower arch, of oak, with moulded stiles and rails enclosing carved and pierced panels in two heights; lower height linenfold, upper height with cusped tracery and with male and female busts in wreath surrounds (drawing, p. xii); moulded cornice with banded wreath frieze, incised on reverse of cornice 'Water Kin'; first half of 16th century. Tables of Creed, Decalogue and Lord's Prayer: In tower, four canvases, inscribed 'Richard Bishop, John Bennett, Ch. wardens, 1817'. Miscellanea: Near E. gate of churchyard, loose fragment of gargoyle, mediaeval.

Methodist Chapel, Fontmell Magna, 1831

(2) Chapel, Methodist (86651707), with ashlar and rubble walls and with a tiled roof, was built in 1831 in enlargement of a building of 1797. The N. front has a round-headed doorway flanked by round-headed sashed windows; similar windows occur in the S. wall. A stone tablet over the doorway, partly obscured by a late 19th-century porch, records the dates given above. Inside, there is evidence of a former W. gallery, now removed. A schoolroom on the E. was added in 1874, and probably at this time the chapel roof was rebuilt and some internal fittings were renewed.

Fittings—Clock: by Mansfield, Shaftesbury, c. 1831. Coffin stools: two, with turned legs and moulded rails, 17th century. Collecting shovels: two, c. 1831. Pulpit: now in schoolroom, of two stages, c. 1831. Seating: now in schoolroom, two benches with open backs and shaped ends, perhaps c. 1797; on rostrum, chair with pointed back with septfoil panel, early 19th century.


Manor Farm

(3) Manor Farm (86921776), house, of two storeys with attics, with walls of ashlar and of rubble and with tiled roofs, dates from the 17th century; the plan is of class F. In the lower storey the W. front has stone windows of four square-headed lights with hollow-chamfered surrounds and moulded labels; the doorway has a chamfered square head and continuous jambs; in the upper storey the windows are modern. The E. doorway is similar to that on the W. Inside, a chamfered ceiling beam is exposed in the N. ground-floor room. The main partition walls are of uncertain date, but presumably occupy original positions if they are not themselves original. The partition between the middle room and the staircase is of reset 17th-century oak panelling in four heights; above, the stairs have 18th-century trellis balustrading and a dog-gate at the top. Added to the E. side of the original range is a small service building, perhaps of the 18th century.

(4) Mayo's Farm (86611721), house, has rubble walls with brick dressings and a thatched roof; it is of early 17th-century origin and was formerly single-storeyed, with a class-I plan. Probably in the 18th century the range was extended southwards by one bay, and it was heightened to two storeys in brickwork in the 19th century. The S. room of the original building has a four-panel ceiling formed by deeply chamfered beams which intersect at a shaped boss.

(5) Cottage (86641720), No. 8, North Street, is of one storey with dormer-windowed attics and has walls partly of rubble and partly of timber-framework with herring-bone brick nogging, and a thatched roof; it is of 16th-century origin, but has been considerably altered. The W. front is of two bays with a central doorway and has square-headed wooden casement windows of three lights, with leaded glazing, perhaps of the early 18th century. In the northern bay the brick nogging below eaves level is probably of the 17th century; that above is modern, as also is the brickwork in the S. gable. Coursed brickwork immediately above the rubble plinth replaces a formerwall-plate. Inside, an open fireplace has a timber surround with a moulded four-centred head with carved spandrels and a square surround; one spandrel has foliate decoration, the other contains the letters IP.

(6) Cottage (86671714), No. 9, North Street, is singlestoreyed with a dormer-windowed attic and has rubble walls and a thatched roof. It is of 17th-century origin with a later bay on the E. The main room has stop-chamfered beams and an open fireplace.

(7) Cottage (86851687), of one storey with an attic, has rubble walls and a thatched roof. It is of 17th-century origin, but was altered and repaired in the 18th and 19th centuries. The plan is of class T.

(8) Cottages (86771689), three adjacent, formerly an inn, are of one storey with dormer-windowed attics and have walls of timber-framework above rubble plinths; the roofs are thatched. The middle part of the range is of the late 15th century and retains three bays of a cruck roof. The central cruck is chamfered, suggesting that it originally spanned an open-roofed two-bay hall. In c. 1600 a chimney-stack and an upper floor with deeply chamfered beams were inserted in the former hall, and a bay was added at the N. end of the range. The E. wall retains original square-headed casement windows, now blocked, with chamfered timber mullions.

(9) Cross House (86661690), of two storeys with attics, has walls of ashlar and of rubble, and a tiled roof. The original house, with a variant T-class plan, was built about the end of the 16th century; extensions on the S.E. and N.E. are of the 19th century. The S.W. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with a central doorway with a chamfered four-centred head and continuous jambs ending in shaped stops, and square-headed casement windows of four and three lights with moulded labels. The porch and the stone-fronted attic dormers are modern. Inside, the S.E. ground-floor room of the original building has moulded wall-plates and beams intersecting to make a ceiling of four panels. The middle compartment of the main range, originally a through passage, was widened and the plank-and-muntin partitions were in part reset when the staircase was built. An exposed beam in the N.E. wing, with deep hollow-chamfered and ovolo mouldings, is of c. 1500; presumably it comes from elsewhere.

Cross House

(10) Brook House (86631692), of one storey with attics, has walls of timber-framework and of rubble, and thatched roofs. It is of late 16th-century origin with additions of the 17th and of the 18th century. In the L-shaped plan the N.E. range represents the original building and contains two rooms; the N.W. room has a nine-panel ceiling formed by the intersection of four deeply-chamfered beams; the same room has an open fireplace with a cambered timber bressummer. In the N.W. range, two 17th-century rooms have recently been combined by the removal of a partition; they have chamfered ceiling beams, in part renewed. The room at the S.W. end of the N.W. range is of the 18th century.

(11) Gable Cottage (86581688), with walls of timber-framework and with a thatched roof, is of 15th-century origin and consisted originally of a single-storeyed three-bay range with the roof supported on two cruck trusses. In c. 1600 a chimney-stack was built close to the W. cruck, and upper floors were inserted in all three bays. In c. 1800 a bay was added on the E., and the S. front of the original range was modified, the original timber-framework in the lower storey being replaced by rubble, and a large window being inserted in the upper storey. Inside, the two original crucks have cambered collars, and the E. cruck retains arched braces resting on projecting tongues, integral with the crucks. In the E. bay of the original range the inserted floor of c. 1600 rests on two stop-chamfered beams. The corresponding floor has been removed from the middle bay, but the ends of the 17th-century joists remain.

(12) House (86471686), of two storeys, has rubble walls and a modern roof; until 1926 it was thatched. The building dates from the 17th century and has a class-T plan. The N. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with 19th-century wooden casement windows. Inside, the W. ground-floor room has a four-panel ceiling with deeply chamfered intersecting beams.

(13) Cottage (86441689), of two storeys with rubble walls and a thatched roof, originated in the 17th century as a singlestoreyed dwelling with an attic. The plan is of class T. The W. ground-floor room has a large open fireplace and a stop-chamfered ceiling beam. The casement windows in the S. front are of the 19th century.

(14) Bedchester Farm (85011766), house, perhaps of late 17th-century origin, but extensively rebuilt, has ashlar walls and thatched roofs. Some original windows have iron casements with leaded glazing.

(15) Sixpenny Farm (84381690), house, of one storey with attics, has rubble walls and a thatched roof. It was built in the 17th century, probably with a class-T plan, a further bay being added later on the E. A dormer window retains an ovolo-moulded wooden surround. Inside, some chamfered beams are exposed.

(16) Cottages (84251902), two adjacent, of one storey with attics, have rubble walls and thatched roofs; they are of 17th-century origin and probably originated as a single dwelling. Later, a bay with a second fireplace was added on the N.E. of the original range.

(17) Blatchford's Farm (83821854), of one storey with attics, has rubble walls and tiled roofs and was built c. 1600, probably with a class-F plan. The S. front has been refaced and all windows and doorways are new. Inside, the middle room, sub-divided by modern partitions, retains a nine-panel ceiling with four intersecting beams, and a large open fireplace.

(18) Lower Hartgrove Farm (83301874), house, of one storey with dormer-windowed attics, has rubble walls with ashlar dressings, and thatched roofs. No longer a dwelling, the building is now used for animals. It was built in the 17th century, and heightened and altered internally, probably in the 19th century. There is evidence for two original staircases. The N. front has a doorway with a chamfered, four-centred head surmounted by a window, lighting the ground-floor passage, with three square-headed lights under a moulded label. Flanking the doorway are stone windows of four square-headed lights with labels; the mullions have dated scratchings of 1681 and later. The N. windows in the upper storey are of the 19th century. The W. front has stone windows and a doorway, as on the N. except that the doorway has no window above it. The E. front has similar openings; the window adjacent to the E. doorway is set at a high level, showing that the stairs which it lights are in the original position. The S. window of the S. wing is of the 19th century.

Lower Hartgrove Farm

Inside, the E. room has a six-panel ceiling with intersecting chamfered beams, and a large open fireplace; an original staircase window on the N. of the chimneybreast shows that there always was a stair in this position although the present narrow wooden stair is of the 19th century. The window above the N. doorway proves that the passage is original. The S. room has a dado of 17th-century oak panelling with beaded stiles and rails. The chamber over the E. room has a stone fireplace surround with a chamfered four-centred head and continuous jambs with shaped stops.

(19) Green Farm (82851916), of two storeys with attic, has coursed rubble walls and a thatched roof; it is of the late 17th century. Inside, some rooms have plank-and-muntin partitions and exposed chamfered ceiling beams. Adjacent on the N.W. is an 18th-century cottage with rubble walls with brick quoins, and with a thatched roof.

Monuments (20–24)

The following houses and cottages are of the 18th century and unless otherwise described are two-storeyed with rubble walls and thatched roofs.

(20) Cottages (86671707), three adjoining, have class-S plans; the S. dwelling is somewhat later than the others. (Demolished.)

(21) House (86591702), of two storeys with brick walls and a tiled roof, is of the early 18th century and has a class-I plan. The W. front has a plat-band and some diagonal patterning in blue headers; the N. end wall has the initials KS worked in the blue headers. The chimney-stack has round-headed panels of brickwork.

(22) Cottages (86571691), three adjoining, comprise two early 18th-century dwellings on the E. and one of the late 18th century on the W. The two older cottages retain original casement windows, as in (23). Inside, some stop-chamfered beams and plank-and-muntin partitions are preserved.

(23) Cottage (84201849), with a class-S plan, retains original windows with timber frames and iron casements with leaded glazing. The main room has an open fireplace with a timber bressummer. Reset in the N. room is a 17th-century beam. The stairs are not in the original position.

(24) Cow Grove Farm (83751853), house, of two storeys with brick walls and a thatched roof, is of the late 18th century. The N. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with a central doorway and with plain sashed windows. The plan is a variant of class T, having the fireplaces set against the rear wall instead of the end walls.

Monuments (25–31)

Unless otherwise described the following mills and associated buildings are of the early 19th century.

(25) Woodbridge House (84731840), of two storeys, has walls of ashlar and of rubble, and slate-covered roofs. The S. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with a round-headed central doorway and with large square-headed sashed windows in both storeys.

(26) Woodbridge Mill (84661827), a corn mill of three storeys, has rubble walls and slate-covered roofs (Plate 46).

(27) Bridge (84621809), near Woodbridge Mill, is of ashlar and has one semicircular arch with squared rubble parapet walls and ashlar coping.

(28) Piper's Mill (85771703), a corn mill of two storeys with attics, has ashlar walls and a tiled roof (Plate 46). It is likely to be the building advertised as 'new-built' in the Salisbury Journal of 9 Nov. 1795. The ashlar is of good quality, with a plain plinth and a moulded eaves cornice. The mill-race has segmental-headed openings on the N. and S.; other openings have flat arches. Inside, the water-wheel has gone, but much of the original machinery remains. The mill-pond, now dry, has ashlar retaining walls.

(29) Cottage (85791700), some 50 yds. S.E. of Piper's Mill, has rubble walls and a thatched roof, and a class-S. plan; it is perhaps of the late 18th century.

(30) Piper's Mill Bridge (85751698), of the late 18th or early 19th century, has one semicircular arch of ashlar, and spandrels and parapet walls of rubble, the latter with rounded ashlar coping.

(31) Springhead Mill (87311691), house, of two storeys, has rubble walls and a thatched roof. The corn mill, adjacent, of two storeys with brick walls and a tiled roof, has been disused since 1881 and now forms an extension to the house.

The following monuments are of the late 18th century or the first half of the 19th century: Millbrook House (86691689), with brick walls and slated roofs, incorporates a 15th-century niche-head on which the date 1846 is inscribed. Moore's Farm (86571711), house, with brick and rubble walls, has a slated roof and a symmetrical three-bay façade. Cottages (86531687), two adjacent, have rubble walls and thatched roofs. A Cottage (86561688), with rubble walls and a slated roof, has a symmetrical three-bay N. front. A Cottage (86601697), with rubble walls and a thatched roof, incorporates older timbers. Hurdle's Farm (85611684), incorporating the remains of an earlier building, is said to have been formerly a mill. Cottages at (85241751) and (85061767) have rubble walls and thatched roofs. A Cottage (85211755), with brick walls and a tiled roof, has a symmetrical S. front. Cottages (84881771), three adjacent, have brick walls and thatched roofs. A Cottage (85281747) of c. 1800, with rubble walls and a thatched roof, has a class-S plan. Gupple's Farm (84241938), has ashlar walls and tiled roofs. Cottages (842198), two, with ashlar and rubble walls, and with thatched roofs, have class-T plans and symmetrical three-bay S.E. fronts.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

(32) Cultivation Remains. The date of enclosure of the open fields of Fontmell Magna is unknown, but open fields still existed N. and E. of the village late in the 18th century (Map of Fontmell Magna, 1774, D.C.R.O.); they included large fields named Netton, New, Upp, Little Combe and Long Combe, and small fields named Shortlands, Quarrendon and Fort Hill. Well preserved contour strip lynchets occur on the slopes of the reentrant valleys in the E. of the parish; in 1774 they formed part of the open fields. The strip lynchets around the sides of Fore Top (876179) lay in New Field; those S. of Springhead (874166) were in Netton Field.

Roman and Prehistoric

(33) Cross-dyke (87901814–88281805), in the E. of the parish and more than 650 ft. above O.D., extends obliquely from W.N.W. to E.S.E. across the crest of Fore Top, a spur which projects S.W. from the Chalk escarpment. The W. end is in Compton Abbas. The dyke is about 480 yds. long and runs in a straight line from one shoulder of the spur to the other, separating the top of the spur from the land on the N. It comprises a single bank with a ditch on the N.; in the best preserved part the bank is 3 ft. high and 24 ft. across, and the ditch is 18 ft. across and 2 ft. deep. A gap at the centre, some 40 yds. wide, results from a later trackway and is not an original entrance. (Sumner, Cranborne Chase, 67.)

(34) Cross-dyke (88191839–88391822), on the crest of Fore Top, lies some 250 yds. N.E. of (33) and at the same altitude; the N.W. half is in Compton Abbas. The dyke (Plate 35) is 300 yds. long and runs from shoulder to shoulder of the spur, generally from N.W. to S.E., but changing direction to E.S.E. at a point 50 yds. S.E. of the centre. It faces N.E. up the spur and comprises a bank with a ditch on the N.E. and a counterscarp bank beyond. Where well preserved the bank is 21 ft. across and 3½ ft. high, the ditch is 20 ft. across and 3½ ft. deep, and the counterscarp bank is 15 ft. across and up to 2 ft. high. Gaps are obviously secondary, that in the centre having been cut by a later trackway. (Sumner, Cranborne Chase, 67.)

(35) Tennerley Ditch (88431756–89091725), cross-dyke, extends from N.W. to S.E. for a distance of 800 yds. or more across the brow of the Chalk escarpment. On the summit some 300 yds. of the earthwork has been destroyed by a track which follows the same line, but the dyke survives on the W. and on the E. The western part, 260 yds. long, extends from near the top of the escarpment down a steepening slope towards Longcombe Bottom; the eastern part is about the same length and runs down a gentle eastward inclination inside Fontmell Wood. In the best-preserved parts the bank is 16 ft. wide and 1½ ft. high; the ditch is 17 ft. across and 2½ ft. deep. A copse bank on the N. edge of the ditch in the eastern part of the dyke has the deceptive appearance of a counterscarp bank.

(36) Bowl (?) Barrow (88381836), on the neck of Fore Top, over 700 ft. above O.D., lies on the parish boundary with Compton Abbas; diam. 30 ft., ht. 1 ft.

(37) Mound (88901821), perhaps a barrow, in Gore Wood near the parish boundary with Ashmore, lies at 750 ft. above O.D. on a gentle W. slope near the summit of the escarpment. The mound is about 12 ft. in diameter and 1 ft. high, and is separated by a 9 ft. berm from an encircling bank 7 ft. wide and less than 1 ft. high; beyond the bank is a ditch 8 ft. across and less than 1 ft. deep.