Long Crichel

Pages 38-40

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 5, East. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1975.

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In this section

13 LONG CRICHEL (9710)

(O.S. 6 ins., ST 90 NE, ST 91 SE)

This parish, extending to 2,017 acres, occupies the valley of the Crichel Brook and lies entirely on Chalk between 150 ft. and 350 ft. above O.D. The village extends along the brook in the E. half of the parish and is the only settlement. Important prehistoric dykes occur in the N. of the parish.


(1) The Parish Church of St. Mary, near the E. end of the village, has ashlar walls with flint banding and is roofed with tiles and lead. The West Tower is of the 15th century; the Chancel, the North and South Transepts and the Nave are of 1852.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The West Tower is of two stages with a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet with pinnacles and gargoyles; the lower stage has N.W. and S.W. buttresses of two weathered stages, and similar square-set buttresses on the N.E. and S.E. The tower arch, rendered, is two-centred and of two chamfered orders, the inner chamfer dying into the responds, the outer chamfer continuous and ending in broach stops. The stair turret rises to the base of the upper stage and has a weathered stone head. The S. doorway is of 1852, with a moulded two-centred head and continuous jambs. The W. window has three restored cinquefoil-headed lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a label with beast-head stops. High in the lower stage the S. wall has a small window of two square-headed lights. The belfry has, in each wall, a window of two trefoil-headed lights with a quatrefoil under a two-centred head with a label.

Fittings—Bells: six; 6th by John Wallis, 1621; others modern. Brass: In chancel, reset in modern Purbeck marble coffin-slab, plate (13 ins. by 2 ins.) with black-letter inscription 'Iohan Gouys gist icy dieu de salme eyt mercy', 14th century; adjacent, modern shield-of-arms of Govis. Chest: bound with iron, with two locks, chain and staple, inner compartment with three locks, 16th century. Font: of Purbeck marble, with octagonal bowl with quatrefoil panels enclosing blank shields, moulded underside, stem with trefoil-headed panels and hollow-chamfered base, 15th century. Niche: Externally in N. wall of tower vice turret, with pinnacles, ogee head, finial, and blank shields at foot, 15th century. Plate: includes silver cup of 1661, two patens without assay marks, flagon of 1826 and pewter alms-dish.


(2) Long Crichel House (97851022), formerly the Rectory, is of two storeys with attics and has walls of ashlar and of banded flint and brick, and a tiled roof; it was built to replace the old rectory of Moor Crichel, demolished in 1776, and bears an inscription of 1786 (Hutchins III, 487). The house originally had a class-U plan, but the interior has been altered in recent years.

The W. front is symmetrical and of three bays with plain sashed windows in the upper storey. In the lower storey the lateral bays are masked by late 19th-century bow windows; the former central doorway has been moved to the N. front and the aperture blocked, but the inscription of 1786 remains in situ above the blocking. On the N. front, the reset central doorway has an open-pediment hood on scrolled brackets, and an elliptical fanlight with traceried glazing-bars. In the symmetrical three-bay S. front the sashed windows have been enlarged; the central bays in each storey have blind recesses. Adjacent on the E. is a two-storeyed service wing with brick walls and a tiled roof. Inside the house, the principal rooms have moulded cornices, doorways with moulded architraves and doors with fielded panels. The stairs, with moulded strings and slender turned balusters, have been modified in accordance with the recent replanning of the house.

Stables, some 30 yds. S.E. of the house, with brick walls and slate-covered roofs, have symmetrical three-bay N. and S. fronts and are of c. 1786.

(3) Middle Farm (97021061), house, of two storeys, with brick walls with moulded and rusticated ashlar dressings and with a slate-covered roof, is of the early 19th century. The S. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with a round-headed doorway flanked by ground-floor sashed windows of three square-headed lights, and with single-light sashed windows in the upper storey. The plan is of class U.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

(4) Settlement Remains (969108–979101), consisting of long closes bounded by low banks and scarps, and well-marked building platforms, occur throughout the village in the spaces between the modern houses. The settlement cannot be identified in Domesday, but 27 taxpayers were noted in 1333, and 32 householders were listed in 1662 (Meekings, 34). In 1801 the population was 91, indicating some decline during the 18th century (V.C.H., Dorset ii, 270). The sites were deserted before c. 1770 (estate maps by I. Taylor, photo-copies in D.C.R.O.).

(5) Cultivation Remains. Nothing survives of the open fields, but ridge-and-furrow 7 yds. to 9 yds. wide formerly existed on Crichel Down and Horse Down in the S. of the parish, beyond the limits of early 19th-century arable land.

Roman and Prehistoric Earthworks

(6) Enclosure and Linear Dyke, on Crichel Down, now almost completely levelled by ploughing, are probably of pre historic date (Plate 85). The enclosure (95901007), on a broad saddle of the Down, 340 ft. above O.D., covers about ⅓ acre and is roughly rectangular in plan with sides between 105 ft. and 140 ft. in length; it is defined by a low bank 12ft. across, with an external ditch of similar width. There is no trace of an entrance and the interior is flat and featureless, except for a small depression near the N.E. side.

The linear dyke (95861006–95690973) prolongs the N.W. side of the enclosure south-westwards across the ridge-top for at least 400 yds. (air photographs F21 58 RAF 1090: 0136–7). The dyke has dimensions similar to those of the bank and ditch of the enclosure, with the bank on the S.E. side. It is possibly, but by no means certainly, associated with 'Celtic' fields (Group (80).

(7) Linear Dykes, probably all part of a single system, but of more than one phase, occur on former downland in the N. of the parish and extend W. into Tarrant Hinton (Dorset IV, 96). The most westerly and possibly the earliest of the dykes has been flattened by ploughing, but air photographs (RAF CPE/UK 1845: 6056–60; F22 58/1090: 0093–5; 58/3250: 0081) show that it extended in a generally easterly direction from Tarrant Hinton Down (94881193), for more than 800 yds. along a spur, to meet a second dyke on Tarrant Launceston Down (95591177). The dyke formerly comprised a ditch between two low banks and measured some 50 ft. across, overall.

The second dyke, also ploughed flat, runs E.N.E. down the slope towards the Crichel Brook; it comes to an end after some 300 yds. (95851187) and neither ground inspection nor air photographs reveal any trace of it in the valley bottom. The dyke consisted of three banks, each about 15 ft. across and up to 3 ft. high, with intervening ditches of similar dimensions. After a gap of some 500 yds. the dyke continues on the far side of the valley, on the slope of Thickthorn Down, where it runs N.E. for 800 yds. until it meets the S.W. end of the Dorset Cursus (Gussage St. Michael (9), plan opp. p. 25). In this part the dyke comprises four low banks of notably rounded profile; where best preserved each bank is about 16 ft. across and 2 ft. high, with slightly smaller intervening ditches. At the N.E. end the dyke swings a little to the N. before being cut by the modern road on the parish boundary. Across the road only the two N.W. banks reappear; for some 400 yds. they run parallel with and close to the N.W. side of the Cursus; over most of this distance they have been levelled by ploughing, but they are visible on air photographs.

Excavation across this multiple dyke, on Thickthorn Down just inside the parish, yielded no evidence of structural features (such as post-holes for a palisade) and no firm evidence of date; the Roman period, however, seems likely. Such multiple banks and ditches are a distinctive form of boundary. They certainly are not defensive works and they may be compared with earth-works forming part of the settlement on Gussage Hill (Gussage St. Michael (7), p. 24). In this case the Cursus earthwork, or part of it, appears to have been integrated with a boundary system (Dorset Procs., 81 (1959), 110–13; H. Sumner, Cranborne Chase, 35–7).

'Celtic' Fields, see p. 117, Group (80).

Monuments (8–31), Round Barrows

Some twenty-four barrows are detectable. Nearly all of them are in the N.W. of the parish and form part of a concentration extending from Crichel Down to Tarrant Launceston Down (Dorset IV, 107). Most of the mounds have been damaged or levelled by ploughing. Ten have been examined by excavation.

Two barrows on the summit of Crichel Down have been destroyed by ploughing, but are visible as ring-ditches on air photographs (Plate 85). (C.U.A.P., AMO 6, 7, ANC 72.)

(8) Barrow (95951007); diam. about 40 ft.

(9) Barrow (95971007); diam. about 40 ft.

Four barrows form part of the Launceston Down South Group, the rest of which is in Tarrant Launceston (Dorset IV, 107). They were excavated in 1938 by S. and C. M. Piggott (Arch., XC (1944), 47–80). They are no longer visible on the ground and former dimensions etc. are given.

(10) Bowl (95911054), covering a large pit, beside which was a primary cremation in a barrel urn with incised chevron decoration of Cornish type; diam. 45 ft., ht. 1 ft., with a shallow ditch. (Piggott, 8.)

(11) Bowl (96011053), containing a primary cremation in a central pit, with sherds of a cinerary urn in the surrounding soil; diam. 18 ft., ht. less than 1 ft. (Piggott, 7.)

(12) Bowl (96031066), covering a large oval grave in which was a primary crouched inhumation, tightly bound and apparently placed there in a bag. Any grave goods that may have existed had been removed by earlier diggers. Diam. 22 ft., ht. under 1 ft. (Piggot, 5.)

(13) Bowl (96051070), covering an irregular empty hole near the centre; diam. 15 ft., ht. under 1 ft. (Piggott, 4.)

Three barrows lie on the S.E. slope of a spur overlooking the Crichel valley. Excavated in 1938 by S. and C. M. Piggott (op. cit.), they have since been levelled by ploughing.

(14) Bowl (96191109), comprising a low mound, 37 ft. across and about 1 ft. high, within a ditch which was interrupted by a causeway on the N.E. Under the centre of the mound lay an unassociated cremation. An earlier structural phase, also under the mound, was represented by a circular palisade trench enclosing an area about 7 ft. across, with a causeway on the E. A further cremation (? primary), also without associated objects, lay at the centre. A fragment of collared urn was found in the composition of the mound. (Piggott, 2.)

(15) Bowl (96181111), incorporating a cairn of flints over a central pit which contained a bucket urn (Arch. J., CXIX (1962), 63) and a smaller accessory vessel; both were covered by a slab of Purbeck limestone; diam. 30 ft., ht. about 1 ft. (Piggott, 3.)

(16) Bowl (96241109), covering a central pit which contained the remains of a primary cremation burial associated with fragments of a bucket urn 'burnt after breaking'. Above the pit was a second cremation in a bucket urn (see also Arch. J., CXIX (1962), 63). Diam. 22 ft., ht. under 1 ft. (Piggott, 1.)

Seven barrows are scattered on the W. side of the Crichel valley, W. of Veiny Cheese Pond; they lie at about 200 ft. above O.D., mostly on a gentle S.E. slope. All have been damaged or levelled by ploughing and three of them (18–20) have been completely removed by excavation. Two barrows ((17) and (18)) lie close to a linear dyke (Tarrant Launceston (16), Dorset IV, 106) and appear to have determined its alignment at the E. end.

(17) Bowl (95961135), now flattened by ploughing; former diam. 70 ft., ht. 2½ ft.

(18) Bowl (96171149), excavated by S. and C. M. Piggott in 1938 (op. cit.), comprised a mound about 60 ft. across and 3 ft. high, associated with two concentric ditches; the latter suggest two structural phases. The inner ditch, which was deeper and more carefully cut than the outer, measured 52 ft. across overall and lay entirely under the mound; it had cut an earlier pit containing fragments of several beakers. The outer ditch lay no more than 5 ft. outside it and measured about 72 ft. across overall. A grave shaft at the centre of the barrow was cut nearly 9 ft. into the chalk and contained a primary crouched inhumation associated with pig bones. A quantity of beaker sherds was found scattered throughout the mound. (Piggott, 11.)

(19) Bell (95881157), comprising a mound 60 ft. across and 5 ft. high, surrounded by a narrow berm, was excavated by C. Green in 1959–60, prior to levelling. As in (18) the barrow was found to have two concentric ditches. Initially there had been a low bowl barrow, about 26 ft. in diam., lying within the inner ditch and covering a primary inhumation associated with a bell beaker. This was subsequently covered by the bell barrow and the outer ditch was dug to encircle it. Associated with the second phase were a beaker inhumation, four food-vessel inhumations, and later inhumations and cremations (P.P.S., XXVI, n.s. (1960), 343).

(20) Bell (96041159), 68 ft. across and 9 ft. high, surrounded by a narrow berm, was excavated by C. Green in 1959–60, prior to levelling. Structurally it resembled (19) and it clearly was built in two stages. Initially there had been a small barrow containing a primary crouched inhumation, tightly bound with thongs, above which was an adult female inhumation accompanied by a child. The barrow was enlarged and in it were found several later cremations associated with various types of cinerary urn, and three pagan Saxon inhumations (P.P.S., XXVI, n.s. (1960), 343).

(21) Bowl (96161171), now reduced by ploughing; former diam. 90 ft., ht. 3 ft.

(22) Bowl (96231168), now largely flattened by ploughing; former diam. 85 ft., ht. 1 ft.

(23) Bowl (96261165), now almost levelled by ploughing; former diam. 85 ft., ht. 1½ ft.

The Veiny Cheese Pond Barrow Group comprises five barrows (24–28), all largely flattened by ploughing. The mounds, from 25 ft. to 50 ft. in diameter, lie close together in an almost straight line extending N.W.–S.E. on the N.E. side of the Crichel valley, some 330 yds. E. of the pond. Grid references are : (24), 96671175 ; (25), 96691173; (26), 96711171; (27), 96721169; (28), 96741166.

Three barrows lie W. of Thickthorn Wood, almost on the parish boundary with Tarrant Hinton (Dorset IV, 96).

(29) Bowl (95681221); diam. 20 ft., ht. under 1 ft.

(30) Bowl (95681226), damaged by digging on the N.W. side; diam. 55 ft., ht. 4 ft.

(31) Bowl (95701229), damaged by a modern track; diam. 40 ft., ht. 1 ft.


(32) Enclosure and Linear Dyke, in the extreme E. corner of the parish, have been flattened by ploughing, but are visible on air photographs (R.A.F., CPE/UK 1845: 6050–2; C.U.A.P., ANC 57; N.M.R., ST 9810). The enclosure (984109) lies on a S.E. slope at about 280 ft. above O.D., just off the summit of the ridge between the Crichel and Gussage valleys. Almost square, but with rounded corners, the sides are about 300 ft. long and enclose some 2 acres (Plate 85); the interior is featureless; no entrance is seen. The linear ditch (98531110–98021065) runs parallel with and very close to the N.W. side of the enclosure. It begins on the ridge-top, in Gussage St. Michael, and extends S.W. for over 700 yds. across the ridge-top and down the slope towards the Crichel Brook.