West Parley

Pages 74-77

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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21 WEST PARLEY (0896)

(O.S. 6 ins., SZ 09 NE)

The parish, now of about 1,000 acres, but until recently much larger and including part of Hampreston and all of West Moors, lies on the N. bank of the R. Stour and adjoins the county boundary with Hampshire. Apart from river-terraces in the S., the land is on Bagshot and Bracklesham Beds, almost all of it less than 100 ft. above O.D. Two early settlements are mentioned in Domesday (V.C.H., Dorset iii, 96, 102): Dodesberie (Dudsbury) and Perlai; both are on the bank of the Stour.


(1) The Parish Church of All Saints, on a slight eminence beside the Stour, has walls of Heathstone rubble, partly rendered and with ashlar dressings, and roof-coverings of tile and stone-slate. The Nave is of mid 12th-century origin and the Chancel probably dates from the 14th century. Late in the 15th or early in the 16th century the North Porch was added and the nave was re-roofed; later in the 16th century the W. wall of the nave was rebuilt and the western part of the roof was altered to allow the construction of a wooden bell-turret; the present turret, however, is of the late 18th century. In 1896 the chancel was largely rebuilt, the original E. window being reset; the North Vestry was added at this time. The porch was restored in 1900.

The early font and N. doorway are of interest, and the timber porch is an unusual survival. The nave has 17th-century fittings.

West Parley, the Parish Church of All Saints

Architectural Description—The Chancel has a reset 14th-century E. window of two cinquefoil-headed lights with a pierced quatrefoil in a chamfered two-centred head with continuous jambs. The N. and S. walls are of 1896, but the W. window on the S. side incorporates reused material, perhaps mediaeval. The 14th-century chancel arch is two-centred and of two orders; its small regular voussoirs may be reused 12th-century material. The inner order is chamfered and rises above chamfered responds with moulded caps and roll-moulded stops at the foot; the outer order of the arch is chamfered on the W. side only, but the responds are chamfered on both sides, the eastern chamfers ending above and below in shaped stops. On the W., the arch has a chamfered label with bracket stops of uncertain date. Flanking the chancel arch are large squints with chamfered two-centred heads and continuous jambs; they are rendered and of uncertain, but possibly 14th-century date.

The N. wall of the Nave has a shallow projection on the E. which probably incorporates the remains of a pilaster buttress. The N. window, with a chamfered ogee trefoil head, is of the 18th century. The 12th-century N. doorway has plain ashlar jambs and a heavy stone lintel with a cambered upper surface supporting a recessed tympanum and a plain semicircular relieving arch; to increase the height of the doorway the underside of the lintel, probably flat in origin, has been made segmental (cf. Tarrant Rushton, Dorset IV, 113). The semicircular rear-arch is rendered. Further W. a vertical joint in the wall marks the 16th-century reconstruction of the W. end of the nave. A two-stage buttress of uncertain date at the N.W. corner probably incorporates mediaeval material. Much of the S. wall is rendered, but towards the E. is a stout 14th-century Heathstone buttress of three weathered stages. The two S. windows, similar to that on the N., have hollow-chamfered labels with returned stops. A former S. doorway is attested by chamfered jambs seen low down externally (now in a heating chamber) and by the outline of the rear-arch seen internally. A set-back indicates the extent of 16th-century reconstruction of the W. wall. The W. window, of two trefoil-headed lights below a roundel in a two-centred head, is of the 18th century. Above the W. gable is a square timber Bell-turret with weather-boarded sides and with a lead-covered octagonal spire.

The North Porch (Plate 64) has a square-headed entry with a double-chamfered oak lintel resting on shouldered oak jambs, chamfered as before and with run-out stops; these stand on chamfered oak wall-plates and low stone plinths, the wall-plates forming seats inside the porch. Above the lintel is a strutted gable and a bargeboard with cusped decoration. Inside, the roof rests on a truss similar to the gable.

The nave Roof has arch-braced trussed rafters formerly concealed by a plaster barrel vault (old photograph). Three longitudinal chamfered ribs with lozenge-shaped bosses at intervals projected below the former vault; the ribs and bosses have been renewed. The W. end of the nave is spanned by two 16th-century king-strut tie-beam trusses with curved braces and collar-beams; these trusses support the bell-turret.

Fittings—Bell: inscribed 'T. Pyke, B.water, 1792'. Candlesticks: Pair, attached to pulpit, of brass with shaped brackets representing swans' heads and square uprights with pineapple finials, 18th century. Chair: of oak, with two-panelled back and turned arm supports, with drawer beneath seat, late 17th century; brass inscription-plate modern. Coffin-lid: Reset against W. side of porch, of stone with plain raised cross, 14th century. Door: In N. doorway, of elm, nail-studded and with scrolled wrought-iron hinges (Plate 21); ironwork late mediaeval, woodwork probably 18th century. Font: (Plate 18) of stone, of tub form, with tapering bowl with raised round-headed arcading, on cylindrical stem and square base, mid 12th century; set on top of foregoing, octagonal stone bowl with chamfered under-edge, probably late mediaeval. Graffiti: On W. jamb of N. doorway, initials and dates, 1695–7.

Monuments: In chancel, reset on N. wall, (1) of Richard Ness, 1839, and his wife Elizabeth Mary, 1835, marble tablet by Bedfored, London. In churchyard, two paces S. of nave, (2), (3), (4), of Margaret Bromley, 1723, and of John and of Mary Pelten, both 1728, three similar headstones with shaped tops and cherub-head decoration; adjacent, (5) of John Thomes, 1721, headstone. Niche: On S. of chancel arch, facing E., with segmental stone head, probably reset; date uncertain.

Plate: includes silver cup and cover-paten by Laurence Stratford with inscription 1574; also pewter alms-dish inscribed John Carpenter, early 19th century. Pulpit and Desk: (Plate 19), of oak, pulpit with five panelled sides with guilloche enrichment at base and leaf-carving in upper panels, 17th century; hexagonal sounding-board with moulded cornice and panelled support, 18th century; clerk's desk adjacent to pulpit, with similar enrichment, 17th century. Seating: of pine, with box pews, 1841 (inscription in vestry). Weather-vane: of iron with arrow head and open fish tail, said to bear date 1793. Miscellanea: (1) In vestry, ten early 16th-century bosses from nave roof, carved with knots, frets and other devices. (2) Below E. window, externally, niche of 1893 containing earthenware vase, said to have held heart-burial of Lady of Lydlinch (Hutchins IV, 192; cf. Dorset III, 138, Lydlinch (1), monument (11)). (3) Sunk in wall above pulpit sounding-board, hollow earthenware acoustic cylinder.


(2) Church Farm (08649688), house, of two storeys with attics and cellar, has brick walls and tiled roofs and is of the late 18th century. The S.W. front is symmetrical and of five bays, with segmental-headed casement windows in both storeys and with a central doorway under a brick porch. Inside, the plan is of class T. The cellar has four bays of groined brick vaulting supported on a square central pier. Until recently the main staircase had a moulded handrail of thick cross-section, and turned column-shaped balusters; a modern staircase has been substituted.

A Barn, some 30 yds. N.E. of the house, of red brick with a slated, half-hipped roof, is probably contemporary with the house.

(3) Bramble's Farm (08669741), house, of two storeys with red brick walls patterned with blue header bricks and with tiled roofs, dates from early in the 18th century. The principal range has a plan of class T, and a symmetrical E. front of five bays with square-headed casement windows in both storeys; the window above the entrance has been blocked. The S. gable bears the letters B I M in blue headers. Inside, the ground-floor rooms have chamfered beams, and the staircase has a heavy handrail supported on stout turned balusters, and square newel posts with ball finials.

(4) Wood Town Farm (09109765), house, of one storey with attics, has walls of cob on footings of brick and heathstone rubble, and a hipped thatched roof. The original building, with a class-S plan, is of the 17th century; early in the 19th century the main room was divided into two, and a further room was added at the S. end of the range.

Post-Mediaeval Earthworks

(5) Enclosures, on Parley Common, in the form of extremely long, narrow fields which formerly extended from N. to S. across the common, are the remains of turf-cutting allotments formed in 1633 when the heathland was divided between the freeholders of the Manor (Dorset Procs., L (1928), 109–16). The remains consist of continuous parallel banks some 2½ ft. high and up to 1 mile in length. Occasional hedges and cross-banks are the result of later subdivision into small fields.

Roman and Prehistoric

(6) Romano-British Occupation Debris (09229751), mainly of the 4th century, occurs immediately S.E. of Wood Town Farm on a gravel river terrace at about 40 ft. above O.D. A short distance to the N. (09149773), possible Iron Age pits were noted in 1929 (Dorset Procs., LI (1929), 237–9; LII (1930), 19).

(7) Dudsbury (077979), an Iron Age hill-fort prominently sited at about 100 ft. above O.D., lies on the N. bank of the R. Stour in an area of Tertiary sands, gravels and clays (plan, p. 77). The ground falls precipitously to the river on the S. and S.W., but it slopes gently away on the other sides. The defences enclose a roughly semicircular area of about 8 acres. There are double ramparts and ditches on the W., N. and E., but much of the outer rampart and ditch has been obliterated or severely damaged, especially by ploughing, drainage and tree planting. Where best preserved, just N. of the S.W. corner, the inner rampart stands 5 ft. above the interior and 13 ft. above the bottom of the ditch outside it. The outer rampart here is essentially a scarp which rises 19 ft. above the bottom of the outer ditch. Along the S.W. side the defences comprise a single rampart, which rises 4½ ft. above the interior, and some 16 ft. above a ledge or berm on the outside. Near the S. corner the bank has been destroyed by ploughing and there is no trace of a ledge.

There are four entrances; those on the E. and N. appear to be modern cuts, but those on the S.W. and W. are probably original. The S.W. entrance is a simple gap in the defences at the head of a natural gully at the top of the river cliff. The W. entrance has been badly mutilated by modern tracks and ploughing, but it seems likely that the inner rampart, at least, was inturned at the entrance. The interior of the hill-fort, slightly domed, has been under cultivation for many years, except for the N.E. quadrant which is occupied by a house and garden.

Limited excavations were carried out in 1921 by Heywood Sumner. Trial trenches in the W. half of the interior and one across the W. entrance were unproductive; a trench across the inner ditch on the N.W. side yielded only two sherds of Iron Age 'A' type, at the bottom of the ditch. Roman pottery has been found 300 yds. E. of the site, at 08029776. (Warne, Ancient Dorset, 53–5. H. Allcroft, Earthwork of England (1908), 191. Heywood Sumner, Local Papers (1931), 16–24; Antiquity, V (1931), 68.)

Monuments (8–13), Round Barrows

Six barrows have been recorded within the present limits of the parish, but only three survive ((10), (12) and (13)).

(8) Bowl (07889789), immediately E. of Dudsbury. A barbed and tanged flint arrowhead was found during demolition. No dimensions were recorded.

(9) Dudsbury Barrow (07559825), bowl, lay N. of the hillfort, near the present boundary with Hampreston; diam. 75 ft., ht. 6 ft. The barrow was excavated in 1935 before demolition and was found to be of two main phases. An initial mound, about 45 ft. in diameter and composed mostly of turfs, covered a primary oval grave in the natural sand, which had apparently once held a crouched inhumation. The mound was later enlarged, a substantial ditch was cut around it and a secondary cremation under an inverted collared or ridged food-vessel urn was placed in it. (Dorset Procs., 87 (1965), 126–41; Arch. J., CXIX (1962), 5, 11, 65.)

(10) Parley Barrow (07909868), bowl, on Poor Common, was formerly in Hampreston (Dorset Barrows, 113; Hampreston 8); diam. 104 ft., ht. 9½ ft.

(11) Bowl (07939864), 50 yds. S.E. of (10), has now been destroyed; diam. 40 ft., ht. 2 ft.

West Parley. (7) Dudsbury Hill-fort.

(12) Mag's Barrow (08369859), bowl; diam. 84 ft., ht. 6 ft., with a substantial ditch around it.

(13) Ralph's Barrow (08609883), bowl; diam. 90 ft., ht. 7 ft.