Dorset’s Heritage in Photos: Kingston Lacy at Night

This winter the National Trust are illuminating a number of their properties from dusk. 

After visiting Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne, I thought it worth sharing the photos, below. 

Next up is a trip to Corfe Castle. 



Heritage Open Days in Dorset 2015

This coming weekend, 10-14th September 2015, is the annual event described by the collective of organisers as a celebration “of our fantastic history, architecture and culture, offering people the chance to see hidden places.”

Below I have picked out some of the highlights from Dorset (that as of 9th September are not fully booked!):

Mapperton House

Beaminster, Dorset, DT8 3NR


Tudor/Jacobean manor house with church and stables. Tours last approx 1 hour and include rooms and items not usually seen.

Thursday 10 September: Tour 1100 & 1200

Sherborne Abbey: Tower Tour

Sherborne Abbey, The Parish Office, 3 Abbey Close, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 3LQ


The tower of Sherborne Abbey is not normally open to the public, but will be open to guided parties for HODs. Tours will last 75 minutes and involve climbing nearly 150 steps. Guides will explain history and structure, and bell ringing. There will also be tours of the Abbey at ground level on Thursday & Friday at 1030 & 1430, and on Saturday at 1430 only. Please note The Tower Tours must be pre-booked but the Abbey tours are open. Event not suitable for children under the age of 12.

Thursday 10 September: 1000-1600 (Abbey open to 1800)

Friday 11 September: 1000-1600 (Abbey open to 1800)

Saturday 12 September: 1300-1600 (major function in morning)

Lulworth Castle

East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QS


Walk in the footsteps of Kings and Queens as you explore the 17th Century Castle. Discover the stunning landscapes, beautiful 18th Century Roman Catholic Chapel and unrivalled views from the Castle tower. Enjoy the woodland walks and children’s playground.
Children can Hunt the Bat in the Castle and Hunt the Squirrel in the Park.

Thursday 10 September: 1030-1700

Friday 11 September: 1030-1700

The Priest’s House Museum & Garden

High Street, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 1HR


The Priest’s House Museum & Garden is located in the heart of the beautiful market town of Wimborne. Discover our stunning Roman wall paintings, the fascinating childhood gallery and a unique Victorian Valentine card collection as the museum tells the story of East Dorset. Explore period rooms from a 17th century hall to the working Victorian kitchen, finding out how life and work has changed in this historic townhouse. Wander through a beautiful walled garden, which features old varieties of fruit trees and colourful herbaceous borders, views of which can be savoured from the Garden Tea Room.

Saturday 12 September: 1000-1630

Sunday 13 September: 1000-1630

Tudor House, Weymouth

3 Trinity St, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 8TW


A merchant house dating from 1600 containing 17th century artifacts. A guided tour of approximately 45 minutes. Donations gratefully received.

Thursday 10 September: 1300-1600

Friday 11 September: 1300-1600

Tour of the Town Cellars Building, Poole

High Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1BW

poole history centre

The Town Cellars on Poole Quay is a building first constructed circa 1300. In the late 18th Century Thames St was cut through the building and today it forms part of Poole Museum to the East and the King Charles Pub to the West. Please note that this is not an underground tour.

Saturday 12 September: Tours 1400, 1500, 1600

Dorset’s Archaeology in 150 Words #7: Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings looking south with the west entrance and barbican on the right. The 6m square excavation trench was just above the entrance through the inner rampart.

On the National Trust-owned Kingston Lacy estate, near Wimborne, lies the impressive Iron Age hillfort of Badbury Rings.

The hillfort consists of three concentric, circular ditches that encompass a large inner area. It is estimated that the height from ditch bottom to rampart top would have been 40ft.

Surprisingly little investigation has been carried out. An RCHME survey began in 1993, and in 1998 28 potential hut sites were identified within the ramparts. The first excavations, led by Martin Papworth in 2004, when three evaluation trenches were dug, found that the majority of the pottery recovered was Late Iron Age.

It is likely that upon the Roman invasion that the hillfort was claimed by Vespasian’s armies; as at Maiden Castle. The evidence of Roman activity nearby can be seen in the Roman road that runs to the west of the hillfort and a Romano-British temple and the town of Vindocladia in the vicinity.

726 794 788 778 754 708

Batts Bed field north of Badbury where the Dorchester to London roman road crosses the Bath to Poole Harbour road. The parish  boundary hedge that crosses the picture top to bottom may preserve the line of the road to Hod Hill and Ilchester.

Dorset’s Archaeology in 150 Words #6: Hinton St Mary Romano-British Mosaic

hinton 2

Discovered by a local Blacksmith in 1963, and later excavated by Dorchester Museum, in a field in the village of Hinton St Mary, Dorset, was a large, almost complete Roman mosaic which appears to feature a portrait bust of Jesus Christ as its centrepiece.

Traces of a substantial building, probably a villa, were excavated. The walls surrounding the mosaic had been demolished, probably in the post-Roman period. Limited study has been carried out on the building complex.

The mosaic was a continuous floor in two panels for one large room, with a mixture of pagan and Christian imagery such as Bellerophon mounted on Pegasus killing the Chimera (a three headed monster), and several hunting scenes.

The larger panel, 17x15feet, contains the centrepiece that is thought to be one of the earliest representations of Christ and possibly the only portrait on a mosaic floor from across the Roman Empire. The figure is situated next to a Christian Chi Rho symbol flanked by two pomegranates.

Gotowre-Super-Mare: Lost in the Heath

Somewhere amongst the heath land on the south shore of Poole harbour, Dorset, there potentially lays a site which would potentially tell us much about medieval town foundation and planning.

In 1286, Edward I appointed two men, Richard de Bosco and Walter de Marisco to:

“lay out with sufficient streets and lanes, and adequate sites for a market and church and plots for merchants and others, a new town with a harbour in a place called Gotowre Super Mare, in the parish of Stodlaunde [Studland]”

(Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1286)             

Studland is a parish occupied today by the small village of Studland and a number of hamlets. It has long been assumed that the site of Edward’s new town lie between the Ower and Goathorn peninsulas, largely due to the place-names in the area which include Newton Bay, Newton Farm, Newton Copse and Newton Heath alongside the similarities between Gotowre and Goathorn.

Later, in May 1286, Edward I granted “to the burgesses of Nova Villa…of all the liberties granted to the citizens of London as set forth in the Charter to Melcombe.” Gotowre-Super-Mare was also granted permission to hold “weekly markets at their borough on Tuesday and Friday in each week, and of a yearly fair there on St. Lawrence tide [August].”


Despite these generous offers it seems that the project failed at an early stage for an as yet unknown reason. Some have suggested that the town was ‘stillborn’ (Beresford, 1967: 297) whereby the town was laid out but simply failed to be inhabited, whilst there is evidence to suggest that there was at least a small number of inhabitants at Gotowre (Hinton, 2002. Discussed further below). The lack of information regarding the reason for this failure coupled with the potential for any archaeology to provide information on the earliest stages of the development of a medieval planted town means that any data collected could be of great worth.

There has been a number of archaeologists and historians interested in the mystery of Gotowre-Super-Mare, most notably Welch (1992 and 1998), Beresford (1967), Lilley (2002 and 2005), yet little in the way of archaeological investigation has taken place. A major British Petroleum pipeline project during the late 1980’s allowed for a small scale excavation (Farwell, 1991) and limited magnetometry survey (Thompson, 1987) to be carried out to the south of Newton Bay, east of Ower Farm. Farwell’s excavation (1991) consisted of two large trenches placed over crop marks identified through aerial photography (See figure 2 below). Although no datable material or substantial structures were found during the excavation, Farwell was able to assign the crop marks to a series of shallow ditches that are likely to be enclosures rather than medieval field systems due to their small size (ibid: 92). Farwell suggests that “on the basis of morphology alone, the evidence for large enclosure circuit with internal minor property divisions in a suitable location for settlement supports the argument that this is the site for the failed settlement” (ibid: 93). Unfortunately, due to the lack of conclusive evidence from the excavation, much further work is needed in the immediate area.


S.J. Thompson’s magnetometer survey (1987) along the route of the pipeline did not provide any archaeological evidence but is difficult to interpret as it is unclear as to exactly where the survey was carried out. If it was indeed carried out along the route of the pipeline it should have encountered and shown the ditches excavated by Farwell. As the location of the survey is difficult to understand the value of the survey to this research is limited.

Bowen & Taylor (1964) excavated a site to the east of Farwell’s at the eastern foot of the Goathorn Peninsula, a site suggested by Beresford and St. Joseph (1958: 225-226). The excavators were able to locate footings of buildings but due to dating evidence were able to assign them to 17th century fisherman cottages and therefore unrelated to the missing medieval town of Gotowre-Super-Mare.

Interestingly, David Hinton (2002: Appendix 4, 4.1) notes that in 1326, several items of income at Corfe, Dorset, “come from the new borough at Newton, whose inhabitants are later revealed as having to pay heriots (entry fines to enter property), which were lumped in with the profits derived from Corfe’s Court.”   There is also mention “of the burgesses paying 9d. for the privilege of laying out nets” (Hinton, 2002: Appendix 4, 4.2). Whilst, as Hinton acknowledges, this is not often associated with urban activity it does at least suggest that Newton (Gotowre) was occupied.

Any further study of Gotowre will at least shed some further light on this enigma. It cannot be possible to ignore the ditches excavated by Farwell (1991) and the associated plan of crop marks west of Newton Farm. The evidence discovered by Hinton (2002) clearly shows that Gotowre was occupied but was already at that stage called Newton rather than the name assigned by Edward I. Research by the likes of Welch (1992, 1998) suggesting that Gotowre was either never started or was further west, and that the quay at Ower still retained a substantial amount of income in 1362 (Horsfall, 1997), must not be ignored but the evidence around Newton Farm may be too strong to ignore.

Selected Bibliography

  • Bowen, H. C. & C. C. Taylor, 1964. “The Site of Newton (Nova Villa), Studland, Dorset” in Medieval Archaeology Vol. VII.
  • Farwell, D. E., 1991. Newton. In P. Cox and C. Hearne (eds) Redeemed from the Heath. Dorchester: Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society Monograph 9.
  • Hinton, D. A, 2002. “Purbeck Papers”. Oxford. Oxbow Books.
  • Horsfall, A., 1997. Woodland in Medieval Dorset. Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society 119.
  • Lilley, K. D., 2005. Urban Landscapes and their Design: Creating Town from Country in the Middle Ages. In K. Giles and C. Dyer (eds) Town and Country in the Middle Ages. Leeds: Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22.
  • Lilley, K. D., 2002. Urban Life In The Middle Ages 1000-1450. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Welsh, T. C, 1992. “New Light on a Missing 13th Century New Town in Dorset” in Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 7.
  • Welsh, T. C., 1998. Gotowre Super Mare: a new town in Dorset commissioned in 1286. Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries 34.

Dorset’s Archaeology in 150 Words #5: Christchurch Castle & Norman House

In Christchurch the remains of a typical early 12th-century motte-and-bailey castle, and its associated chamber block, known as the Norman House, can be found.

Construction of the castle, commenced in about 1100AD. The earliest feature of the castle was the earthen motte, which almost certainly would have been topped with a wooden keep or tower. The castle was rebuilt in stone in the mid-12th century. The 9m high rectangular keep had at least three storeys. The style of the keep, suggests that it was built in its present form in about 1300.


The Norman House is a rare example of Norman domestic architecture in England. Built during the mid-12th century to provide luxury accommodation for the earl, the stone house clearly represents a high status of the owner. The house retains some interesting features such as elaborately decorated north window of the hall marks where the high table stood, the thicker, defensive east wall facing the river and the tall circular Norman chimney.

Constable's_House_christchurch CC EH

Site Visit: Wareham, St Martin’s – a Dorset church with Saxon origins

St. Martin's On the Wall

St Martin, the church high above North Street as you arrive in Wareham from the north, is the most complete example of a church with Saxon origins in Dorset.

It is placed on the northern line of the earthen banks which make Wareham’s Saxon town walls. These banks were first built in the 9th century under instruction of Alfred the Great as part of his strategy to defend Wessex towns from the threat of Viking attacks.

The church is also positioned adjacent to where the northern gateway into the town once stood.

by Andy Whiting
by Andy Whiting

There are a number of wall paintings inside the church, in both the nave and the chancel.

On the north wall of the chancel there is a fresco of St. Martin. It seems to feature St. Martin on horseback and also him giving his coat to a beggar. Little more of it is clear. However, there is a consecration at the very bottom of the image.

Above the chancel arch, on the east wall of the nave lies a variety of paintings. There is a complex sequence involving two overlapping Coats of Arms, two overlapping versions of the Ten Commandments and curiously, fifteen red stars. It is suggested within the church that these may represent victims of the Black Death and that these stars and masonary pattern on the northern aisle arcading are 14th century in date. Following the shape of the chancel arch is the message:


There are various other paintings around the nave which are indecipherable. However, there is a creed in a cartouche on the south wall and a memorial on the north wall of the nave above the arcading. The paintings were covered with a lime wash at some point, possibly during the Reformation.

One painting is particularly interesting due to its position. On the north wall of the nave is a painting, with text, that is either cut by the western most bay or continues around the corner. However, this painting would then have been behind the column if it was still standing. This suggests either the painting has been added after the date of the column removal, or that this may have been a text painted inside an original North Door entrance. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence for this.

In the northern aisle there is an effigy of T.E. Lawrence, designed by Eric Kennington in1936. It is made from Portland stone with a Purbeck stone base.
In the northern aisle there is an effigy of T.E. Lawrence, designed by Eric Kennington in1936. It is made from Portland stone with a Purbeck stone base.

St Martin’s has a number of phases in its development; some can be clearly dated and placed within the overall sequence whilst some are rather more difficult. Below is a discussion on the overall sequence with difficulties of interpretation being explored further. It once again seems necessary to follow a chronological route for this.

The earliest phase of the church is in little doubt, whilst lacking a precise date, the evidence of the small Romanesque window in the north wall of the chancel, along with the ubiquitous alternating long and short quoin stones in the eastern angles of the nave and chancel, clearly suggest early- to mid-eleventh century beginnings for the building currently standing on the site. As previously mentioned, there is a belief that the present church is on the site of a church of Aldhelm constructed in AD 700.

The chancel arch is Romanesque in style, but its decorated architecture may place it later in the eleventh century, perhaps post-Conquest. There remains a problem regarding the rounded arch, constructed from brick, to its south, seen in the east wall of the nave. In its present context, it would not appear to be either a doorway or a window as it would be entirely within the interior of the chancel if it was seen on its western wall. This perhaps suggests that the nave was extended southwards at an early point and made this Romanesque window redundant, however, there is no evidence of this on the exterior and thus this must be left as a supposition.

Later, at the end of the Romanesque architectural sequence, the northern aisle seems to have been added. Two bays with Romanesque arches suggest a date before AD 1200. The columns appear to be of much later date despite their current poor condition. They are rather ornate and thin to be of such an early date and perhaps represent a replacement of the original columns. It is not entirely apparent for what reason this may have happened; perhaps it was a precautionary measure to prevent collapse, or perhaps it was to increase the line of sight and lighting in an otherwise poorly lit northern aisle.

chancel arch

Another problem relating to the northern aisle is the presence of two squints, or hagioscopes, in the eastern wall of the nave, either side of the chancel arch. Whilst the northern squint is perfectly acceptable as its angle is such that it provides a rather good view into the chancel. It is the one to the south that poses a number of questions that do not seem to have answers immediately apparent. The southern squint is aligned similarly to the northern one, providing a view into the chancel if there was to be an identical southern aisle to that on the north side of the church. Clearly there is no evidence in the southern wall of the nave to suggest that a southern aisle stood; blocked arcading would be most apparent on the exterior and possibly on the interior too, yet there is none. There is perhaps some evidence in the interior of the southern porch/tower; however, this may be unrelated to a possible aisle. Whilst it is apparent from a slight change in fabric, and the offset windows in the south wall, that the porch tower was constructed in at least two phases, the fabric inside the porch, approximately 50cm above the height of the exterior south door, is remarkably different from that down to ground level. It is almost as if the first phase constituted a small porch with square roof, or perhaps this lowest, suggested first phase, represents the remains of a northern aisle that was removed shortly after. It is also worth noting the curiosity of the exterior door in the porch tower, the archway on the interior is in the Tudor Gothic style, whilst on the exterior it is Romanesque in style, perhaps a modern version based on the masonary. This may suggest an external facade encasing an earlier shell which was the remains of either a small single-floor porch or the western remains of a southern aisle.

In the thirteenth century, work was done on the chancel, with an Early English window and Priest’s Door being put in. The window may have replaced a Romanesque window similar to that on the north wall of the chancel.

An Early English window, with Ogee arches, at the east end of the southern nave wall may be of thirteenth century date also.

The east windows of both the chancel and the north aisle show a development during the Perpendicular Gothic stage of the 15th century. At about this time the west end of both the north aisle and the nave was extended by approximately two metres. This is evident on the interior of the south wall of the nave and the exterior of the north wall of the north aisle. Excavations also provide evidence of this event (Keen, 1979). The windows in the west wall may have come from elsewhere (Hinton and Webster, 1987: 49) on the basis of the poor matching of lintels and jambs. The latest evident stage of church development is the heightening of the tower to at least a third storey in 1712 dated by the plaque on the south porch tower wall.

east window

Dorset sites on Historic England’s “Britain From Above” Website

When looking at the new Historic England (formerly part of English Heritage) website I came across the free database of oblique aerial photos from the first half of the 20th century.

Below are some of the highlights of Dorset’s archaeology:

(all photos (C) Historic England)

Britain From Above

Badbury Rings & surrounding landscape from the SW, 1947 (note the Roman road running to the left of the rings)
Badbury Rings & surrounding landscape from the SW, 1947 (note the Roman road running to the left of the rings)
Neolithic Henge and Roman Amphitheatre: Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, 1925
Neolithic Henge and Roman Amphitheatre: Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, 1925
Maiden Castle and surrounding countryside, Winterborne Monkton, from the south-east, 1947
Maiden Castle and surrounding countryside, Winterborne Monkton, from the south-east, 1947
Hod Hill showing the Roman Fort with great clarity, 1949
Hod Hill showing the Roman Fort with great clarity, 1949
Hod Hill showing the Roman Fort with great clarity, 1949
Hod Hill showing the Roman Fort with great clarity, 1949

Dorset’s Archaeology in 150 Words #4: Hambledon Hill

Hambledon Hill is a National Trust-owned hill fort in Dorset, England, on the southwestern corner of Cranborne Chase. On initial viewing the site represents one of the most iconic Iron Age hillforts in southern England, however, it provides a great deal of invaluable evidence of Neolithic lifestyle.

Excavation and survey by Roger Mercer between 1974 and 1986 uncovered a complex of early Neolithic earthworks, including two causewayed enclosures, two long barrows and several defensive earthworks. The vast quantity of material finds gives evidence for conflict, feasting, the treatment of the human corpse, trade and agriculture.

The Iron Age hillfort originally had a single circuit of ramparts but the defences were increased to have three entrances and further circuits of banks and ditches increasing the hillfort’s size to 125,000 m2. The site appears to have been abandoned around 300 BC possibly as a result of the success of the nearby Hod Hill.

Hambledon Hill's iconic Iron Age defensive banks
Hambledon Hill’s iconic Iron Age defensive banks

Hambledon Hill GE

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: