Open up the Ordnance Survey map the for the Dorchester area
and you’ll find a rich vein of old English village names. Piddletrenthide.Piddlehinton.Puddletown. Puddletown Forest. Briantspuddle.
Tolpuddle (of the martyrs fame) and Affpuddle. You’d be forgiven for thinking
that it used to pour with rain here. And then there’s the wonderfully named
Ryme Intrinseca. Fancy having that on your address.
We spent last weekend in the Dorchester area soaking up some Thomas Hardy country.
Dorset is a green and pleasant land at this time of year. The county looks lovely and Hardy would have been proud of his home town. Dorchester is the basis for his “Casterbridge”, from which the Mayor hailed.
The narrow country roads are riddled with holes but thankfully very quiet. Getting lost in them is the way to get some eye-candy if you are heavily into historical landscapes. Fields roll into ancient terraces. Hedges lead to enchanting copses (or is it copsii ?). And that forest in the valley looks dark and mysterious and so crying out to be explored.
Of course, not far from here is Cerne Abass where once our ancient ancestors thought it would be a lark to carve a rampant giant into the hillside.
They were a rum lot, and no mistake. There are special viewing places from which to admire the fertility symbol. One can only imagine the pagan dance that took place here, if any did. Nuff said.
But one of the main treats around this part of Dorset is to be found at Milton Abbas. Here you will find a good potted English history taking place in one way or another. Class distinction; oppression of the poor; Capability Brown; early forays into the European market; eccentricity.
In a nutshell, 1780, Joseph Damer, the first Earl of Dorchester, decided that the village of Middleton was spoiling his view of the countryside where he would like to live in his mansion house beside his very own abbey. He had the village razed to the ground and the oiks moved about half a mile away, where he couldn’t see or smell them, to a replacement village he had built for them (Milton Abbass). Mr. Middleton Labourer was spitting
feathers, I can tell you. (Aristocracy kick out the poor.)
At some stage Damer’s 5 year old son fell from the roof of the Abbey but because his clothes were so voluminous ( as was the fashion of the time) his shirt formed a parachute and he drifted to Earth unharmed.(Eccentric)
Capability Brown landscaped the valley. How lovely. Eventually Damer sold the Abbey and grounds to Mr. Hambro – a Dane. (Early European marketing.)
And so Milton Abbas is now one of the loveliest villages you could hope to come across.
The Abbey and Mansion are now a private school. The well-healed send their progeny to the school whilst driving passed the oiks who still take tea and cakes in the street in Milton Abbas (and damned fine cake and tea it is too).
Every two years there is an 18th Century Fair at Milton Abbas to celebrate the creation of their village. This year it takes place on July 30th. I don’t know whether rotten fruit is thrown at an effigy of Mr. Joseph Damer or not, but I think the villages got the better
half of the deal in the end. If you are down that way check it out.
And whilst we are on the subject (as if we were) wouldn’t it have been great to have locked up the Expenses Busting MP’s in the stocks and thrown rotten fruit at them. Ah, sweet . I think it is a punishment we should bring back.
Go on – who would you put in the stocks ?