STRATTON DORSET
   
             
L. DOWNTON REMEMBERS STRATTON
             
  From an original document written by Louis Downton in 1991  
       
 

Stratton
L. Downton

I shall be trying to outline what the village looked like in 1915 onwards having lived here for about 70 odd years and worked on Manor Farm and then Wrackleford Farms Ltd for 63 years. Starting at the West end the village school and house for the teacher was the beginning. Grimstone, Muckleford and Stratton children did their schooling here leaving at the age of 14, but during the 1914-18 war they could leave at 12 years to start work on the land. These building were demolished to make room for the bye-pass. Then we come to the pit and pigs plot now filled in and 6 houses standing on the glass from all the broken bottles dumped from the Dorchester Brewery (Eldridge Pope) for several years. Chalk was mined from the pit to sweeten up the old pastures.

Then comes the Old Rectory, now a private dwelling, next to the Village Hall which once was used for Sunday School. Other things could be held there - nothing to go on later than 12 o’clock. No beer ! Also men’s club in the winter evenings. 4 cottages next belong to W. Farms Ltd. Houses at the back built on what was the old rickyard. The corn was halved there at harvest time and thatched in for the winter. The straw would then go into the barns for feed and litter. When they threshed the corn we used to change the dust from our mattress - lovely smell oat dust - which had to be free of thistles

New houses at the back of the pub on a grass field used to be known as the Sports Field. Next two old thatched houses with gardens at the front. Then the Bull Inn - which has changed hands frequently over the years. One or two landlords were thatchers. They had their own cobs to drive to work while the wives managed the inn. Next came the coach house and stables for 4 horses. They also had an orchard and plot of about 2 acres where they grew marigolds etc. for the cob. The plot now beneath the bye-pass.

Next was the house and carpenters shop. Rented-by a Mr Shepherd until he died. He was the village undertaker and did all the repairs to the houses for the Popes. He employed about 4 men - made cider int the winter evenings. Lads used to help out for something to do. One glass of that a night and you would not want any Epsom Salts!

Two new houses standing where there used to be three. One being the Village Post Office for a number of years. At the back was a long barn and small plot, known as Donkey Plot. Stratton House now stands on it. Then an old cottage now modernised.

The Old Chapel was in front of the old part of Stratton House. Then comes the Police House and Bungalow standing on the plot which belonged to Mr Shepherd. Twice a year, May Fair and Poundbury Fair an old drover used to bring a large flock of sheep and put them in the plot for the night (usually about a thousand). He would walk them so far every day as far as Bridgewater until he had delivered them all.

Then we come to Old Chapel now a private house. At the rear was the village pound where stray animals were put to be collected. In the field, formerly known as Locks Close are now new houses and flats - Locks Lane. Next a cottage known as Uncles Cottage, named after a couple who lived there a number of years. Next are 4 new houses which have replaced old ones. There was formerly a little old cottage by the village pump. Then 3 Alms houses once let rent free to the oldest persons in the village, built by the Ashley’s, all at present empty. A bungalow now on the site of a row of 3 old houses. After the track to the dairy an old cottage known as Lock Cottage still stands on what was waste land. I was told there were houses burnt down on this land. There should be an old well in one of the council house gardens. There were some old buildings just behind the council houses, cart sheds and stables belonging to Middle Farm. Then four modern houses replacing an old barn and cottage. Behind was one farmhouse and buildings for cows and horses, known as Meech’s Farm. That completes the North side of the village.

The southern side commences with one new house built on spare land. Next a small thatched house, one house where there were 3 farmhouses. Then the old dairy house and cow stalls, now replaced by new bungalows. Next another old thatched house, farm workers house, an old barn and a row of old houses demolished to make way for new ones. Albany Cottage (derelict), Ferber’s barn (derelict) - part of new development. Next there was a cow yard and a two horse stable.

Next comes the “Plague House”. Once occupied by an old man with a wooden leg who worked on the local farms. He made his wooden leg from ash poles and had a black polished one for Sundays! The last young occupants I think had it condemned when the wife was having a baby.

In Mill Lane 2 houses, formerly 5 Church Farm at the bottom was once a small farm with 2 plots of land, a water meadow and a piece of land in South Field. Stratton Mill, no longer used! Once a busy place, grinding corn, making bread, cutting chaff and bruising oats. A new bungalow estate stands now in a field once known as Clover Hayes with old farm sheds and a trap house in one corner.

The Old Manor formally the farm house for Manor Farm is now converted into two dwellings. The stone floored building boasted a big copper and a pump in the kitchen, which provided hot water day or night for sick animals etc. The lady of the house mixed her own white oils for animal treatment. By the river ran a canal fed from the river stocked with fish with iron bars to stop them escaping. I helped to fill it in with rubble from the back of the Bull Inn. There was also a pig yard and orchard. At the back of the Manor the farmyard contained 2 houses, formerly thatched, then slated after a fire. One old farmhand told me he remembered when they caught fire and said the army used to come out to the fires. (I cannot vouch for this). Stabling for 8 horses, 2 barns, cart sheds, a granary. Old dairy buildings at the back of the houses for butter and cheese for market. Pig sties for fat pigs and cow stalls for about 50 cows. Finally an old withey bed which were cut for spar making (for thatching).

All the water meadows were flooded during the winter months to provide early grass for the dairy. 2 men were employed for 3 months shovelling out the gutters while retaining small turves (called “stops”) to control the water flow over the whole area. The secret was to cover the whole ground with water, evenly to prevent brown patches.

Note: L. Downton lived in one of the two houses that used to be Grimstone Manor.

 
   
   
     
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