STRATTON DORSET
   
             
"DYING OF SILENCE"
             
 

In 1984 the Bradford Peverell and Stratton Women’s Institute took part in a competition organised by their Dorset County Federation which resulted in the publication of a volume entitled “Village History, Bradford Peverell and Stratton”.

The sections concerning Stratton and Grimstone are reproduced here – including the spelling, punctuation and grammatical variations used: -

Stratton lies three miles west of Dorchester. This village has rather more of an air of a suburb. Many of the thatched cottages were pulled down to make way for late Victorian houses when the railway was built. Watermeadows lie between the two villages [Bradford Peverell and Stratton], deeply furrowed where past ditches were dug to flood the fields, so ensuring better grass for cattle and sheep. Also, the Watermeadows were ‘taken-up’ annually with an implement called a racing knife. The turves were cut with the knife and turned, so increasing the fertility. This practice was abandoned twenty years ago. The main Yeovil/Dorchester road (the A37) ran through the heart of the village. With cottages abutting the narrow road, it was a highly dangerous undertaking to walk the length of the village. People moved away, houses were left vacant, and the village began to die. A by-pass was built in 1969, the dual carriageway in 1970, and the extension east in 1973. Since then a number of small houses have been built, and planning permission has been given for more.

With proximity to Dorchester – there are traces of Roman occupation to be found. The name Stratton means ‘The Street’. ‘The Street’ was the approach road from the north-west, connecting Dorchester with Ilchester. In 1829 the Reverend James Skinner sketched a line across the watermeadows, linking the two villages [Bradford Peverell and Stratton]. It is now only visible in aerial photographs, though it could be seen quite plainly in the drought of 1976. The Reverend gentleman thought this confirmed a Roman route which entered Dorchester at the west end. That this was a Roman road is supported by the evidence of a Roman cemetery which was recently excavated on the east slope of Poundbury near the road. Many of the artefacts are in the Dorset County Museum. Skeletons found there are being studied for medical research and for evidence of diseases such as arthritis, venereal disease, etc., before reburial.

Stratton is not mentioned in Domesday, and its early history is obscure. An entry in the Book of Fees of 1212 states that the Manors of Stratton and Grimstone within Charminster had been unconditionally granted to the Episcopal Church of Salisbury during the Anglo-Saxon period, i.e. before 1066. The formation of Salisbury into Prebends, provided revenues for the stipends of members of the Cathedral Chapter and Stratton formed one of the Prebends, probably not until the 13th Century. That prebendaries were often foreigners did not endear them to the local population. It is recorded that the bailiff of one prebendary who was “across the seas” stole nine horses, ten oxen, thirty cows, thirty heifers, one thousand sheep, and forty swine. This plundering could only have been undertaken with the acquiescence of many of the local populace.

Outbreaks of plague in 1394 decimated the local population. It was thought to have been carried by sailors coming into Arne, which was then a ship-building port. The many deaths made labour scarce and expensive, and caused Church landowners to lease their manors as “fee farms”. Robert Harris is the first recorded lessee of the Manor of Stratton. He was survived by his wife and six daughters. Angel Smyth, aged twenty married the middle-aged widow and gained the opportunity to renew the lease after her death. He died in 1627, over eighty years old, having been married three times, but with no son to inherit his lease, it went to his son-in-law Audley Grey of Kingston Maurward. Angel Smyth is described in the parish register as having been ‘Lord of Stratton for fifty-eight years’.

Smyth ran the manor efficiently, re-organising much of the land within it, to allow his share to be enclosed into a compact holding. The old manor barn was the store for the tithes from the grain harvest. These were collected from the villagers, and there is a description of the barn in the Church records of 1650.

During the eighteenth century the prebends of Stratton, Grimstone and Wrackleford were acquired by the Moreton-Pitt family, and so the foundations of a private estate were laid. The Manor House in Stratton became a farmhouse and a mansion was built at Wrackleford a mile nearer Dorchester for the Lord of the Manor early in the nineteenth century. Stratton Manor Farm was then to become well-known during the century as three generations of the Chick family were successive tenants, who established a reputation for the quality of their Devon cattle and Dorset Sheep.

The villagers still practiced open-field husbandry, each one growing cereals in narrow strips of large unfenced fields, while their sheep ran in one large communal flock to manure the land. There are tales of frequent disputes between the villagers of Stratton and Charminster regarding boundaries where the sheep could be pastured.

It is known that sheep were walked from the village to London markets. It was common practice to herd the sheep together for dipping. All the men of the village helped, and the sheep were taken to the dip at the bottom of Mill Lane, the remains of which can still be seen.

A social gulf had now grown between the villagers, the farmers and the Lords of the Manor. The new leaseholder in the nineteenth century was Robert Pattison. He built a house for the poor and needy of the parish on the edge of Stratton Churchyard. It has long since been demolished. The Poor-law of 1836 transferred all inmates to Cerne Abbas. The last known record of a person in charge was Miss Bowring, who lived at No. 1 Mill Lane with her brother Thomas Bowring, who was parish clerk. Robert Pattison’s widow survived him for thirty-one years.

The prebends were held in trust for their daughter who married a younger brother of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. As the Hon. Mrs Ashley, she was already widowed when she acquired the lease of Stratton Manor Farm in 1876.

It is interesting to note that Eros, the statue in the centre of Piccadilly, was erected to the memory of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, so Wrackleford House has a connection with the famous hub of London, if only by marriage.

The Hon. Mrs Ashley and her two daughters, Margaret and Emily, were to be the last leaseholders and fee farmers of the prebend of Stratton. On her death in 1893 the estate was sold into private hands after over a thousand years of ownership by Salisbury Cathedral.

The parish register commenced in 1561. It is thought there was a Church of Norman construction on the site of the present Church. A piece of tile:

was found in 1975, in a nearby garden, and according to Dean Chandler’s registers there was an edifice styled chapel. It may have been pulled down, or burnt down. The present Church is dedicated to St. Mary. It has a seat in Salisbury Cathedral. There is little to note in it apart from the three light windows with good tracery and fragments of early stained glass. It does have a unique feature in the stairs which ascend to the floor of the tower. They are placed in the south-west corner of the interior and are enclosed in a pentagonal case of wood which rests about eight feet from the floor upon a pillar, the upper portion of which is spread out and is covered with ornamental mouldings resembling a whole section from the vaulting of fan tracery. The tower is fifteenth century, and now has a peal of five bells. Alas, we have no budding campanologists in the village, so they are silent most of the time, except when bell-ringers are holding a festival in the district. The Church was restored and drastically altered to Victorian standards by public subscription in 1891, and a harmonium was installed. Prior to this singing was led by a Church band consisting of violin, bass-viol and a wooden clarinet. The players used a gallery – long since removed. At Christmas the band had a splendid time, playing seasonal music one evening at the Royal Yeoman, Grimstone, following this up the next evening with a night out at The Bull, Stratton. In 1920 a good pipe organ replaced the harmonium, and an old resident of the village remembers the choir numbered twenty.

Thanks to a legacy the Church had a facelift in 1982. A few pews were removed, and the font and lecturn moved to more advantageous places. New carpet and matting were laid after dry rot specialists had been busy. Now the Church appears more spacious, yet it has an air of intimacy in it which is delightful. The Church Sewing Guild has been in operation for eight years. Their objective is to make tapestry kneelers for each pew, and this work is now almost finished. 1982 also saw the revival of Harvest Suppers, and these have been greeted with enthusiasm. On the north side of the Churchyard are the remains of an earlier large cross consisting of two steps and a base of Ham stone. Was it a preaching cross?  A plain cross outside the lych gate is a memorial to the fallen of the two World Wars. It was the pride of an older generation to keep the base planted with gay flowers. Now no-one seems to have time or inclination to follow this practice.

The Ashleys, now living at Wrackleford House, as last lessees of Stratton Manor Farm, showed concern for the well-being, both physical and spiritual of the Villagers. They build the Rectory in 1896, the Church Institute in 1898, and the Almshouses in 1900. The Rectory is small in comparison with Rectories of the time as it was intended to house a curate. Stratton was a curacy under Charminster, until it became a combined living with Bradford Peverell in 1931. The present incumbent is required to live at the Rectory at Frampton, which together with Sydling St. Nicholas, form his parish now. Stratton Rectory is up for sale. This will bring yet another change to the Village in the foreseeable future.

Miss Ashley’s niece built the Church Institute in memory of her Mother. There were several rules concerning its use. One of these was that it should be strictly tee-total. On good authority we learn that this was winked at for wedding receptions and similar celebrations. The social life of the village centred around it. In 1960 it became apparent that it must be modernised. Many money-raising efforts were made to this end. The most outstanding appears to have been a Victorian Festival held over three days in 1973. It was organised by Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Pope, and held at Wrackleford House. It must have been a lively and outstanding affair. The first evening was entitled “The Osbourne Evening” and was complete with Morris dancing in a floodlit garden. The next day was “The Windsor Garden Day”. Guests were invited to wear period costume. The evening ended with “The Prince of Wales Supper”. The menu included Cordon Bleu dishes selected from the menu served to H.R.H. on his visit to Dorchester in 1887. The third day was devoted to the children, who enjoyed a barbecue lunch, a play corner, and a fairground organ. A beautifully produced programme shows Wrackleford House, and a reproduction of one of the paintings from an exhibition of Victoriana. The house staged a Flower Festival arranged by Mrs. Mary Pope, O.B.E., F.M.H. She is the founder of the National Flower Arrangers Society.

The Village Hall may now be hired by any responsible organisation for a reasonable fee. Stratton uses it for a monthly market, parish and Church meetings and the Stratton and Grimstone Home and Garden Club hold their monthly meetings there. Their annual show is held there in late Summer and high standards of crafts, garden produce, cookery and flower arrangements are displayed. The club was inaugurated in 1974. Previously it had been known as the Stratton and Grimstone Horticultural Society.  It is recorded that Mr. Kelly, at the age of eighty-seven, won the cup for the best exhibitions, but memory is vague as to the exact date of the year. His son still judges as many local shows.

Miss Ashley also built three almshouses on the site of licensed premises – The Smith’s Arms. There was a stipulation that only single people should live in them. This has since been waived. She endowed them with £300. A brass tablet in the Church commemorates the gift. The income produced was 7/6d. per week, which was equally divided between the three needy people. A man who lived in one of houses was a bootmaker, who worked in Dorchester. It was well-known to the villagers that he kept his savings in an old violin in the house. Miss Ashley also gave the brass alter-rails in the Church – rather too ornate for today’s cleaners of Church brasses.

A road from The Smith’s Arms ran at a right-angle from the village street to the common fields. A pump still stands at the junction of the two roads, though the one leading to the fields has disappeared, together with the Inn.

A study of the Census forms of 1841 and 1881 is far enough apart to show how life was progressing in deepest Dorset. In 1841, with the exception of Robert Pattison of Wrackleford House, who is described as ‘Ind.’ and employing two male servants and four female servants, the population of Stratton comprised agricultural labourers, and their families. A boy aged ten, is listed as ass. agr. labourer, and everyone was born in Dorset, except the widow who was the keeper of the Grimstone Turnpike, and who had a daughter living with her.

There must be a tale of poverty, tragedy or sorrow in this entry, as the place of birth is not given.

In 1881 people were moving into different occupations and visiting was not the perogative of the wealthy, as one family had a sailor visiting them on Census evening, and another family had a niece. A widow kept the Post Office. At No. 1 Mill Lane lived Michael and Anne Kirby, listed as a collector of Marine. Marine collectors collected bottles. This leads one to speculate that they were probably rag and bone merchants. Private collectors were few in these days, as there were not many people of independent means able to follow private hobbies.

Several dwellings are described as ‘Farm House’. One had eleven acres, worked by one man. Another farm was sixty acres owned by a widower who employed a housekeeper. Widow Frances Newberry farmed a hundred acres, and her son acted as her bailiff. A boy of thirteen is described as a carter’s boy. A farmer with fifty acres employed one man and a boy. Whole families had their menfolk working as agricultural labourers, assistants on farms, herdsmen and carters. Mr. Chick of Manor Farm, farming five hundred acres, and employing fifteen men and six boys, also a cook and housekeeper was the largest employer of labour, and probably had several members of the same family working for him. The village had two shops, probably small in size, and certainly not the display of goods we expect today. A cardwaine and his assistant are listed; also a jeweller. Did he work in Dorchester? A carrier, a bricklayer, a blacksmith, a tailor, and a miller’s carter all plied their trade from Stratton.

There was a thatcher’s apprentice, but no master thatcher. He lived in Bradford Peverell. A family of wife, daughter and niece were dressmakers at Wrackleford. The great difference in the two Census forms is so noticeable in the fact that in 1881 all children between the ages of five and fourteen are listed as scholars. In the schoolhouse, the head of the house was a blacksmith and his wife a national schoolmistress. Even in those days it was not unknown for a married woman to be employed outside the house. Several women are listed as Charwomen. The schoolmistress had a family of five – one son was an agricultural labourer, one son a miller’s assistant, another son and two daughters were under their Mother’s eye at school. Will Gifford of Stratton Mill employed two men and a boy. Business must have been brisk, as the road surface in the photograph of Mill Lane looks well used. Several houses had lodgers. The Bull Inn had a groom as lodger.  He probably worked at one of the large houses in Bradford Peverell.

Old people can still remember a few dialect words being used.  To do the milking was “goin milky”. Ant hills were “emmet-bits” and bundles of firewood were known by the unusual word “meckies”. It has proved impossible to trace the origin of “meckies” but emmet is an archaic word for ant.

The village was extremely fortunate in having a constant supply of clean good water. Southover Estate abounded in springs, and these were probably connected to a common pipe scheme in the 1920’s. Prior to this the villagers had their own small private wells, also the use of the public pump still standing by the almshouses In Stratton. A pumping station was built to serve Cerne Abbas in 1936, and a water supply of sorts was piped to the village. In 1950 the Grimstone Reservoir was finished and connected to Forston (the main pumping station) but it was the mid fifties before all the houses in the village were connected to the mains.

Stratton is not a typical Dorset village. Hedges have been replaced by fencing, and fields enlarged for modern farming methods. These are spectacular when the cereal harvest is ripe. The sheets of gold grain roll down the chalk-lands to the valley. In May, the remaining hedgerows are massed with hawthorn and elder flowers, to be followed by the lovely berried in the Autumn. Moon-daises, scabious, and yarrow are prolific in the calciferous soil. Alas! Chemical sprays are getting the upper hand of much of the flora of the district. Footpaths have fallen into disuse, so short walks around the village are limited. For the more energetic the tops of the downs offer superb views over rolling arable land. The anglers frequent the river banks, fishing for the elusive trout. For botanists these banks offer bounty in the shape of the many shades of pink of the Himalayan Balsam in the late Summer.  It is rumoured that mink have been sighted, but believed to be pure speculation.

The Dorchester end of the village street was damp and marshy. It was the scene of the annual migration of frogs crossing the road from the watermeadows for the mating season. Many a poor squashed frog was seen who could not complete his wooing. All this has now vanished in the new development.

Stratton cannot be called a pretty village. The Manor Farm was the most attractive house, and is now converted into two. It is comfortably modernised, yet retains its old-world charm. The Bull Inn was the scene of meets for the Cattistock Hunt, which no longer comes this way. Carpenter’s Close as the name suggests, was formerly a carpenter’s house, carpenter’s shop, saw-pit and estate office. Eleven years ago, a group of seven terraced houses was built on the site, with an attractive communal lawn. Mill Lane is also aptly named. The mill standing on the banks of the river was part of the Manor of Stratton. It was usually let to a miller who specialised in grinding corn. The present mill is an eighteenth century building, and was last used to grind barley in 1921.

People have memories of after school hours enjoying a swim by the mill in the cool river on hot Summer days. It is now a private residence. The lane originally had a row of five cottages with thatched roofs, their doors opening straight onto the road. As the lane runs down a slope, their roofs went down in attractive steps. Now only the top and bottom cottages remain. The latter – Church Farm – ceased to be a farm when the other three holdings in the village were united as the Stratton Farm in 1937. It has a small oven in it, suggesting that it could have been used for baking the wafers for Communion as it is too small for loaves. About one hundred and fifty years ago the top cottage housed the local blacksmith, whose wife taught children the three R’s for two pence a week. This dame school was closed when the Council School was built in 1876. It was built at the top end of the village, with a school house adjoining. There was only one schoolroom, and the scholars ages ranged from five to fourteen. It was a great advantage for the school mistress to be living in the village – she knew the families of her pupils. She was never called ‘Ma-am’ or ‘Miss’, always ‘Governess’. The school was so sited that it overlooked a rubbish tip where a local brewery deposited broken glass, and rats were numerous. The school was razed in 1965 to make way for the by-pass, and the pupils were transferred to Charminster.

Near to the school site are a pair of semi-detached thatched cottages still named Diments and Philips – the surnames of occupiers two generations ago, but now the latter is renamed.

Continuing down the village, there is a tiny unoccupied cottage opposite the pillar box, known as The Plague House. This is certainly a misnomer, as no-one in their right minds would bring an infectious disease into the centre of the village. It was a humble labourer’s cottage, being very small, built entirely of cob, and thatched.  People can remember an old man sitting there trimming withy staves for thatching called spargafs. It now houses a few small farm implements.

In 1915 a little Wayside Methodist Chapel was built. The money needed was raised by public subscription. A piece of land for it was given by Mr. Alfred Pope. Previously it was the site of the village pound. A few people from Bradford Peverell helped to swell the congregation which was mainly Stratton Villagers. The chapel is now a modern residence. It is built on a nasty bend in the road, and people have memories of a van-load of eggs overturning, with dire results.

“Uncle’s Cottage” is another property named after the occupiers – Mr. and Mrs. Uncle.

Mrs. Horsey ran the Post Office from a house which has been pulled down to make way for a bungalow. She must have been the mainstay of the village. Not only did she manage the Post Office, she ran a small private school, taking the maximum of eight pupils – the sons and daughters of local farmers. But her name was awkward for her. The 1930 ‘Top of the Pops’ song “Horsey, keep your tail up” gave rise to lewd remarks from some of the village children. She also played the Church organ. There is a story that a soldier, finding all signposts removed early in World War II enquired where he was. Mrs. Horsey – mindful of the poster ‘Careless words cost lives’ – pretended to be deaf and dumb. One wonders what opinion the soldier had of a post-mistress who could hear or speak. She died in 1942 of gangrene, caused by pricking her thumb on a holly wreath. We take anti-biotics and penicillin for granted, yet it is only forty years ago when this would be a common place death.

After Mrs. Horsey’s death, Mrs. Oliver ran the Post Office firstly from the old Gamekeeper’s Cottage at the East end of the village and then from Albany – a small house in the centre of the village, now called “the dog house” as Mr. Pope’s Gamekeeper uses it for gun dogs and their meal. Mr. Oliver was the postman. His daily duties commenced with the delivery of mail by bicycle through Stratton, Grimstone and Frampton. Then followed a five mile walk through fields to Compton Valence, where he delivered letters, made a collection, and walked back again to Frampton, collecting his bicycle, letters, etc., to do a similar service for Grimstone and Stratton. The Post Office was closed in 1968.

Between World War I and II the villages were well catered for with travelling shops. Two butchers delivered meat, and three grocers competed for orders, including Parsons who still run a business in High East Street, Dorchester. A man would come round on a bicycle to take orders and collect payment and the goods were delivered within two days. Haberdashery was brought to the door. Shopping could be done in Dorchester by the carrier for a few pence. He operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays. On these two days a bus ran through the villages and was always crowded with passengers. There were two shoeing and general smiths. Also there were little general shops in both villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell]. Mr. Charlow ran one in Bradford Peverell, and Miss Fost one from No. 1 Mill Lane, Stratton but these were soon closed.

Mr. Percy Fost was presented with a fifty-year service award by the Prince of Wales at a Game Fair held at Crickhowel, Powys in 1975. He had been a gamekeeper, first with the Sheridans of Southover, then with successive members of the Pope family at Wrackleford to complete his half century of work.

Stratton had a cricket team which was started in 1900, by Mr. Kelly (of horticultural fame). They played at Wrackleford until 1914. World War I intervened, but it began again in 1921 this time in a field owned by Mr. Legg. It was now under the captaincy of Mr. Kelly’s son, who also acted as groundsman. The team must have been good, as they won the local cricket league for three successive years. With a shortage of players and a ready-made games centre at Herrison Hospital, the team finally folded up in 1978. Players and spectators alike look back with regret on the lovely times they enjoyed, and long for ‘the old days’ to return.

Electricity was brought to both villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell] between the two wars. In 1934 – 1935 there was one small transformer at Notton (a hamlet near Maiden Newton). This fed the line to Charminster and was tapped to supply Stratton. Memories of the elderly of the village indicate that each house was rationed to three lighting points and a five amp. plug. The national grid bringing with it so many conveniences and luxuries of modern living has completely changed life in villages today.

Stratton was a curacy under Charminster until the Reverend Godley came to the living in 1931. It was then combined with Bradford Peverell. Up to this time the two villages had little in common. The villagers had no combined social gatherings, and a few dyed-in-the-wool Church dignitaries made it difficult to create any communal activities. Reading between the lines, the first Rector of the combined parishes had to steer a difficult course between Scylla and Charybdis.

With World War II in the offing, and the formation of the A.R.P. necessity drew the villages together, and minor conflicts were laid to rest. The war brought changes to all and sundry, and Stratton did not escape. Soldiers were encamped on the downs and many were billeted in the two large houses in the district – Wrackleford and Quatre Bras. By mistake thirty-five girls and five staff from Haberdasher Aske School, London, were evacuated to Stratton, when the village had been advised to expect small children from Southampton. Imagine the dismay! After the mistake was rectified, and the girls were to go to another village, they gave a concert in the village hall, as a ‘thank you’ and the older inhabitants still remember it as “the best ever”.  They left behind them a member of the staff who became Mrs. Godley. She and the Rector were instrumental in organising Saturday night sixpenny hops for the soldiers and the young people of both villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell] and these did much to heal the real and imaginary differences. The Rector maintained a tennis court in his garden, which was the source of enjoyment for the sporting section of the parish. He and Mrs. Godley organised concerts and pantomimes during the War years and did much to lighten the lives of the Land Army Girls who followed after the soldiers were posted abroad. The A.R.P. regulations were strictly observed during the first few months of the War, but it is whispered that when the Rector was not on duty the remainder of the squad threw darts to see who could go back home for the night. H.M.S. ‘Dorsetshire’ was adopted and money collected for comforts for the crew. All in all, Stratton did its bit.

When the War ended, traffic began to move more freely, and the A37 passing through the narrow village street made life hell for people living in the cottages abutting it. They began to move away, their homes fell into disrepair, and were demolished. Census figures are interesting at this point. From 1901 to 1931 they varied very little, being between 314 and 291. In 1971 the population had dropped to 223. In August 1971 Mr. Notley of Yeovil wrote at some length in the Western Daily Press on ‘the village that is dying of silence’, meaning Stratton. A precis of the letter lays the blame on the shoulders of the Local Authority. They were dilatory in making it clear if they intended to widen the road through the village, or construct a by-pass. By this time the by-pass had been built, but the damage to the village was already done. A complex of twenty-two Council houses was built at Ash Hill in 1952. This is half-a-mile from Stratton, nearer Dorchester, and became a little community of its own, the people finding it difficult to consider themselves as belonging to the villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell] as the busy by-pass divides them.

The Census figures for 1981 show an increase in population to 293. A number of first-time owner-occupier houses are being built, and people seeking peace from the noise of town life are beginning to settle in the village. As well as the Home and Garden Club already mentioned, we have a Youth Club, a Mother and Toddler Group and a Wives Group is shared with Bradford Peverell. The Thursday Club has recently replaced the joint Bible Class, it is in its infancy, but reports show that it has taken on well.

There is a lot of talent in the two villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell] as two Christmas Pantomimes have shown. Written and performed by local children, helped with costumes and scenery by parents and much enjoyed by a very appreciative audience at Bradford Peverell. It is hoped this will become an annual event in which many people can help. Last, and by no means least, Stratton supplies a quarter of the Members of the W.I. so we have a number of joint interests nowadays.

There is a great contrast between the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939, and the Coronation of our present Queen. T.V. has allowed us to look in on the Royal Ceremonies of today. In 1937 the Stratton village schoolchildren paraded down the village street in fancy dress, and imagined what the State occasion would be like. The photograph [· HERE ·] shows the procession past the old Carpenter’s shop and house.

For Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 a T.V. set was installed in the Schoolroom, as very few houses possessed a set. The people gathered there to watch the ceremony in black and white pictures. Afterwards sports were held in the field behind the school.

The evening before the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee, the parishioners held a barbeque in a field opposite the Rectory. Sausages and ”Scrumpy” were given by the Parish Councillors. This was followed by an hilarious fancy-dress football match. Silver Jubilee day itself was cold and dank. After watching the service of thanksgiving in London on T.V. at home the parishioners gathered once again in the same field to have a communal picnic, each one contributing some picnic fare. This was followed by children’s sports, and ended with a fancy dress parade in the village hall. A seat by the bus-shelter marked the event.

The weather was glorious for the Wedding of Charles and Diana. The village was gay with bunting and flags, but everyone spent the day in their own homes, firmly fixed to T.V. sets to watch all the pomp and ceremony of the marriage of the Queen’s Son in glorious technicolour. It is wonderful to have a grandstand seat in one’s own home. Such are the wonders of modern technology that we shared the happy occasion with the whole World.

The following afternoon sports were arranged for the children. Mrs. Mary Pope gave each child a mug and most of the races were held in Carpenter’s Close, although a few were held in the village street. Afterwards the children sat down to a magnificent tea held in the yard of the Bull Inn.

GRIMSTONE is a hamlet and tithing in the Parish of Stratton, lying a mile west of the village on the North side of the River Frome. It has a seat in Salisbury Cathedral and this is most unusual. The name ‘Grim’ means boundary and there is a boundary stone at the North edge of the Parish known as Jackman’s Cross. Tradition has it that a man named Jackman was hanged there for sheep-stealing, but there appears to be no confirmation of this story. According to J. E. Brown writing in the Dorset Year Book, a Stratton resident told him that Jackman was imprisoned in a cage of iron bars, which were fixed to a stone, and was starved to death inspite of his Mother’s efforts to feed him.

There are records of a cloth mill working in Grimstone in the Fourteenth Century. Edward II put an export tax on cloth which brought it to a parlous state. It was then used for grinding corn. It finally closed in 1981, it’s last use was for making meal for dog biscuits.

Grimstone Down lying above the hamlet shows traces of Celtic fields covering more than a hundred acres. The fields are clearly defined, and tracks converge onto a series of small enclosures, but no other traces of the habitation of two thousand years ago remain.

Grimstone were in the news in 1797, when the Maiden Newton Turnpike Road Trust were told that their road from Frampton to Winterbourne Steepleton was an obstacle to the owner of the Frampton Estate. He wished to enclose the grounds of his residence, Southover, lying on the boundary of Grimstone, to make the kind of park which was just becoming fashionable. For this whim the turnpike road from Charminster to Maiden Newton was diverted from a line north of Stratton to one running through Grimstone. From this point on the diverstion, called Brewer’s Ash, a new road was made that was to run to Muckleford and on to Winterbourne Steepleton.  The owner of the Frampton Estate, Mr. Brown, undertook to build the bridge over the Frome at Muckleford, and a turnpike house at Brewer’s Ash. There is still a small house on the site, but it abuts the busy A37 road, and although furnished appears to be only used on a few occasions.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan owned Southover when the G.W.R. laid down the railway tracks in 1851. He did not wish fields and plantations to be disturbed, so the Grimstone tunnel was built, six hundred and sixty yards long, and only a few feet under the surface of the ground in places. He gave the land required for the railway construction between Grimstone and Maiden Newton. In return the Company stopped ‘through’ trains at Grimstone Station for his convenience. With his passing, the succeeding squire expected the same service, but a ‘through’ train passed without stopping.

The railway viaduct is exceedingly grand. Mrs. Sheridan had decided the sight of trains from her drawing-room windows was an anathema. The viaduct was built to improve her view, and she laid the foundation stone in 1847. The line between Grimstone and Dorchester was not completed until May 1885. A halt served both Stratton and Bradford Peverell. It was re-constructed in 1959, but with the re-organisation of the country’s net-work of railways it was closed in 1966. This halt greatly extended the villagers’ activities, and a day out at Weymouth became quite commonplace. People could also ‘pop along’ to Dorchester for a shopping expedition.

The 1881 Census shows four people of independent means living at Grimstone. With the busy A37 passing through it now, it is no longer the peaceful little hamlet of past years. It was only in the 1930’s that the A37 was straightened from Grimstone to pass Hyde Crook for Yeovil – a matter of just over a mile. Previously the main road to Yeovil was through Frampton, past Frampton Rectory, up to the garage at the top of the hill – a matter of three miles.

The older generation are unanimous in telling of “the lovely times we had”. They thoroughly enjoyed the simple pleasures that came their way, and the community spirit these engendered. The pleasures were seasonal ones, since most of the people had their living in an agrarian community. Probably there were gossips, scandal, spiteful talk – impossible to be without these unpleasant habits in a small village; But in times of stress and trouble people were unstinting in help and kindness, and the poorest of purses were stretched in time of need. These memories remain when all else is forgotten.

Life was far from idyllic rural delight that memories and pictures of cottages festooned with roses and honeysuckle bring to mind. There was real hardship and poverty. Damp houses, draughts, low dark rooms, no running water, poor artificial lighting, an earth closet at the bottom of the garden, above all lack of security were the accepted lot remembered by elderly people still living.

The villages [Stratton and Bradford Peverell] are very different now from what they were fifty years ago. Different too from each other. Bradford Peverell has many new homes. These have been bought by people in mid-career or for retirement. A core of hard-working but caring people help to strengthen a sense of community and caring in this stable situation. Smaller groups of houses tend to encourage a sense of neighbourliness.

Stratton has had many of the old cottages pulled down; new “first-time owner-occupier” houses and flats have been built to replace them. From being a dying village, its population is now increasing. There is considerable change as families grow and move on to areas with larger houses. Fluctuations lead to an unstable community and there is only a small core of settled people in Stratton. Wives and retired people who stay at home in such communities can become very lonely. Loneliness is one of the ills of modern life. People living in the rural areas often travel miles to work each day, and are too physically and mentally tired to join in village affairs on their return home, which is perhaps why television can be such a solace. This is a very different way of life from past generations when a visit of more than a few miles away was a visit to another world. However, there are signs today that people are realising the isolation that constant watching television brings, and while it can, together with radio, enrich or lives, it does not replace caring people. Now the novelty of these modern wonders is beginning to wane, village activities are becoming more lively and friendly, and a surprising number of talents have been hiding under bushels. The pendulum is surely swinging back to interest in crafts and people. With these interests come neighbourliness. The W.I. can play its part in turning neighbourliness into friendship and caring. We know it will.

 
       
     
      SCRAPBOOK