STRATTON DORSET
   
             
STRATTON & GRIMSTONE AS THEY WERE IN 1954 - IN WORDS
             
       
 
Sometime between 19th February 1954 & 23rd March 1954 an article appeared in the Western Gazette newspaper entitled "Who's Who In Dorset Villages - No. 5" and was sub-titled "Stratton and Grimstone - one church, two inns but not a village store between them". The author's name was not given. This transcript is from an original document held by Chris Dunn of Stratton.
 
         
   
         
 

This week in our series of articles on Dorset villages and the people who live in them we go to Stratton and Grimstone, the administrative and social ties of which are so strong that it would be virtually impossible to write about one and not the other in a feature of this sort.

It was over five centuries ago the manor of Stratton and Grimstone was granted to the prebends of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Mary of Sarum. Through the years these two villages have remained the friendliest of neighbours. Separated by a mile-long stretch of undulating road "age has not withered nor custom staled" their intimate affinity.

Present "Lord of the Manor" is Mr. A. C. R. Pope, who, of course, takes a leading part in the lives of both villages. Thursday night I asked him if he knew how long the Stratton and Grimstone estate had been owned by his family.

He countered my question with one of his own, "How long do you think?" he asked.

I told him I believed it had first come into the possession of the Popes in the nineteenth century, and he said he thought it was around 1880. Mr. Pope has lived at Wrackleford House for about two years, and succeeded Major A. Rolph Pope. He was not certain of the acreage of the estate or the total population.

 
    History of the Manor    
         
 
Later, I was fortunate to come across some writings of Mr. Alfred Pope, Mr. A. C. R. Pope's grandfather. Mr. Alfred Pope traced the history of the manor back to 1329. In 1626 a certain Mr. Angel Smith, said to have been lord farmer of the manor for 58 years, was buried at Stratton. Subsequently it was held by Mr. George Grey, Mr. George Pitt and then, in 1820, by Mr. Robert Pattinson. This man's only daughter and heiress married the Hon. Henry Ashley, a younger brother of the Earl of Shaftesbury.

At her death the manor fell into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England from whom it was purchased by Mr. Alfred Pope in 1895. He died in 1934 at the age of 92 and the estate was taken over by Major Pope.

After this brief excursion into the past, we will now return to the present era and, more particularly, to last Thursday when for the first time in my life, and I hope not the last, I saw the villages of Stratton and Grimstone.

I went by train and stepped out of the diesel car on to the platform of Grimstone and Frampton Halt at about 10 a.m.
 
         
    Station Staff    
         
 
Coming along the platform to meet me I saw the station master, Mr. F. H. Woodward. A well-built man with a cheerful face, he listened intently while I explained what I was doing there. Then he went out of his way to direct me to interesting people I should meet in Grimstone before I moved on to Stratton.

"How long have you been here?," I asked.

"Me," he replied, "Oh, I've ben here for about five years. Now our porter, Mr. G. Fox, has been here nearly all his life. Then there's the signalman, Mr. W. Penny. He's been here for six years."

Mr. Woodward then led me to the end of the platform and up the steps into the signalbox. Inside, Mr. Penny was dealing, with the efficiency that only comes after many years of experience, with the complicated system of levers and switches that confronted us.

Keeping an expert eye on the clock, he told me he and his wife used to live in Somerset before coming to Dorset, and they now run a Church Youth Club together at Stratton. They started it up last year and hold meetings once a week in winter and summer.

Here he paused as a steam-driven train trundled through the station without stopping. He moved over to the "control panel" and pressed down a lever to let Maiden Newton know another train was on the way.

 
    Summer Football    
         
 

"In the summer, of course, we have games out of doors," he went on. "There is football for the boys and netball for the girls. We've got to play football out of seasons because I don't get Saturday afternoons off."

"Membership? At the moment it's about 30. I'm quite musical myself, you know. Sang in a choir in Somerset when I was a youngster. Now I sing in the choir at Stratton with my two boys."

Grimstone itself, of course, is without a church and intending worshippers in the village have to go to St. Mary's at Stratton, of a Sunday morning or evening. Another thing that Grimstone lacks is a shop. Strangely enough, Stratton is in the same predicament.

 
         
    Healthy Industry    
         
 
One thing you will find at Grimstone, however, is a healthy water-cress industry. There are two beds about a mile from the village and before I said good-bye to the station master Mr. Woodward he told me during the season sometimes as much as a ton a day would be sent by rail to all parts of the world. Present owners are Messrs. Dunn and Simmons.

Leaving the station, which stands on a gradual incline, I walked down a slightly muddy path to the home of Mr. Arthur Sargeant. He greeted me from an upstairs window, but soon descended the stairs to welcome me,
 
         
    Four Bob A Week    
         
 
"I was born in 1882 on Squire Sheridan's estate," he told me. "Now it has all been sold and split up. When I was only twelve years old I started working with my father on the roads. He used to give four or five bob a week for my pains. After the Council took over the making up of roads we used to contract for roads within the parish. After my father died I carried on for a while on my own."

After a fleeting visit to the manager of the village mill, Mr. R Poate, who could not spare me much time, I called on the landlord of the Royal Yeoman Inn, next door, Mr. Fred Dorman.
 
         
    The Landlord    
         
 
Mr. Dorman I found to be a jolly, warm-hearted man with a firm hand-shake and a mischievous gleam in his eye. Over a glass of cider, he told me he took over the Royal Yeoman three years ago from his brother-in-law.

Before that? "Well, I come from Devon." he said, "but I was in the Royal Marines for 28 years."

"In the Marines for 28 years." I gasped, taken aback. "That's quite a record."

"In the Royal Marines for 28 years," he corrected me with a countenance momentarily becoming stern. You mustn't leave out the 'Royal'".

Mr. Dorman's 28 years' service took in both world wars and a world cruise on H. M. S. Delhi in 1924. "We were showing the flag a bit after winning the war." he joked.

"Don't you find it a bit quiet here after all that excitement?" I ventured.

"Well, I do sometimes," he replied, "particularly in the winter. But the people are very friendly, and in the summer we get quite a lot of visitors."
 
         
    Good Trout Fishing    
         
 
At this juncture Mrs. Dorman came into the bar and joined in the conversation. She told me that for about a month after May 24 people from all over England, including several Harley Street physicians, stayed at the inn for the trout fishing in the River Frome.

Mr. Dorman told me the original Royal Yeoman was burned down about 25 years ago and that while it was being rebuilt beer was served from a stable across the road.

The Royal Yeoman has a successful darts team and they play in the Groves' Friendly League. They visit such places as Charlestown, Piddletrenthide, Cerne Abbas and Winfrith.

Captain of the team is Reg Damon, and the others are Ken Damon, Claude Damon, Bill Diment, George Way and Mr. Dorman himself.
 
         
    Oldest Inhabitant    
         
 
From the Royal Yeoman I made my way along the street to the home of Mrs. A. E. Crocker, at Tilleys, who I was told was the oldest inhabitant of the village. Her age? The average estimate was 85.

Mrs. Crocker shook hands with me and led me into a pleasantly furnished front room. After a few preliminary questions about life in the village, I came to the question which is a dangerous one to put to any woman, no matter how old she may be.

"And how old are you, Mrs. Crocker?" I asked, as casually as possible.

Mrs. Crocker smiled. Then: "Do you really want to put that down?"

"Well, you are the oldest inhabitant of the village, aren't you?" I countered.

"Oh yes, very definitely," she replied, rather proudly. Then she continued in a compromising tone, "I'll tell you what. You can say I was married in 1898 from Muckleford."
 
         
    Parish Chairman    
         
 
And with this I had to be content. I left and set out on the mile and a half walk to Langford Farm. Here I hoped to find Mr. F. G. Gifford, one of Grimstone's representatives on the Stratton and Grimstone Parish Council.

Soon I had turned right off the main road, passed under the railway arch, and was walking along a lane by the side of a stream. The sun was shining brightly out of a blue sky and it did not seem long before I found myself at the gate of Langford Farm.

Here, in a cow shed, I found one of Mr. Gifford's sons, Mr. R. J. Gifford. He told me his father was out somewhere on the 132-acre farm. Was his father on the Parish Council? Yes, he was. And he was not only a member, but had been chairman since the death of Major Pope. Prior to that he had been vice-chairman for several years. Any other representatives? Only one - Mr. Poate, the miller.

Mr. F. G. Gifford had lived in Grimstone for 52 years. Langford Farm was outside the parish and did not belong to the Popes. It was the property of Winchester College.
 
         
    Last Call    
         
 
With this I had to retrace my steps to the village for it was now nearly lunch time and I had as yet to make myself known in Stratton. Before I left Grimstone I made one last call - on Mrs. Tom Foot, whose husband runs the 475-acre Grimstone Farm for Mr. Pope.

Mrs. Foot is an expert at organising whist drives. She had on that night - in the barn across the road. She showed me some of the excellent prizes being offered. There were 23 tables at the last whist drive, and she was hoping there would be as many that night. £23 was raised in two drives for the Coronation Fund, she told me. The one that night was in aid of Stratton Hall repair fund.

I made my way to Stratton and arrived there about 1.15 p.m. My first point of call was the Bull Inn, where I was greeted with a warm smile and a couple of cheese sandwiches by Mrs. B. A. Peaple, wife of the landlord.
 
         
    Telepathic Mind    
         
 
"I must have a telepathic mind," she said, after I had told her who I was. "I've been reading your articles on the villages ever since they started and only this morning I was wondering whether you would do Stratton next."

After supplying me with a cool drink to go with the sandwiches, she proceeded to give me a pretty detailed list of the well-known people of the village.

Then she told me that she and her husband had come to Stratton three years ago. "We've always wanted a country pub," she said, her eyes twinkling, "and now we've got one."

Mr. Peaple is a keen poultry fancier in his spare time and has taken many awards and prizes at shows all over the country, including the National Show at Olympia.
 
         
    No Successor    
         
 
After lunch I walked over the road and introduced myself to Mr. W. G. Cox who is the caretaker of St. Mary's Church. He told me Canon C. Morrow, the former Rector of Stratton and Bradford Peverell, had died several months ago and at the moment his successor had not been appointed.

Before going into the churchyard we stopped for a moment to look at the white cross which commemorates the fallen of the two wars. Mr. Cox keeps it clean and had laid out a little garden around it.

Inside the churchyard we paused again by the side of another cross - or rather, what remains of it. It is believed to have been built round about the same time as the church in the 15th century. In olden days monks from Cerne Abbey used to preach from its base. Now the top has broken off and lies neglected in another part of the churchyard, but the rest of it stands proudly and defiantly before the church like a silent watch-dog.
 
         
    Charm Remains    
         
 
Inside the church extensive alterations have been made and the people who built it would possibly hardly recognise it today. But still its ancient charm remains and it possesses that calm you can only find on entering a sanctuary such as this. The church register dates back to 1561.

While we were in the church I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get the names of its officers. Mr. Cox readily obliged. Churchwardens are Mrs. F. Simmons and Miss M. Mann. The rest of the P.C.C. comprises Mr. J. Lock, Mrs. L. A. Oliver, Mrs. A. C. R. Pope, Miss M. Dunn, Mr. W. G. Cox, Mr. W. Penny, Mrs. N. Lambert, Mrs. C. Fost, Mrs. H. Christopher and Miss D. M. Hudson.

What has happened since Canon Morrow died? Mr. Cox told me the Friary at Batcombe has been able to supply preachers. "I think it is only once we have had to cancel services," he said, "and that was during the last bit of bad weather."

From the church we crossed the road to the Institute Hall, which is so badly in need of repair. One of the corner foundations is sinking and causing the windows to crack. In addition, some of the stonework is fighting a losing battle with the weather and crumbling away. The hall was built in 1898 by Emily Frances de Satge in memory of the Hon. Jane Frances Ashley.

Crossing the road again and glancing up at the tower of St. Mary's Church, I was reminded of bellringing. Mr. Cox had the names of the bellringers on the tip of his tongue. Captain is Mr. Lewis Downton, and his colleagues are Messrs. C. Davis, F. Rose, C. Dunn, and N. Lambert.

After parting company with Mr. Cox, I went up to see Mrs. Morrow, widow of Canon Morrow who died in his 71st year. She told me the Mothers' Union at the Church, of which she was the enrolling member, was passing through a difficult transitional period while they were waiting for a new vicar. She herself was moving from the village shortly.
 
         
    The Postmistress    
         
 
I then walked through the village to the Post Office where I met the postmistress, Mrs. L. A. Oliver. "I have lived in these parts all my life," she told me, "and have been postmistress in Stratton since 1940. My father left school when he was seven years old and went to work on Grimstone Farm, where he stayed all his life."

This mention of school and school days prompted me to walk back through the village to the school. Here I was given a friendly welcome and a comfortable seat by the schoolmistress, Miss D. M. Hudson.

"So you want to put something in about the old school marm , do you?" she inquired, with a broad smile. Receiving a reply in the affirmative she told me she had been in Stratton for six years and had gone there from Evershot. The school was attended by 31 children between the ages of five and 11. She received assistance for three and a half days a week from Mr. R. J. Lazarus, of Dorchester.

 
         
    The Flower Show    
         
 
Miss Hudson also told me [she] was secretary of Stratton's Horticultural Society, which she described as "flourishing." They held a flower show every year and there was always a large number of entries.

President of the Society is Mr. A. C. R. Pope. Other officers are: Vice-chairman, Mr. J. Douch; treasurer, Mr. E. Kelly; assistant secretary, Miss J. Diffey; committee, Miss R. Slade, Mesdames C. Hawkins, L. Downton, M. Foot, Messrs. C. Davis, J. Kelly, F. Ostler, P. Rose, L. Downton and T. Slade.

While we are on the subject of officers and officials it might not be a bad idea to name those of the Bull Inn Thrift Club, another successful organisation in the village. Secretary is Mr. Claude Damon; treasurer, Mr. B. A. Peaple; chairman, Mr. D. Owen; and committee members, Mr. H. Cox, Mr. Wallis, Mr. P. Rose, Mrs. Mintern and Mrs. Owen.
 
         
    93 Next Month    
         
 
A question I asked nearly everyone in the village was "Who are the oldest inhabitants?" And the first person everyone of them named was Mrs. Rosina Mary Phillips, who lives in one of the three almshouses. "I shall be 93 if I am spared until April," she told me.

Who is the oldest man? 83-year-old Mr. John Kelly got the most votes. He was head gardener for the estate from 1900 to 1947, when his son, Mr. E. Kelly, who had served an apprenticeship under him, took over.

One of the most jovial persons I met during my day's outing was amiable Mr. J. Lock, a rising 70-year-old, who has his fingers in several pies in the village. When I first called at his home he was not in. When I eventually caught up with him he said jokingly, "I thought you were a rent collector or something and I've been keeping clear."

He soon got down to the task of giving me the names of everyone on the Stratton and Grimstone Parish Council, which, of course, sits under the chairmanship of Mr. F. Gifford. Besides Mr. Gifford there are Messrs. L. Foster, C. Dunn, A. C. R. Pope, R. Poate, H. Christopher and J. Lock.

What was the population of the village? "Well, there's been some new Council houses built recently," Mr. Lock told me, "But I should say it was about 280."

"Football?" he went on. "No, we haven't got a football club. We've a cricket club though. Mr. H. Christopher is captain and treasurer. Didn't have a very good year last year. We went down into the second division."

 
         
    The Shepherd    
         
 
Mr. Lock, in the course of our conversation, mentioned two more names for me to record. The first "Shep" Lambert, who had been shepherd for the Squire for about 15 years. The second, Mr. J. Douch who is the estate bailiff.

Mr. Lock told me he was a farmer himself at one time but he had to give it up in 1940 due to a breakdown in health. He also told me of another farm in Stratton which was in the family of the Chicks for over 100 years before Major Pope took it over.

Before I left, Mr. Lock told me he came to Stratton 69 years ago as a three-year-old baby. He was born at Poxwell.

Last person I saw before I decided it was time to cal lit a day was Mrs. Eleanor Foster, who, by the way, often writes articles for this paper and sends us in reports of whist drives and meetings.

"I thought you'd come to tell me I'd won a crossword puzzle," she told me after our initial meeting.
 
         
    11-Year-Old Organist    
         
 

Getting over her disappointment, she asked me inside. Mrs. Foster is the society steward for the little Methodist Chapel which was built in 1915 on land provided by Mr. Alfred Pope. They hold services every Sunday and have weeknight meetings once a fortnight. Mrs. Foster's daughter, Sheila, has been playing the organ there since she was 11.

She is also village librarian for the mobile County Library, and says there are about 20 to 30 people who regularly take books.

Another person I must mention before I close is Mr. Henry Bartlett, who has been estate carpenter for 10 years and has worked in the village for over 40. In the old days he used to do a lot of wheel-wrighting, but modern agricultural implements have, of course, reduced his work in this sphere.

Finally, to keep all these people in order if necessary and keep a watch out for the night cyclist without a rear lamp, there is P.C. Thomas, who has a very large area to patrol.

In closing I would like to say thank-you to all the people I saw in Grimstone and Stratton for their kind co-operation. One day I shall try to make a return visit.

 
         
     
      SCRAPBOOK