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Well, I never knew this about Dorset!




To assist you in planning your expeditions into the Dorset countryside, we have compiled a list of some rarely known facts. The distance and time written after each plane name refers to the distance that the town or village is from Laverstock, as well as the estimated travel time.

Poole Harbour (44.7 miles, 1 hour 8 minutes) BH15 4AF www.phc.co.uk is the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney, Australia. From here, in 1708, two little ships, the Duke and the Duchess, captained by Woodes Rogers, set sail to find treasure and adventures in the South Seas. But better than that, they achieved immorality, for they found Robinson Crusoe. Swept far south by a storm off Cape Horn, They put in for shelter at a small island called Juan Fernandez and were amazed, that night to see a light blazing ashore. Captain Rogers sent out a boat, which returned with a scruffy, bearded man clothed in goatskins, who spoke English. He was Alexander Selkirk, a sailor whose story was retold as Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

In October 1898, at the Haven Hotel on Sandbanks, right by the entrance to Poole Harbour, Guglielmo Marconi established one of the world’s earliest radio stations, to receive signals from a small transmitter at the Needles in the Isle of Wight. Many experiments were carried out here, which led to the setting up of the first Trans-Atlantic radio station at Poldhu in Cornwall. In 1904, the station at the Haven Hotel was the first in the world to receive long-distance messages. The Haven Hotel has now developed into a huge modern edifice, and there is a plaque pointing out the small room that gave birth to the ‘Wireless Age’.

Brownsea Island (49.9miles, 1 hour 19 minutes) BH13 7EE www.nationaltrust.org.uk 3 miles (4.8km) round, lies at the mouth of Poole Harbour. Here in August 1907, the boy Scout Movement was born, when 20 boys, mostly from local Boys’ Brigades, plus some from Eton and Harrow, pitched their tents and began to learn about practical skills, the concepts of fair play and good manners from Lieutenant- General Sir Robert Baden Powell.

David Cornwell, better known as the author John le Carre, was born in Poole in 1931.

Moreton (28.7 miles, 49 minutes) DT2 8RF www.moretondorset.co.uk is a tiny, heath-land village grouped beside a manor house and church, somewhat overshadowed by the nearby Bovington Army Camp. Moreton House belonged to James Frampton, the landowner who led the persecution for the Toll puddle Martyrs, but the real fascination of this otherwise rather ordinary place is the simple stone grave, set in the new cemetery across the road from the churchyard, of T. E. Lawrence, who is better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Lawrence was one of those few men who have actually changed the world. An Archaeologist and historian of the Middle East, he found himself, during the First World War, Thrust into the Arab fight against the Turks. Modest and unassuming, he nevertheless possessed the charisma and personality necessary to forge the disparate Arab tribes into a formidable guerrilla force. He made possible the victories of General Allenby in Palestine and the defeat of the Turkish Army. Much of his work was undone after the War by political treachery and short-sightedness, but his lasting legacy was to unite the Arab World.

In 1923, Lawrence bought Clouds Hill (NT), a small, secluded cottage, hidden by rhododendron bushes, just up the road from Bovington Camp and close to his relations, the Framptons of Moreton House. Here he was able to retire from the limelight and concentrate on finishing his book about his about his Arabian Adventures, ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. He was also able to indulge his passion for motor-bikes, and was often to be seen speeding around the Dorset Lanes. In May 1935, he rode his Brough to Bovington Camp, to send a telegraph, and then set out on the return journey, along the straight stretch of road to clouds Hill. He had just crested a slight rise when he collided with two errand boys on bicycles and was knocked unconscious. He remained in a coma for several days and died on 19 May, aged only 46. Many dignitaries attended his burial, including the King of Iraq. A tree was planted to mark the site of the accident and the T. E. Lawrence society has now added a stone memorial.

Worth Matravers (42.1 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes) BH20 5HA www.worldheritagecoast.net is a remote and wind swept village high above the ocean on the Purbeck Hills. The houses are all made from local stone carved out of the patchwork of quarries located round about, and the church is one of the oldest in Dorset, with a Saxon doorway and Norman arches. In the bleak churchyard, under a mossy stone, lie a simple farmer and his wife. With their courage and instinct, they did more to improve the life of ordinary people than any world leader or vaunted politician.

In 1774, Benjamin Jesty was a farmer living at Yetminster, near Sherborne. At the time, the area was ravaged by smallpox. With a pregnant wife and three small children to care for, he was naturally worried for the health of his family. He noticed that his two dairymaids, both of whom had suffered from the mild complaint of cowpox, had nursed family members suffering from the more serious and highly contagious smallpox and yet neither of them had caught the disease themselves. From this, he concluded that cowpox gave immunity to small pox.

He was determined to give his wife and children a dose of cowpox, and so he took them to a nearby farm at Chetnole, where there was an outbreak of the infection. In an open field, he took some pus from an infected cow and, using the point of a stocking needle, scratched his wife’s arm and injected the pus, thus performing the world’s first recorded vaccination. The term vaccination comes from the Latin word for cow ‘vacca’. He then repeated the procedure on his two sons. All of them suffered for a few days with the cowpox and then called James Phipps in 1796.

In 1797, the Jestys moved to Worth Matravers, where Benjamin performed many more vaccinations on the local people. On his gravestone are the words, ‘the first person (known) that introduced the Cow Pox by inoculation’.

On the 11 June 1685, the Duke of Monmouth, the pretender to the throne, landed on the beach at Lyme Regis (11.4 miles, 25 minutes) DT7 3JF www.lymeregis.com with about 80 men, including England’s first novelist, Daniel Defoe. They marched north, picking up support as they went and met with the forces of James II, led by John Churchill (later Duke of Marlborough) at Sedgemoor in Somerset on 6 July.

Monmouth’s army was soundly defeated and he fled across country with Lord Grey and three companions.

They headed to Dorset, making for Poole, where they hoped to catch a boat to Holland. At Woodyates, just inside Dorset to the north, was an inn owned by the Earl of Shaftesbury and tenanted by Robert Browning, ancestor of the poet. Here the group left their horses and split up, Monmouth disguised as a shepherd. He made his way into open country near Horton, and was seen climbing over a hedge by an old woman, Amy Farrant, living in a nearby cottage. A search was organised at sunrise and a militiaman named Parkin spotted what looked like a pile of clothes in a ditch beneath an ash tree. He dragged out the Duke of Monmouth, by then haggard and scruffy, with nothing in his pockets except raw peas and a badge of the Order of the Garter, given to him by his father, Charles II. The spot has been known ever since as Monmouth’s Ash. Monmouth was beheaded on Tower Hill on 15 July. In the aftermath, at the ‘Bloody Assizes’ of Judge Jeffreys, over 300 of Monmouth’s supporters were executed.

The defeat at Sedgemoor was not entirely unproductive for Daniel Defoe. While hiding in a churchyard during his escape, he saw the name Robinson Crusoe on a gravestone and filled it away for later use.

After the Restoration, Charles II returned many times to Dorset to thank those who had helped him during his escape after the battle of Worcester in 1651. On one of these trips, he stopped in Godmanstone (24.5 miles, 40 minutes) and asked at the blacksmith’s forge for a glass of porter. The blacksmith replied that he was unable to oblige as he had no licence to sell alcohol. ‘From now on, you have a licence to sell beer and porter,’ said the king and the Old Smith’s Arms at Godmanstone was born. At 20ft (6m) by 10ft (3m), it is the smallest public house in the world.

It was on Weymouth Beach (28.3 miles, 48 minutes) DT4 5ED www.dorsetforyou.com that George III became the first monarch to use a bathing machine. As he went into the water, a band, hidden in another machine struck up ‘God Save the King’.

It is believed that a foreign ship putting into port at Weymouth, brought the Black Death to England in 1348.

Wimborne St Giles (51.1 miles, 1 hour 18 minutes) BH21 5NF www.visit-dorset.com is a handsome brick village near Cranborne and the ancient seat of the Earls of Shaftesbury. In the grand church, refashioned in the 18th century, is the imposing tomb of Sir Anthony Ashley. A strange ball carved on his tomb gives away his guilty secret for Sir Anthony was the first man to introduce into England that green vegetable despised by schoolboys across the land, the cabbage. He brought it across from Holland and, in 1539, the first cabbage grown in England was cultivated in the kitchen garden of St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles. The ball on the tomb represents that cabbage.

Cecil Day-Lewis was buried in 1972 in St Michael’s Churchyard, Stinford DT2 8PS (23.4miles, 38 minutes) www.thedorsetpage.com Also buried here are Thomas Hardy and Hardy’s two wives. Day-Lewis’ poetry was greatly influenced by Hardy – hence his desire to be buried near him. Day- Lewis was educated at Sherborne and Wadham College, Oxford, where he encountered W.H. Auden and became part of a group of left wing poets. In 1951, he was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford and, in 1968, he became Poet Laureate after the death of John Masefield. Day- Lewis was an inverate womaniser and had extramarital relationships with a number of women including the model Jane Howard. The actor, Daniel Day-Lewis is his son by his second wife, Jill Balcon. Later in life, he became an increasingly public figure –sitting on many committees, delivering lectures and making broadcasts. Today, unfortunately, his work is not held in the same regard as that of Auden or MacNeice. He was refused a plaque in ‘Poets’ Corner’, Westminster Abbey.

In 1879, the Rev. Charles Frances Powys became curate of St Peter’s Church in Dorchester (13 miles, 23 minutes), moving from Derbyshire with his wife and five children. During his residence in Dorchester, three more children were born, and after his move to the living of Montacute in Somerset in 1885, yet another three children! All eleven children in this remarkable family showed some literary or artistic talent, three of them becoming novelists, essayists and poets of lasting reputation. They were John Copwer Powys (1872- 1963), Theodore Francis Powys (1875 – 1953) and Llewelyn Powys (1884 – 1939). Dorset features in the writings of all three of the brothers to a great extent. Theodore married a Dorset lass and lived most of his life here. Regarded as a hermit, he was a friend of Thomas Hardy (as were his other writing brothers) and attracted a cult following of artists and writers to the little village of East Chaldon (30.1 miles, 51 mins) DT2 8DN www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/chaldon during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Whitchurch Canonicorum (4.8 miles, 12 mins) DT6 6RH www.thedorsetpage.com The man who inspired Shakespere to write the Tempest lies buried here. Sir George Somers was a man of great energy. Not only did he sail with Sir Walter Raleigh, captured treasure ships, was mayor of Lyme Regis (where he was born), but also found time to become a Member of Parliament. He is best known for his colonisation of Virginia and Bermuda. The very ancient church of St. Candida and St. Cross (St. Wite) is unique in that it is the only parish church in England containing the bones of its patron saint. The saint’s relics are in a stone altar in which there are three openings (or healing holes) intended for the insertion of diseased limbs. The modern martyr, Georgi Markov, lies in the churchyard with English words on one side of his stone and Bulgarian on the other “Bulgaria’s most revered dissident” was assassinated on Waterloo Bridge by a communist agent, using an air gun disguised as an umbrella to inject him with a pin-head sized pellet of the lethal toxin, ricin. That crime of the Cold War took place in September 1978.

Wynford Eagle (7 miles, 23minutes) www.thedorsetpage.com is the birthplace of hero of the Civil War and the father of English medicine, Thomas Sydenham who was born in 1624 in the manor house which still stands. Surprisingly, there is no memorial to this great British physician. Called the English Hippocrates, he revived the Hippocratic methods of observations and experience. For him the foundation of medicine was not scientific examination but bedside experience. For him the foundation of medicine was not scientific examination but bedside experiences. He noted the link between fleas and typhus fever. Sydenham introduced opium into medical practice, was the first to use iron in treating anaemia and quinine in treating malaria. His renown came chiefly the fact that he alleviated the suffering of the sick and made ill people well.

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