Chapter 11:


Kelly's Directory description middle 19C (1855)
Kelly's Directory description middle 19C (1855)
The thatched cottages & fires
Piddlehinton village centre from Rectory Road approach

Piddlehinton village centre from Rectory Road approach

At the beginning of the 20th century, most of the cottages, outbuildings and walls in Piddlehinton were still thatched. Although several remain, a number have since disappeared for various reasons. Three major fires destroyed much of the High Street.

Mr and Mrs Jack Groves with daughter Nora and son Les, outside their cottage c 1922

Mr and Mrs Jack Groves with daughter Nora and son Les, outside their cottage c 1922


In 1925, traction engine sparks set fire to the roadside home of Mr and Mrs Groves. Jack was cycling on his daily rounds when a traction engine spark set fire to his roadside home, opposite the forge. It stood by the mill where the water dropped down to the stream again. The fire spread to the adjacent mill house called "Waterfall", the home of Fred & Annie Smith. Fred Smith (the carpenter, joiner, wheelwright and undertaker) and his sons used the mill for their work as wheelwrights and carpenters. The house was replaced by the present brick house built in 1927 by Watts the builders. The Grove's house, nearer the road, was never replaced. Mrs Smith died shortly afterwards on 16th June, partly through ill-health and old age, but also due to the shock of the fire.

Annie Smith outside “Waterfall” – the house by the mill, pictured in 1887.

Annie Smith outside "Waterfall" - pictured in 1887.

Amy Neades of White Lackington, recalled the Piddletrenthide fire engine being pushed down the road to fight this blaze, all in vain.

In December 1932, Emily Gregory, living in the High Street (the present No. 7) gave birth to her first son John. The following day the house caught fire and she had to be carried to another bedroom whilst the fire brigade put it out. This house now has a slate roof! Robert Belgrave (who took some of the photographs with a Box Brownie), remembered the fire engine arriving from Piddletrenthide drawn by cart-horses with men running beside. However when the hoses were connected to the mill stream, the hand-pump was not strong enough for the water to reach the roof, and buckets had to be used instead.

Piddlehinton High Street before 1905

Piddlehinton High Street before 1905

A year later, December 1933, the "Great Fire" of Piddlehinton left three families homeless.

The Great Fire of 1933

"The Great Fire of 1933"

Mr and Mrs Gundry and their son Alan lived in this house in the High Street before it burnt down.

Mr and Mrs Gundry and their son Alan lived in this house in the High Street before it burnt down. Rex Lovelace's Aunt & Uncle Henry lived in the cottage next door (beyond in the photo)

Apparently Mr Stacey, who lived in one of the cottages, had used a paraffin rag to light his fire that morning. It caught alight a smouldering beam in the chimney. Neighbours joined the Dorchester Fire Brigade in a nine-hour struggle against the fire, hindered by a water shortage and high winds. One of the cottages was occupied by a retired butler of Lord Wynford, called Mr Smart. He had received some watches for long service and kept them in a cabinet upstairs. Mr Head from White's Dairy tried to help him get the cabinet downstairs when the fire started. The roof fell in and they had to abandon it and make their escape. The watches were never found. Only the people in the house at the end saved any belongings. The date of this fire was Mrs Gregory's son's first birthday!

At one time Fire Brigades were private organisations. Insurance had to be taken out if the owner of a building wished any fire to be fought by firemen. A plaque would then be displayed to signify that payment was assured. Inglenook Cottage in Rectory Road (formerly Paines Cottage and now Paynes Cottage), a Dorset longhouse, has survived several centuries and bears such a plaque.

Inglenook (Paines) Cottage

Inglenook (Paines) Cottage

Fire Insurance plaque on the side of Paines Cottage

Fire Insurance plaque on the side of Paines Cottage

Many buildings and outbuildings also fell into disrepair, often due to poor upkeep by the landlord. They were later abandoned or bulldozed.

The New Innn (now the Thimble Inn)

The Riggs family lived close to the New Inn, behind the white railings, in one such

Mrs Dyke’s cottage –in London Row, just above Piddlehinton Cross, fell down in the 1950s

Mrs Dyke's cottage in London Row, just above Piddlehinton Cross, fell down in the 1950s

Miss Margaret Jeanes (b 1922) in 1930 in the garden of the millhouse

Miss Margaret Jeanes (b 1922) in 1930 in the garden of the millhouse, where her Smith relations lived, with the thatched outbuildings of the forge behind on the opposite side of the road

The wall and outbuildings of the Manor

The wall and outbuildings of the Manor, were thatched until recent years

The Old Pound

The Old Pound looking down Church Hill. It was bulldozed in 1975

Several thatched cottages and barns remain, although some are disguised by late 20th century renovation.

Charlie Jeanes and his wife Evelyn (nee Smith) beside their home – Rectory Cottage

Charlie Jeanes, gardener to the rector for 32 years from 1932 onwards, and his wife Evelyn (née Smith) beside their home - Rectory Cottage - until 1964 when the Church sold it.

Glebe Cottage has been named Glebe Farmhouse and Rectory Cottage in the past. The former farmhouse for the glebelands, it dates from the 17th century. A dairy was attached to the side of the house in the days when cows were kept on the same holding. The dairy farmers included William John Symes from c1903 followed by George Damen in 1920. The gardener to the rector, Charlie Jeanes lived there in later years. The Rectory and cottage were sold together in 1964.

The Laurels (now The Beeches)

The Laurels, a large thatched house to the south of the village centre, had stables and a groom's cottage next door. The house has a mysterious past. A nun is said to have been murdered in an attic bedroom (top window). Mr Charles Mayo held the copyhold from Eton College in the late 19th century until his early death. A succession of tenants including Albert Lane, William Mayo, James Rowe, E. Westmacott, Mrs Hendley and the Money family all followed whilst the Mayo family still held the copyhold for the life of "the two Churchills". On the death of Philip Churchill, 1 January 1930, Mr H.G.Mayo tried unsuccessfully to buy it from Eton. It was sold in 1936 to the sitting tenant Cyril Green. During the time in which Cyril Green and his family lived there (until the early 1960s), they were very happy despite the "presence" - a rush of air which passed from the attic rooms through a door and down the back stairs to the servants quarters. One land girl refused to stay in the back attic room as "something walks there". Another land girl stayed in the front attic room, aware of it, but unafraid. It has been renamed The Beeches.

Further south, outside the village centre, is an isolated long thatched former farmhouse.

Little Piddle farmhouse on 23.4.1923

Little Piddle farmhouse on 23.4.1923. It is possibly a Dorset Longhouse of 17c origin. and would have been a central feature of the manor of Little Piddle. Animals would have been kept at one end.

A large and old thatched house which still stands to the north of the village is White's Dairy House.

White’s Dairy House

The Royal Historic Monuments survey lists it asEast Farmhouse the same name as the neighbouring slated house which is of a later period. Perhaps it was originally so as it bears a 1622 date-stone near the eaves on the north side and medieval cusped tracery near a window. The banded flint and rubble walls, with occasional bands of ashlar show a striking join where a 17th century extension was added and a further extension in the 18th century. Out-buildings with a large thatched barn alongside (all of the same period) formed a large unit used as the dairy of the Piddlehinton manor.

More centrally, several cottages have been preserved:

Mabel Saint outside her High Street home, formerly called Davis Farmhouse

Mabel Saint, wife of the Piddlehinton carpenter and funeral director Bert Saint and mother of Wilf, outside their High Street home, formerly called Davis Farmhouse. It has been renovated in recent years and renamed Longpuddle.

four houses in London Row used as 'poorhouses' in early times

A row of four houses in London Row used as "poorhouses" in early times. The walls are made of rubble. All four were reputedly sold in the 1940's for a total £100. They still stand as two enlarged cottages.

Piddlehinton Cross, at the junction of London Road, Rectory Road, Church Hill and High Street, has always provided a natural focus for the village. The "Green" is a small grassed triangular mound at the crossroads. It bears the War Memorial, a bench seat, an old water pump (once a well) and an ash tree.

An ash tree was planted in Silver Jubilee Year 1977, to one side of the mound as a replacement for the previous ancient and diseased ash tree. The old tree had a hollow trunk (since before the erection of the War Memorial!) and was finally removed in 1987.

Mary Hardy, in 1876

Mary Hardy, in 1876, during her time as schoolmistress in the village, painted two ash trees on the Green. Evidence of two trees is provided in Herman Lea's book of photographs concerning old Hardy haunts

The Green in the days when the well was used by surrounding cottages

The Green in the days when the well was used by surrounding cottages, including Mrs Dyke's on the corner of London Row. The old ash tree, removed in 1987, obscures the War Memorial

the junction of Rectory Road and High Street

the thatched farm cottages which still stand on the junction of Rectory Road and High Street. The old ash tree with the War Memorial dominate the village green. Dench's Yard is in the background

Lantern Cottage

Lantern Cottage in the days when it was the village Post Office, before the present Post Office was built [now demolished]. A water pump replaced the old well. Lantern Cottage has since been converted to a private dwelling. The cottage next door survives.

Slate has replaced thatch on other noteworthy buildings:

Bridge House, in the centre of the village

Bridge House, in the centre of the village where Jo Hardy used to live, is rumoured to have been Piddlehinton Manor farmhouse at an early date. During conversion in 1985, builders found pieces of church masonry in the walls and other original 15th century features. These included a stone fireplace with holes either side of the main lintel. Apparently at the time of the Wars of the Roses, white or red rose emblems would have been removed from these holes. The house was re-fronted in 1866 and bears a panel "C.M.1866". For a time this house was used as changing rooms for the football club!

Piddlehinton Bridge

Nearby, the main bridge over the River Piddle, in Rectory Road, is a central feature of the village. A disused ford remains on the northern side, although this is now lost under recent landscaping.

Perhaps this is on the site of the bridge referred to in the Overseers Accounts:

"1745 August 23 paide thomas day for mending the bucket bridge 5/-"

"1746 February 5 paide Robert brodbey for waling the bucket bridge 8d."

Warning plaque on bridge

Our present bridge bears the date 1834 inscribed on the north parapet. It has a single round arch of ashlar. An plaque, attached sideways (during a later reconstruction?), gives due warning to users!

The Manor House in 1988

The Manor House, was the manor farmhouse for many years. It was considerably improved and extended in the 19th century. The original structure evidently dates from a much earlier time, and is made of traditional materials with no footings. The only original rooms which remained unaltered in 1987 were a washroom (with a copper cauldron fed from a well in the kitchen), and a sewing room upstairs. A large ingle-nook fireplace with a bread-oven also remains.

The stable block

The stable block alongside was rebuilt in brick, flint and slate in 1867. The ground floor comprised a carriage house leading to the old tack room. Above the carriage house, an external staircase lead to the old village Reading Room. This was used by the local community as a meeting place. Reading Rooms were built in this area at that time, as Victorian Society had become concerned about the increased drinking in public houses. It was used at different times for the young men to meet and also for the Brownies and the Youth Club. Other outbuildings include storerooms, an old game larder, a garden room and a loose box. It has since 1988 been converted to a dwelling "The Coach House".

The 1861 census records land-owning farmer George Mayo, a widower, living in the house with his three sons and a daughter, a governess, two house servants and a laundress. By 1871, only one son and the daughter were still at home, with a housekeeper, cook and a housemaid. Other occupants, usually farmers in later years included: (1875) Joseph Roper, (1890) Joseph Riggs, later Levi Riggs, then Miss Riggs, (1927) V. de Meric, (1931) Hy Smart, (1939) Captain Thomas Fellowes throughout and after the war. Captain Fellowes was the last farmer of the manorial land to live there. After his time, the house was divided up into flats and a succession of tenants lived there until Eton sold it in 1964 to Thomas Bryan.

Church Hill cottages

Back in the centre of the village, across the road from the churchyard and school is a row of farm cottages with slate roofs which were most probably thatched at one time.

This early post-card shows Church Hill cottages. Two walls no longer exist - one around the cottage garden [left], the other at the end of the school - on the right.

Coronation Cottages

Coronation Cottages, built for Eton at the time of George VI coronation

Moving North along the High Street from the Cross, Ivy Cottage, next to the Manor, was once the home of a village policeman. Next to the blacksmith's cottage, opposite the forge, is another slate-roofed house where a boot-repairer lived. Further along the High Street, the house opposite the New Inn (Thimble), was built for Mr and Mrs Smart as a replacement home for their thatched cottage which burnt down in 1933. The garden was used in the 1980s as a commercial nursery.

Just before leaving Piddlehinton northwards for Piddletrenthide, one passes two interesting houses with slate roofs and their associated buildings. Just beyond White's Dairy House is East Farmhouse. This was the residence of several generations of the Lovelace family, many of whom acted as rent collectors for Eton College.

The 'Nag stable and Gig house'

The "Nag stable and Gig house" mentioned as being on the opposite side of the road is now converted into a dwelling "The Old Stables" [Left]

West Lodge and Romaines Cottages

West Lodge

In 1779, soon after his marriage to Jane, niece of the rector of Piddlehinton the Rev. Phillip Montague, Stephen Iles 'of Godmanstone' built West Lodge - a square stone and flint house. The house faced west and had its front door on the west side. He must have over-extended himself building the house as he took out a mortgage on it from the Rev. William Rush Hallett Churchill of Muston. There is a memorial to his wife in the church under the tower. In 1812 the Rev. Churchill foreclosed on the mortgage and sold West Lodge to John Baverstock Knight, a surveyor and an artist. John Baverstock Knight also bought from the Rev. Churchill, 'a workshop and a room with chambers over' standing near the house. He then built himself a large first floor studio to connect the two with kitchen and other domestic offices below. Most of this building constitutes South West Lodge, which is now separately occupied.

In 1835, John Baverstock Knight was appointed commissioner for the Piddlehinton Enclosure Act. As the fee for his services he acquired land in front of the house both sides of West Lane. He planted a line of trees at the western limit of his new property, which still stand today. He died in 1859.

In 1862 the house was bought by Major (later General) and Mrs Charles Astell. They altered it extensively. Among other improvements, they raised the roof and made a new front door with a glazed conservatory on the east side of the house on the present road. The 1871 census records Major Charles Astell JP and his Irish wife Harriette living in the house with their son and four daughters, an American governess, a Swiss ladies' maid, a housekeeper, a parlour maid, a housemaid and a kitchen maid. A gardener and a coachman and their families lived in West Lodge Cottages. Mrs Astell was very interested in folklore.

Coach House with a striking clock
In 1898, to celebrate their Golden Wedding, General and Mrs Astell built themselves a Coach House with a striking clock. This is the only striking clock in the village.

In 1917, the Astell's only son Godfrey was killed in France. The family sold the house to Colonel and Mrs John Belgrave, whose family still lives there.

Colonel and Mrs Belgrave's car outside the house 1917

Colonel and Mrs Belgrave's car outside the house 1917

Colonel and Mrs Belgrave's trap outside the coachhouse

Colonel and Mrs Belgrave's trap outside the coachhouse

In 1980, because fast traffic along the road had made the use of the roadside front door at West Lodge dangerous, the house was given its third front door on the north side.

Romaines, or West Lodge, Cottages

Carving of date

In 1759 Stephen Iles 'of Godmanstone' built a row of three thatched cottages on a freehold plot known as Romaynes Tenement. His initials and the date are clearly carved on one of the rafters.

In 1898 The Anstells also modernised West Lodge Cottages, raising the roof by putting a second tiled roof over the thatch. They put a single skin of bricks and leaded windows on the front elevation only.

West Lodge Cottages

In 1974, West Lodge Cottages were condemned and subsequently renovated and two of the cottages made into one - becoming known as "Romaines Cottage". The third cottage remained condemned and was used for storage until 2012, when the Belgraves further renovated it and incorporated back part of "Romaines", to form two dwellings. It is now known as "West Lodge Cottages" again. When the tiles were removed for the 1974 renovations, the original thatch was found underneath and removed.

Thatch being removed

Thatch being removed

Romaynes Cottage post 1975

Romaynes Cottage post 1975

Romaynes Cottage post 1975

Romaynes Cottage post 2012

an old Chapel

Just beyond West Lodge Cottages, on the Parish Boundary, is a tin-roofed brick building, currenty used as a garage & store, which is beleived to originally have been an old Chapel.

This completes the ramble. The church, rectory and school are mentioned at length elsewhere, and all contribute to the traditional character of the village. The heart of the village remains picturesque despite the ravages of fires, bulldozers and the changes in rural life.