Welcome to the Piddle Valley Website
Below is a brief introduction to the Villages that make up the Piddle Valley:
Welcome to Alton Pancras, the most northerly of the valley villages and the source of the River Piddle. The word Alton is taken to mean settlement at the head of a river, the (St.) Pancras is the dedication of the church. It is a linear rural village which has won Best Kept Dorset Village and most recently, Best Kept Dorset Hamlet awards.
The population is around 140 and varies due to having several properties for rent. In 1600 there were some 120 souls, in 1801 there were 184 people in 36 houses, peaking in 1851 with 282 in 55 houses.
This is walking country, the Wessex Ridgeway crossing the valley road in the north part of the village. Nearby used to be an alehouse called appropriately The Travellers' Rest, long demolished. The village's only side-street, Holcombe Mead, is built on the site of a former mansion demolished when the more modern Barcombe Farmhouse opposite, now Grange, was built in the 1880s.
The village school opened in 1846, the same time as an extension was added to the attractive thatched Terrace for the school teacher. It closed in 1933 due to a shortage of pupils and became the village hall until sold for private occupation in 1976. Today it is called Higher Barton Hall.
The centre of the village houses the attractive church, the manor house with its walled garden and the former manor farm. Opposite the church entrance road is a colourful map showing something of the village's past and present.
Alongside the red public telephone box, a thatched house with the datestone 1826 was the Post Office from 1923 to its final closure in 1976. The datestone relates to when the Masters family extended its boot and shoe-making business to incorporate a shop. Leaving the village at its south end, you pass the entrance to its former mill, probably on that site since Domesday.
Google 'Piddletrenthide' and you will find a description of 'a village in West Dorset situated in the Piddle valley on the dip slope of the Dorset Downs, eight miles north of Dorchester. The village has a population of 691. Many people consider the place name to be inherently funny....'
Of course what this description does not say, is what it's actually like to live in our village! We are fortunate, currently, to boast three excellent pubs, a modern First School, a hairdressers, a mower repair business and a Post Office/village stores.
The Memorial Hall erected in the 1920's in lasting memory to those who perished in WWI, nowadays hosts a number of clubs and village activities ranging from the monthly Lunch Club to the Piddle Valley Gardens Club, the Over Sixties and in the winter months: a weekly country dancing group. Jumble Sales, Coffee Mornings and private parties are also held in this village meeting place.
For those interested in sport, there is a tennis court and nearby playing field and for younger members of the community, a playground area. The surrounding area of gentle hills, woods and the meandering River Piddle, offers a wonderful array of walks.
Since the former Baptist Church was converted to a private dwelling over fifty years ago and the Methodist Church was demolished in more recent times, leaving only its Schoolroom standing, the village now has only one church: All Saints, which is situated to the northern edge of the village and has a tower dating from the 15thC adorned with some truly gruesome gargoyles!
Historically, the village was once owned by Winchester College until the Big Sell-off in the 1950's when most properties converted to private ownership. The numerous small farms of the early 20th Century have now been amalgamated to larger, more economically viable estates.
Probably Piddletrenthide's most famous resident was Ralph Wightman, the broadcaster and voice of rural England in the 1940's and 50's, born in the village and whose family's farm and butchers shop provided the narrative for his many books. ....and as for that name: it dates from the time of the Domesday Book (1086) and mean 'estate of thirty hides on the River Piddle' [trente being the French word for thirty] However the famous Dorset writer, Thomas Hardy, preferred to call it 'Upper Longpuddle'.
At the time when Jesus was in Palestine, an Iron Age tribe was living in Plush. They left the earthworks of their fort on Nettlecombe Tout for all time. Only the badgers live in their earth bank now and it must have been home for untold generations of them.
The Anglo Saxons were here a thousand years later and the valley was important enough to them for King Alfred to grant the lands of Plush to Earl Berthulf by charter dated 891 AD. Perhaps the isolated farmsteads were already established; their church was built within sight of Nettlecombe Tout (and remained until 1847). The boundaries in that Charter are recognisable to this day; some are still in use for defining the constituency boundary.
A twisting lane climbs up from Piddletrenthide and the Piddle Valley, winding past the disused brick surge chimney at Fish Angle, Plush 'Harbour' and the Cricket pitch.
The Brace of Pheasants pub makes a focal point to the hamlet which combines a number of older cob and thatched cottages, brick and flint properties with slate roofs and the most recent cul-de-sac development on the former orchid farm where a variety of traditional materials have been used. With houses and cottages arranged informally, the wooded gardens of the Manor House and the paddock now increasingly used for village events, creates a sense of space.
Along the lane towards Mappowder, the former church of St John the Baptist, now privately owned, is used as a concert hall and recording studio. A combination of retired and working, full time and part-time residents occupy the 22 village dwellings and outlying farms against the sounds of village and agricultural life.