Then and Now

November 19, 2005

As our archive contains many old photographs of the village, we thought it might be interesting to compare some of them with pictures taken today. Many of the early photos were taken about 100 years ago, some even longer ago, some a little later. It proved quite difficult at times to capture exactly the same image because many houses now have more trees and bushes in their front gardens. There are also lots of cars about the place today. But in many cases little has changed and it is possible to notice the small differences to windows, doors, chimneys and roofing that have slowly emerged over the years.

Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage
Cattle on the A350 passing Collyers Cottage

The biggest changes have been caused by the development of modern transport. Here the cattle are making their wearisome way northward along Lurmer Street on a muddy surface scarred with many cartwheels. They are passing three cottages that had been there since the fifteenth century. In the background you can see an orchard, so commonly found in the old village.

The old cottages are still there, but now the winding country lane

Collyers Cottage, Lurmer Street
Collyers Cottage, Lurmer Street

is the very busy A350, a major road from the midlands to the port of Poole on the south coast. In the background there is now new housing and in the street there are now signs warning the traffic that the major road really remains just a country lane.

Lurmer Street
Lurmer Street

At the northern end of Lurmer Street three children could stand idly without fear of traffic in the 1900s. On the left stood the end cottage of a row of three which were later demolished. On the right you see the corner of the Methodist Hall, and beyond it another row of cottages, now also pulled down. Further on is Middle Farm House.

The Methodist Hall is still there, now serving as the Fontmell Magna Yoga Sanctuary, and so is Middle Farm House. But now no one could stand in the middle of the road, for the heavy traffic speeds past the sites of the destroyed cottages, now replaced with modern houses. There seem to be

The north end of Lurmer Street

The north end of Lurmer Street

 a lot more trees today, but the road is no wider, despite the change in its use.

Cottage in North Street
Cottage in North Street

A little way up the road from the Methodist Hall stand several cottages in North Street. These are mostly in pairs, built in brick and flint with tiled roofs during the second half of the 19th century. In this picture we see three generations of the same family celebrating, with festive garlands, a royal event.

Apart from the addition of a porch, and some minor alterations to the windows and gardens, these two cottages

3 and 4 North Street

3 and 4 North Street

have retained the comfortably solid appearance that characterized their early days.

Knapp House
Knapp House

This is the house that Robert Edwards (1816-1892) built. It was called Knapp House, then later Wesley Villa (the Edwards family were keen Methodists), and still later Westlea. Robert was a master carpenter who expanded into the building trade and by 1875 also became a local inspector of taxes. (Please refer to our web article on the Edwards family.)

As you can see from our recent picture, little has changed. The

Westlea (formerly Knapp House)
Westlea (formerly Knapp House)

windows, doors and decorative soffits are just the same. The brickwork is mostly now covered with climbing plants and the north end of the house is now hidden behind a large evergreen.

Glebe Cottage, Parsonage Street
Glebe Cottage, Parsonage Street

This is an old picture of three glebe cottages. The term ‘glebe’ referred to land belonging to the clergy in a village, and these were built in the late Victorian period outside the gates of the Rectory. You can see the front doors of two of the cottages, but the third one was situated round the north side of the property. In the Archive we have the architect’s drawings of the original lay-outs of each of the cottages. On the ground floor each cottage had a living room (with a sink in it) and a parlour. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, the smallest being 9ft by 7ft. In the yard behind the cottages was a block of three utility rooms, each providing an earth closet and a fuel store. Water was supplied from a well in the garden.

The three cottages are now one house. The view from Parsonage Street is now partly obscured by trees and

Glebe Cottage, Parsonage Street
Glebe Cottage, Parsonage Street

bushes, but you can still see the unchanged outlines of the property. The well has been covered over and the outbuildings have experienced a change of use. The rector no longer receives part of his annual income from the rent and the rectory itself is now also a private dwelling.

Holbrook, Church Street
Holbrook, Church Street

Here is another example of three cottages being turned into one. These are situated in Church Street overlooking Fontmell Brook. Until 1926 they belonged to the Glyn estate. The village had many examples of the three-cottage pattern which provided the large work-force of agricultural labourers with the basic needs of shelter.

But in many of these cottages with two rooms on the ground floor and perhaps two or three bedrooms there were families with, more often than not, five or more children.

The modern building has had the roof raised to provide adequate height for the bedrooms (now with much bigger

Holbrook, Church Street
Holbrook, Church Street

windows), and most of the chimneys have gone. But essentially the view is the same. There is the church, there is the stream, there is the stone wall of Moore’s Farm. Preservation takes many forms.

Gossip Tree
Gossip Tree

This is one of our oldest Victorian photographs and so you may have to make concessions for the poor quality. It is worthy of your attention for several reasons. Towering above the row of cottages was the old Gossip Tree. It looked very old and dangerous even then and was not replaced for another half century. Secondly, you can see an oil-fuelled street lamp, remarkable because there is no street lighting in the central village today. Thirdly, there is an example of the standard form of transport for the well-to-do. And finally, what you see is one of the oldest sets of cottages in the village, perhaps lucky to survive the potential disaster that the old tree threatened.

But survive they did, at least in the form of one single residence and one extremely beautiful garden gently

Brookhouse with the new Gossip Tree
Brookhouse with the new Gossip Tree

sloping down to the banks of the Fontmell Brook. The replacement Gossip Tree is flourishing, but the lamp-post and carriage are long departed. At one time the end cottage on the right was occupied by ‘Mr N Tatchell, Saddle and Harness Maker – All kinds of Harness made on the premises, and all orders promptly executed’. Today villagers would have to travel some distance for such a service.

The Crown Inn
The Crown Inn

The village pub has a long history. We are not sure exactly when the village first had an inn, but we do know that more than one existed in the nineteenth century (if we include the ‘beer houses’). The Crown Inn was always the main hostelry, and was linked to the village brewery, part of which you can see behind the inn. The village also had its own malt house situated round the corner in Church Street. In 1848 the publican or ‘victualler’ was Absalom Upshall, in 1855 it was Samuel Eason, in 1875 Owen Perfitt, in 1880 James Kilminster, in 1885 Alban Burge, and in 1901 it was Charles Windsor. Perhaps one day we shall be able to have a complete list. Outside the pub is the brewer’s horse and dray. Throughout the nineteenth century, the inn, the brewery and the malthouse provided local employment for many villagers.

Little has changed in the external appearance of the Crown Inn, but when it was sold to the Hall & Woodhouse brewery of Blandford, the old brewery next door became a private dwelling. The pub (renamed as ‘The

The Crown Inn
The Crown Inn before it’s reopening as   The Fontmell in 2011

Fontmell’) is now privately owned and provides meals as a major commercial activity, and its prominent position on the A350 main road attracts customers from far and wide.

Pump Cottage
Pump Cottage

Here is another example of a terrace of three cottages, this time situated opposite the school in West Street. These are 18th century in origin built with rubble walls and thatched roofs. In the foreground, with its own thatch, stands a village pump that was probably still in use at the date of this photograph.

Although additions have been made to these buildings, you can see that they appear much the same as they did

Pump Cottage, West Street
Pump Cottage, West Street

a century ago. Most significant, however, is the fact that they are still three separate cottages, and the thatched pump is still there, although no longer in use. This cottage is, of course, called Pump Cottage.

West Street outside the school gates
West Street outside the school gates

Still in West Street and opposite Pump Cottage is the village school. Outside the school gates we see three well-dressed ladies, a girl with her bicycle, and just visible in the background is a boy leaning against a garden fence. Were these mothers here to collect their children from school? Or was this a photographer’s composition? Notice the very large trees in the background, towering over the cottages.

The trees have gone, but the cottages are strikingly unchanged.

54 and 55 West Street

54 and 55 West Street

However, we are now very unlikely to encounter such a sedate group of people in the middle of the road for they would be risking their lives with today’s traffic.

This, inevitably, is only a brief and selective description of a village that has retained many of the features that would have been familiar to its inhabitants a century ago. If you look at our other articles, you can gradually build up an understanding of a village that has changed only little by little since it was first established at least 1100 years ago.

Author: Ian Lawrence (updated by editor)