History of the Village
The main industry of the area has been agriculture. Most of the recorded history of Tarrant Gunville and Stubhampton have been that of a typical self-contained rural community.
Walking through this beautiful parish you can enjoy and learn more about the rich historic and natural history of the area as you go with the Chase & Chalke Walk leaflets. Learn about how the parish got it’s name, the remarkable Mary Farquharson (Motoring Mary) and legend of the Tarrant Gunville Vampire.
Tarrant Gunville & Stubhampton Coronation Pathway Guides
Click the links below to download walking guides that have been developed by the communities of Tarrant Gunville and Stubhampton.
Additional Reading and Historical Research
If you are interested in learning about the area even more, we have some additional reading for you.
You can read a concise history of the parish written by the Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Mervyn Wright here:
You can also learn more about Eastbury House by checking out this interesting blog piece by The Gardens Trust:
To read very excellent and comprehensive history of the parish by Eddie Brown written in 1999 “Tarrant Gunville Parish: The Past 200 Years”
For a compilation of memories of local people who have lived in the parish for much of their lives researched and complied by Paula Andrews in “Tarrant Gunville & Stubhampton: Life in a small community in Rural Dorset in the 20th Century”
Read a Brief History of St Mary’s Church:
13 Points of Interest
1. The River Tarrant
The River Tarrant is a ‘winterbourne’ i.e. a river or stream that is dry in the summer months. Rising from springs breaking through the chalk at Tarrant Head, just south of Stubhampton Bottom, it flows down the valley past the seven other Tarrant villages; Hinton, Launceston, Monkton, Rawston, Rushton, Keyneston and Crawford. Some 10 miles long, it joins the River Stour at Spetisbury.
2. The Tarrant Gunville Vampire
According to tradition, the ghost of William Doggett still stalks Tarrant Gunville. Recognisable by his breeches tied with yellow silks, this one-time steward of Eastbury House (J) shot himself, in 1786, because he could not repay the huge debt he owed Lord Melcombe who owned Eastbury at the time. The headless William is said to drive his spectral coach-and-four around the estate. There is talk, too, of Doggett being a vampire. Supposedly, his body, interred in St Mary’s Churchyard (H), was dug up sixty years after his death and had not decomposed. Also the blood stain his suicide left on the floor of Eastbury ‘could never after be effaced’
3. Motoring Mary
The remarkable journeys of Dorset’s first woman driver, Mary Farquharson, are told in a unique motoring diary written about 120 years ago. She lived @ Eastbury House (J) and in 1902/3, her 10 horsepower Panhard-Levassor took her as far afield as Oxford, London, Lincoln and even Dublin. Punctures and breakdowns interrupted every trip and Mrs Farquharson’s mechanic, a man called Black, was usually expected to follow along on his motorcycle to deal with problems as they arose. ‘I believe she was not only the first woman driver in Dorset, but in the south of England and possibly the whole country’, her son Peter is said to have claimed.
4. Stubhampton Bottom
During the World War II, American soldiers carried out military exercises in the Stubhampton area. On one occasion, in an exercise prior to the D-Day landings, machine guns were positioned on the slope opposite the point where Stubhampton Bottom joins the road. The troops had to advance along the valley to storm the guns, which were fired over their heads. This story was recounted by local lads who, at the time, positioned themselves across the valley and watched the proceedings with great glee.
5. Earl’s Hill
On the southwest side of Stubhampton Bottom, just before the wood begins, the terrain rises to the left. At the top of this rise is a large rectangular tumulus (ancient burial mound). It houses a late Neolithic to Bronze Age bowl barrow which is a funerary monument constructed as an earth or rubble mound. It also has the remains of a post medieval warren used for rabbit husbandry.
6. Great Peaky Coppice
Up until the early 20th Century Great Peaky Coppice produced pit props for coal mines.
7. Lime Pit Coppice
The use of lime for agriculture dates from the 16th century onwards. There are many lime pits in the area of Tarrant Gunville, the tops of the surrounding hills often having a clay cap over the chalk substrate. One of particular note, Lime Pit Coppice lies towards the northern end of Handcock’s Bottom on the eastern side. It is also thought to have been a neolithic hunting settlement. The woodlands within Harbin’s Park and along Handcock’s Bottom are Sites of Special Scientific Interest. They are important due to the rare lichens that grow on the older trees. These lichens have been used, in environmental research, to monitor air quality.
8. Green Drove
The word ‘drove’ derives from the old English ‘draf’, which means ‘beasts driven in a body’. It also applies to the routes along which the livestock were driven. The Green Drove is part of an ancient route, south from Shaftesbury (route 38 on ‘The Old Roads of Dorset’ by Ronald Good) and runs past Harbin’s Park (F) and on towards the coast. A beautiful ‘brick and flint’ Drove Barn in which the animals could rest overnight, and drink from the deep well in the yard, is situated @ Westbury Farm, just east of the Green Drove.
9. Harbin’s Park
Known as Tarrant Gunville Park until the 19th century, the earliest reference to this deer park is in 1279. The bailiff’s accounts for the park, in 1337, included paying 4 men for 3 days’ work, ‘mending defects in the fencing around the park’. A record of a dispute over its ownership, in 1649, suggest it was used as a deer park well into the 17th century. Of particular significance is the ‘Park Pale’, a scheduled monument which surrounds the park. It was created by digging a 6’ deep ditch with the spoil creating a 6’ high bank. On top of this bank hazel fencing was used to create an enclosure to contain the deer that had been enticed in with apple pumice.
10. Home Farm
An 1840 tithe map shows that Glebe Farm, now known as Home Farm, was part of the benefice of Tarrant Gunville. Its name was changed in the late 1950s. The current owner understands that an earlier farmhouse stood on the right as you enter the yard. What is certain is that the yard now houses a farm café/bar. It provides delicious home-made meals made with locally grown produce.
11. Gunville Manor
Gunville House, now known as Gunville Manor, was first advertised as ‘newly erected’ in the Salisbury Journal of March 1798. It was built by the Chapman family to replace a former Elizabethan Manor House belonging to the Swayne family, whose memorial is in the baptistry of St Mary’s Church (I). Some of the materials used probably came from the demolished Eastbury House (J). The manor was later sold to the famous ceramicist Josiah Wedgewood 2nd whose brother Thomas, a photographer, moved to the remaining section of Eastbury House in 1800. Gunville Manor is privately owned and there is no public access.
12. St Mary’s Church
The earliest evidence of a place of worship in Tarrant Gunville can be seen in the arcading set into the wall of the north aisle, which suggests a date of about A.D. 1100. By the beginning of the 19th century the previous church, dating from 1503, was in a dilapidated condition and some of it had been demolished. The architect T H Wyatt followed the lines of the old church, as much as possible, in his rebuild which was consecrated on 2nd October 1845. The 16th century tower remained intact. The ‘opening’ of the current organ, built by J Stinger & Co of Handley, Staffs, culminated in an evening recital on Tuesday 29th July 1890, which was ‘received with rapt attention’ by a full church. Quite who stencilled the beautiful ‘Arts and Crafts’ style design of the chancel is unknown, but the date is thought to be about 1910. The clock was added in 1919 in memory of those who died in the Great War.
13. Eastbury House
Eastbury House was designed by John Vanbrugh and completed in 1738. Vastly expensive and taking over 20 years to complete, it was only used for about 20 years before standing empty for another 20. It was then mostly dynamited because no-one could be found who wanted to live in it! Originally commissioned in 1716 by George Doddington it was exceeded in size only by Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. All that remains now is the north wing and the stables. It is in private ownership and there is no public access.