Tarrant Gunville and Stubhampton Heritage

chase and chalke logo strip
Tarrant Gunville photo 1

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.

Ancient Landscape
Tarrant Gunville photo 2
There is evidence that humans have inhabited the area for over 5,500 years. The landscape is rich in archaeological monuments with numerous prehistoric burial barrows. There are 4 long barrows near Tarrant Gunville, and two miles to the south east sits the Dorset Curcus, a Neolithic monument that spans 10km, which is the largest earthwork of its type in Britain.
Ancient Celtic field systems and round barrows can be seen on the landscape which mark the later Bronze age period. Four miles to the west of the village are the twin peaks of Hod and Hambledon Hills. These are two of the finest Iron Age hill forts in the country. There is evidence of Roman life in this area too – within its ramparts Hod Hill contains the remains of a Roman Legionary fort.
In the period of time before the Roman invasion of Britain, the ruling tribe of the area were called Durotriges – they were accomplished potters with their own distinct style who traded frequently with the continent through ports at Hengistbury Head.
When the Romans landed at Chichester, they made their way west across the country. The Durotriges used their hill forts to defend themselves, but they were eventually conquered. There is excavation evidence of violent battles between Romans and the Celtic Durotriges from this time. Evidence of Roman settlement in the area include the nearby roman road Ackling Dyke, as well as the site of a Roman building half a mile south of the village.
The Domesday Book
St Marys Church
Tarrant Gunville and Stubhampton are mentioned in the Domesday book, which was compiled in 1086, when the parish was held by Ailfus Camerarius.
The name ‘Gunville’ most likely comes the De Gundeville (also spelled De Gunvills) family, who were tenants that rented the Manor in the area from the powerful Clare family. Stubhampton, a hamlet within the parish, is equally ancient. In the Domesday Book it was Stibementune. The name is thought to mean ‘in the tree-stump village’ or ‘farmers of the tree stump village’. 
Development and Agriculture
Tarrant Gunville Fields
The area has always been dependant on agriculture, and this was the same from the 18th century onwards, with the vales to the west being grazing country supporting large herds of dairy cattle, and the growing of root vegetables. The chalk uplands and open downs were inhabited by shepherds and their sheep. The farms and villages were down in the valleys, where crops were grown. The sheep were brought down to the valleys in winter to feed and fertilise the soil for the summer crops.
By the 17thC most of the Dorset chalk valleys saw advancements in systems of weirs, hatches, and channels developed around the chalk streams and water-meadows.  The water was directed to flow over the fields during winter which protected the grass from frost, enriched the soil with silt, and produced early growth in the year. This then fed sheep, which were brought down to graze. Their manure was prized to fertilize the spring sown crops. This chalk land farming system was the backbone of the local economy.

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. 

Walk 46 Coronation Pathways Skylark Loop

Walk 47 Coronation Pathways Drovers Way

Walk 48 Coronation Pathways Handcocks Bottom Hike

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:



Tarrant Gunville View

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

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.