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Dorset Curiosities

Here you will find details of the other oddities scattered across the county that donʼt fit anywhere else.

Barnes Cross Postbox

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: ST 693 117

Last Visited: 2015

The pillar box outside Barnes Cross Cottage in Holwell near Sherborne is claimed by many to be the oldest box still in use in mainland Britain.

It was made by John Butt & Co. of Gloucester, to an unusual octagonal design commissioned by the Surveyor of the Western Division of the Post Office, Anthony Trollope, in 1853.

These were manufactured in batches between 1853 and 1859

Wikipedia reckons the record actually belongs to a pair of boxes of a slightly different design in Framlingham, Suffolk, which were manufactured in 1856, and that the Barnes Cross example came from a batch produced after this date. But then Wikipedia has been known to be wrong.

Everyone seems to agree though that the oldest box still in use in the whole of the British Isles is in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey and also dates from 1853.

External Links and References

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Fifehead Neville Packhorse Bridge

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: ST 771 111

Last Visited: 2014

Fifehead Neville Packhorse Bridge

Fifehead Neville
Packhorse Bridge

The Fifehead Neville Packhorse Bridge is a medieval stone bridge over the River Divelish.

Like most packhorses bridges it is narrow, and has low parapets so not to interfere with the horsesʼ panniers. The timber hand-rails are a recent addition; health and safety gone mad!

From across the ford

From across the ford

As I was standing on the opposite side of the ford taking a photo, I heard a car coming along. Being sited on a bend, I knew the driver wouldnʼt be able to see me. So I stood well back.

No surprise, as he drove through at some speed, there was a huge whoosh of water which only just missed me. More surprisingly for those of us not used to their strange country ways, as this was deepest, darkest Dorset the driver stopped and apologised for not spotting me. Ah! The pleasures of the countryside.

External Links and References

  • External Links

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Fort Henry

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SZ 037 828

Last Visited: 2007

Gun Emplacement and Fort Henry

Gun Emplacement and Fort Henry

Studland these days is a peaceful place and it is difficult to believe that this area once resounded to the sound of gunfire as part of the preparations for the D-Day invasions.

Perched on the cliff above the beach is Fort Henry, at 30m in length with walls a metre thick it is the largest and strongest Observation Post to be built in Britain.

View from the observation slit

View from the observation slit

Built in 1943, it was from here that George VI, Winston Churchill, General Dwight D Eisenhower, General Montgomery and Admiral Louis Mountbatten watched Operation Smash, a training exercise for the Normandy Beach invasions using live ammunition. So realistic was the exercise, that six men lost their lives when an amphibious tank sank.

Behind it stands an earlier (1940) 4in gun emplacement, built before the Battle of Britain when a German invasion seemed a realistic possibility.

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Hinton Martell Fountain

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SU 013 060

Last Visited: 2014

Hinton Martell Fountain 1965-2009

Hinton Martell Fountain 1965-2009

Hinton Martell is one of those villages that is not easy to find unless youʼre lost. If you are lost, it is all all the more surprising to come across a fountain in the middle of a pretty but otherwise unremarkable village.

Prior to 2009, this was the handsome, albeit decaying, stone edifice pictured opposite, which replaced one built in 1870 to provide drinking water for animals that was irreparably damaged in the severe winter of 1963.

The Current Hinton Martell Fountain

The Current Hinton Martell Fountain

The plaques on the four sides of the fountain used to read:

  • Unveiled by Miss Ann Sidney of Poole (Miss World 1965) on the 8th May 1965
  • Designed by George R (?) Smith of Portland
  • Made by the South Dorset Technical College
  • Paid for by Public Subscription

Unfortunately, this was replaced by one featuring a strange misshapen putto that looks like it was remaindered in a local garden centre sale, but is in fact an attempt to reproduce the original 1870 Coalbrookdale centrepiece.

External Links and References

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Anonymous

Please note the Hinton Martell fountain has now been renovated and the centrepiece replaced

Strolling Guide

Thanks for your comment. Finally got around to updating this entry

Holdenhurst Gas Lamps

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SZ 128 952

Last Visited: 2005

Holdenhurst Gas Lamp

Holdenhurst Gas Lamp

Holdenhurst is the only place in Dorset, as far as I am aware, and one of the few places in the country still to retain its old gas lamps; and what pretty ones they are too (Sugg Windsor lanterns, mounted on the original cast iron columns, should you be interested).

I am amazed that some interfering official hasnʼt declared them a fire risk, and insisted that they be replaced.

As it is they are numbered just like any other street lamp which, fortunately, only slightly detracts from their old world charm, and does nothing to harm their nostalgia value.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Windsor Gas
      Yes, folks. They are still being made!
      http://www.sugglighting.co.uk/portfolio-item/windsor/
    • Case Study - Throop Village
      Adobe Acrobat File. Sugg's Case Study giving more information on both the lamps and Holdenhurst village (referred to throughout as the next door village of Throop which also has gas lamps)
      http://www.sugglighting.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/throop.pdf

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Osmington White Horse

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 714 842

Last Visited: 2014

Osmington White Horse

Osmington White Horse

The Osmington White Horse was first cut in 1808 and shows the figure of King George III, who regularly visited Weymouth.

Somewhat controversially, he is depicted riding on his horse away from the town. There is an urban myth that that the King took offence, and thought it was a sign that the townspeople did not welcome him.

It is 280 feet (85 m) long and 323 feet (98 m) high, and was restored, not very well, in 1989 by the TV show Challenge Anneka. It was restored again on 11 March 2012 in time for the Olympics.

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The Stag Gate

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SY 925 993

Last Visited: 2005

The Stag Gate

The Stag Gate

Our Five Legged Friend

Our Five Legged Friend

Thousands of people must drive past this familiar sight on the A31 Dorchester Road every day.

But how many of them realise that the stag has five legs?

Apparently from the house (Charborough Park) it only looked like it had three, so an extra one was crudely grafted on.

The more you look at it the more it looks like something that was lying around on Ma Coadeʼs shop floor that was vaguely the right shape and could be shoved up there to keep the Master happy.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Coade Stone
      Wikipedia article including the recipe
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coade_stone

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Stanpit Boat

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SZ 167 922

Last Visited: 2004

Stanpit Boat

Stanpit Boat

Iʼve no idea what the story behind this little boat is. Itʼs made of iron and appears to be an old lifeboat.

It looks so lonely stuck in the middle of Stanpit Marsh that someone has written "Do not laugh at this boat" on the side.

If anyone knows how it came to be there, please let me know.

Comments

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malc

it used to have the ships name on it 20 years ago.

Strolling Guide

Thanks Malc. Interesting. Presumably it must have been a lifeboat.

Andrew Teviotdale

On the latest google earth you need to adjust where the boat is. It is about 204 meters on the other side of the track in a northerly direction - quite well defined as the boat. Its still there - long forgotten history.

Strolling Guide

Thanks for your comment, Andrew. I think you must be looking at the old Google Earth Community link I posted way back before the hi-res imagery was available. I have posted an updated set of pushpins to the group but whether and when this will make its way into Google Earth is anybody's guess. The pushpins you can download from this site have had the boat in the right place for some time.

Graham

The old Iron lifeboat must weigh a couple of tonnes. It once served a U.S. WWII Liberty ship. It was used locally in the early fifties until a storm in 1953 washed it across Priory Marsh to where it rests today. The boat was stripped and abandoned. After many years, rusting away, it has become one of the features of the Marsh is now enclosed with a fence. It is a sad old relic. The original Liberty Ship that it served must have gone to the breakers yard many years ago and this is the last remnant of a once proud wartime freighter, the name of which is today sadly, unknown.

Sutton Clump

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: ST 884 163

Last Visited: 2005

Telephonicus Celiphonitis

Telephonicus Celiphonitis

Sutton Clump

Sutton Clump

I wonder how many motorists rushing along the busy Blandford to Melbury Abbas road notice the rather unusual tall tree in Sutton Clump, a fine example of Telephonicus Celiphonitis or Greater Cellphone Mast.

It is only when you get up close and notice its unusual fruiting body that its true nature becomes apparent.

External Links and References

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Emma

I love the comment about the "tree" in Sutton Clump. I just wonder why can't more be planted?

Strolling Guide

I think they grow too slowly!

Tutton's Well

Location

Dorset Map

OS Ref: SZ 172 923

Last Visited: 2014

Tutton's Well

Tutton's Well

Tuttonʼs Well in Mudeford claims to be "the last remaining natural geological erupting mineral spring within a public open space in East Dorset"; a claim so precise that it is difficult to gainsay.

There are other wells in Dorset, such as St Wite’s Well in Morecombelake and the Leperʼs Well in Lyme Regis, but none in East Dorset.

The Dipping Place

The Dipping Place

The use of the spring as a public water supply dates back into prehistory. However it wasnʼt until 1885 that the well, pump and green were officially given to the locals by Sir William Rose.

The well was capped in 1941, and built over in 2002. In 2004 a new well was constructed in the middle of the site.

In 2009, the site of the original Dipping Place was restored and can be found round the back of the Guidesʼ hut.

External Links and References

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