The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Historic Dorset in paintings

Phil Tebbutt’s characterful artwork brings the Dorset of the 16th century – and other periods – to life

Phil Tebbutt was watching a re-enactment of the siege of Sherborne Castle when a pike was thrust into his hand and he found himself joining in. So began his involvement with the English Civil War Society, although he admits that he is a turncoat: originally a Royalist, he now sides with the Parliamentarians. Based in Weymouth, Phil has lived in Dorset for 35 years.

Although untrained, Phil has painted all his life and has expressed his interest in the 16th and 17th centuries in a series of paintings. He works on hardboard in acrylic and oils. Each subject is carefully researched in Phil’s enormous library of books on Dorset and the slightly cartoon-y style, particularly in the distortion of perspective, gives the paintings character and vivacity.

While Phil’s first love remains the Civil War period, he has rec ently tackled subjects ranging from Roman Britain to the Armada. His next project is a painting of the wreck of a Viking fleet off Swanage.

The Parliamentarian garrison at Lulworth Castle. Phil was attracted to this subject by the distinctive shape of the castle. He took some liberties with the background in order to include the sea. Humphrey Weld, owner of Lulworth, spent most of the Civil War in Oxford and the castle was taken over by the Roundheads. Colonel John Bingham, the governor of Poole, placed a garrison there partly to support the forces besieging Corfe Castle.
Parliamentary troops, carrying the banner of their leader, Colonel William Sydenham, march past the Tithe Barn to join the siege of Abbotsbury church. Held by the Strangways family, Abbotsbury was one of the few Royalist strongholds when Parliament’s forces controlled most of Dorset.
The story of the siege of Corfe Castle – how it was gallantly defended for nearly five years by Lady Bankes and taken only through treachery – is well-known. The yellow standard is that of Sir Walter Erle, who commanded the besieging forces for most of the time they were encamped around the castle. His descendants, the Draxes, still live nearby at Charborough Park and enmity between the Bankes and Drax families continued into the 20th century. Allowing for distortion in the perspective, the castle is accurately represented.
A man o’ war leaves Weymouth Harbour. In the background is the Nothe, with a fore-runner of the present Nothe Fort.
The top of Gold Hill, Shaftesbury. The Town Hall was not built until the 1820s; before that, there was a Market Cross at the top of the hill and St Peter’s Church was much more visible.
Alms are distributed to the poor at St John’s Almshouses, Sherborne, with Sherborne Abbey in the background. Note the horseman covering his mouth and nose with his cloak, no doubt for fear of the smells and infection which he expected from those receiving the alms.
The Thames froze over several times in the 17th century, so it is reasonable to assume that the Stour did, too. This picture shows a view of Wimborne Minster across the icy, misty river and water-meadows. The ice would have been thick enough to carry a person’s weight.
About a year after the Romans had taken over Maiden Castle, they allowed it to be re-settled but built themselves a strong fort in the middle of it to overlook the huts of the Durotriges. The formidable chalk banks had not yet become overgrown with grass. Across the misty valley, the Roman settlement of Durnovaria was beginning to grow, and would become modern-day Dorchester.

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