The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Sydling St Nicholas

Ken Ayres records the beauty of a quintessentially Dorset village tucked away among the hills

1. Monica Hutchins referred to Sydling St Nicholas as ‘one of the loveliest of all Dorset villages, which is saying a great deal’.

2. Several houses have their own bridges over Sydling Water, which flows down to join the Frome above Dorchester. It is said that salmon will return to spawn as far upstream as Sydling St Nicholas.

3. The name ‘Sydling’ mean ‘large ridge’ and refers to the hills which surround the village. It was once known as Broad Sydling to distinguish it from Up Sydling and appears as Sidlinch in Thomas Hardy’s short story, ‘The Grave by the Handpost’.

4. Much of the building in Sydling St Nicholas is in banded flint and stone, so the red brick of East House stands out. It is a fine piece of Georgian architecture whose wide windows suggest a date of about 1590. Note the massive chimney-stack.

5. There is some question about the original date of the church of St Nicholas, with authorities suggesting dates ranging from 1450 to 1600. It was certainly extensively re-modelled in the 18th century.

6. This memorial in the parish church has something of the look of a domestic fireplace. It was erected in 1796 to Elizabeth, Lady Smith, whose nine children all died in infancy. The lower part shows her husband arising from his tomb.

7. The gravestone of the village’s last miller, Robert Spriggs, who died in 1919. Above the grave, the clock in the tower of St Nicholas strikes the hours but is faceless. It is one of the oldest in the country, dating to 1593.

8. The licence of the Greyhound Inn was held for generations by the Wightman family. No doubt it did good trade each year on 6 December, the date of Sydling’s annual stock fair.

9. Amid the old-world charm, the garish red of an old petrol pump is a reminder of more modern times