Oborne: a photo essay
Ken Ayres captures a village where history treads but lightly and infrequently
Published in April ’12
If Oborne has one distinction above all, it is probably that it is one of very few villages to have been roundly ignored by both Sir Frederick Treves in his Highways and Byways of Dorset and Dorothy Gardiner in her Companion into Dorset.
History too has appeared to be an infrequent visitor; Oborne is mentioned just twice in Papal Bulls of 1145 and 1303, and even then only as an adjunct to Sherborne. Its existence was first documented in the year 975, when it was known as Womburnan. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, it was known as Wocburne and then Woburn in 1212 before becoming Oborne in a document of 1479. The name comes from the Old English ‘who’ and ‘burna’ meaning place ‘at the crooked or winding stream’. Arthur Mee’s Dorset – The King’s England, rather poetically describes Oborne thus: ‘the stony cottages of Oborne wander off among the fields by a tiny rill, hardly big enough to carry a minnow but just the size for the forget-me-nots. It is the River Yeo.’
The peace of the village is practically unbroken; during the Civil War a skirmish here on 29 April 1645 led to the death of ‘Morice Lee, an Irish soldier’. 296 years and eight days later – on 7 May 1941 – a Luftwaffe bomber crashed into the hillside below Oborne Wood. All aboard perished, the pilot having baled out, and were buried the next morning in the churchyard, where they lay until their remains were transferred to the German War Cemetery in 1963.
Another grave which is not as it was is that of Robert Goadby, founder of the Western Flying Post, now better known as the Western Gazette, whose credo was printed above the door of the Sherborne Printing house: ‘The liberty of the Press and the liberty of the People fall together. May God avert it.’ He was buried in 1778 and a pine tree planted next to his grave. This was later replaced with an elm tree which, on the bicentenary of his death, was felled after falling victim to Dutch Elm disease. The tree surgery had catastrophic consequences for his memorial, which was destroyed in the felling process.