The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Oborne: a photo essay

Ken Ayres captures a village where history treads but lightly and infrequently

Oborne has its fair share of stone-mullioned windows

The highways and byway of Oborne, ignored by Sir Frederick Treves

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.

The chancel is all that remains of the original 1533 St Cuthbert’s church which, ironically considering it survived only six years as a chapel of ease for the monks of Sherborne before the dissolution, bears the crest of Henry VIII above the east window

The 17th-century pulpit and communion rail in the old chancel

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.’

A duck stands in a place of safety in Oborne

The 17th- and 19th-century Old Schoolhouse – which was originally a parsonage – beside which flows 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.

One of many attractive gardens within the village

The Old Rectory, which is not as old as the Rector, John Shuttleworth, who held his post for 57 years from 1693 to 1750

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.

The ‘new’ St Cuthbert’s church, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year

In modern times perhaps the reason why most have heard of Oborne is the Trencherman’s Guide-featured The Grange hotel and restaurant

Dorset Directory