The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Chettle: a photo essay

Ken Ayres takes his camera to one of Dorset's prettiest villages

The exterior of Chettle House, with its pleasing and unusual round edges

Derived from the Old English ceotel (kettle) owing to its position in a bowl at the foot of Cranborne Chase, Chettle is a compact village with a suitably compact main home: Chettle House. The house was designed by Thomas Archer (a student of Vanbrugh) and built between 1710 and 1720 by the Bastard brothers of Blandford; two rounded ends in perfectly matching brick and stone were added 101 years ago.

The entrance hall at Chettle House, one of the smallest and most perfectly formed 'grand' houses in the county, if not the country

The house was originally commissioned by George Chafin – who was then the Ranger of Cranborne Chase. The last of the Chafins was Rev. William Chafin (d1818), who wrote Anecdotes and History of Cranbourn Chase and while in the process of doing so one evening, was struck by lightning under the cupola of his house – the cupola was removed a couple of decades later.
He describes a pitched battle between those whom he describes as ‘keepers and deer-stealers’ on the night of 16 December 1780. A gang headed by a Sergeant of Dragoons (named Blandford) and including several employees of the then Ranger, Peter Beckford, and armed with swindgels (long flays used to dress flax), they attacked the keepers, who were armed with sticks and short, cutlass-like swords. It was a bloody battle: ‘the first blow was struck by the leader of the gang, which broke the kneecap of the stoutest man on the Chase,’ who was lame ever-after. Another keeper had three ribs broken with a swindgel and later died of his wounds. The bloodshed was far from one-way, though. The gang’s leader, Blandford, had one of his hands severed; it was later buried at Pimperne ‘with the honours of war’.

There are buildings of a wide variety of styles within Chettle, but the varied styles all seem complementary

All members of the gang were arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to be transported for seven years. The judge at the Dorchester assizes, mindful of their suffering from their wounds, ‘commuted’ this sentence to one of ‘confinement in gaol for an indefinite term’.

The church of St Mary's was extensively restored in 1850, from when this memorial window dates

Another Chettle rector, this time from the 19th century, was John West, who went on to become the chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay company, founded a church (which is now Winnepeg Cathedral), was the first Englishman to preach to the Inuit and, when he returned to Dorset, founded a school for Gypsies at Farnham whose building was later used by Pitt-Rivers as his original museum, and which is now a public house of that name.

The church at Chettle is St Mary's, which was once supposedly the home of a font designed by Vanbrugh and described by Roland Gant as being 'up against the greensward, romantically dark and solemn and primly enclosed by iron railings'

The village was described by the idiosyncratic Sir Frederick Treves as having ‘great trees, charming cottages and noisy rooks’.

The village pond at Chettle is small, but has been spruced-up having become quite overgrown in the last decade

The Castleman Hotel was formerly known as Chettle Lodge before it was converted into an inn

The once-ubiquitous village shop and single fuel pump is still a reality in Chettle

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