Symondsbury – a photo essay
Ken Ayres captures a West Dorset village nestling beside an iconic Dorset landmark
Published in August ’13
Arthur Mee, in his The King’s England Dorset, sums up Symondsbury rather nicely in a single paragraph. It is, he says: ‘An engaging village among the hills off the Bridport road, almost every house in it is pleasing to look at, from the 18th-century rectory facing the church to the cottages covered with flowers and the great house with its spacious gardens.’
He goes on the describe the 14th-/15th-century church as having ‘a mass-dial on its walls and a barrel roof of 28 compartments adorned with carved bosses, and a band or ornament where the roof springs from the wall…. There are two peepholes [or ‘squints’] to the altar, and an upper roodloft doorway.’
It is clearly an inspiring church (Mee includes it under the index entry: ‘Roofs: notable’) and proved so for one Rector in particular, Gregory Raymond, who preached here for 57 years in the 19th century.
Sir Frederick Treves, in his Highways and Byways of Dorset, restricted himself to half a sentence when describing Symondsbury (presumably when glancing at it from the Bridport road) as ‘a pretty enough village of thatched cottages and many trees, by the side of the River Simene.’
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in The Buildings of England, Dorset, is rather more effusive, characterising Symondsbury as: ‘a village of great character and intimacy, between the rounded hill to the north and the rounded hill to the south’. This gives the hint that one of Symondsbury’s most notable features is not within the village itself, but dominates the horizon: Colmer’s Hill. Named for Rev John Colmer, another early 19th-century clergyman who lived in its lee, the hill had a pine-tree crest planted atop it by Sir Philip Colfox MC, just under a century ago.
The village owes its name to both the hill and to another, much more ancient, landowner. The 1081 Domesday Book hints at this in the then given name of Simondesberge: from the Old English hill or barrow (beorg) and Sigemund. Interestingly, rather like nearby Bridport and its River Brit, the Simene (which later joins the Brit) is named for the place, rather than the other way around.