Wool: a photo essay
Ken Ayres wanders the backstreets of a village which – unusually for Dorset – has not only two pubs but a railway station too
Published in November ’13
Sir Frederick Treves was not, it is fair to say, a fan of the village of Wool. The entirety of his entry on the village in his Highways and Byways of Dorset reads: ‘Near to Bindon Abbey is Wool, known to thousands as the railway station for Lulworth. It was once a pretty village enough, but the railway has contaminated it. Here by the river’s brink and by an ancient stone bridge is the well-preserved Jacobean manor house of the Turbervilles, familiar to the tourist by reason of the place it holds in the story of Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Strip out the references to other places and his verdict of ‘once a pretty village enough’ is damning with the faintest of praise. It is certainly true that if one passes through it on the main road one does not see it to its best advantage, so better to leave the car behind and to direct one’s feet to the backstreets.
Although the village and surrounding area contain ecclesiastical buildings of great antiquity (the original monastery of which only ruins remain dating from 1172), Wool only became a parish in its own right in 1844. Whilst the parish’s population is 5310 – a thousand more than Sturminster Newton, for example, and a colossal figure for a village – this number includes over 2000 based at the Bovington army camp. Wool is, perhaps because of this, one of the ‘youngest’ villages in Dorset with a quarter of the parish population aged under 18 and 40 per cent under 30 year of age.