Shillingstone: A photo essay
Ken Ayres travels to a North Dorset village with more than its fair share of items of interest
Published in November ’14
If you are asked to name a place which once had two railways, which was named the ‘Bravest village in England’ after World War 1 and was, somewhat appropriately therefore, the place where the music to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers had been composed, you may now reply with confidence: ‘Ah yes, that’ll be Shillingstone’.
As with Sixpenny Handley, Shillingstone’s name has nothing to do with the £.S.D currency system. It was known as Akeford Skelling early in the 13th century, the more comprehensible – when taken in the context of the abutting villages Okeford Fitzpaine and Child Okeford – Okeford Shillyng in the late 14th century, and is derived from the family name of Schelin (a Swedish/Norman name later rendered as Eschelling), who held it at the time of Domesday in 1086.
Its church – the parish church of the Holy Rood – was largely built in the 12th and 14th centuries, but there are embellishments, adornments and ornamentations from the 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
It received the gift of a pulpit from a merchant named Keen in the 17th century. Mr Keen had fled London to escape the great plague and came to live in Shillingstone early in 1666. His commercial premises in Bread Street were at the centre of the Great Fire’s zone of destruction, under half a mile from Pudding Lane, and in a direct line from there to the old St Paul’s Cathedral, so he had much for which to be thankful.
In 1906, Sir Frederick Treves described Shillingstone as ‘a charming roadside village,’ and praised its ‘beautiful and graceful village cross’. The cross, one of two in the village, is still there; the road is too, but no doubt a bit less charming than it was 108 years ago owing to traffic.
Running parallel to the village, which sits between the River Stour and the Blandford Forest, if not to the meandering Stour, is the North Dorset Trailway. This runs behind the village’s recreation ground and leads to the Shillingstone Railway project, the only extant station on the old S&D Bournemouth West to Bath line. The other, sadly now departed, railway was designed for the transport of pigs in the grounds of Shillingstone House.
When the former railway station was in its pomp, it carried moss, gathered from the north slope of Okeford Hill, for delivery to Covent Garden for the dressing of stalls. There is no evidence that any of Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Ian Stewart or Brian Jones was ever engaged in this industry. ◗