Bradford Peverell – a photo essay
Ken Ayres takes his camera to a village larded with history
Published in February ’15
Were you required to name a place pivotal to the recording of the history of Dorset, the physical home of one of the best-known mottoes in the land, the location where one could see evidence of both Roman engineering and reproduction Iron Age roundhouses, as well as the former workplace of the man who launched the Victorian era, your first thought might not be to name a village where there is just one person per eight acres of land in the parish.
That village of 370 souls is Bradford Peverell. The first part of the village’s name dates back to Domesday and is quite simply derived from it having been a place with a broad ford (across the Frome), to which the family name of ‘Peverel’ was appended in the 13th or 14th century.
Those centuries were important ones for the village, as that was also the era when the glass which forms two of the windows in the parish church of St Mary was made; the north window contains a glass medallion with the motto of William Wykeham, the founder of New College, Oxford whence some of the church’s medieval window fragments originate. That motto is ‘Manners Makyth Man’. The church, despite the early origins of these elements, is of Victorian origin and was designed by Decimus Burton (who also designed the Lower Pleasure Gardens in Bournemouth, the Palm House at Kew Gardens, the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner and the Athenaeum Club).
The Victorian theme is continued, or more correctly was literally started, by the village’s association with its former rector, Dr William Howley, who rose to be Archbishop of Canterbury. He was one of the two men who told the then eighteen-year-old Victoria that her uncle, King William IV, had died. She recorded the event in her diary as follows: ‘I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them.’ Alexandrina Victoria was no more, now she was Queen Victoria.
One of the village’s previous rectors had been Richard Hutchins, father to the topographer and the pre-eminent 18th-century historian, John Hutchins, who compiled the History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset. His work was twice the victim of fire. The first time when all unsold copies of Volumes I and II, and all but one copy of Volume 3 of his History… were destroyed by fire at his printers, and the second time, in 1762, when his wife risked her life to rescue his topographical papers when his rectory at Wareham, along with much of the town, burnt down.
In terms of historical interest, the village has more barrows than a Dickensian market scene (albeit in Bradford Peverell’s case, of the Neolithic kind). There are a dozen alone in the modestly named Seven Barrow plantation. The parish is also home to a reconstruction of Iron Age round houses – a development which is probably closer to this quiet community’s heart both spiritually as well as geographically – than the ever-expanding model village of Poundbury, from which it is separated by Fordington Down. Bradford Peverell also contains the route of the Roman aqueduct.
Comparatively little may have happened in the village’s recent past, but one suspects that the residents are happy enough with that fact. ◗