Dorset OPC


Dorset OPC

Farnham Church
© Kim Parker 2011

Farnham is a parish and village full of beautiful thatched cottages and blooming country gardens situated on Cranborne Chase, 9 miles North East of Blandford Forum. Derived from the old English ‘fearn’ for fern and ‘ham’ for homestead, its name means ‘homestead where fern grows’. The tithing north of the village, Tollard Farnham, owes the first part of its name to the de Tollard family of Tollard Royal just over the county border in Wiltshire, who owned it. Much of the land at Farnham was in the ownership of Aiulf, chamberlain and sheriff of Dorset at the time of the Domesday Book (1086), who also owned land at Tollard Royal. For centuries after, up until 1925, this link with Tollard Royal continued, as much of Farnham was considered to form part of that ecclesiastical parish.

Farnham’s Church, however, which was standing in the 12th century and was a parish in its own right by the 13th century, never formed part of Tollard Royal parish. Dedicated to St Lawrence, the church has a 14th or 15th century embattled and pinnacled tower with an attractive checkerboard decoration of flint and green sandstone. The interior is very simple, various alterations and restorations having obliterated most of its ancient features, however of the two fonts in the church it is the medieval one that is still in use. Paving stone inscriptions to the Potticary family, who owned Hookes Wood Farm in the 18th century, have almost been worn away by the passage of many feet. Near the entrance to the church is the ancient village well, with a thatched shelter appropriately similar to a lych gate in design.

By the nineteenth century there were two distinct manors or moieties of manors here; the smaller of these, Osmond’s Manor, was bought by Lord Rivers in 1820, followed by the larger in 1866. In 1880 the estate was inherited by Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900), and it is he who put Farnham on the map of worldwide public consciousness. Known as the Father of Modern Archaeology in Britain, he was remarkable in that he sought to acquire antiquities to recover information about their long-dead makers, owners and users rather than for their intrinsic beauty or market value, for studying and analysing such objects with the sole purpose of reaching a better understanding of our ancestors’ lives and for making his discoveries and ideas available to everyone, both through the handsome volumes he published at his own expense and his unique museum at Farnham.

Nothing like the Farnham Museum and its setting had ever been seen before. Pitt-Rivers pioneered the idea of bringing exhibits to life by presenting an impression of what life would have been like for ancient people. Not only were there the displays of Pitt-Rivers’ finds from his excavations of the Romano-British village at Woodcutts (near Sixpenny Handley), but there were also other entertainments laid on in accordance with the concept of ‘a great family day out’. In its heyday, the museum attracted 12,000 visitors a year. It was housed in what was once the Gypsy School, a unique but ill-starred project initiated by Reverend West in the 1840s that foundered only 8 years later. The local thatched inn had to be extended to accommodate so many visitors. Today it is only the well-regarded Museum Inn that remains, the Pitt-Rivers collection having been dispersed to larger museums in Salisbury and Oxford in the 1970s.

The Museum, Farnham
© Kim Parker 2011

The post of Online Parish Clerk (OPC) is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the OPC Project Co-ordinator
Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Keith Searson]
1851 Census [Kim Parker]
1881 Census [Ralph Woolfrey]
1891 Census [Lynda Small]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1731-1812 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1732-1837 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1731-1812 [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Rectors of St Lawrence, Farnham [Kim Parker]
Monumental Inscriptions Monumental Inscriptions [Brian Webber]
Farnham Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1737-1974. Weddings 1737-1961. Burials 1737-1972.





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