Dorset OPC



Dorset OPC

Holy Trinity, Godmanstone Church
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

Godmanstone is a small village and parish situated in the beautiful Cerne River Valley amongst rolling hills, approximately 5 miles north of Dorchester. The name means ‘farm or estate of a man called Godman’ from an Old English personal name and ‘tun’ for farm or estate. There have been campaigns to have the last ‘e’ in the name removed, but none have been successful so far. Then again, the present spelling already has two fewer ‘e’s than the twelfth century ‘Godemanestone’.

Through the ages, the manor has passed through the hands of several aristocratic families. Perhaps the most hapless was Sir Robert Browne, a younger son of the Browne family of Frampton whose finances were constantly in a muddle. His son, also called Robert Browne, became a servant to King Charles I and a Member of Parliament for Bridport, but was hampered in his duties by constantly having to dodge his father’s creditors. Robert junior met his end in Ireland riding a horse through a deep flowing river in an act of bravado. Fortunately for the family, he left behind him a more sensible son - the third Robert Browne – who rescued the family finances through the East India trade.

Godmanstone’s main claim to fame comes from the second King Charles. As the story goes, he stopped at the smithy to have his horse re-shoed and asked for a glass of porter. The blacksmith apologised and told him he could not serve him alcohol as he did not have a licence. King Charles II granted him a licence there and then by Royal Charter. For years this charming pub (The Smiths Arms, right), only 11 feet 9 inches by 15 feet, with a low, sloping ceiling a mere 6 feet 2 inches at its highest point, was in the Guinness Book of Records as Britain’s smallest pub. Then in 1982 the landlord of the Nutshell at Bury St. Edmunds challenged the claim. The matter was settled with home and away football matches, which the Nutshell won, the prize being the entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

The other social centre of the community is Holy Trinity Church (above), situated at the end of a gently sloping, cottage-lined lane. It is chiefly perpendicular in style, although it retains a fine Norman arch in the Chancel. The tower is 15th century, housing four bells: one 15th century bell from a Salisbury foundry and the others all early 16th century, two cast by William Warre and one by the Purdue Foundry. The rest of the church is mainly 16th century, although there was an extension to the south porch in the 20th century. A plaque in the church states, “The sanctuary was enlarged in 1964 in memory of Henry & Emma Fry and their eight children. The family lived in Godmanston from 1901 until 1961 and in the churchyard all lie buried.”

The Smiths Arms, Godmanstone
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

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Census 1841 Census [Tony Cake]
1851 Census
[Tony Cake]
1861 Census
[Tony Cake]
1871 Census
[Tony Cake]
1881 Census
[Terry Smith]
1891 Census
[Tony Cake]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1654-1812 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1694-1812 [Philimores] [Ralph Kent], 1813-1920 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1654-1812 [Kim Parker], 1813-1867 [Jan Hibberd]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Holy Trinity Clergy [Kim Parker]
Godmanstone Village Web Site
Monumental Inscriptions Holy Trinity Monumental Inscription index
Godmanstone Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1654-2001. Marriages 1654-1943, 1953-1990. Burials 1654-2001.
Registration District
(for the purpose of civil registration births, marriages, deaths & civil partnerships)
1 Jul 1837-31 Dec 1837: Cerne
1 Jan 1838-30 Jun 1949: Dorchester
1 Jul 1949-31 Mar 1997: Weymouth
1 Apr 1997-30 Sep 2001: South Dorset
1 Oct 2001-17 Oct 2005: South & West Dorset

Cottages, Godmanstone
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

Church Street, Godmanstone
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015

The Mill, Godmanstone
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2015


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