Dorset OPC

Hinton Martell

alias Hinton Magna or Great Hinton

Dorset OPC

St John the Evangelist Church, Hinton Martell
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011

Hinton Martell is a verdant village and parish in the foothills of Cranborne Chase, 4 miles north of Wimborne, known for the curiosity of being the only Dorset village with a Mediterranean-style fountain at its centre, inaugurated by Anne Sidney of Poole, Miss World 1965. Hinton means ‘Monk’s farm’ from Old English ‘hiwan’ and ‘tun’, due to links between the monastery at Wimborne and the parish. Martell is a manorial addition from a French family, Lords of the Manor here after the 1086 Domesday Survey at which time the King held ‘Hinetone’. Later the parish came to be known as Hinton Magna (Latin) or Great Hinton (English), to distinguish it form neighbouring Hinton Parva or Little Hinton.

Popular legend has it that in the 14th century the manor passed to John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, brother to the Black Prince, father of Henry IV, friend to Chaucer and 2xgreat grandpa to Henry VII. Be that as it may, by the late 1300s Hinton Martell was in the hands of the Wests, the Lords of Delawarr. In the reign of James I the manor and lordship were purchased by Sir Anthony Ashley, and for generations were the property of the Earls of Shaftesbury, his lineal descendents.

In the mid-1700s the Glyn family started to build up a property portfolio in the area straddling the parishes Hinton Martell, Hinton Parva and Holt. Sir Richard Glyn built Gaunts House in the parish on the site of an ancient house, allegedly that of John of Gaunt. Originally built of Portland stone, in 1809 it was re-faced in red brick to a design by William Evans for Sir Richard Carr Glyn. Then in 1887 George Devey, in the last of his major projects, greatly enlarged and remodelled the house. It is to him we owe the sinister four-storey tower and the delightful row of five flamboyant Flemish-style gables. During World War II, the house served variously as a military HQ and a home for evacuees. After the war the Glyns moved away and the house became a boys’ school until 1988, when it was returned to the estate. Since 1989 it has been dedicated to an educational charity.

St. John the Evangelist Church was rebuilt in 1870 on the site of the old edifice after a fire had largely destroyed it. J. Hicks and G. R. Crickmay were the architects, possibly with the help of their apprentice, the novelist Thomas Hardy. It is a stone edifice in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, north transept, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 5 bells cast in 1870. The oldest artefact is the 13th century Purbeck stone font, a crudely carved bowl with pointed arch recesses mounted on a pedestal. Next to the church is the old schoolhouse, now the village hall, historically important as one of the few remaining rural Shaftesbury Schools.

Hinton Martell Fountain
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011

There have been some real characters amongst the rectors of St John’s. Poor put-upon James Crouch was reputed to be the “first sufferer and the last restored” subsequent to the Civil War. The narcissistic Philip Traherne, brother of the more famous Thomas, mislaid the latter’s body of work – a wealth of poetry and mystical writing, so that they were lost for 200 years. He wrote the entries pertaining to his parishioners into the register in ordinary ink (now faded) but those pertaining to his own family in brilliant, indelible ink (still very legible). Then there was the assiduous William Barnard who campaigned for the restoration of the medieval spelling of Martell (without the second ‘L’), to align it with that of the town in France, from whence the ancient Martel family hailed.

Hinton Martell is also rich in ancient history. Dorset’s Starhenge, in the grounds of Gaunts House, is in geometric triangulation with the sacred sites of Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge. It is 25.6m in diameter with seven 1.8m-wide rings, beyond which is a ring of 24 trees. There is historical excavation at High Lea Farm of a pre-historic barrow cemetery, the last of a series of ancient burial grounds stretching along the River Allen from the henge at Knowlton to here.

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 [Jennifer Dando]
1861 Census [Keith Searson]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1818-1830 [Ros Taylor]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Poll Register 1921 [Ros Taylor]
Monumental Inscriptions

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1661-1903. Marriages 1663-1992. Burials 1661-1992.





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