Dorset OPC

Little Bredy

Dorset OPC

Bride Waterfall - Little Bredy
© Kim Parker 2011

Little Bredy (or Littlebredy, pronounced "briddy") is a small, beautiful village seven miles West of Dorchester. It lies in the shadow of an ancient earthwork thought to be an Iron Age fort, near the source of the River Bride, just below the Valley of Stones. Here country stillness is accompanied by a soundtrack of cheerful birdsong, wind teasing plentiful foliage and water cascading veil-like over the dam before rushing down into the valley below. ‘Bredy’ and ‘Bride’ are derived from the Celtic word for ‘surging stream’ and ‘Little’ is by way of comparison with ‘Long’, since nearby Long Bredy is a larger parish. Ecclesiastically a chapelry of Long Bredy, Little Bredy is now the eastern-most parish of the Bride Valley Team Ministry and the Deanery of Lyme Bay (in the Archdeaconry of Sherborne, Salisbury Diocese).
The manor of ‘Litelbridia’, as it was recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book, was for many centuries in the possession of Cerne Abbey. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, Cerne Abbey sold its lands and the first purchaser of Little Bredy was Philip Vanwilder in 1544. After holding it for forty years, he sold it on to the Freke family of Iwerne Courtney, from whom Sir Robert Meller of Came House at Winterborne Came inherited it in 1623. Meller built Bridehead House, named after the river that rises on the estate. After a century in the ownership of his descendents, the Meech family purchased Little Bredy in 1730. Over several decades they leased it out, first to the Bridge family and later to the Kellaway family, and eventually sold it in 1797 to wealthy merchant and eminent banker, Robert Williams. Williams was from Hertfordshire, but his family originally hailed from Winterborne Herringston in Dorset. His wife, Jeanne, was the daughter of the Huguenot Francis Chasserau who brought his family to England from Niort in France in 1753 after the repeal of the Edict of Nantes of 1598 (which had guaranteed freedom of worship to French Protestants). She lived to the ripe old age of 102, recorded on the 1841 Census of Little Bredy (as Jane Williams) and commemorated by a memorial in the church.

Robert Williams was the first of four men of that name to head the family. His son, Robert Williams junior, was a close friend of John Henry Newman at Oxford University, but broke off the friendship when the latter converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845, burning all Newman’s letters. Both the second and third Robert Williams were keen builders, employing first Peter Frederick Robinson to remodel and extend Bridehead House from 1830-1833, and then Benjamin Ferry to build a new gothic-style stable block in 1838 and later extend the house, rebuild various village cottages and draw up plans to restore the church. The brother-in-law of the third Robert Williams, Arthur Acland, also made architectural contributions to the church when it was restored in the late 1840s. All that now remains of the original 13th century church are the tower and porch beneath it, and the vestry doorway, some of the windows and the south-wall piscina. One of the new features was the steeple, built using the finest stone from Caen, which the estate Bailiff was sent over to Normandy to buy direct from the quarries. Of the six bells in the tower, two are Mediaeval, one is Victorian, one was cast in 2002 from the remains of three 19th century bells and two dated 1933 came second hand from Cornwall.
During the Second World War, the Williams family would host a few dozen boys from Sloane Grammar School in Chelsea for several weeks in late summer. Each year they contributed to the war effort by harvesting potatoes and other vegetables, sleeping in Army tents and eating their meals in the village hall. Although the work was hard, they appear to have had fun, especially when they came into contact with G.I.s from the U.S. who were often very generous with items of American army uniform, particularly their caps, which the boys treasured as souvenirs.

Little Bredy Parish Church
© Kim Parker 2011


The new OPC for Little Bredy is Wendy Warne
Please put 'OPC Little Bredy' as your subject line (Click on Wendy's name above to generate a correctly addressed email with subject)

Census 1841 Census [Kim Parker]
1851 Census
[John Ridout]
1861 Census
[Valerie Pettifer]
1871 Census
[Wendy Warne]
1881 Census
[Wendy Warne]
1891 Census
[Wendy Warne]
1901 Census
[Wendy Warne]
1911 Census
[Wendy Warne]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1717-1812, 1858-1863 [Wendy Warne]
Marriages 1717-1840
[Kim Parker], 1841-1920 [Wendy Warne]
Burials 1717-1812
, 1859-1863 [Wendy Warne]
Banns 1824-1898 [Wendy Warne]
Trade & Postal Directories Harrod's 1865 Directory [Lorraine Key]
Other Records  
Monumental Inscriptions Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
St Michael & All Angels Monumental Inscriptions index
[Jan Hibberd]
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1717-1812, 1858-1863. Marriages 1717-1808, 1813-1976. Burials 1717-1812, 1859-1863. Banns 1824-1898





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