Dorset OPC

Stoke Wake

Dorset OPC

Stoke Wake is a leafy hamlet situated in the Blackmore Vale under Bulbarrow Hill, 8 miles West of Blandford Forum. Likened by Sir Frederick Treves to “an image in a niche in a wall” due to the steep downs that encircle it, in his 1906 book, ‘The Highways and Byways in Dorset’ he went on to depict Stoke Wake as “a green sanctuary… beset by trees”. Bulbarrow Hill is one of the highest points in Dorset and on its summit was the Celtic encampment of Rawlsbury, remains of which can still be seen. Renowned Dorset historian, Rev. John Hutchins, described the view from Bulbarrow as ‘surpassing imagination’ and Treves poetically portrayed it as a waving valley of green fields stretching for miles, “with trees in lines, in knolls, in avenues, in dots; a red roof, the glitter of a trout stream, the trail of a white road, and at the end blue-grey hills so far away that they seem to be made of sea mist”.
Opinion is divided as to the exact origin of the name. Recorded simply as ‘Stoche’ in the 1086 Domesday Book, A.D. Milne asserts that the name is derived from the Old English word ‘stoc’ meaning secondary farmstead or outlying settlement. Given the wooded topology, perhaps Hutchins is right when he claims that Stoke is derived from the Saxon word ‘stocce’ for wood or stock. Held by the Abbess of Shaftesbury, the first mesne lords mentioned in the records were the Cusins or Cosyns, and indeed the manor was known as Stoke Cosyn until the 13th century, when the Wake family succeeded to it. Although the manor eventually passed to the Keynes family of Compton Pauncefort, Somerset, who held it from 1416 to 1614, the name became fixed as Stoke Wake. The Keynes family sold it to the Seymer and Pitt families, with the Seymers buying out the Pitts shortly thereafter and continuing to hold the manor in its entirety well into the 19th century.

All Saints Church, Stoke Wake
© Kim Parker 2010

Stoke Wake Rectory
© Kim Parker 2010

Although small in size, Stoke Wake was a parish in its own right until recently when it was joined to Hazelbury Bryan, its northerly neighbour. The little 1872 Church of All Saints, designed by G. R. Crickmay and author-architect Thomas Hardy, was made redundant and sold to the owners of the adjacent Manor Farm. Built of squared rubble with a tiled roof, the church has a polygonal nave, an apsidal chancel, a north aisle and a south porch, with a bell-cote on the western nave gable. Internally there is a three-bay nave arcade with round piers topped by exquisitely carved capitals by Benjamin Grassby, but all fittings have been removed. Now that the church is private property (and indeed, is used for storage), it cannot be visited, but the beautifully kept churchyard is still consecrated ground and relatives of those buried there are kindly allowed access. To the north of the church is the Old Rectory, now a stud farm, which Hutchins described as ‘a commodious and substantial’ house, built by Reverend Thomas Wickham Birch who was Rector of Stoke Wake from 1817 to 1872.

Crickmay & Hardy’s church was built on the site of an ancient church, described in Hutchins as being of Perpendicular style with a nave, chancel, south porch and embattled tower containing four bells, one dated 1627. Inside was a 15th century octagonal font with carved panels and a painting of a beggar on the north pillar, with the stern inscription, “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man”. Poor men there were aplenty in former times, though not through love of pleasure. Four poor sons of Stoke Wake, James and Abraham House and James and Adam Thorne, joined the “Captain Swing” machine breaking protests that erupted in Dorset in 1830, when low-paid labourers who had suffered bad harvests in the three previous years, saw their work being taken away from them by new machinery. The four lads were tried on 11th January 1831. James House must have given a good account of himself, for he was sentenced to only one year in prison while the others were transported to Australia for seven years. Of these three, Adam Thorne died of dysentery in Bathurst Hospital in 1834 and is buried in nearby Kelso, while the other two were pardoned in 1836, Abraham House living to a ripe old age. The ultimate fate of James Thorne remains a mystery, nothing is known about him following his pardon1. For James House the advantage of a lesser sentence was short-lived, a few days after his release he died of tuberculosis, probably contracted while in gaol, and was buried in Stoke Wake in 1832. 

1 If anyone is able to provide information regarding the fate of James Thorne please contact the OPC Co-ordinator

The post of Online Parish Clerk (OPC) for Stoke Wake is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the coordinator

Census 1841 Census [Ron Adams]
1851 Census
[Jennifer Dando]
1861 Census
[Ron Adams]
1911 Census
[Godfrey Symes]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1565-1840 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1546-1850 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1551-1799 1800-1982 [Kim Parker/Brian Webber]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Index of Wills of Stoke Wake Residents
Photographs Stoke Wake pictures [External]
Monumental Inscriptions Index of Monumental Inscriptions [Brian Webber]

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
[Ref PE-STW]
Christenings 1565-1967. Marriages 1546-1706/7, 1720/1, 1741-1746/7, 1753, 1763-1972. Burials 1551-1982. Banns 1757-1975
Registration District
(for the purpose of civil registration births, marriages, deaths & civil partnerships)
1 Jul 1837-31 Mar 1974: Sturminster
1 Apr 1974-17 Oct 2005: North Dorset

Stoke Wake Church
© Kim Parker 2010


Stoke Wake Churchyard
© Kim Parker 2010


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