A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT… CERNE ABBAS, DORSET


Through and indeed under it, to be strictly accurate. This Dorset village, a few miles north of Dorchester, is well-known, but for (arguably) the wrong reason, the chalk-figure giant on the hill in all his unfeasibly impressive priapic  glory. Some say he represents Hercules (besides the fearsome club, excavations have found traces of some form of covering over the other hand – a manly lionskin for protection? Or for modesty perhaps?). Cerne Abbas, Dorset - The Cerne Giant 2

There are many theories for the giant’s origin and purpose, but the general consensus is that he dates from the c17 or early c18 – he is first noted in records in the mid-c18. Maybe he’s much older. It is said that a belief in the giant as a symbol of fertility encouraged young women of the surrounding area to climb the hill  and sit on his… oh, work it out for yourselves. Let’s move on swiftly.Cerne Abbas, Dorset - The Cerne Giant 3

The fairly recently installed car park overlooking the hill has information boards that are unusually helpful. There’s a good map of the village and its significant features, and another boards with details of the village and its history.Cerne MapCerne Abbas, Dorset - Information Board

In AD 987 a Benedictine Abbey was founded below the giant’s hill. The dissolution of the monasteries erased it, and apart from a gateway (‘Abbot’s Porch) very little remains, though lumps and bumps in a field reveal its extent. Cerne Abbas, Dorset - The Abbey Ruins FieldCerne Abbas, Dorset - Abbey NoticeCerne Abbas, Dorset - Abbey Foundation Memorial

Medieval monasteries were invariably built close to a reliable source of fresh water. The River Cerne runs through the village, with rivulets running right under the main street. It is a trout stream, which doubtless provided food for the monks. However, there was another water source that still exists. St Augustine’s Well, replete with Augustinian legend.Cerne Abbas, Dorset - St Augustine's Well LegendCerne Abbas, Dorset - St Augustin's Well

The water constantly bubbles out of the ground, and has a remarkable clarity.  Although these leaves look as though they are on the surface, they are in fact covered by 3 inches of crystal-clear water.Cerne Abbas, Dorset - St Austine's Well 2

The water from the well runs a short distance to form a millpond, before joining the river.Cerne Abbas, Dorset - The Millpond

The manor house in its present incarnation dates from the 1750s, and is built in the abbey grounds Cerne Abbas, Dorset - Abbey House : Cerne Manor

The church of St Mary’s has a medieval origin, but was expanded in later centuriesCerne Abbas, Dorset - St Mary's Church  The churchyard is also in the abbey groundsCerne Abbas, Dorset - The Churchyard

Outside the church is a reminder of earlier  times for crime and punishmentCerne Abbas, Dorset - The StocksCerne Abbas, Dorset - Stocks

The Pitchmarket is one of the oldest buildings in the village, an excellent though spectacularly misshapen example of a Tudor building.Cerne Abbas, Dorset - Pitchmarket

Cerne Abbas, Dorset - The Pitchmarket

Cerne Abbas was the location of the 1963 film ‘Tom Jones’, starring Albert Finney and Susannah York. If you are interested in seeing stills from the film, showing the village ‘Fielding-ised’ for the film, click HERE. If you want to know more about the book, including a reasonable synopsis, click HERE

  A painted jest from a few years ago…

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2 thoughts on “A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT… CERNE ABBAS, DORSET

    1. HNY, Amelia. Tea shop is still doing a good trade; the forge has sadly closed (they made our fire basket!). Good village shop. There were once 14 pubs in the village, now down to 3 – and frankly one looks marginal for survival… It used to be the best. RH

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