Parish Statement

This is the Parish Statement for Maiden Newton (and, apparently, Frome Vauchurch) produced by WDDC in August 2003 and reproduced here by their kind permission. In particular I would like to thank Mr. Tony Harris the author of the report.

The report lists and describes the architectural, archaeological, landscape and biological assets (and liabilities) of the two parishes.

Mr. Harris has asked me to include the following statement.

Parish Statement - Introduction

The West Dorset 2000 project was undertaken between April 1999 and September 2000 by West Dorset District Council, with grant aid from The Countryside Agency. It is a record of the landscape, wildlife, archaeology and built environment of the district in 2000. The project resulted in two outputs:

 * Landscape Character Areas. This document categorises the district into 22 areas of distinctive landscape character, and forms the basis for understanding the relationship between geology, landform, scenery, land use, nature conservation, history and settlements. It examines the issues that affect them and sets out some broad objectives aimed at protecting and enhancing those characteristics. It was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance on 12 February 2002.

* Parish Statements. Each statement describes the parish's context, landscape, wildlife, archaeological and built environment features and records local issues. The statements are intended for reference purposes only, for example in providing background information for the preparation of Parish Plans or Village Design Statements. They provide a record of the state of the parish at the turn of the century, and are not intended to be used as planning guidance. Statements have been produced for all parishes in West Dorset (excluding the five main towns).

Following an extensive period of consultation, with a range of organisations and all of the Parish Councils, the draft statements have been revised and this document now forms the final version. For more information on this Parish Statement and its use, please contact:

The Environmental Policy and Regeneration Division, West Dorset District Council

Tel: (01305) 252386 E-mail:

Parish Statement

  1. General Context
    Within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
    Within the South Wessex Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA)
    Within the South Wessex Downs Natural Area
    Within the chalk landscape to the north of Dorchester
    Adjoins Sydling St. Nicholas, Frampton, Cattistock, Chilfrome, Wynford Eagle, Toller Fratrum and Compton Valence Parishes
    Land use almost entirely agricultural
    Local Plan Inset Map No 22
  2. Landscape Characteristics
    The Parish extends over three landscape types:
    Chalk Upland
    Valley Slope
    Valley Floor

    The upland forms rounded, generally elongated, relatively narrow ridges which enclose the valley on its northeastern and southwestern sides and from which there are longdistance views across West Dorset. The ridges meet the valley slope with a comparatively gradual transition.

    Deep coombes incise the valley slopes, giving them a twisting, sinuous form, which adds interest to the landscape in marked contrast to the simple forms of the upland.

    The river meanders across a relatively broad, open valley floor, which rises gradually to the valley slopes.

    Arable farming predominates on the upland and slopes, with large-scale fields bounded by hedges. There is a scattering of outdoor pig arcs on part of the northeastern slope. On the dry coombe slopes, beyond the reach of agricultural machinery, arable gives way to unimproved pasture textured by scrub.

    Small copses have developed on some of the steeper slopes but woodland is an insignificant element of the landscape, which is generally open and exposed. Dense overgrown hedges border some of the trackways that climb from the valley to the ridges.

    A ribbon of trees with occasional small copses traces the course of the river, often concealing it from view. Hedged agricultural fields border the river, mainly pasture, with occasional pockets of semi-improved grassland with a relatively diverse bankside vegetation. Around Lower Frome Vauchurch a much smaller scale pattern of hedged fields is evident.

    Remnants of water meadows with their typical ridge and furrow pattern as well as sluices and carrier drains can be found which, between Higher Frome Vauchurch and Maiden Newton, are being restored.

    Key Local Landscape Issues
    Visual impact of pig arcs
    Sensitivity of the landscape to development of agricultural buildings
    Lack of woodland and opportunities for woodland creation
    Hedgerow loss
    Opportunities for protecting and enhancing derelict water meadows
  3. Nature Conservation Characteristics
    The Parish is dominated by intensive arable farming, which limits opportunities for wildlife. The special interest is focussed on the chalk grassland, which clothes some of the steeper valley slopes, forming isolated blocks of species-rich downland. One of these, Hog Cliff Bottom, has National Nature Reserve status. However, the sites are fragmented by agricultural uses. There is a close correlation between wildlife and archaeological sites.

    On the valley floor an area of old water meadow extends into the adjoining Parishes. This area is being restored in order that it can be managed in the traditional way by controlled seasonal flooding. The river is an important habitat for the nationally rare Water Vole.

    The Parish is comparatively rich in biodiversity, deriving from the chalk grassland (important for a wide range of rare and common grasses and herbs and their associated invertebrate population), the scrub (important for birds) and the hedged arable and pasture fields (important for birds, mammals such as the Brown Hare and for invertebrates). This range of habitats provides an opportunity for a wide range of plants and animals to thrive.

    Much of this interest can be protected and enhanced through the Environmentally Sensitive Area Scheme (ESA), and by the continuation of sheep grazing which is essential to the grassland management.

    Local Nature Conservation Issues
    Upland areas lack ecological interest
    Scrub development can blanket species-rich grassland
    River margin management is important to Water Vole habitat
    Fragmentation of sites puts pressure on habitats
    Agricultural improvements threaten unprotected sites (SNCFs) and biodiversity
    ESA provides vital management incentives
    Hedgerow removal
    Management of restored water meadows
  4. Archaeological Characteristics
    The Parish is typical of many of the chalk landscape Parishes in the area, with a rich archaeological heritage from the Neolithic period, through the Iron Age to the 20th Century, often visible and accessible. It has 38 sites and finds on the Sites and Monuments Record, 8 of which are Scheduled.

    Iron Age (Celtic) field systems pattern the valley slopes of the Frome, defined by earthworks and banks. The best-preserved examples are to the east of Maiden Newton. Medieval strip lynchets also abound.

    On the summits and upper valley slopes the landscape is dotted with Bronze Age barrows, or burial mounds, in varying states of preservation.

    A Roman road (now the A37) runs straight along the eastern ridge, linked to the village by a network of Medieval trackways. The foundations of a Roman villa and the earthworks of a Roman settlement also lie within the Parish. The earthworks of an aqueduct run along the western side of the River Frome.

    Within the village are two Medieval crosses (Scheduled Ancient Monuments) one in the churchyard, the other in the village 'square.'

    Around the village is an intact World War II defence system.

    Many of these remains are in a recognisable form. Despite this many of the barrows have been damaged by cultivation and neglect and scrub encroachment threatens features on the steeper slopes.

    The majority of the sites are not Scheduled Ancient Monuments, being on the Sites and Monuments Record, and so are not necessarily statutorily protected.

    Key Archaeological Issues
    Extremely compact and diverse archaeological interest
    Plough damage
    Hedgerow removal
    Lack of understanding about the resource
  5. Built Environment Characteristics General
    The Parishes display many of the characteristics of chalk landscape parishes, with settlement and development concentrated on the valley floor, leaving the upland and valley slopes undeveloped except for occasional, scattered agricultural buildings.

    Higher Frome Vauchurch, Lower Frome Vauchurch and Maiden Newton were separate villages but have been linked to form a single settlement. Maiden Newton and Higher Frome Vauchurch are administratively joined together, (not too sure about this bit, JW) but remain separate Parishes. Lower Frome Vauchurch is downstream of its namesake and is the old parochial centre.

    The A356 from Dorchester to Crewkerne passes through Maiden Newton and the main Weymouth to Bristol railway line skirts the northeastern side of the village. Both the road and the railway follow the valley floor and a now redundant branch line to Bridport swings westwards from the north of the village.

    The ancient trackways from several upland ridgeways and the river valley routes helped Maiden Newton become the largest manorial settlement in the Frome Valley. It also held the local market.

    Tollerford is still a route crossing.

Setting of the Villages

The village is located on the valley floor and lower valley slopes at the confluence of the Hooke and Frome valleys. It is separated from Frome Vauchurch by the riverside meadows of the Frome.

Within Maiden Newton property boundaries on the south side of the road relate badly to the meadows, with a variety of fences, walls and hedges that give the meadows a neglected, backland appearance. At the northwestern edge of the village, in the vicinity of the church and Manor Farm, the interface with the meadows is attractive, with almost a parkland character.

The railway lines and water meadows have constrained the development of the village and forced a rather sprawling and haphazard pattern of building. This has resulted in a generally poor visual relationship between the eastern and southern edges of Maiden Newton and the surrounding countryside.

Land of Local Landscape Importance

Although the setting of the village is dominated by the surrounding valley slopes and uplands, it is the valley floor within the settlements that is the essence of their character.

LLLI designation has been placed on the meadows to reflect their importance to the form and local setting of the village. In addition it reinforces the function of the meadows as a buffer between Maiden Newton and Frome Vauchurch.


An earlier Maiden Newton possibly occupied The Quarr, adjacent to which are St Mary's church and Manor Farm. Constraints on layout came from the flood plain and the need for farmland, so Maiden Newton grew along roads and tracks and at their intersections. A sinuous form resulted with the Dorchester Road/Church Road junction becoming the Market Square.

The arrival of the railway in the 1850s encouraged outward growth and influenced traditional settlement boundaries.

During World War II, farmland east of the village limits was commandeered, and set a new and alien pattern of growth mainly on sloping ground.

In the 1960s, bungalows spread along the Dorchester, Cattistock and Frome roads.

The 1950s-1970s saw council development and a number of residential 'cul-de-sacs' mainly on farmland, and at varying heights above the old village. These bungalow and housing developments opposed tradition and generally have a domineering nature.

In 1982, the manorial pound was developed for housing. Its form is contrary to tradition and it ignores the conservation area nearby.

There has been substantial growth in the conservation area by infill with varying degrees of success, depending on it respecting growth pattern and site conditions.

A Trading Estate, recently established on the old Dairy site, impairs the setting of the Cemetery.

The old settlement is still recognisable, though development within gardens and crofts -particularly prevalent on the eastern side - is undermining the character and quality of the historic core contained within the conservation area. The setting of the conservation area is affected by predominantly post-war housing development lying outside it and the Local Plan indicates further committed or allocated housing or industrial sites.

Conservation Area

Designated in November 1989, its boundary includes all Listed Buildings, other buildings of local character believed "important to the general historic environment", the Cemetery and The Quarr.

There are instances where old boundaries and trees remain outside the conservation area, which, as well as having conservation value, may be of archaeological importance. Maiden Newton's pound is not in the conservation area. 'Gateways' into Maiden Newton are subject to unsympathetic development and features and affect the setting of the conservation area.

Within the conservation area, there has been substantial loss of gardens and crofts. On the east of Maiden Newton, there is only one such area left.

The Market Square is dominated by traffic and parking. Its market cross has been moved to one side to prevent damage by vehicles.

There are 21 listed buildings in the conservation area, all in Maiden Newton. Most are in good condition and remain a primary source of heritage, character and identity. Some are affected by traffic using the A356. Manor Farm is severely neglected yet it, along with the war memorial, St Mary's church, the former rectory, and the old dairy form a major group of listed buildings.

A number of properties need to be assessed with regard to listing.

Demolition, conversion and continuous material changes to unlisted buildings are causing loss of character and architectural unity. Poorly sited dwellings and garaging and loss of boundary walls have marred the conservation area. The Electricity Board has several sub-stations in Maiden Newton, most in the conservation area. Nearly all are eyesores.

There is an intact and undervalued World War II village defence system. Buildings and Materials

Several fires resulted in the loss of old properties and others were demolished, such as the thatched White Horse in the Square.

Apart from St Mary's church, the former Rectory, the Old School, the Mill, and Manor Farm - all fine landmarks - expressions of importance, wealth and fashion are modest. Many old properties reflect the aspirations of shop and innkeepers, and the needs of craftsmen, and farmers.

There is a broad range of styles and materials, but also consistency reflected in the lines of chimneys, the extent and quality of slate roofs and in the size of properties reflecting status. The simple cottage - often part of a terrace - is recognisable from any period.

There is some thatch and clay tile and windows are often timber casement and sash. There are few entrance porches. In and around St Mary's banded flint and stone construction is common, otherwise local flint and stone - often with a wash finish - have been used widely. The use of modest amounts of finer materials, e.g., Hamstone, signified a building's prestige. Seldom is old brick visible as walling, a good exception is the Mill, but it is used as dressings at corners and openings. Render is common to provide weatherproofing, and has sometimes been applied later. Old boundary walls are of local stone and flint.

Past commercial activity and community expression are evident in the retention of historic features such as shop windows and the old school clock.

There was a strong nonconformist tradition in Maiden Newton and the Wesleyan Chapel of 1870 remains a strong landmark. The earlier Congregational Chapel has lost significance.

The design and materials of 20th Century Maiden Newton are considerably varied. Common finishes for walls are brick, artificial stone, and colour washed render, and for roofs slate, and clay and concrete tiles. There has been a modest use of flint and stone.

Recent housing in Maiden Newton ranges from the 'Dorset cottage' to the 'classical town house'. Effort expended in interpreting local distinctiveness varies for each development. The treatment of boundaries is critical. Successful examples have kept original walls or hedges or emulated them

Built Environment Issues

  • The future layout and growth of Maiden Newton and neighbouring settlements.
  • The effects of new development on the countryside, the conservation area and its setting.
  • The erosion of traditional settlement layout, historic identity and character of Maiden Newton
  • Boundaries and historic and natural features excluded from conservation area.
  • Other buildings suitable for listing.
  • The quality of the Market Square.
  • Loss of old boundaries and the quality of new ones.
  • Loss of natural features.
  • The encroachment by development on important historic views.
  • Possible underuse of the Trading Estate.
  • Highway environment generally and its effects of the historic fabric, the conservation area and safety of residents.
  • Electricity sub-stations.
  • World War II defence system.