The Evolution of the Village

That there has been a community and a human presence in area now occupied by the village of Maiden Newton is probably not in dispute. The site itself, virtually at the head of the Frome Valley is one which students of economic history would recognize as a prime site for habitation. The Romans were here, or hereabouts, for certain and the presence of the sites mentioned above under prehistoric Maiden Newton provides evidence of early settlement.

There is no known factual evidence, but it is possible that an early settlement stood alongside the present Cattistock Road on higher ground which possibly provided an easier defensive position.

Of the pre Norman times we know very little. The evidence of a Saxon door in the present church has perhaps been used to surmise the presence of an earlier church, but where? From the Ash Tree states “Maiden Newton had been an English village for up to five hundred years before we have a list of the better off tax payers in 1327.

Domesday Book (1086) provides probably the earliest accessible record of Maiden Newton and it is true that, unlike many other great manors or holdings in the country, Maiden Newton has not experienced a long continuous period of ownership under one family. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Brownes and Sheridans of Frampton Estate held much of Maiden Newton but it is reported that a vast quantity of estate records were burnt at the time of the Sheridan Estate sale in 1931.

In the 13th century King John made four visits to Maiden, in 1204, 1207, 1208 and 1213. One could assume that for the English King to visit, there existed a property of some considerable size. Aslo in the 13th century, the break up of the manor began with the death of Walter Waleron in 1202, the state passing via his three daughters in a fragmented manner.

In 1221 Letters Patent granted a market at Maiden Newton and, although this market was subsequently contested by borough jurors at Dorchester, little could be done as Maiden Newton was more than five miles distant from that town.

In the 14th century, King Edward I spent a night here in 1303, and the Black Death (1348-49) would have wreaked havoc. More records also begin to survive from this time. Lay subsidy values were fixed and nation wide taxation records still exist, including Dorset’s contributions in 1327 and 1332. The names of village jurors begin to appear, in 1341 for instance.

The 15th century was a period when considerable alterations were made to St Mary’s Church, the most impressive being the construction of the nave roof. At the end of this century we begin to find documents of a type which increase in numbers during the next three centuries. These are known as leases for lives. A deed of 1489 shows Thomas Coombs renting a cottage for three lives, himself, his wife and his son John. At Crockway in 1499 Robert Browne and John his son lease three tenements and two cottages for thirty two shillings a year. The Browne family were later to have a major impact in Maiden Newton.

By the time we move into the 16th century, there are now many more records surviving that chart ownership of land and property in Maiden Newton. There is no point in repeating them here, most of them are available in the County Record Office in Dorchester and many of them are referred to in From the Ash Tree.

Regarding the physical appearance of Maiden Newton, the first map of any worthwhile detail is the Tithe Map of 1837/38. Comparing this map and the schedule which accompanies it, and noting the dates on houses in the center of the village, it is clear that Maiden Newton has been substantially changed from the mid 19th century. Some properties identified on the Tithe Map still survive and some of these have existed since the 17th century.

The cottages at the start of Cattistock Road and some of those at the Quarr probably, some of the properties between Bull Lane and Frome Lane which are recorded as being sold in 1643 by Henry Robert Henley to one John Buckler. Indeed, in respect my own house, 39 Dorchester Road, I have been able to trace the ownership as far back as 1640. 

The original White Horse and the Kings Arms were probably known in the 17th century and the Brewery where the Chalk and Cheese now stands was probably quite ancient.

To quote From the Ash Tree: ‘Until the coming of the railway Maiden Newton remained compact. Coming from Dorchester in 1830 the first building on the right was the workhouse dating from 1772. Next was a thatched bakery burned down in 1918: Hill View stands here now. [This previous statement may well have been true in 1830, but by the time of the Tithe Map, there was an unoccupied property before the workhouse and a house owned by Lot Curtis, a blacksmith, between the workhouse and the bakery]. At the Frome lane corner, several businesses lay in wait for those from over the river – another bakery, two inns, The Royal Oak and the Acorn and a shop. The coaching inn, The King’s Arms, was a couple of doors up on the east side of Dorchester Road

There were a number of cottages in what is now the Cornstores development in Dorchester Road. Three cottages which stood where the Pump House in Dorchester Road were demolished in the 1950s. The three cottages at Waterloo which no longer exist.

A study of the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1887 reveals the center of the village much as it looks today, with the exception that the present hardware shop and adjoining antique shop extended to the road edge and were attached to the Chalk and Cheese, this being the Brewery. The section of Dorchester Road from the bridge at the boundary to the west, to the junction of Dorchester Road and Church Road is recognisable as it is today, with the exception of the disappearance of three cottages at Waterloo, the development of the White Horse site and the disappearance of a shop adjacent to the newsagents. The area of what is now the Cornstores contained a number of cottages and a photograph of this area exists. Chalk Newton House and Bank House are both identified on the map as Banks. The village Police Station is at the eastern end of Dorchester Road.

Since 1837, the Rectory has moved to its present position, the railway has arrived and with it the Railway Inn, The school has appeared, what are now numbers 41 to 49 Dorchester Road have replaced a larger house called Martins which was in the ownership of Elizabeth Whittle, what is now 35 Dorchester Road has been built in a gap between 33 and 37, Royal George Terrace has appeared in Bull Lane and the area around the Dorchester Road and Church Road junction has been largely re-built.

It is obvious that the coming of the railway had a significant effect on the appearance of the village. The need for housing for employees of the railway and the opportunities offered to produce material for the railway meant great change.

Comparison between the 1887 and 1901 Ordnance Survey maps reveals little change of any significance.

It would appear that the major changes in the village in the first sixty years of the 20th century concern the arrival of the Dairy Factory, with the employment opportunities that this offered, the disappearance of some of the drinking houses, the demolition of a number of cottages in Dorchester Road and Cattistock Road and the disappearance of a number of small businesses.

The 1960s to this day have seen significant changes to the appearance of the village. The building of Hill View and Frome view (actually in the 1950s), the closure of the Railway, White Horse and Castle inns, the redevelopment of the White Horse site, the development of Stanstead Road, upper Cattistock Road, the Cornstores, Canons Row and the arrival of the new school.

What appears in the section above is but a brief (and incomplete) statement of the evolution of Maiden Newton and much more needs to done to identify both the property growth and the people of Maiden Newton over the years. Maybe one day!