Chard is a place which satisfies the aesthetic sense at first sight and does not pall after close and long acquaintance. The great highway from Honiton to Yeovil becomes, as it passes through the last town in South Somerset, a spacious and dignified High Street with two or three beautiful old houses, among a large number of other picturesque dwellings which would sustain the reputation of Chard even without their aid. First is the one-time Court House of the Manor, opposite the Town Hall. Part of the building is called Waterloo House. It was built during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. A very beautiful and spacious room with two mullioned windows and a fine moulded ceiling graces the interior. This apartment is panelled with the most delightful carvings of scenes from the Old Testament, and with birds, animals and heraldic designs above the noble fireplace. The back of this house is even more charming than the front and the visitor should pass through the porch and passage-way for the sake of a glimpse at its old gables and mellow walls. The Choughs Inn at the west end of the town, not far from the church, is another fine example of late medieval architecture. Here also one should not be content with a mere passing glance. The interior is well worth inspection, as the old woodwork and queer guest rooms of the ancient hostelry have been jealously preserved. The present Town School was erected in 1671, but a pipe bears the date 1583, indicating an earlier building on the site.

The early fifteenth-century church is cruciform if we regard the high porches as transepts. The whole building, including the tower, is very low in proportion to its length. The fine gargoyles will be noticed before entering; equally elaborate is the roof of the chancel, but perhaps the most striking item is the magnificent tomb of William Brewer (1641) in the north transept.

As at Honiton, the mile of High Street is undeniably a true section of the Fosse Way, though at each end the modern road departs from the old way and shirks the hills. The geographical position of the street is interesting in that it stands on a "great divide." During rain the gutters take the water in two directions, to the English Channel and the Severn Sea. There is no clear evidence of the existence of a Roman station hereabouts, though it is more than probable that such was the case. The name of the town proves it to have been a Saxon settlement. Bishop Joscelyn of Wells made its fortune by his endowments and the gift of a borough charter. Chard bore its part in the Civil War and Charles I was obliged to stay here for a week, in his retreat from the west country, awaiting the commissariat that Somerset had failed to provide. "Hangcross Tree," a great oak, stood within living memory in the lower town on the way to the South Western station. This was the gibbet upon which twelve natives of Chard, followers of Monmouth, paid the penalty for their rebellion.

The excursion par excellence is to Ford Abbey, situated about four miles away on the banks of the Axe. (Prospective visitors who wish to see more than the exterior must make preliminary inquiries.) The situation is beautiful, as was usually the case with those chosen by the Cistercians. Unlike most of the great abbeys despoiled by the iconoclasts of the Dispersal, Ford fell into the hands of successive families who have added to and embellished the great pile without entirely doing away with its ancient character. A good deal of alteration was carried out by Inigo Jones who destroyed some of the older work and inserted certain incongruities more interesting than pleasing. The imposing appearance of the south front amply atones for any disappointment the visitor may experience at his first sight of the buildings from the Chard road. Over the entrance tower is the inscription:


The beautiful cloisters are much admired and the magnificent porch is one of the finest entrances in England. In the "state" apartments the grandeur of the ceiling in the Banqueting Hall is almost unique. The great Staircase was designed by Inigo Jones; this leads to the Grand Saloon in which are five Raphael tapestries, the finest in England; unsurpassed for the beauty of their colouring. The original cartoons are in South Kensington Museum. The visitor is conducted through the Monks' Dormitory to the Transitional Chapel, the resting place of Adeliza, Viscountess of Devon, who founded the Abbey for some homeless monks, wayfarers from Waverley in Surrey, who had unsuccessfully colonized at distant Brightley and were tramping home. This was in 1140. In 1148 the church was completed. The carved screen is elaborately beautiful and there are several interesting memorials of the families who have held this splendid pile of buildings, now the property of the Ropers. The traveller by the Exeter express has a charming glimpse of the picturesque "back" of the abbey, should he make his journey in the winter. In summer the jealous greenery hides all but a stone or two of the battlements.

Chard is surrounded by a number of small and secluded villages. Most of them are delightfully situated on the sides of wooded heights or between the encircling arms of the hills. The most charming is perhaps Cricket St. Thomas on the south of the Crewkerne road. On the other side of this highway, on the headwaters of the River Isle, is another beautifully situated hamlet called Dowlish Wake, after the ancient Somerset family of that name who flourished here in the fourteenth century. A short distance north is Ilminster, an ancient market town with a beautiful Perpendicular church crowned with a poem in stone that is of surpassing loveliness even in this county of lovely towers. White Staunton, four miles away to the west towards the Blackdown country, has a church remarkable for the number of interesting details it contains, though the fabric itself is rather commonplace. Its treasures include a very early Norman font, curious pewter communion vessels, a squint having an almost unique axis, some ancient bench ends and medieval tiles in the chancel. St. Agnes' Well, a spring near the church, is said to be tepid, and to have healing qualities. Near by is an old manor house dating from the fifteenth century. In its grounds are the foundations of a Roman Villa discovered about forty years ago.

Proceeding along the London road over Windwhistle and St. Rayne's Hills, and with delightful views by the way, Crewkerne is reached in eight miles from Chard. This is a pleasant little market town of no great interest apart from its noble fifteenth-century cruciform church which has an uncommonly fine west front, with empty niches, alas! but beautiful nevertheless. The porch is another interesting feature of its exterior. Here are quaint figures of musicians playing upon various instruments. At the end of the south transept is a small chamber, the actual purpose of which is unknown; it may well have been the cell of an anchorite.

The first impression on entering the church is one of light and airiness, due to the size and number of the windows, of which that at the west end is the finest. The wooden groining of the tower is curious, and the base of the walls show the existence of a former building that lacked the present aisles. The ancient font belongs to the older structure. A figure of St. George, that was once outside and over the west window where the dragon is still in situ, two old chests, and a number of brasses complete the list of interesting objects within. To the north of the church are the old buildings of the grammar school, now removed to a site outside the town to the east.

About two miles to the north is the curious old church of Merriott, built during several periods. The extraordinary carving over the vestry door called the "fighting cocks" is in the eyes of the villagers its chief merit! There are also some interesting gargoyles and a very ancient crucifix. A mile farther is the pleasant village of Hinton St. George. The fine village cross, though much mutilated, still retains enough of its former splendour to make us regret the many we have lost. The old thatched house known as the "Priory" is a delightful building. Hinton House is the home of the Pouletts, a famous family who came originally from the North Somerset sea-lands. Part of the house dates from the reign of Henry VIII. The family came into prominence about that time, for a member named Amyas was knighted after the fight at Newark. He became more famous still perhaps for his collision with Wolsey when the latter was a young man, for he had the misfortune to put the future great prelate in the stocks! The family became pronounced Protestants and one of the grandsons of Amyas was gaoler of Mary Queen of Scots. These beruffed and torpedoe-bearded Elizabethans are in Hinton Church, a fine and dignified building that, like many other Somerset churches, is more imposing outside than within.

South Petherton is about three miles north. Here is another fine church with an uncommon octagonal tower placed upon a squat and square base. Of more interest is the beautiful house, known as "King' Ine's Palace," which dates from the fifteenth century. It may have been erected on the site of one of that Saxon monarch's many houses. There are one or two ancient buildings in this village as also at Martock, another delightful hamlet still farther north. But we are being tempted outside our arbitrary boundary and must return to the Yeovil road that wanders up hill and down again into the charming vales of the Somerset borderland by way of East Chinnock and West Coker. In the latter large and rambling village is a church of note for the unique horn glazing of the small windows in its turret. The Decorated building has a squat tower out of all proportion to its size. The manor dates from the fourteenth century and belongs to the Earl of Devon.

There is an alluring sound about the name of Yeovil; a name suggestive of ancient stone-walled houses with roofs clothed in russet moss with, perhaps, a hoary ruined keep on a guardian mound and a clear swift moorland stream flowing between encircling hills. But the reality is very different. Many years ago, when two great railways took the town into their sphere of influence, factories and streets began to appear as if by magic and just before the Great War a fresh impetus was given to Yeovil by the development and extension of certain well-known local firms. In fact the present appearance of the town is that of an industrial centre of the smaller and pleasanter sort, but with the inevitable accompaniment of mean houses and uninviting suburbs. The main streets of the newer parts are spacious and clean, but are reminiscent of an ordinary London suburb.

The great glory of Yeovil is its church, the interior of which is one of the most impressive in Somerset. Its lofty and graceful arches and wonderful windows belong to a period when the Perpendicular style was at its best and purest. The crypt beneath the chancel is of much interest. The single central pillar supports a fine groined roof. The church has few interesting details, but the magnificent lectern with its undecipherable inscription and a couple of brasses will be noticed. There are but few old houses in the centre of the town.

[Ilustration: YEOVIL CHURCH.]

The usual excuse of disastrous fires is offered, and one did occur in 1449 when 117 houses were destroyed, but more probably ruthlessness on the part of eighteenth-century owners is responsible for this dearth. In Middle Street is the George Inn, an old half-timbered house, and, opposite, the still older "Castle," said to have been a chantry house. The Woborne Almshouses were founded about 1476, but no portion of the early buildings remain.

One of the most delightful views in South Somerset is that from Summerhouse Hill, about half a mile away; another, magnificent in its extent, can be had from the Mudford road that runs in a north-easterly direction. The great central plain is spread before one with distant Glastonbury Tor on the horizon. The environs of Yeovil are delightful. One of the best short excursions is to East Coker, the birthplace of William Dampier, two miles to the south. The church and Court are beautifully placed above the old village and a picturesque group of almshouses line the upward way to them.

Five miles north of Yeovil on the Fosse Way, where a branch road leaves the ancient Bath-Exeter highway for Dorchester, stands the old Roman town of Ilchester, or Ivelchester. An unimportant one at that, for the Romans made but little attempt to build in the wild and remote country that was to be the home of an obscure Saxon tribe - the Somersetas. Ilchester to-day is strangely uninteresting and we have to depend entirely upon the imagination for even a plan of the Roman town, of which no vestiges remain. Possibly these disappeared during the Civil War when the town was fortified. The church has an octagonal tower with the rare feature that its sides are the same form from base to parapet. The older portions of the building are Early English, but it has suffered from a good deal of pulling about. This is the only one remaining of the five churches of which Ilchester could once boast. A much maltreated market cross stands in the main street with a sundial stuck on the summit of its shaft. Otherwise there is little to detain the stranger. Roger Bacon, philosopher and scientist, was a native of the town or immediate neighbourhood. At Tintinhull, two miles to the south-west, are some fine old houses, ancient stocks, and an Early English church of much interest. The church's tower is on the north side, an unusual position. Bench-ends, brasses and ancient tiles are among the objects likely to interest the visitor of antiquarian tastes. Montacute, still farther south and on the road from South Petherton to Yeovil, should be visited if possible. Here is a beautiful Elizabethan house, the seat of the Phelipses. Its east front is decorated with an imposing row of heroic statues; its west front is almost as magnificent. Taken altogether it is perhaps the grandest Tudor house in the county. The interior well bears out the sumptuous appearance of the great pile from the outside. A great gallery, one hundred and eighty feet long, extends through the whole length of the building, and the hall is equally grand.

This great house replaces a one-time Cluniac monastery founded in 1102, though in 1407 the establishment abandoned the foreign rule of Cluny and became an ordinary English Priory. All that is left of the ancient buildings is a beautiful gateway with turrets and oriels dating from the fifteenth century. St. Michael's Hill, or "Mons Acutus," is remarkably like Glastonbury in outline, and is the scene of a wonderful legend. Here was found the sacred Rood that was eventually taken in the days of Canute to distant Waltham in Essex, where afterwards there arose the great Abbey of the Holy Cross.

Montacute Church is a building that has seen much legitimate "tinkering," not of the restorer's brand but of the sort that delights the antiquary. The earliest work is very early Norman. This is seen in the chancel arch and then we come down through the various stages of architectural history - Early English transepts, a Decorated window on the south side and, what is almost inevitable for Somerset, the Perpendicular nave. The tower is also "Somerset," and very dignified and beautiful.

From the hill of Hamdon near by we obtain one of those exquisite prospects of this English countryside that few can look upon unmoved. The beautiful hills of Somerset and Dorset, fading into the gentlest tones of soft purple and blue, ring the horizon on every side. Alfred's tower, built to commemorate the victory over the Danes, is far away on the Wiltshire border, but appears startlingly close for some rare moments when winter rain is near. Away to the west are the distant Quantocks and the hills of "dear Dorset," fold after fold, in the south. Close under the steep northern face of Hamdon is Stoke, with a quaint, and delightful inn known as the "Fleur de Lis," and a beautiful old church with a Norman tympanum, an elaborate chancel arch of the same date, and many other gracious and interesting details. If the direct road is taken from Montacute to Yeovil we pass through Preston Pucknell with its small and over-restored Decorated church. Of more interest is the fine tithe-barn close by, and a beautiful old medieval house with delightful porch and elaborate chimney.

Three miles north-east of Yeovil is the interesting church and manor house at Trent. In the latter the fugitive Charles II was hidden, and his hiding-place can still be seen. The stone spire of the church is a rare feature hereabouts and within will be found many interesting items, including the finely carved screen and bench ends, some bearing the words "Ave Maria"; the pulpit carved with scenes from the life of Christ and the chantry chapel and tombs, one of Sir Roger Wyke, temp. Edward III. The very beautiful churchyard contains an old chantry house built in the reign of Henry VI and the shaft and steps of an ancient cross.

About four miles south-east of Yeovil is the village of Yetminster, with a station on the Weymouth line of the Great Western Railway. To reach it we may pass through the village of Bradford Abbas, where the abbots of Sherborne once had a residence. The moated house still exists as Wyke Farm. A short distance away is a tithe-barn of noble proportions. The church has one of the finest towers in Dorset (for here we are again across the border). The west front is remarkable for its canopied niches. Within is a stone screen and beautifully panelled roof. Yetminster churchyard is worth the climb thither for the sake of the lovely view without the added attraction of the beautiful Perpendicular church, restored about thirty years ago. Within will be noticed some ancient wooden benches with the Tudor badge at their ends, spared by the restorer, who has here done his work carefully and well. On the chancel arch may be seen the gaps left in the stonework where the old wooden screen once stood, also the stone brackets for the rood-beam. The ancient colouring, mellowed and softened by long time, still remains on the beams of the roof. The fine west window will be noticed and also other windows, small and curiously placed. The church has a north door, possibly a "Devil's Door," through which the exorcised spirit passed at the baptismal service. About two miles south-east of Yetminster is the small village of Leigh, with a sixteenth-century church and the remains of two ancient crosses. In the vicinity is a remarkable "maze" or prehistoric "Troy Town."

The Weymouth Railway could be taken from Yeovil to Evershot, nine miles to the south, among the beautiful hills and valleys of what may be described, for want of a better name, as the Melbury Downs. The ridges of these North Dorset highlands are traversed to a large extent by good roads from which most delightful views may be had, delightful not only for their great extent but for the exquisite near peeps at the remote and lost villages and hamlets that sleep in their deep combes. The western extremity of this particular group of hills is Cheddington, about three miles from Beaminster, where is, perhaps, the most extensive view in Dorset. Evershot village is a mile and a half to the west of the station and within a few minutes' walk of St. John's Spring, the source of the Frome. The rebuilt church contains an interesting brass to William Grey (1524), rector, and depicts him in pre-reformation vestments holding the sacred elements in his raised hands. A road leads north through the lovely glades of Melbury Park, Lord Ilchester's seat, to Melbury Sampford. Melbury House is of three main periods - fifteenth century in the older and hidden portions, sixteenth century as regards the main building erected by Sir Giles Strangeways, and late seventeenth century when the Corinthian pillars were added to the east front. The beautiful sheets of water - feeders of the Yeo (for we have crossed the "divide") lend an added grace to a park rich with groves of magnificent trees. One of them, called "Billy Wilkins," is a famous oak, thirty-seven feet in girth. Sampford church is a cruciform Decorated building with some interesting monuments to the Strangeways, the family of Lord Ilchester. The late peer was the donor of the beautiful modern reredos, and the decoration of the chancel is due to him. Melbury Bubb stands a mile or more to the east under the shadow of the imposing Bubb Down. Its diminutive church has been much restored and has little of interest, except some ancient glass that has been left in the windows. A glorious walk could be taken eastwards by lonely little Batcombe with its marvellous legends of "Conjuring Minterne," whose grave is in the churchyard. Thence the solitary hill-way goes by the mysterious stone called "Cross in Hand" along the tops of the hills past High Stoy (860 feet), an outstanding bastion, Ridge Hill and Buckland Newton.

The short five miles of road from Yeovil to Sherborne passes over the curiously named Babylon Hill. A proposal was made at an Academy dinner a short time ago to label the small towns and villages of Britain with artistic signs giving the name of the place and denoting pictorially or otherwise its leading characteristic. The idea is a good one, though it is capable of being carried to extreme lengths and abused. In wandering over the English countryside one is often at a loss, even with a good map in the pocket, to know the name of the hamlet or village one is entering. It is insulting to the villager and humiliating to oneself to ask "What place is this?" The well-known black and yellow signs of the Automobile Association label such villages as stand on a high road. But the obscure by-way hamlet, perhaps of more interest, is quite incognito. However, Babylon Hill is clearly marked on the map if not on the roadside, and we proceed through a pleasant country quite unlike the district we have just traversed and partaking more of the character of Leicester and the "Loamshire" of the novelist than of Somerset. The beautiful Abbey Church of Sherborne, the town of the "Scir bourn" or Yeo, is not well seen from the approach on the west, for we are on the wrong side of the long slope on which it is built. The town itself is attractive and pleasant, and has several old and beautiful houses to delight the traveller, but every other interest is dwarfed by its magnificent Abbey. Originally founded as the Cathedral of the see of Sherborne in 705, it had as its first bishop the great and learned Aldhelm. At this time the then city was the capital of the new western extension of Wessex and an important and strategic stronghold in the long and bitter struggle with the Danes. The earlier bishops were not only priests but soldiers, and seem to have acquitted themselves well as leaders in battle and generals in council in the many engagements that took place between the Channel and the Severn. More than one fell fighting and one, Bishop Ealhstan, totally defeated the invaders and did much to keep Wessex for the English. A successor of his - Asser - reverted to the tradition of learning established by the first of the Saxon prelates; he was the contemporary of Alfred, and to him we owe a great deal of our knowledge of the King. During this period the trade and industry of the city (it had an important manufactory of cloth) had grown steadily with its rise as a military and ecclesiastical centre, but when the see was removed to Old Sarum in 1075, Sherborne received a blow from which it never recovered.

In some respects there is a similarity between the Abbey of Sherborne and the Cathedral at Winchester. In certain portions of each building the same extraordinary transformation has taken place in the same interesting way. The original heavy Norman piers of the nave have been pared and carved into the soaring lines and panel work of the Perpendicular period. This alteration was carried out here by Abbot Ramsam about the year 1500. In the north transept is the organ, a fine and famous instrument. The ceiling of the south transept was presented by the last Earl of Bristol and is composed of black Irish oak. The Earl's monument with his effigy and that of his two wives, stands beneath. There will be noticed on the south wall a memorial to two children, the offspring of Lord Digby; the lines of the epitaph were written by Pope. The window above is a modern work by Pugin. On the east of this transept is the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. The font is singular if, as is stated, it was formerly ornamented with brass plates. They are said to have been fixed within the quatrefoils on five sides, the remaining three being plain.

The magnificent choir shows the essential beauty of Perpendicular - the aspiring line - at its very best. The vaulting seems to carry the upward flow, as it were, of the stonework to the roof centre without any loss of the soaring effect. The beautiful windows are all modern but they are entirely in keeping with the old work. The stalls are original fifteenth-century carving and the miserere seats and canopies above should be particularly noticed. The reredos contains two modern designs in alto-relievo. A peculiar russet tint in the stonework near the roof is said to have been occasioned by a fire which took place during one of the many quarrels between the monastery and the town, due mostly to a difference of opinion as to the ownership of the nave. An arrow with a fiery tail, shot by one of the clergy of the town church, lodged in the temporary thatched roof of the new choir and caused the fire which did much damage, even melting the bells in the tower.

Behind the high altar, let into the floor of the old processional path, is a brass thus inscribed:


In the beautiful Wickham Chapel is the monument to Sir John Horsey, the temporary owner of the Abbey at the Dissolution. He at once sold the church to the town for one hundred marks, the equivalent then of about seventy pounds. St. Katharine's, sometimes called the Leweston Chapel, contains the Renaissance tomb of John Leweston and his wife. Bishop Roger's Chapel is on the north of the choir. This is Early English so far as the walls actually belonging to the chapel are concerned. It contains the battered effigy of Abbot Clement (1163) and some others unknown.

Perhaps the most interesting item in the great church is the doorway on the north side of the west wall, which is said to be an actual portion of the ancient Saxon cathedral of St. Aldhelm. The extension of the Abbey westwards of this wall was known as Alhalowes and was the town church until the break-up of the monastery rendered it superfluous. It had a tower of its own in which the secular priests caused a bell to be rung during the devotions of the monks, to the great annoyance of the latter. The Chapel of Our Lady of Bow and the portion of the Lady Chapel itself that escaped demolition at the Dissolution was at that time separated from the Abbey and made part of the adjoining school buildings. The great tower is one hundred feet in height and holds a peal of eight bells with two extra - the sanctus and the fire-bell. The latter is inscribed:


The tenor bell was given by Cardinal Wolsey, once rector of Limington, eight miles away in Somersetshire, and recast in 1670. Around the rim runs the following:


The school referred to above is believed to date back to the year 705, that of the foundation of the Cathedral. Those portions of the monastery buildings that had fallen into private ownership were handed over to the school authorities in the middle of the last century. They comprise the Abbot's Hall, Guest Hall, Kitchen and Abbot's apartments. The Abbey Conduit at the end of Chepe Street dates back to 1360. It is a charming survival with groined stone roof and open arcade around, and it gives a very picturesque and special character to this end of the street.

The Hospital of SS. John Baptist and John Evangelist was founded on the site of a much older establishment by Henry VI in 1437. The modern buildings were erected in 1866. The Chapel, Governor's Room, and some of the ancient dormitories remain. A fine screen divides the chapel from the ante-chapel and some beautiful and ancient glass still exists in the south window. A tryptych, depicting the miracles, that once stood in the chapel, may be seen in the Governor's Room.

During the Civil War Sherborne decided for the king, and consequently the old castle, which stood beyond the suburb of Castleton, was dismantled, and its ruins used for building the present castle, the home of the Digbys. The original building was erected by Roger of Caen and had seen some history from the time of its siege in 1139 by King Stephen. It became for a short period the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. In the fine park the infant Yeo is dammed and broadened into a graceful sheet of water. Here also is the eminence known as Jerusalem Hill and the seat where Raleigh is said to have sat smoking to be discovered by a scared retainer, who threw a pot of ale over his master, thinking him on fire. Pope was for a time the guest of one of his patrons - Lord Digby; and the Prince of Orange stayed here on his progress from Devon to London. The Gate-house of the old Castle is a picturesque ruin, Norman in style with inserted Perpendicular windows.

Sherborne is a pleasant and healthy town with many quaint nooks other than the immediate precincts of the Abbey. Although perhaps not as central as Yeovil for the exploration of the more interesting villages of South Somerset, it is a good place in which to stay for a few days or even longer. Perhaps the most lasting impression made by the town will be that of hush and silence; not that it is stagnant or utterly decayed, but even the main streets are saturated with the grave air of a cathedral close, a fitting atmosphere for a place which retired from active city life over eight hundred years ago.

An interesting excursion may be made to Cadbury Castle, five miles north of Sherborne. A round of about fifteen miles, to include the villages of Marston Magna, West and Queen's Camel, Sparkford (with a station on the Great Western) North and South Cadbury, Sutton Montis and Sandford Orcas, would take the explorer through a delightful countryside dotted with beautiful old houses - some of them fallen from high estate to the status of comfortable and roomy farmhouse, but usually with a fabric well cared for - and quaint and ancient churches. Of these North Cadbury, Marston and Sandford claim the most attention. The first is a large and dignified Perpendicular building with finely carved tabernacles in the chancel and several interesting features, including a curious brass to Lady Magdalen Hastings. Close by is a beautiful old manor house. Marston is much older than the generality of Somerset churches and has the scanty remnants of "herring-bone" work in the outside wall of the chancel. At Sandford is a delightful manor house with the loveliest of terraces and gardens and an old gate-house with an upper chamber. The interesting church contains a curious tablet depicting a knight in white armour and two ladies, one holding a skull. This is Sir William Knoyl and his two wives, the one with the skull being his first. The goal of the journey, Cadbury Castle, is, according to strong local tradition, no less a spot than Camelot, the palace and castle of the king of romance and hero of the British - Arthur. It will be remembered that to Camelot came the sword Excalibur "that was as the light of many candles." In the moonlight, the twelve knights, led by their prince, ride round the hill on horses shod with silver and then away through the trees to Glastonbury. As they disappear, the thin notes of a silver trumpet came back on the midnight air. Some are of opinion that the hill is hollow, and that Arthur and his company sleep within, awaiting the day of impending doom for Britain. Then they will break the chains of slumber and come to her aid. Some say that of late the Prince and his followers did come forth. Every intelligent native for miles round knows that the hill is indeed hollow, for this can be proved by calling to your companion through the opening of Arthur's Well high on the eastern face of the hill while he stands at St. Anne's Well away on the other side. Another legend has it that the hill is not full of men but of gold, the treasure house of the fairies, but this is a belief that will only appeal to grosser minds.

The marvellous earthworks that crown the hill were undoubtedly prehistoric in their origin and, like the walls of Maiden Castle, they have been faced at a later date with stone. There are four lines of wall and ditch, and they enclose an area of nearly twenty acres. Old Leland becomes enraptured at the sight: "Good God! what vast ditches! what high ramparts! what precipices are here!" It will be seen at a glance how well adapted this eminence was for defence. There is nothing to the north but the great expanse of the Somerset plain broken by the isolated Glastonbury Tor. In the wide and beautiful view from the earthworks the Mendip range runs away toward the Severn Sea on the right; to the left front are the broken summits of the Quantocks and to the extreme left the beautiful hills of the Somerset-Dorset borderland.

The Shaftesbury road passes through pleasant country, with no particular features but with occasional good views, to Milborne Port, not quite three miles to the east. A few new buildings on the outskirts of the little town have failed to rob it of its medieval air. It can actually boast of a Norman guildhall, or at least the building has a doorway of that period, which is near enough. The poor battered and despoiled remains of a market cross stand in the centre of the street. This mere village once sent two members to Westminster, and its former importance as a market town and county centre is shown by its magnificent and ancient church. Although the nave has been rebuilt and the chancel is not the most perfect form of Perpendicular, the centre of the church will repay scrutiny, for it is of peculiarly solid and majestic appearance. It is even thought by some authorities to be Saxon. The Norman details to be noticed include the fine south door, the arches of the transepts and the windows in the south arm. The old font and the piscina in the wall of the nave, as well as other piscina in the chancel, are noteworthy.

The Shaftesbury road goes by the parklands and early eighteenth-century mansion of Venn, the seat of the Medlicotts, and then bears south-east towards the village of Caundle Purse. There are several Caundles in this part of Dorset, but "Purse" is the only one of much interest. It lies just off the road to the right, under the wooded Henover Hill. Its sixteenth-century manor house bears the name of "King John's House," as do several others over the length and breadth of England. It is probable that a hunting lodge used by the Angevin kings once stood hereabouts, as this countryside was in their time the great forest of the White Hart. The church is small and over-restored, but it contains a few interesting brasses.

The main road soon forks, the right-hand branch winding over a two-mile stretch of tableland and then dropping to Stalbridge. The main route goes directly over Henstridge Down and descends the hill to the large village of Henstridge on a main cross-country road and with a station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway, making it a convenient point from which to take two interesting side excursions - northwards to the hill-country beyond Wincanton and south to the upper valley of the Stour. The old Virginia Inn at the cross roads claims to be the actual scene of the "quenching" of Sir Walter Raleigh. Henstridge church is much restored, or rather, rebuilt, but still contains the fine canopied altar tomb of William Carent and his wife.

Proceeding northwards first we may take the road by Templecombe that was once a preceptory of the Knights Templars and now has a station on the main line of the South Western Railway, to Wincanton, a small market town on the Cale ("Wyndcaleton") at the head of the Vale of Blackmore. Though of high antiquity it does not seem to have had much place in history, apart from its relation to Sherborne in the Civil War, when it became a base for operations against the Royalist garrison there. An old house in South Street is pointed out as the lodging of the Prince of Orange on his journey towards London. A sharp fight took place between his followers and a small body of Stuart cavalry, resulting in the utter rout of the latter. A poor and uninteresting old church has been altered out of all likeness to the original (much to the advantage of the building) and there is very little of antiquity in the town.

The station next to Wincanton is Cole, within easy reach of the old towns of Castle Cary and Bruton. A public conveyance meets the trains for the latter, a little over a mile away. The situation of Bruton, in the picturesque valley of the Brue between Creech and Redlynch Hills, is extremely pleasant. A goodly number of ancient houses survive and the church, at one time a minster, is of much beauty and interest. Its west tower is of great splendour and its nave of the stateliest Perpendicular. The contrast of the chancel to the rest of the building is more peculiar than pleasing. At the Dissolution the monks' choir seems to have been allowed to fall into ruin, and the present restoration was made in 1743 in a debased classic style. Effigies of Sir Maurice Berkeley, Constable of the Tower (1585), and his wives are in a recess. He became the owner of the abbey after the Dissolution. A portion of a medieval cope is shown in the nave and two chained books (Erasmus and Jewel). The ancient tomb at the west door is that of Gilbert, first Abbot after the status of the Priory was raised (1510). The small north tower, an uncommon feature, is a relic of the older portion of the Priory, originally founded by William de Mohun in 1142. All that remains of the conventual buildings are a columbarium or stone dove-cote on a hillock just outside the town and the Abbey Court-house on the south side of High Street. On the front will be seen the arms of de Mohun and the initials of Prior Henton.

Close by Bruton Bow, an extremely picturesque medieval bridge over the Brue, is the school founded by Fitz-James, Bishop of London. It was suppressed with the abbey and refounded by Edward VI. The Sexey Hospital was established by a native of Bruton who was penniless when he left the town and rose to be Auditor of the Household to Queen Elizabeth and James I. The beautiful Hall-chapel is panelled in black oak, and the buildings make a quaint and pleasing picture.

Castle Cary, nearly three miles west of Cole station, does not fulfil the expectations raised by its name. Until 1890 the very site of the castle had been lost. The lines of the keep are now marked by a row of pillars in a meadow at the foot of Lodge Hill. A fortress of the Lovells, it was attacked and taken by Stephen. Soon afterwards it seems to have been dismantled or destroyed. The church is well placed on an eminence but has been practically rebuilt and is of little interest.

Ditcheat and Evercreech, respectively two and five miles to the north, are beautiful and interesting places. The latter has a church with one of the most glorious towers in Somerset, but here again we are leaving our arbitrary boundary and wandering too far afield. The road from Cary to Wincanton runs through Bratton Seymour and keeps to the summit of a ridge of low hills, commanding here and there lovely views, especially near "Jack White's Gibbett" at the cross roads above Bratton. The Bruton-Wincanton road is even more interesting, as it passes within a short distance of Stavordale Priory. The church, which is still intact, and also a good portion of the conventual buildings, are exquisitely situated under the great hill of Penselwood, part of the line of hills that runs from above Bourton almost to Longleat and that forms the high boundary of Somerset and Wiltshire. The ridge is crowned by a number of entrenchments, and prehistoric remains are frequent. Ballands Castle and Blacklough Castle are succeeded by Jack Straw's Castle close to "Alfred's Tower" on Kingsettle Hill. This tower was built by a Mr. Hoare in 1766 and commemorates the historic spot where in 879 the cross was raised against the pagan Dane.


The eye ranges over a magnificent expanse of western England. If the tower is ascended one may stand just a thousand feet above the sea. The door is usually locked, but the key may be obtained from a lodge near by, down the slope to the east. This walk can with profit be extended to Long Knoll (945 feet) over two miles north-east; beyond is Maiden Bradley, an interesting village not far from the confines of Longleat, the famous and palatial seat of the Marquis of Bath; but this country must be left for another chapter.

After this long divergence a return must be made to Henstridge, where a walk of less than two miles takes one over the Dorset border to Stalbridge, a sleepy old town that is not troubled by the fact that it has a station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway and that fast expresses from the north roar down the Blackmore Vale to Bournemouth and the sea. The church will not detain the visitor, for it was rebuilt in 1878. The old cross on four steps in the centre of High Street, with its rough carvings, is of more interest. It dates from about 1350. Above the town on a hillside is the mansion at one time inhabited by Sir James Thornhill, and not far away an obelisk erected by the painter in honour of his patron George II, which used to be known as "Thornhill Spire."

The Blandford high-road makes a wide loop to the south-west by Lydlynch. A shorter route following the line of the railway takes us in less than five miles to Sturminster Newton, where the Blackmore Vale ends and the Stour flows in a narrow trough between low hills.

Sturminster is a small and ancient town on the eastern bank of the Stour. "Newton" is on the west side of the river and looks as old as its neighbour. The two are connected by a medieval bridge of six arches. Sturminster Church was almost entirely rebuilt, except for the tower, nearly a hundred years ago. Newton Castle was once a stronghold of the Kings of Wessex. A few scanty remnants of the fortress can still be seen close to the road and river. A road to the north passes by Hinton St. Mary, with a rebuilt church high up on a breezy hill, and reaches Marnhull, the "Marlott" of Thomas Hardy. The Early English church has some remains of an early Norman building and some later insertions. The tower is a landmark for many miles around. A careful restoration some years ago brought to light several interesting details that had been hidden for some two hundred years or more; including a stairs to the rood-loft, a squint, and the piscina. The alabaster effigies on a cenotaph are believed to represent Lord Bindon and his wives (about 1450). The following remarkable epitaph on a former clerk is said to have been written by his rector:


A short distance to the north, through the hamlet of Flanders, is the fine sixteenth-century mansion called Nash Court.

An alternative road to the Blandford highway follows the river and rail through Shillingstone, an interesting village that had a year or two since (and may still have) a maypole; a beautiful village cross; and a much restored Norman and Early English church containing a pulpit presented by a Londoner who sought sanctuary from the great plague. The road then goes by Broad Oak and over Sturminster Common to Okeford Fitzpaine, Banbury Hill Camp being passed on the right about half way. Okeford has a church interesting to the antiquary. It has a Decorated west window that is said to have been turned inside out. Part of the ancient screen and rood-loft still remain, together with a piscina in the chancel. It is said that the upper part of the pulpit was at one time used as a font. The old font, restored, for many years formed part of the wall of the churchyard. The road continues up the long tongue of Okeford Hill with wide retrospective views. At the summit a by-way turns to the right along the ridge, which gradually increases in height until it reaches its summit three miles away at Bulbarrow Hill (902 feet) just above Rawlsbury Camp. The magnificent view up Blackmore Vale and northwestwards toward Yeovil is worth the journey to see. Rawlsbury is a prehistoric circular entrenchment with a double wall and ditch. Stoke Wake village is just below and Mappowder is about two miles away by the fields, but much farther by road. This last is an old-world hamlet eight miles from a railway, where curfew is still rung in the winter. In the church is an interesting miniature effigy that probably marks the shrine of a crusader's heart.

Continuing over Okeford Hill the road presently drops to Turnworth House at the head of a long narrow valley leading down to a string of "Winterborne" villages (or more correctly - Winter_bourne). The situation of the mansion and village is very beautiful and very lonely. Few seem to wish to brave the long ascent of the hill and one can pass from Okeford to Turnworth many times without meeting a solitary wayfarer. Turnworth Church is Early English, rebuilt on the exact lines of the old fabric and retaining the ancient tower.

The first of the Winterbournes - Strickland, lies a long mile beyond Hedgend Farm, where we turn sharp to the left and traverse a very lonely road, sometimes between close woods and rarely in sight of human habitation until the drop to the Stour brings us to Blandford Forum, a pleasant, bright and clean town built within a wide loop of the river that here begins to assume the dignity of a navigable stream, crawling lazily among the water meadows, with back-waters and cuts that bring to mind certain sections of the Upper Thames. The two fine thoroughfares - Salisbury and East Streets - which meet in the wide market place are lined with buildings, dating from 1732 or later, for in 1731 a great fire, the last of a series, destroyed almost the whole of the town and its suburbs. The old town pump, now a drinking fountain, records that it was "humbly erected ... in grateful Acknowledgement of the Divine Mercy, That has since raised this Town, Like the Phoenix from its Ashes, to its present flourishing and beautiful State." Several lives were lost in this disaster and the great church of SS. Peter and Paul perished with everything that previous fires had spared. The present erection is well enough as a specimen of the Classic Renaissance, but need not detain us. At one time Blandford was a town of various industries, from lace making to glass painting, but it is now purely an agricultural centre.

Blandford St. Mary is the suburb on the west side of the Stour. The Perpendicular church has a tower and chancel belonging to a much earlier period. A former rector was an ancestor of the great Pitt, and one of the family - "Governor" Pitt, is buried in the north aisle. The family lived at Down House on the hills to the westward. A more ancient family, the d'Amories, lived at Damory Court near the town. The famous Damory's Oak is no more. Its hollow trunk served as shelter for a whole family who were rendered homeless by the great fire. An old barn not far from the Court is said to have been a chapel dedicated to St. Leonard; it still retains its ecclesiastical doors and windows.

The seven miles of undulating and dusty road westwards from Blandford, that we have partly traversed from Winterbourne Strickland, leads to Milton Abbas, a charming village surrounded by verdured hills and deep leafy combes. Here is the famous Abbey founded by King Athelstan for Benedictines. The monks' refectory, all that remains of the conventual buildings, indicates the former splendour of the establishment. The abbey church, built in the twelfth century, was destroyed during a thunderstorm after standing for about two hundred years; the present building is therefore a study in Decorated and Perpendicular styles. It is, after Sherborne and Wimborne, the finest church in Dorset. The pinnacled tower is much admired, but the shortness of the building detracts from its effectiveness. It is not certain that the church ever had a nave, though the omission seems improbable. The interior is usually shown on Thursdays, when the grounds of the modern "Abbey" are open to the public. Within the church the fifteenth-century reredos, the sedilia and stalls, and the pre-Reformation tabernacle for reserving the consecrated elements (a very rare feature) should be noticed. Two ancient paintings of unknown age, probably dating from the early fifteenth century, and several tombs, complete the list of interesting items. The ancient market town that once surrounded the Abbey was swept away when the mansion was erected in 1780, so that the present village is of the "model" variety and was built by the first Earl of Dorchester soon after his purchase of the property over one hundred and fifty years ago. Church, almshouses and inn, all date from the same period. Time has softened the formality of the plan, and Milton is now a pleasant old-world place enough, somnolent and rarely visited by the stray tourist, but well worthy of his attention. The church contains a Purbeck marble font from the abbey, but otherwise is as uninteresting as one might expect from its appearance. Milton was originally Middletown from its position in the centre of Dorset.

Three miles down stream from Blandford, near Spettisbury, is the earthwork called Crawford Castle. An ancient bridge of nine arches here crosses the Stour to Tarrant Crawford, where was once the Abbey of a Cistercian nunnery. Scanty traces of the buildings remain in the vicinity of the early English church. This village is the first of a long series of "Tarrants" that run up into the remote highlands of Cranborne Chase. Buzbury Rings is the name of another prehistoric entrenchment north of the village; it is on the route of an ancient trackway which runs in a direction that would seem to link Maiden Castle, near Dorchester, with the distant mysteries of Salisbury Plain.

For the traveller who has the time to explore the Tarrant villages a delightful journey is in store. Although there is nothing among them of surpassing interest, the twelve or fifteen-mile ramble would be a further revelation of the unspoilt character and quiet beauty of this corner of Dorset. Pimperne village, on the Blandford-Salisbury road, where there is a ruined cross on the village green and a rebuilt church still retaining its old Norman door, is on the direct way to Tarrant Hinton, just over four miles from Blandford. Here a lane turns right and left following the Tarrant-brook that gives its name to the seven hamlets upon its banks. Hinton Church is beautifully placed on the left of this by-way which, on its way to Tarrant Gunville, presently passes Eastbury Park, a mile to the north. Only a fragment of the once famous house is left. The original building was a magnificent erection comparable with Blenheim, and built by the same architect - Vanburgh - for George Dodington, one time Lord of the Admiralty. The property came to his descendant, the son of a Weymouth apothecary named Bubb, who had married into the family. George Budd Dodington became a persona grata at court, lent money to Frederick Prince of Wales, and finished, at a cost of L140,000, the building his grandfather had commenced. This wealthy commoner, after a career at Eastbury as a patron of the arts, was created Lord Melcombe possibly for his services to the son of George II. At his death the property passed to Earl Temple who was unable to afford the upkeep and eventually the greater portion of this "folly" was demolished. The lane that turns south from the Salisbury high-road goes through Tarrants Launceston - Monckton - Rawston - Rushton and Keynston and finishes at Tarrant Crawford that we have just seen is in the valley of the Stour.

Two roads run northwards to Shaftesbury from Blandford. One, the hill way, leaves the Salisbury road half a mile from the town and, passing another earthwork on Pimperne Down, makes for the lonely and beautiful wooded highlands of Cranborne Chase, with but one village - Melbury Abbas - in the long ten miles of rough and hilly road. The other, and main, highway keeps to the river valley as far as Stourpaine, and then bears round the base of Hod Hill, where there is a genuine Roman camp inside an older trench. Large quantities of pottery and coins belonging to the Roman period have been found here and are stored in various collections. The way is now picturesquely beautiful as it goes by Steepleton Iwerne, that has a little church lost behind the only house in the hamlet, and Iwerne Courtenay. The last-named village is off the main road to the left, but a by-path can be taken which leads through it. The poorly designed Perpendicular church (with a Decorated tower) was erected, or rather rebuilt, as late as 1641. The building is famous as the prison for those guerilla fighters of the Civil War called "Clubmen," who consisted mostly of better class farmers and yeomanry. They had assembled on Hambledon Hill, the great entrenched eminence to the west of the village, and seem to have been officered by the country clergy. At least they appear to have greatly chagrined Cromwell, although he spoke of them in a very disparaging way, and deprecated their fighting qualities. Iwerne Minster, the next village on the road, possesses a very fine cruciform church of dates varying from Norman to Perpendicular, though the main structure is in the later style. The stone spire is rare for Dorset. Iwerne Minster House is a modern mansion in a very beautiful park and is the residence of one of the Ismays of steamship fame. Sutton Waldron has a modern church, but Fontmell Magna, two miles from Iwerne Minster, will profitably detain the traveller. Here is an actual village maypole, restored of course, and a beautiful Perpendicular church, also restored, but unspoilt. The lofty tower forms an exquisite picture with the mellow roofs of the village, the masses of foliage, and the surrounding hills. The fine east window is modern and was presented by Lord Wolverton, a one-time Liberal Whip, who was a predecessor of the Ismays at Iwerne Minster House. The west window is to his memory. Compton Abbas, a mile farther, has a rebuilt church. The charm of the situation, between Elbury Hill and Fontmell Down, will be appreciated as the traveller climbs up the slope beyond the village toward Melbury Down (863 feet), another fine view-point. As the road descends to the head waters of the Stour, glimpses of the old town on St. John's Hill are occasionally obtained on the left front and, after another stiff climb, we join the Salisbury road half a mile short of High Street.

Shaftesbury is not only Shaston to Mr. Hardy, but to the natives also, and, as will be seen presently, it had at least two other names in the distant past. It is one of the most romantically placed inland towns in England and would bear comparison with Bridgenorth, were it not that the absence of a broad river flowing round the base of the hill entirely alters the character of the situation. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth it was founded by Hudibras, son of the builder of Caerleon, and was called Mount Paladur (Palladour). It was without doubt a Roman town, as the foundations of Roman buildings were discovered while excavations were being made in High Street about twenty years ago. Alfred rebuilt the town and founded St. Mary's Abbey, with his daughter Aethelgiva as first abbess. The removal of the body of the martyred Edward hither from Wareham, after his murder at Corfe Castle, gave Shaftesbury a wide renown and caused thousands of pilgrims to flock to the miracle-working shrine. For a time it was known as Eadwardstow and the Abbess was a lady of as much secular importance as a Baron. The magnificent Abbey Church was as imposing as any we have left to us, but not a vestige remains except the fragmentary wall on Gold's Hill and the foundations quite recently uncovered and surveyed. One of the most interesting discoveries is that of a twisted column in the floor of the crypt that is thought to be part of the martyr's shrine.

Shaftesbury once had twelve churches, but one only of the old structures remain. This is a fine Perpendicular building of simple plan, chancel and nave being one. The tower is noble in its fine proportions and the north side of the nave aisle is beautifully ornamented and embattled. Holy Trinity and St. James' are practically new churches, although rebuilt on the ground plans of the original structures. On the west side of the first-named is a walk called "The Park" that would make the fortune of any inland health resort, so magnificent is the view and so glorious the air. The hill on which the town is built rises abruptly from the valley in a steep escarpment, so that the upper end of High Street is 700 feet above the sea. There is therefore only one practicable entrance, by way of the Salisbury road. Of actual ancient buildings there are few, although at one time there was some imposing medieval architecture in this "city set on a hill," if we may believe the old writers. It once boasted a castle besides the Hostel of St. John Baptist and its many churches. It may have been in this castle that Canute died in 1035.

The station for Shaftesbury is Semley, just over the Wilts border, but it is proposed to take the longer journey to Gillingham, nearly four miles north-west, which is the next station on the South Western main line. This was once the centre of a great Royal "Chase," disforested by Charles I. It was also the historic scene of the Parliament called to elect Edward Confessor to the throne, and at "Slaughter Gate," just outside the town, Edmund Ironside saved Wessex for the Saxons by defeating Canute in 1016. The foundations of "King's Court Palace," between Ham Common and the railway, show the site of the hunting lodge of Henry III and the Plantagenet kings. Gillingham church was spoilt by a drastic early nineteenth-century restoration. The chancel belongs to the Decorated period. There are several interesting tombs and a memorial of a former vicar over the arch of the tower. He was dispossessed as a "malignant" during the Commonwealth, but returned at the Restoration.

Gillingham cannot show many old houses and it has the appearance of a busy and flourishing manufacturing town of the smaller sort without any of the sordid accompaniments of such places. Its commercial activities - pottery and tile-making, breweries and flour mills, linen and silk manufacture, are mostly modern and have been fostered by the exceptional railway facilities. In its Grammar school, founded in 1526 by John Grice, it still has a first-rate educational establishment with the added value of a notable past, for here was educated Clarendon, the historian of the Great Rebellion, and several other famous men.