Fontmell Magna, Dorset, England
Fontmell Magna is recorded in the Doomsday Book
as Fontemale, belonging to Shaftsbury Abbey.
Fontmell Magna is a pretty village with mills
and thatched cottages set in the Blackmore Vale,
Dorset. Taking its name from the Fontmell Brook
which flows through the village joining the river Stour at
Child Okeford and rises in a lake beside a place called
Springhead, its name derived from the Celtic ‘Font’
for spring or stream and ‘mell’ - a bare hill, which
today is covered in woodland. It is believed that the name ‘Magna’
is attached to Fontmell due to the existence of several large houses
including a Fontmell Parva and farmhouses in nearby Child Okeford
on the Fontmell Brook.
The Fontmell Brook is mentioned in a very early
Dorset Charter of about 670-670 when a member of the Wessex royal
family, Cenred, granted land along the brook to the Abbot of Shaftsbury.
Later, King Alfred and his grandson King Athelstan granted land
in Fontmell to Shaftsbury Abbey, which it held until the Dissolution
of the Monasteries. Now, the brook is a haven for wildlife, including
Fontmell has buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and has
one ancient 15th century ‘Gable Cottage’ that is timer
framed and thatched. The impressive ‘Cross House’ is
in the centre of the village, built in the reign of Elizabeth 1st
and was the home of the Glyn family, Lords of the Manor, from 1809
Four watermills have survived since the 18th century, Woodbridge,
Pipers, Higher Mill (now Springhead) and Middle Mill. The Flower
family started up a brewery in the village during the 18th Century.
Until the 19th Century, Hartgrove
next to Fontmell was part of East Orchard, and the home
of many of our ancestors including Blachford, Pinhorne, Hunt, Ralph,
Kimber, Curtis, Lemon and Seymour. These ancestors also were born,
lived, worked and buried in Fontmell itself.
The Church : Dedicated to St. Andrew, the parish
church is mainly Victorian, restored as the original dating back
to the 15th century was in a state of decay. Only part of the original
tower remains together with the 12th Century font. The restoration
was mainly paid for by the then Lord of the Manor, Sir Richard Plumtre
Glyn in 1862.
Fontmell boasts more surviving Parish Records
than most Dorset Villages, some of which are still kept by John
Enderby the Churchwarden who lives opposite St.Andrew’s in
the delightful ‘Fosse Cottage’ in Church Street.
A small Methodist chapel originating from 1796 is present in the
village. The chapel, made larger in 1831, exists today in this later
Famous Inhabitants: Sir Newman Flower b. 1870,
a publisher and Philip Salkeld V.C., the Rector’s son, a military
hero to whose memory a cross has been erected in St. Andrew’s
churchyard. Philip Salkeld, a Royal Engineer lost his life blowing
up the Cawnpore Gate in Delhi, India, allowing the British to recapture
the city during the Indian Mutiny.
Nobility: One of the important noblemen who had
attachments to Fontmell was Sir Thomas Arundell. Originating from
a Cornish family, he had a castle on the Wardour estate, Wiltshire,
not far from the village. He had been awarded Fontmell and some
other manors in Dorset at the Dissolution during the reign of King
Henry VIII. Marrying Margaret Howard, sister of the doomed Katherine
Howard - wife of King Henry, put him in grave danger. However, he
survived, becoming a supporter of Edward Seymour - protector to
Henry’s son Edward.
Arundell joined the conspiracy to rid the Duke of Somerset of his
chief enemy, the Duke of Northumberland, being eventually beheaded
at the same time as Somerset in 1551/2, for backing the wrong side.
His estates were seized but eventually restored, during the reign
of the Catholic Queen Mary, to his widow Margaret and his son Matthew.
Matthew was created 1st Baron Arundel at Wardour by King James 1st
The 9th Baron Arundel sold the whole Fontmell estate to Sir Richard
Carr Glyn in 1809. After WW1, in May 1926, Sir Richard Fitzgerald
Glyn was forced to sell most of the village due to financial problems.
Misc: Fontmell once had a 250-year-old Elm tree,
known as the ‘Gossip Tree’ , where villagers used to
gather. Sadly, the tree died of ‘Dutch Elm Disease’
and was cut down in 1976.
Fontmell Magna now has a women’s cricket team.
NB. Book of interest - ‘Fontmell in Retrospect’
by Ian Lawrence pub.1988 by Brambleton Press of Fontmell.