We were recently approached, via the website, by a lady who wrote as follows: 

“My name is Joyce Squire and I live in Bookham, Surrey.  I have recently been sorting through interesting letters and documents which I have collected over many years.  In the early 1990s, when dealing with the affairs of Dorothy Read, an elderly relative, I came across a letter written to her by her great friend, Jeanie Parker.  They were both teachers and Jeanie, who I believe taught at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School at Acton, had been evacuated, along with 60 pupils and five staff, to Giant View at Cerne Abbas.  Jeanie describes the very basic conditions , the kindness of the local people and the imminent removal of the whole group to Dorchester.  Although the children were content in dormitories and enjoyed being together, Jeanie was not keen to face winter in such Spartan conditions.  You will probably know Giant View – Jeanie said it had been a workhouse and had become a youth hostel before opening its doors to the evacuees.

Everyone who sees Jeanie’s letter finds it fascinating so I am sure it will be of great interest to Cerne Historical Society.  Once you have seen [a copy of the letter], you may like to suggest what I might do with the original.  My sister in law lives in Somerset and we often visit Dorset while staying with her.  If the original letter could find a wider readership by coming to you or a local museum, I would happily arrange to deliver it in due course.”

There have been several exchanges of e-mails and we have been sent a copy of this letter, written in September 1939, which is the only one remaining from what may have been a regular correspondence. It refers to the friendliness of the Cerne community which contrasted with the grim conditions at Giant’s View. Joyce visited Cerne on 27th April and visited Casterbridge Manor. She brought the original of the letter with her. After taking copies, it will be lodged in the Dorset History Centre. Mione Fox, who was in the village at the time the letter was written, was invited to come along.  



April 2016

From Mike Clarke (Chairman) 

  • Visit to Milton Abbas
    The fairly recently formed village Historical Society has invited us to a talk and guided tour of their village on Tuesday 17th May. This was finalised too late to appear on our printed programme for this year. We will meet in the Reading Room (middle of the Alms Houses) at 6.15 pm for an introductory talk of around 30 minutes. This will be followed by a walking tour lasting about an hour. Finally, we will return to the Reading Room for tea and biscuits. The maximum number of people they can manage is 25 so I will take people on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to come on what promises to be an interesting visit, please contact me by e-mail (preferably)
    or phone. Please let me know how many people in your group and whether you can offer a lift by car, or would require a lift. I have suggested that people would be willing to make a donation to something in their village.
  • The Yetminster History Society hosted a talk on Benjamin Jesty, the smallpox vaccination pioneer and resident of Yetminster who died on April 16th 1816. Titled ‘Bicentenary Review’ by Patrick Read the talk was held on Saturday April 16th in the Jubilee Hall, Yetminster. 
  • Magna Carta talk
    On 28th April, David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London and an expert on C13th England gave a talk on ‘The copy of the 1225 Magna Carta in the Cartulary of Cerne Abbey.’ This described the connection between the book of Cerne and the Magna Carta. Copies of Professor Carpenter’s 2015 book, Magna Carta, were on sale.
  • Chalke Valley History Festival
    Last year I went for the first time to this event held just this side of Salisbury and about an hour’s drive from here. I was astonished at the range and quality of speakers appearing on the programme. It is a festival of talks, exhibitions and displays, this year held between 27th June to 3rd July. The list of speakers is a Who’s Who from the worlds of history and broadcasting and includes: Professors Niall Ferguson and Sir Barry Cunliffe, Melvyn Bragg, Peter Mandelson, Ian Hislop, Dan Snow, Alice Roberts and Michael Wood. A full programme will be available on-line shortly and bookings can be made from the end of the month, so why not get together with friends and take a car load?


What’s in a name?
A recently launched beer from the Cerne Abbas Brewery bears the name ‘Tiger Tom’ named by Vic Irvine after a former Cerne blacksmith and farrier, ‘Tiger Tom’ Curtis who was a colourful Cerne resident and one of a long family line to ply their trade at the forge on Mill Lane. He was described as a ‘girt, square hairy man,’ in the book on Cerne Abbas by A.O. Gibbons. There is a picture of him on page 136 in the book on Cerne Abbas by Patricia and Vivian Vale which supports this description.  Tom Curtis, a descendant of Tiger Tom and living in Weymouth, unknown even to Dave Fox, saw this beer advertised and contacted Vic. This led to an obligatory supping of the aforementioned ale with Tom, Vic, Dave, vicar Jonathan, (spiritual adviser to the brewers), Patricia Vale, John Killinger and myself. 

Dorset Archaeological Days

Many people may not be aware that the Archaeological section of Dorset County Council run a series of guided walks to sites of archaeological and historical interest throughout the County during the summer months. Under the heading, ‘Dorset Archaeological Days,’ and usually lasting no more than half a day, they only cost £3 and are led by experts in their field. I have done quite a number over the years and can recommend them as you directly experience what the leader is describing. A leaflet is published in the spring listing the walks for that year and is available from libraries and tourist information centres. Alternatively, details can be found by looking on-line under
and following the links under leisure and culture.