Notes from the Chair


Cerne Historical Society is delighted to announce that it has been awarded a grant of £6,700 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund towards the cost of this year’s centenary celebrations of the 1919 auction sale of Cerne Abbas by the Pitt-Rivers family. This generous grant, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, and supplemented by money raised within the village, will enable Cerne Abbas to put on an exhibition and a number of other memorable events to mark the centenary of a pivotal moment in the history of the village.


24th September  1919

On this date the Pitt-Rivers family, who had owned most of Cerne Abbas since 1705, put the village up for sale at auction. This took place at 1.30pm in Dorchester Town Hall and a total of £67,402 was raised from the 75 lots. The sale included houses, shops, farms, pubs and plots of land. Some lots were bought by the sitting tenant, some by other bidders.


24th September 2019

Cerne Historical Society will be staging a major exhibition in St Mary’s Church in the centre of Cerne Abbas for 12 days commencing at 1.30 pm on 24 September 2019, the exact centenary of the auction. Using the original sale particulars and plans, maps, newspaper articles, photos old and new and recent research carried out by members of the Society the exhibition will provide details of all the properties sold in the auction, those who lived in and purchased them. Other displays will provide details of the village’s farms, place of worship and pubs. Local schoolchildren will also provide displays.


28th September 2019

At 2pm a period re-enactment of the auction sale will take place in St Mary’s Church with a Dorchester auctioneer and an estate agent in the main roles and many residents in other roles.


Amongst other events planned are:


30th June 2019

The annual village cricket match which will have a 1919 period theme with a band and sideshows.


10th August 2019

The village Horticultural Society Annual Show will similarly have a period flavour.


24th September to 6th October 2019

There will also be a number of other events and concerts between , the details of which will be released later.


All parts of the community, including  children and the elderly, are being encouraged to take part in the project, the aim of which is to make all the inhabitants of Cerne Abbas aware of the fascinating history of the village and to encourage them to carry out further research into its history and heritage.


Commenting on the award the Historical Society Chair, Mike Clark, said “We are thrilled to receive this support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund which will enable us to properly commemorate this major event in our village history.”


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1919 Sale Commemorations

We should be able to let you know the outcome of our application to the National Lottery fairly soon but there are some events which will take place whatever the outcome. The first of these will be the Village Cricket Match on the 30th June. This will have an Edwardian theme and the players will be dressed appropriately. There will be a band and stalls to contribute towards the festive atmosphere. A quiz evening to raise funds towards the staging of the match will take place at the New Inn on the evening of 14th April, starting at 6.30pm. Teams of four to six people can join the fun. To book your place, please contact the New Inn. A quiz supper will also be available.

April Talk

On 25th April, Kathy Stearne will give a talk on ‘The myth and magic of water meadows.’ These were areas of grassland subject to controlled irrigation to increase agricultural productivity. They were mainly used from the 16th to the early 20th centuries. In Cerne Abbas we have a complex water system at Barton Farm which was only uncovered a few years ago. Kathy, who is an expert on the subject, will describe the historical background together with an explanation of the science behind why water meadows were so successful for over 400 years. Later in the spring there will be an opportunity to visit the Cerne water meadow with some of the village group who have been restoring and managing the area.

Programme planning

Each year, the Society stages eight talks and we pride ourselves on maintaining a generally high standard. We would like your help to maintain this. Some of you may know of a speaker you have heard elsewhere who would be suitable for us to consider. You may be a member who is hiding their light under a bushel and has a topic on which you would be prepared to talk. The only criteria is that topics should have a Dorset connection. This is occasionally waived if a member has a particularly interesting historical subject on which they are knowledgeable. To help with our planning, in the next few days, you will be sent a link to ‘SurveyMonkey’ where you will find a short on-line questionnaire which you can complete.  One question will ask for your preferences as to the historical periods which are of the most interest to you. To assist with the question on your favourite past speakers you will find a list specially compiled by John Chalker here, on this site.  If you could take a couple of minutes to complete this, it will help in the planning of our 2020 programme and beyond. For those not on-line, you will receive a paper copy which you could return to me at 20 Duck Street. We have a small programme sub-group. If you would like join it, do let me know. It doesn’t have to be members of the Committee who are on this. Thank you for your help.

Society Membership

If you have not re-joined the Society this year you will not be able to continue receiving these notes as they are designed for members only. The best way to do so is at any meeting during the year. Talks are always held on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7.30pm in the Village Hall.

Mike Clark, Chair CHS

You can get in touch with Mike via the Contact Us form on this site.


February 2019

History Centre Workshop: Monday 11th March 9.15 to 1.00

I have just received the following details from Jacqui Halewood, Senior Archivist, of a workshop organised by the Dorset History Centre, on which they are offering us several places. If you are interested in going, please contact me as soon as possible on and NOT Gill Dillistone, the sender of my Chairman’s Chat. You could choose to attend either or both the morning and afternoon session. Places will be offered on a first come, first served basis. The costs of the workshop can be met from Society funds.

See below for a programme for the Cataloguing and Preservation Workshop that we are holding on Monday 11th March 9.15 to 1.00 along with an optional afternoon palaeography session.  These sessions are aimed at Local History Groups such as Cerne who hold archives.  Whilst we would always recommend that archives are best stored and made accessible here at DHC, we recognise that some groups have archives that they want to work with and so we have devised this workshop to provide advice on how best to catalogue and preserve the archives for the future, which might also include deposit at DHC in the fullness of time.  In addition, if you are working with documents, an opportunity to learn about reading old handwriting may be of help.

We will be making a charge for this workshop of £10 per head for the morning session and £5 per head for the afternoon.  I am offering places for this date to another group as well but would be able to offer Cerne up to 7 places in the morning and 5 in the afternoon.

Archive Cataloguing and Preservation Workshop

        Lecture Room – Dorset History Centre

9.15        Arrival

9.30        Introduction to DHC and the training session

9.40        Principles of cataloguing – Mark Forrest, Collections Archivist

This session will include a demonstration of cataloguing common types of documents and what information should be recorded to ensure that items can be easily identified for future consultation. There will be a practical exercise to try to put some of these principles into practice.

11.00     Break

11.15    How to preserve archives – Jenny Barnard, Conservation Officer

This session will include information on the types of damage that documents suffer, including attacks by pests. Guidance will be given on document handling and the environmental conditions that are required for documents to be preserved in the future. There will also be a practical demonstration of the types and use of packaging to protect historic documents.

12.30   Questions and optional tour of DHC

We plan to have only 30 minutes break so please bring along something for lunch, or there is a mini Sainsburys 5 minutes walk up the road.

Possible additional session

1.30 – 3.00      Palaeography for beginners (Mainly 17th to 18th Century handwriting)

February Talk

The first talk in our 2019 programme will be on 28th February. As an introduction to our activities later this year to celebrate the centenary of the sale of the village by the Pitt-Rivers family, Adrian Green, director of Salisbury Museum, will be giving a talk on the life of General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers. He is often called the ‘Father of British Archaeology.’ An army officer for most of his life, the General retired in 1882 and in the following year embarked on a series of excavations of pre-historic Roman and Saxon sites on the family estate in Wiltshire. His large-scale excavations were models of organisation and painstaking care where some of the underlying principles of archaeology were developed.

His son, William Augustus was the head of the family at the time of our village sale in 1919. William’s grandson, Anthony is the present head of the family. He and his wife Valerie, live at Hinton St. Mary in the manor house which for four centuries has been the property of the Pitt-Rivers family and their predecessors.

1919 Centenary

We expect to hear from the Heritage Lottery Fund whether our bid for funds to support our celebratory activities this year, has been successful, within the next few weeks. A condition imposed by the Lottery when considering whether to award funds, is that the project must not have started. All of our scheduled activities are for later in the year and we are currently firming up on some of our plans and  will be able to give further details when the funding position is clearer.

Society membership

If you have not re-joined for this year, you may do so at any meeting. If you decide not to re-join, please let us know so we can remove your name from our distribution list to receive this newsletter.

Mike Clark, Chair CHS

You can get in touch with Mike via the Contact Us form on this site.