Next talk 24th October

There is life after all the 1919 activities and this resumes when Steve White gives a talk on the White Horse at Osmington in the usual village hall venue. Steve writes:  “As far as the White Horse is concerned, I started to compile an article for Dorset Life in 2008 as this was exactly 200 years after it was carved.  Whilst researching, it transpired that a group was being formed to restore the monument and I was recruited as the research historian.”


1919 Centenary

It’s all over now and time to draw breath. We had 1,520 visitors to the exhibition which exceeded expectations and sold over 700 of the Guide booklets. The modest special exhibition price of the Guides has come to an end and further copies can now be bought from Cerne Abbas Stores for £5. The reaction to the exhibition and to all the events has been very positive. Referring to the exhibition, even Dave Fox was moved to write, ‘not bad at all.’ High praise indeed. There will be further feedback in due course when the organisers have re-charged their batteries.


Archaeological Dowsing

Some of you will have attended a talk by Peter Emery as part of the Giant Festival earlier this year. On 30th October at 7.30pm in the village hall, Peter will be giving a slide presentation on his quest to locate the Cerne Benedictine Abbey Church and associated buildings. Using archaeological dowsing techniques, Peter has produced a plan to show the location of all the Abbey complex. The exact location of this has hitherto been difficult to confirm so it will be intriguing to listen to what Peter has to say. He has made his own arrangements for this talk as it is not a Historical Society event. Admission is £4 on the door and all proceeds will go to the Little Hearts Matter charity.





All things 1919

The next ‘Notes’ in October will be looking back on what we hope will be a successful programme of activities. Those events requiring tickets were ‘sold’ out within a day or two of becoming available.


If you are planning to come to the opening of the exhibition next Tuesday, please be at the Church before 1.30pm so we can start the formal short opening proceedings precisely at the moment that the auction of the village began 100 years ago.


As you know, the Re-enactment is not ticketed and is looking to be popular. This will be a promenade performance to use the jargon, which means that most of the audience will be required to stand although there will be limited seating for those needing it.


The talk on the artist Joseph Benwell Clark does not need a ticket so just turn up to the Church on 26th September for 7.30pm. JBC was born in Cerne Abbas in 1857, moved to London as a young man but returned to Cerne in 1920 to live on Abbey Street until his death in 1938. He kept a fascinating journal, extracts from which relating to his later years in Cerne will be read by Jonathan Still. This will be interwoven around an account of his life described by Peter Clark, one of the present-day Clark family.


BBC Radio Solent will have a radio car here for their breakfast show on the 24th. This will be stationed somewhere near the Church or the school. The aim is to chat to people at around 7.40, 8.05 and 8.25. Some children from the school will be participating but anybody who wants to come down and contribute to the programme will be very welcome.


The Chalking of the Giant

All part of the same story as Alexander Pitt-Rivers gave the Giant to the National Trust the year after the auction of the village. Some statistics as provided by Natalie Holt, the NT Countryside  Manager for West and North Dorset after the recent work:

                329 individuals involved, giving 1818 hours between them, equivalent to 242 working days.

                17.5 tonnes of chalk shovelled, carried and compacted, chalking 460 metres of outline.

                520 slices of cake consumed in the process – supplied by Nicola from Abbots, well done!


Resumption of Normal Service

Just to flag up that we return back to our usual programme of talks in the village hall on the 24th October to hear about the other Dorset hill carving, the Osmington White Horse.




Lottery Grant

Cerne Historical Society 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 grant, supplemented by money raised within the village has enabled the Society to put on an Exhibition to mark the centenary of this pivotal moment in the history of the village.

On September 24th 1919 the Pitt-Rivers family, which 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 73 lots. The sale included houses, shops, farms, pubs and plots of land. Some lots were bought by the sitting tenant, some by other bidders.


There will be a major exhibition in St Mary’s Church in the centre of Cerne Abbas from 25th September 2019 to 4th October daily, except for the 28th September, from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.


Using the original sale particulars and plans, maps, newspaper articles, photos old and new and recent research carried out by members of the Historical Society this fascinating exhibition takes you back in time to witness the history of one Dorset village just after World War One. The exhibition will provide details of all the properties sold in the auction and those who lived in and purchased them. Other displays will give more information on the background to the Sale, why the Pitt-Rivers family chose to sell at this point, plus a history and snapshot of the village as it was at this period. In addition, local schoolchildren will  display the results of a photographic project and other work.


Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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