Notes from the Chair



1919 Celebrations

These are approaching with indecent haste. For every task which is completed, two more seem to take its place. Currently, a lot of feverish activity and creativity is directed towards producing material for the exhibition which is the centre-piece of our activities. This will run in the Church from 24th September to 5th October. Look for the flyer in the July parish magazine for further details of this and the other events taking place. We have a deadline to have all the information for the exhibition panels to John Fieldhouse, the graphic designer who is working on converting all this into an eye-catching display, by the end of June. We are also producing a booklet with details about each lot which will be available at the exhibition.

Village Cricket Match

Don’t forget, Sunday, 30th June is the opportunity for you to show off your period outfits at the cricket match. Hats, waistcoats, long dresses and suitable cricket attire will all make an appearance. This is where the action is so be there!

Command of the Seas Exhibition.

For those interested in the Napoleonic Wars and naval history in particular, there is a twelve-week exhibition entitled, ‘Command of the Seas: The Navy and the New Forest against Napoleon,’  which is running at St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, from 8th June until end of August. This and other events are being organised by Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society and the 1805 Club. They are happening now to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Admiral Cornwallis, who lived at Milford-on-Sea. The Admiral led a blockade of the French fleet in Brest and other ports which frustrated Napoleon’s plans to invade England. (My thanks to Mike Lindley for this information).

Our Next Talk – 27th June

Jane Ferentzi-Shepherd will be talking on: ‘Poverty and Migration in 19th Century Dorset.’ Jane says:

Poverty, bad living conditions, poor harvests and late enclosures made life very difficult for Dorset farmers and agricultural labourers in the 1800s and migration was often the only option. The talk will look at case studies of the people who left and where they went.

Jane has an MA in Local and Regional Studies from Bath Spa University and much of her research has been about migration from Dorset in the 1800s all over the world.

YouTube Recordings

As you may be aware, the Society has a number of recordings of some of our past talks and some of the interviews we have done with long-term residents of the area. We have recently become concerned about possible copyright issues surrounding the granting of public access to our audio-visual material via YouTube. This was highlighted by some measures recently taken by the Dorset History Centre to ensure they are not liable for any copyright infringement on material they gather. For the time being, we have removed general public access to our material until the position can be clarified. These recordings still exist but are hidden from public view. At the moment they can be accessed on request.

Larmer Tree Gardens

When I asked for an expression of interest in a visit to these gardens at our last meeting at Minterne House, a forest of hands shot up. It has proved difficult to organise a visit this year. The gardens are closed to the public for much of the summer to allow for the staging of two festivals which are  lucrative sources of income. Available Dates in the autumn are too near all the 1919 related activities, so the plan now is to make a visit in May. Further details in due course.

Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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




Cerne Abbas for Sale

It’s not too long now before the first event of the year to have a 1919 period flavour. This is the annual Village Cricket Match on the 30th June. The Cricket Club has entered enthusiastically into this and players are being encouraged to dress as they would have done at the time. This is an opportunity for the spectators to do the same. An appropriate long dress would suit for the ladies and the gentlemen might like to heed the sartorial comments contained within the Particulars of Sale for the auction. ‘The inhabitants long maintained a character of their own and the scarlet waistcoats and the peculiar cut of their whiskers for years distinguished the men of Cerne from their adjacent neighbours.’  Those gentlemen who wish to purchase a waistcoat will find several on-line sites where these can be purchased quite cheaply.


The Cricket Club is preparing a flyer which will appear with the June parish newsletter at the end of this month. This will contain more information about the match and will also include brief details of other events being planned for late September/early October. These are in addition to the launch of the exhibition on 24th September and the re-enactment of the sale on 28th September. Both of these will provide further opportunities for people to show off their period finery.


Last week, three of us visited Anthony Pitt-Rivers, the grandson of Alexander who commissioned the auction. He has agreed to say a few words to open the exhibition. He thought that reasons for selling off Cerne Abbas included that the Estate wished to consolidate their holdings. Cerne was an ‘outlier’, at some distance from the Family’s main holdings around Hinton St. Mary and the Rushmore Estate in north Dorset. Difficulty in finding tenants in this period immediately post the end of WW1 was also a consideration. More recently, Burton Bradstock and Okeford Fitzpaine, also owned by the Pitt-Rivers family, experienced a similar fate, the former in two chunks in 1951 and 1958 and the latter as late as 1966.


Next Meeting is at Minterne House 23 May

On 23rd May, Henry, Lord Digby has kindly invited the Society to Minterne House where he will describe the life of his aunt, Pamela. The clue to her life is in the name –  Digby/Churchill/Harriman. Members are welcome to arrive any time after 6.30pm for a walk around the grounds and the house will be open at 7pm with the talk starting at the usual time of 7.30pm. Please note that we will not be serving drinks on this occasion.

Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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





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.”


About the National Lottery Heritage Fund

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Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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