Notes from the Chair

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.



April Talk

Kathy Stearne will talk on the ‘Myth and Magic of Water Meadows.’  On 25th April. Kathy has worked in agriculture and conversation since 1980. She gained a Doctorate in Agricultural History and Ecological Management, entitled, ‘Conflict Compromise and Change, Water Meadows in the English Landscape 1600-2000 in 2004.’ Kathy currently runs a consultancy for land owners and farmers, advising on conservation, ecology and hydrology. She is currently involved with a survey of water meadows in the Upper Itchen and Test River catchments and the restoration of water meadows at Twyford near Winchester.


A Satisfied Customer

We receive regular enquires via our website from people looking for information, often connected with tracing an ancestor. One recent request was as follows:


I lived in Minterne Magna (so did my husband) for the first 46 years of my life, as did my parents parents-in-law and our grandparents. Before 1970, the year my father-in-law died, the BBC made a programme on the area. I have tried in vain to find a copy of this programme and wondered if your Society had any way of finding it as I would love to see both my father and father-in-law who spoke on the film.


Andrew was able to help and located the requested programme, prompting this response:

My husband watched the programme today as it was his birthday; he was totally surprised and couldn’t believe it. It actually showed his dad talking to the late Lord Digby in the corn field. He was the farm manager before his sudden death in 1970. There was also a shot of my husband driving the combine. My dad seemed to feature the most and it was so lovely to see him and hear him again as a it has been 25 years since he passed away. Our son and his family will be absolutely amazed. He never knew his grandfather but he was very close to my dad. Thank you and very best and grateful wishes.

Well done Andrew!


Dorset Archaeological Days

I have mentioned these previously. Dorset Council organises a programme of walks every year from May to September led by experts in their chosen subject. From car tours of churches with interesting stories to tell led by Gordon le Pard; walks through ancient landscapes;  seeking out the old parts of Dorset towns, there is something for all tastes and they are cheap, only £3 if you back in advance. To find this year’s programme just Google Dorset Archaeological Days. A leaflet of all the events is also produced, available from libraries. There is a walk to explore the ancient landscape around Sydling St. Nicholas on the morning of 30th June, which will give you time to nip back to Cerne for the Village Cricket Match.

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

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and  resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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