1919 Village Sale Centenary Celebrations

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.

Notes from the Chair

As September comes ever closer, the various events to mark the 1919 Sale Centenary are taking shape. Look for more details with the next parish magazine in mid-August which will also contain information on how to obtain tickets for some of the events. Admission to all events and the exhibition will be free but we need to have some idea and control on numbers. All will be explained in the flyer accompanying the newsletter.

The Exhibition

We need Historical Society members to volunteer to take a turn at stewarding the exhibition. We are going to offer tea/coffee to visitors who would like some refreshment and will be selling cakes produced by Abbots and we would like the stewards to help with that. There is enough of interest to keep visitors occupied for some time. Visitors with a long connection to the village may be stimulated to comment on or add to the information displayed, so they need to be encouraged to sit down and talk.

Throughout August, there will be a purple coloured loose leaf A4 ring binder in the Church for volunteer stewards to complete. This will be situated on the table towards the middle of the nave near the visitors book. Each date of the exhibition opening will be divided into time slots of 2 or 3 hours. Ideally, we would like 3 stewards at any one time, so please volunteer for as many as you wish. There will be a briefing session for stewards in the late afternoon of the 23rd September, the day before the launch, when the exhibition will be in place so you will have a preview.

Content for the exhibition is now almost complete and is being translated into a series of display panels by John Fieldhouse, the graphic designer who has been working with us for several months now. From some of the finished results, this will look eye-catching and full of fascinating facts and insights. In addition, we are producing a guide booklet to the sale.  With this, people will be able to walk around the village and locate most of the lots from the sale as they are today and find out who bought each lot and for how much. They will be assisted in this through a small blue plaque bearing the lot number which we are asking current owners if they will be willing to display in a window for the 12 days  of the exhibition.

Re-enactment of the sale.

As you will know by now, this is taking place on 28th September and is being organised by Helen Hewitt who has written a script to give some shape to the proceedings, although there will be a certain amount of creative ad-libbing by some of the participants!  A number of lots will be bid for under the direction of Garry Batt. Helen needs two extra men to have a non-speaking role where all that is required at the appropriate time is for them to raise a card as part of the bidding. You will be expected to be appropriately attired, which we can help with. To volunteer and for more information, please contact Helen on 341950   Two rehearsals are being organised by Helen for the key participants in the re-enactment.

5th October Concert

The final event to wind up the whole celebration will be a concert of music, songs, verse and prose. The musical side is being organised by Raelene Stanley-Ware with Nicola and David Price and there will be audience participation. If you have a favourite piece of poetry or prose from the period that could be included, please let me know.

Agricultural and Garden Implements needed

We are already following up a couple of lines of enquiry, but if you have hidden in your garage, or know of anybody who has old garden or agricultural tools or machinery dating from the early C20th, please let me know if you are willing to loan them for a few days. Similarly, with any vintage vehicle to lend an atmosphere of authenticity to the key events.

The Village Cricket Match and CASH Show

The players and many spectators paraded their early 20th Century period finery at the Annual Village Match. The NOW ladies looked colourful and spectacular in their home-made hats. A thank you to the Cricket Club for entering into the spirit of the occasion and to those who organised the afternoon which was blessed with perfect weather. The next opportunity for people to show off their outfits will be the Horticultural Society Annual Show on 10th August.

Mike Clark, Chair CHS

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