Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Wee Toon by the River


Wareham is indeed a 'wee toon,' with a long history.  Two main roads divide the town into four quarters and a few very tight roads run off from these.  This river crossing point lies at the far end of the great sweeping inland bay of Poole Harbour, between the rivers Frome & Piddle. A local brewery produces a variety of beers under the name 'Piddle' you may wish to know.
People have dwelt in this area for almost ten thousand years, Stone Age Man's flints soon became bronze then iron tools and when the Romans came they found this an ideal spot to land their ships and create a small settlement as they determined to occupy this land.  Later the Saxons built a turf wall, Alfred the Great in the 9th century may have been responsible as the Danes were then threatening everyone.  The fighting continued, as it does in England, King Canute trashed the town, some time later during the civil war (the 12th century one) more royals caused conflict here.  The Normans of course arrived as a kind of peace keeping force, they forced a peace and kept everything they saw!  The river however silted up and what had become a useful port saw its trade depart to the more approachable town of Poole itself, trade however continued for locals until the railway arrived in Victorian days.  
The English civil war saw Parliament and Royalist forces bashing one another in the town, Cromwell knocking the remaining walls and anything else he didn''t like down, during the Monmouth rebellion the town took the wrong side as did much of Dorset and the famous Judge Jeffrey's, the 'Hanging Judge,' held his 'Bloody Assizes' here and watched folks being hanged, drawn and quartered on the remains of the walls.  Cheerful lad he was.  Much of the town was rebuilt with Purbeck limestone from up the road after a disastrous fire in the 1700's and some nice houses remain.  During the Great War the town became a garrison town hosting 7000 soldiers nearby and Bovington Camp was established up the road in the 1920's.
You can tell I visited the small museum!


As we wandered around this locked church, 'St Martin's on the Wall,'we found it sadly locked, the key was available from a nearby shop but 'Harry,' as I shall call him, claimed the man with the key would not be there. 'Harry' came up to us as we looked at the building and gave us his version of the churches history, this had interesting points, which he obviously did not like contradicted, and we let him talk.  People like this often come into the museum and we must listen to their stories as such aged citizens do have memories and info regarding the local area well worth hearing.  However checking his facts is always a good idea. St Martin on the Wall, it does indeed stand upon the wall, is an original Saxon church made in stone and well worth a look inside, which we did not manage!  
However it is a wonderful church as these pictures of the Church reveal, I suggest you browse these.



As the old folks slept in the car I visited the very small but well laid out museum, free entry but pay 50p if you wish to take a photo - I declined - and wandered to the quay.  On the way I passed the 'Black Bear Hotel' with the Black Bear standing on the veranda awaiting guests.  Figures such as these, as you know, were used in times past to identify buildings for those, the majority, who could not read.  It is possible the bear was at one time a real bear as bear baiting was a popular pastime in days of yore, although not with the bears I am told.

      
While she wandered about Sainsburys we helped by wandering around 'Lady St Mary Church.'  They are proud of the 'Lady' bit in the name.  It appears the Celts built a church here way back when and the Saxons enlarged or replaced this, the Benedictines in the 12th century built a Priory next door to the church and once more enlarged the building emphasising their importance and wealth. Since then it has been much amended over the years (Not least by Cromwell who smashed up a lot of it).  The small 'St Edwards Chapel' pictured is probably part of the original building.  St Edward became a teenage King in the year 975 which did not please some nobles and his half brother Ethelred.  Edward was murdered at Corfe and his body lay in the church for two years when he was taken to Shaftesbury.  Tales of miracles made him a martyr (this bringing pilgrims and their cash) and somehow his bones now lie in a Russian Orthodox Church in Brookwood Cemetery near Woking.  His usefulness as martyr ended with the Reformation.

 

Graffiti in the 7th or 8th century appears to have been done by folks armed with chisels.  On the left 'Catgug son of Gideon' is written (as you know 'Catgug' is 'Cadogan' in modern Welsh). 'Congorie' probably a latinised version of 'Gongor' appears a century or so later.  Proving the 'Britons' of the day continued to live here for some time after the Saxon invasion but most were forced into Wales where many still reside.  This is a lovely impressive church but as 'Harry' appeared to continue lecturing we passed him on to a student from the local university studying the Reformation and ran for the door.
The student may still be there listening...


Hunger forced us from the town and we found a place to eat our sandwiches while deer posed for photographers who passed by heading for a tramp over the heath.  What the tramp thought about this is not known.  We ought to have gone their also but age time was catching up with us and we headed for home.  Such a small town is Wareham but with a long, quite varied and violent history.  English towns often are!  This one built on a landing area brought many invaders and defenders to the area.  It was a gateway to the south west and Corfe Castle was built up the road in an effort to block the path of strangers passing along.  A castle was built here but we were unable to visit the few remains, only a mound is now seen apparently and that in private land.




Some locals.


6 comments:

Lee said...

Thank you for a very interesting post, Mr. Ad-Man...a wonderful history lesson told in a manner unique unto you. :)

I love those locals of both the hairy kind (I mean the deer, not you, my dear) and the feathered variety.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Excellent account.

Jenny Woolf said...

Nice to see this look at Wareham. I have been there a couple of times lately and didn't see all the stuff you saw. Thank you!

Adullamite said...

Lee, Ah the deer, they run about the roads down there scaring drivers and the seagulls just want fed. A bit like me...

Jerry, One account paid up...

Jenny, I only saw the one north south road and the churches. There is more in the wee place. We will be back.

the fly in the web said...

I enjoyed that account very much....a pity you didn't take up teaching.
Sounds as if the town's monument need a 'Beware of Harry' sign...

Adullamite said...

Fly, Teaching? Wot with kids...? Ugh!