Estates of the Cranborne Chase are steeped in history

February 21, 2013

Main street @ Cranborne

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY: Looking towards the centre of Cranborne,  the village stores is on the right in front of the pub the Sheaf of Arrows.

Wimborne St Giles

                                 BYGONE ERA: The parish church of St Giles in Wimborne St Giles. The attached alms houses date back to 1624.


HAVING lived in East Dorset for nearly five years, I have never taken the trouble to visit the Cranborne Chase.

Well last week I took a half day off work and wandered into Verwood for my first ever visit there and having driven through this picturesque small town, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty seemingly fused into my orbit. I’m really glad I’ve taken the trouble.

Wimborne St Giles and Cranborne are part of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is the sixth largest AONB in the country and covers 379 square miles. It includes parts of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire.

Wimborne St Giles lies seven miles north of Wimborne Minster and rests within the Shaftesbury Estate.

The seat of the Shaftesbury Estate is Giles House, the ancestral home of the Ashley –Cooper family. The estate covers 5,500 acres. The house and grounds covers 400 acres and includes an estate lake and 1,000 avenue of beech trees. The house has been with the family since the fifteenth century.

Despite its small population of around 366 people (according to the 2001 census), it boasts a parish church, a post office, a village hall and a primary school.

Local businesses include the Bull Inn local pub; commercial shooting, a trout farm and fly fishing on the River Allen

The village is referred to as St Giles in the Doomesday Book and the current name was given to it when All Hallows and St Giles parishes were merged at the insistence of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury.

Four miles down the road is Cranborne, a village that lies at the heart of the Cranborne estate. The farmland and woodland of the estate are farmed with sustainable and traditional methods. Cranborne Manor is the home of Viscount Cranborne, the eldest son of the 7th Marquess of Salisbury. According to the 2001 census, there was a population of 779.

The village is also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Cranborne Manor was said to have been originally a hunting lodge founded by Henry VIII.

In the 10th Century a knight called Haylward Snew formed a Benedictine community that was a parent house to a religious foundation at Tewkesbury. This arrangement lasted for 100 years.

When Robert Fitz Hamon enlarged the church at Tewkesbury, Cranborne Abbey was turned into a priory under the jurisdiction of Tewkesbury until its dissolution in 1540.

The estate has planted 10 miles of hedges in recent years and wildlife corridors have been introduced on the edges of fields and against water courses.

I purchased some of the venison sausages and local bacon from the Dorset Larder at the Cranborne Stores and am looking forward to using these local ingredients. Game is sold through the stores when it is in season. The game is a bi-product of the wildlife management carried out on the estate. The staff, at the stores on the corner of Wimborne Road and The Square, were very welcoming.

The stores is a former bakery and as well as supplying fresh game, pork and beef, they have a pre-packed delicatessen counter offers a delicious selection of English cheeses, home-baked pies, sumptuous terrines, cold meats and antipasti.

Cranborne Manor Garden Centre lies within manor’s old walled garden and it specialises in clematis, roses, herbaceous plants and shrubs, seasonal bedding and house plants, seeds and bulbs.

The estate’s clerks of works heads a team of joiners and maintenance staff who carry out various duties from minor repairs to major refurbishment projects.



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