This section of the website is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Litton Cheney. The intention is to form an archive of any historic matter which is relevant to the village and its people.Material will be gratefully received from any source, with a view to preserving it before it is lost forever and making it available to as wide an audience as possible. This may be in the form of photographs, hand written material, verbal anecdotes, references to published material for which official right to publish can be obtained, etc.Early HistoryThe origins of Litton Cheney go back to the Iron Age and Romano-British settlements. The best evidence for this comes from the excavation of Pins Knoll by C. J. (Jack) Bailey, a former headmaster of Thorners School, at various times between 1958 and 1974.Pins Knoll is a flat topped spur jutting out into the Bride Valley at the top of Chalk Pit Lane. Excavations showed that a settlement, dating from the early Iron Age, had occupied the site for nearly a thousand years. Pottery finds ranged from the red-coated wares of the first Iron Age, through the typical black vessels of the Durotriges to the black burnished coarse ware and fine imported pottery of the Roman period.Other finds included wheat grains, animal bones, stone loom weights, sling stones and the vertebra of a whale. Evidence of the Roman Occupation included coins, pottery and brooches.Of particular note is a coin attributed to the German king Lothaire II (855-69). More detailshere.The earliest documentary records of the Bride Valley date from 987 AD, when it was named as a religious offshoot of Cerne Abbey. Few records exist from this date until the extensive detail provided by the Domesday Survey of 1086. This shows that the parish of Lideton, which contained the village we now know as Litton Cheney, consisted of three distinct parts. An isolated area north of Oscherwille (now Askerswell), shown in parish records as Loderland, reached as far as Eggardon Hill. To the south a triangle formed by Parks Farm, Gorwell and Ashley stretched from the River Bride to the boundary with the parish of Abedsberie (now Abbotsbury). The central section stretched from the River Bride northwards to the Roman road linking Dorchester and Bridport. These boundaries remained much the same until 1889 when the basis of those we know today was established.The 13th and 14th CenturiesThe village is not specifically mentioned in the Domesday record, but was certainly well established by then and may well be the unnamed manor of 10 hides in the Hundred Uggescombe, listed under the lands of Hugo de Boscherbert. The name probably has its origin in the Old English ‘hylde’, meaning a fast running stream and ‘ton’, a farm or manor. By the 13th century the manor was known variously as Lideton or Ludeton but by the 14th century the name Litton had evolved.Around 1236 the manor was purchased by the de Gorges family from Normandy. The manor house was most likely where the Court House is today - the banks of its fishponds can still be seen in Court Close. In 1304 one of the de Gorge grandsons was granted a weekly market at the manor of Lideton, Co. Dorset and a yearly fair was held there on the Virgil and Feast of the Nativity and six days following (7th-14thSeptember). In 1316 the manor is referred to as Lutton Gorge.After 1339 the de Gorge family found themselves without a male heir so, over several generations, the manor was divided up until it was eventually split between Sir Morys Russell of Kingston Russell and Sir Ralph Cheney. They agreed to share the advowson of the church but Sir Ralph became owner of the demesne manor. Thus, from then on, it was known as Litton Cheney – it could so easily have been Litton Russell!The 15th,16th and 17th CenturiesBy the time of Queen Elizabeth the 1st, the old divisions of the de Gorges manor are still evident. The Prowtes occupied the farm and manor house; the rest of the land being held by the Hodders and Hurdings. By the end of the 16th century, however, the Hurdings, who lived in Long Bredy, had taken over the manor, letting it out to various tenants right through to the beginning of the 18th century.The 18th,19th and 20th CenturiesIn 1712 the Hurding’s property was bought by George Richards of Long Bredy. With the manor went the right to present to the church so his grandson became the parson at Litton. With the death of the Rev. John Richards in 1803 the whole of the Richard’s property was sold. Litton was bought to be divided up into smaller units and re-sold to create smaller farms.The manor was now reduced to 130 acres and this, together with the rights and privileges that went with it, was bought by the Rev. James Cox. Thus, he and his son John, both rectors at Litton, were the last traditional lords of the manor.At this time the Court House went with Court Farm, which had been formed out of the old manor lands. Job Legg who, at the end of the 1700s, was the tenant of it under the Richards family, bought 370 acres and with them the old Court House. Today’s Court House was built by one of his descendants, Benjamin Legg, on the site of the old one which was destroyed by fire around 1860.Since then all the farms except one have disappeared with much changing of owners, re-distribution of fields and housing development so that today there is no dominant landowner.
OBJECTIVE OF ARCHIVE
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Litton Cheney like this: LITTON-CHENEY, a village and a parish in Bridport district, Dorset. The village stands 4 miles SE of Powerstock r. station, and 5½ E by S of Bridport; was once a market-town; and has a post office under Dorchester. The parish contains also the hamlets of Nether Coombe, Higher Egerton, Ashby, and Stancombe. Acres, 3,817. Real property, £ 4,713. Pop., 501. Houses, 99. The property is divided among a few. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £800.* Patron, Exeter College, Oxford. The church is ancient and good, with a tower; and contains an ancient font, a monument of the Dewberry family, and several brasses. There are an endowed school with £25 a year, and charities £7.
Diameter 15 mm Weight 0-73 gm. Die-axis 90°The coin is illustrated here by greatly enlarged photographs of plaster-casts, and it is thought to be unlikely in the extreme that any will wish seriously to challenge the following interpretation of the legends. The find-spot and the circumstances of discovery are sufficiently indicated in the following note which we owe to the kindness of Mr C. J. Bailey of The School House, Litton Cheney, who actually found the coin in the course of archaeological excavation.“Trial excavation of the relatively flat area of Pins Knoll above the lynchets was carried out in 1959 when the site was established as that of an 'open farm' of the Early Iron Age with a possible continuation into the Romano-British period. It was discovered and established by the writer in time to be included on the Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Further work this year has confirmed that occupation continued at least until A.D. 350. The coin was found at a depth of eighteen inches and a few inches above the 'fall ' layer associated with a Romano-British building tentatively dated A.D. 300. Subsequent disturbance has made stratification difficult, but a section at a point near where the coin was found suggests a relatively shallow build-up in post-Roman times underlying a deeper layer resulting from medieval ploughing. One finds it difficult, therefore, to divorce the coin from early cultivation of the lynchets, although today no other material has been found which might be in any way associated with it. The coin was excavated personally by the writer and the most striking thing would seem to have been its extraordinary good state of preservation. It hardly needed washing.”From the above it should be clear that the circumstances of the coin's discovery, though seeming to establish authenticity beyond all cavil, throw little light upon the problem of its attribution. It can be said, though, that there is a presumption that such an obolus belongs to a ninth-century Lothaire rather than to one of the tenth-century princes of the same name. As is well known, a feature of post-Alfredian legislation was its insistence that foreign money should not circulate within the dominions of the English king, and more than one recent paper has stressed just how few are the tenth and eleventh century coins from the Continent that can be fairly associated with finds from the English kingdom proper. The fabric of the new obolus, too, is one that cries out for a ninth-century attribution and for a place of minting north of the Alps, and we ourselves have no hesitation whatever in assigning the coin to the German king Lothaire II (855-69), while the greater probability is that the mint is to be identified as Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). Even denarii of this king and mint are notably rare and the obolus was hitherto unknown. However, we should observe that this would not seem to be the first time that coins of the king have been recorded with an English provenance. How the obolus from Pin's Knoll arrived in England and how it came to be lost on a lynchet in the vicinity of the, as yet precisely to be identified, site of the Alfredian burh in ‘Brydian' are questions to which answers may never be given.