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Saturday, 23 July 2022

Osmington Graveyard

By Jack Akin

The graveyard in Osmington is a mournful place, but is also a place where the lives of Osmington's most beloved people are celebrated and their impacts and the work they did on the village will not be forgotten as they forever helped Osmington become a joyous and wonderful place.


Pictured here are three crosses - the Foot family memorials.

The graveyard is placed looking over the village, with the sun forever shining down on the tombstones like a beacon of hope reminding everyone of the soldiers who gave their lives fighting for their home or the admirable people who helped Osmington become a beautiful place to visit.

A great deal of effort has been put into managing the graveyard so that it is not a place of sorrow, but a place to cherish the history and memories of those who helped make Osmington the place we know today.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Mary Kempe


Many people who know the village of Osmington, will also know long-standing resident Mary Kempe. She lived in the village for forty-seven years and her family had owned land in the village since the 1700’s. She described it as a special place, and though she had travelled the world extensively in her 91 years, she always considered Osmington to be home.

“I like this place enormously; I love this place. I think it’s beautiful country. I have a sort of sense of responsibility about the place because of my history. I want to see it remain as a strong community. I think communities are very important and this has been a very good and strong community. I’ve been very fortunate and very privileged to be associated with this place. I’m always so pleased to see youngsters in the village and a family living in a house. I like a well-balanced community”.

Mary’s ancestry paid a huge part in the formation of modern Osmington. Following the dissolution of the monasteries by the Tudors, Elizabeth I gave the manor of Osmington (including Osmington mills) to Sir John Ashley, whose wife, was the Queen’s governess.

The farm in Osmington was given to Sir John Watkins by Elizabeth I and then passed to Lord Petry and then to the Sheldons’ of Warwickshire. Daniel Sheldon in 1695 sold his lands to Awnsham Churchill, a bookseller in the reign of Queen Anne. He owned land in Osmington, Ringstead and Poxwell.

Osmington then passed through the Churchill family to William Churchill Esq of Henbury. He decided to sell the farm to Mr Hitt of Beaminster. This became known as Hitt’s farm and remained a separate entity from the rest of the manor.  Latterly, William Churchill sold the rest of the village lands to Robert Serrell Wood in 1745.

Robert Serrell Wood I was Mary Kempe’s 3 x great Grandfather. The son of Robin Wood and Elizabeth Serrell from Broadmayne, he was born at Osmington house, which at that time was a Tudor building at the bottom of Roman road in the village. It is this house that John Constable painted in his well-known view of the village.

Robert Serrell Wood I had a son Robert Serrell Wood II who after studying for his MA at Oxford, became the Vicar of Maidstone. Reverend Robert Serrell WOOD II married Caroline Bray (1789-1812) of Tavistock. Her brother Edward Atkyns Bray married Anna Elisa KEMPE, she was an accomplished novelist and friend of Wordsworth’s. Edward Atkyns Bray later became the Vicar of Tavistock.

This association between the two families had a lasting impact on the village’s fortunes. When Robert Serrell Wood II predeceased his father, there became an issue of who would inherit the village. Robert Serrell Wood I decided to leave his lands equally divided between his grandsons Robert Serrell Wood III and Major Edward Atkyns Wood, who was the deputy Lieutenant of Dorset. They basically divided the village in half with the Tudor manor house, Chapel lane houses, Roman road, and the mills going to the eldest brother Robert Serrell Wood III and the Church, and church road side with associated buildings including shortlake lands going to Edward Atkyns Wood.

Robert Serrell Wood III was a forward-thinker and an author of papers regarding electricity.  He wrote about his experiments introducing electricity into farming to improve agricultural yield. He decided to leave Osmington, entrusting his brother Edward with his lands, and moved to Pennsylvania  in the 1840’s to study at the University. He took with him, two agricultural labourers, the eldest son of the smuggler Emmanuel Charles, and a boy called William Hatcher. They were both just 15 years old.

Robert invested in land in Pennsylvania and the three men built a successful farm.  The move created social mobility for both young men who lived with the Serrell Wood family, even after Robert died. Both men married and settled in America, gaining farms in their own right.

Robert Serrell Wood III

Robert and his brother Edward also influenced the improvement in farming in Osmington by establishing the Allotment society, which encouraged local farm hands to grow vegetables to show. They were encouraged to participate by awarding prizes, this formed the foundation of the Osmington village show.

Edward remained living in the village, forging through a number of developments to modernise the community. He establishing safe water supplies for the local village residents to use from the springs located on his farm land. He was responsible for building Osmington House in the 1850’s and demolishing the old Tudor manor house that was no longer fit for purpose. He also built Osmington Cottage on the main road for the invalided sister of his second wife. He was also instrumental in the building on the main road – now the A353 – to link Weymouth to Wareham, following a dispute over land access with the Trenchard family at Poxwell.

Edward Atkyns Wood was buried in St Osmunds church in 1872 and there is a plaque in the church in his memory. Having no children of his own, he left his land in Osmington to his nephew, the son of Harriet and the Rev John Edward KEMPE, whom was a great friend.

Mary always spoke of the Reverend John Edward Kempe, her great grandfather, with great affection.

Rev John Edward KEMPE is buried in St Osmund’s church, which is unusual as he lived in London. He was rector of St James Piccadilly and Chaplain to the Queen. He knew everyone in London society and was the patriarch of the KEMPE family.  His great grandfather was Nicholas KEMPE whom in 1756 was appointment by the Treasury to be porter of His Majesty's Mint, within the Tower of London.

John Edward Kempe

Mary’s grandfather the Reverend Edward WOOD KEMPE MA (b1844 – d.1912) was the eldest son of Harriet and John Edward, he inherited half of Osmington from his uncle Major Edward Atkyns WOOD. He married Margaret Miller Challis (b1853- d.1909).

His family were very well connected in society and his brother Sir John Arrow KEMPE KCB (b1846 – d. 1928) second son of Harriet and John Edward was Private Secretary to the Treasury during Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s first premiership and Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for 6 years in Disraeli’s second premiership. He ultimately controlled the civil service.

Another brother Sir Alfred Bray KEMPE Kt MA FRS (b1849 – d.1922) was a fellow of the Royal Society of Mathematicians and married Mary BOWMAN (d.1893), who was the daughter of Sir William BOWMAN a famous surgeon who was the first person to discover the kidneys. Alfred married again to Ida Meadows WHITE (b.1863 – d.1950).

While the Kempe family kept their ownership of land in Osmington up until the 1930’s, the other side of the village owned by Robert Serrell Wood III soon passed out of their control, including the ownership of Osmington house.

When Robert Serrell Wood III passed away at 53 years old, his American born son, Jefferson moved to Osmington to take ownership. A Colonel in the border regiment, he also died relatively young and his wife remarried; the ownership of her lands then passed to her new husband and were subsequently sold off. This led to more homes being built in the village.

The remaining lands in the Kempe family passed to Mary’s father, the Reverend Edward Chalice Kempe who was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and served with the Royal Army Chaplains' Department during the First World War.

He first travelled to Australia in 1909 and returned again after the war, where he helped establish the first Anglican religious community for men in Goulburn, New South Wales in 1921. He lived there from 1921 – 1928 until he met Ethel Lucy ATKINSON b.1901 from Queensland. He and Ethel moved to England in 1928 and married. He became a Vicar in Nottinghamshire before retiring from the clergy in 1951/2 when he and Ethel moved back to Osmington, first living at Osmington Cottage until 1956 and then at the Beehive. He died at Warmwell House in 1965.

Mary’s father gave her mother the Beehive as a wedding present, so that she had an independent income of her own. It had been condemned unfit for human habitation in about 1930, so they had to initiate a major refurbishment to completely modernised it.

They raised the roof quite substantially by about eight feet. It was previously two cottages. Beehive cottage was the front cottage and the kitchen was Homer cottage and the hall was an outhouse.

The Beehive before renovation

Between 1967 and 1982 Mary travelled extensively, firstly travelling to Australia. She then spent a further ten years living and working in Africa and became passionate about community development and social justice.

She returned to the village in 1982 and when her mother passed away in 1988, she inherited the Beehive. She has been an integral part of the local community ever since, involved in most community developments and initiatives, and as a source of great knowledge and wit. 

(A copy of this article features in the March 2022 edition of the Register magazine)

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Armistice Day 2021


Osmington History Patrons pay tribute to those who served their Country from the parish of Osmington and Poxwell.

(Mobile users if video is not visible please use this link Armistice 2021 Osmington History - YouTube )

Friday, 29 October 2021

The Reverend Henry Cecil Franks - Vicar of Osmington

 Last year I was loaned a copy of a small book written by Dorothy Franks about her time living in the village of Osmington.

Her husband, Henry Cecil Franks had been the Vicar from 1952 to 1955 and they lived at the Vicarage on church street.

Further research uncovered the past career of our Vicar in this short video, Jean Wyman narrates.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Sharing your memories of Osmington life

This last year has been difficult for us all during the pandemic and we have had to postpone our activities interviewing village residents, to keep everybody safe.

We have been fortunate however, to have received some wonderful contributions of written memories that residents have kindly given us, which are helping to continue to build a picture of the social history of the village.

Here are just a few snippets

"On a board in the Vestry, there is some interesting writing. It reads thus: Mrs Susanna Toogood, Relict of the Revd. C Toogood, late of Sherborne in this County by her Will dated 6 May 1826, left the sum of 200 pounds to the Parish of Osmington; the interest therof to be annually laid out by the Minister and Churchwardens of the said Parish; the one half part in the purchase of long warm cloaks, for such women of Osmington as they shall think most deserving; and the other half part, in the purchase of coats, blankets or rugs for men, as they shall also consider most deserving of the same. Such distribution to be made in the month of November every year".

"Yes, Osmington is a lovely place. The snug charm of its thatch, the houses all with their delightful names - Charity farm, Shell cottage, the Old Barn, Tudor 'Stone Lane Cottage', The Bee-hive, Little Orchard, The Garden House, Sunny Hill and the people match their village. In Summer it is just a riot of roses".  Dorothy Franks 


"We moved to Osmington village in the winter of 1948, I attended Osmington school in September 1949.

We lived in the last house in the village beside the lane that led to the drove and White Horse hill.

The Parker family lived next door, they had six children, the youngest was Michael who was 14 and I was 6 at the time. He was my hero , he rode his bike with no hands and whistled a lot, he taught me how to whistle, make a bow and arrow and make and fire a catapult. I progressed to whistling with two fingers!

I tried to follow him wherever he went - usually rabbiting, he would have none of it, however we did seem to eat an awful lot of rabbit pie and stew in those days. My aunt Lucy who was a country lady would take us foraging according to the seasons. Snowdrops in February, later cowslips, celandines, buttercups. Iris's from the wetlands of Kenny's fields, bullrushes for arrangements and later sloes, blackberries and mushrooms which were very plentiful in the top fields near to the White horse.

The lane leading to the White Horse was an assault on the senses, cowpats, honeysuckle and sweet briar resulting in a very sensual fragrance; the memory of which stays with me to this day".

Pauline Armstrong

Your memories

Please can we ask - as the autumn nights draw in on us - that you take some time to reflect and possible write or type out some of your memories of living in the village to share with us.
We all have unique personal memories and these create a richness to social history that you cannot find anywhere else.

You can email contributions to lucy at osmington-history dot co dot uk or post to me at Franconia.

We intend to gather these collective memories together to share as a community to show why living in the village is so special to so many of us.

Many many thanks to those of you who have contributed so far. It's been really lovely reading your stories, and as life gets back to a bit more normality, we hope to be able to meet up with you again soon.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

The Elms & George III

The Elms (known in recent years as the White House) is a Grade II listed building, which Historic England dates to mid - late 19th Century.

According to the current owners, when local school groups pass the house on their tour of the village they are told by the tour leaders that this is where the President of America lives! Given the recent holder of that title, thank goodness that isn't the case. 

However, it seems that this house has a few good stories worth telling young visitors, which although not proven true do have some interest.

I recently read that 'the Elms was built circa 1815 for the illegitimate son of George III'.

On further research, the name suggested  was George Rex, for he was historically reported to be the son of George III and Hannah Lightfoot the fair Quaker (records claim they had three children). The relationship between Hannah and George III is well documented and there are also documents recording their marriage in secret in 1759. 

Hannah disappeared when she was due to be married off to Mr Axton and even her own Mother had no news of whether she was alive or dead. Hannah was born in 1730 at St John's Wapping. In latter years after her disappearance there were entries suggesting she was using the surname Wheeler (her Mother's maiden name).

George III

It is claimed that George Rex lived much of his life in South Africa in exile so as not to cause embarrassment to King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He died there in 1839.  His sister Catherine Augusta married a Welsh doctor and the graves of George III and Hannah's granddaughters were rediscovered in 2018 Grave of 'George III's granddaughter' restored in Carmarthen - BBC News

George III came to Weymouth regularly between 1789 and 1805 and the carving of the White Horse on the hillside around 1807/8 could well have prompted 'his son' to build a house close by after his father's death in 1820.

Tithe maps for the area show that in 1839 the Elms was already built and the land was then owned by Yeoman Thomas Hare. The occupier was Anne Grasett - the widow of Elliot Grasett  and a lady of independent means.  Her daughter Anna Grasett later married Edward Wood. 

The Elms in 1839

Earlier maps may well give us a clue to whom the original lands were bought for and what year the house was actually built. 

"Mrs Horsey's ghost"

Another story that has been given to me to look into is that of Mrs Horsey's ghost.

It is claimed that in 1907 The Elms was bought by Mrs Horsey who may have lived in the house until 1930. In 1976 Mrs Horsey aged into her 90's talked to the Cartwright family who lived at the Elms at the time about a ghost of a Nun. Mrs Horsey reported that this apparition walks from the old drive entrance across the garden and out through the wall near the boundary to the church yard.

Horsey is a local landowning family name but the owner during this time was George Foot and his family, so exactly who 'Mrs Horsey' is remains a mystery, although she possibly could be a grandchild of Mr Foot.

One of George Foot's grandchildren Anne Reed born in 1868 wrote:

"My grandfather George Foot lived at the Elms in Osmington for many years and it is where he died and was buried with his second wife, close to the South porch entrance of Osmington church. Nearby is a gate which he gave as a thanks offering for permission he had to walk through the Vicarage, thus saving him a long walk round".

Perhaps the ghost was glad of the shorter route from the Glebe lands at Shortlake to the churchyard too?

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year

We are all hoping for better times in 2021 and hope you are keeping well.

For those who enjoy getting out in the fresh air for exercise we have two trail/road routes to share with you. 

The White Horse loop is approx 14 miles long and the Springhead circular is approx 6.1m (10km).

We hope you have fun - we aren't running this as an event, just sharing a route we like walking with friends. There are some road crossings, cows/sheep, mud, steep bits and sometimes inclement weather so please take care and stick to the footpaths/bridleways, shut gates and wear appropriate clothing and make sure you are fit enough for the distance and elevation. 

We would love to see your photos of the routes, so please feel free to share on our facebook page.

Facilities (subject to government Covid restrictions)

There are public toilets at Overcombe corner Preston and Osmington Mills.

There are pubs at Osmington Mills, the Springhead Sutton Poyntz, the Spice ship Preston, the Bridge Inn Preston. 

Fundraising for future publications

Our publication Village Voices last year is still proving popular and we will be keen to produce more publications about the village's history in future. Once the pandemic has settled down we would also like to hold some more information evenings/talks.

We are keen not to go cap-in-hand to people but if you would like to support us (at no extra cost to yourselves) and you use Amazon, then please follow this link and we can receive 0.5% of what you spend paid directly into the charity bank account.

The funds raised will be used to pay for publication costs.