As I was writing a post on Facebook and adding the original photo album on my profile, I came across a write up about Stalbridge and some rather interesting facts!
It seems that none other than Douglas Adams was resident up there in Stalbridge when he was writing the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Needless to say I explored a bit more and found some rather interesting facts! More on that one later.
I’ll precis and also curate a bit of the items I found with links for you to go check out for yourselves!
First off in this post:
The Old Stone Wall at Stalbridge
Hilary Townsend explores the history behind the Park Wall, which extends for five miles around Stalbridge Park.
Published in March ’12
The old stone wall at Stalbridge has been both a landmark and a puzzle for generations. Why is it there? What is behind it – a great house? Is the Park famous for something? A house, described as ‘a goodlie faire house’ with huge mullioned windows and tall ornate chimneys had been built near the Church by Mervyn, Lord Audley, second Earl of Castlehaven in 1618. The fifth largest house in Dorset, it stood in 50 acres of land.
Mervyn, Lord Audley was executed in 1631 for ‘unnatural practices’ and five years later the Earl of Cork bought the house. He restored and improved it adding, astonishingly, plumbing arrangements and piped water to some of the rooms. An elm-lined carriage drive ended with stout ashlar piers guarded by strange stone heraldic lions. The elms have been replaced and the drive widened but the gate piers and lions are still there.
Reading on with a very full account of the area and reason / use of the wall around the park and then you come up on a point that shows how the family came to be involved with the Park!
During the Great War Lord Stalbridge, on patrol in France, had met a sergeant in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry named Harry Dufosee. Their resulting friendship enabled Mr. Dufosee to train and buy some of Lord Stalbridge’s racehorses. They brought fame when Harry Dufosee was able to buy Stalbridge Park and train that bloodline for National Hunt racing. Stalbridge Park, Stalbridge Colonist and Bantry Bay (entered in the Grand National) were among the most well known.
Local people were proud of the horses and the Dufosee family were very popular. People still gathered firewood at ‘Big Wood’ and it and the adjoining old orchard provided the best primroses for the Sunday School children to decorate the church at Easter. Since then the flower collection and certain footpaths have been suppressed and a ‘Private Keep Out’ notice resides in the carriage drive. However, the remaining footpaths are much used by dog walkers and ramblers.
If you walk round the Wall today from Park Gates you see the church yard encased within it (a graveyard extension has recently been bought from the Park), follow along echoing Church Walk and you come to the playing field complete with cricket pitch, football pitch, sports pavilion and children’s play area. Soon you reach the Jubilee Seat (to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of George V) let into the Wall.