Batcombe, Dorset

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Batcombe, parish church of St. Mary - - 500397.jpg
Batcombe parish church of St Mary
Batcombe is located in Dorset
 Batcombe shown within Dorset
Population 110 [1]
OS grid reference ST617038
Civil parish Batcombe
District West Dorset
Shire county Dorset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district DT2
Dialling code 01305
Police Dorset
Fire Dorset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament West Dorset
List of places

Coordinates: 50°50′05″N 2°32′37″W / 50.8347°N 2.5437°W / 50.8347; -2.5437

The "Cross in Hand" on Batcombe Down
Newlands Farm with its archway dated 1622

Batcombe is a small straggling village and civil parish in the West Dorset district of Dorset, England, situated 12 miles (19 km) north-west of Dorchester below the northern scarp slope of the Dorset Downs. The name Batcombe derives from the Old English Bata, a man's name, and cumb, meaning valley. In 1201 it was known as Batecumbe.[2] The local travel links are located 3 miles (4.8 km) from the village to Chetnole railway station and 31 miles (50 km) to Bournemouth International Airport. The main road running through the village is Stile Way. Dorset County Council's 2012 mid-year estimate of the population of the civil parish is 110.[1]

Parish church[edit]

The church of St Mary Magdelene is on an ancient site. There has probably been a church there from the 11th century. The church consists of a nave and chancel with a 15th-century tower. The interior contains an elaborate stone screen of Ham Hill stone and an interesting font consisting of a Norman column of Ham Hill stone topped with a cuboid limestone basin (probably Portesham stone) which is probably earlier in date.[3][dead link]


Above the village rises Batcombe Down and, further east, Gore Hill, near the top of which is a small stone pillar known as the Cross-in-Hand (or Cross and Hand).[4][5] The pillar, a Grade II listed structure and a Scheduled Ancient Monument,[6] is a little over 1 metre (3.3 ft) in height and may date from before the Norman Conquest, similar to other shafts such as the Pillar of Eliseg.[7] At one time there may have been a hand carved on one face, but nothing is visible today,[7] though the pillar has acquired stories about images of a ghostly hand being seen grasping a bowl at its top.[8] Thomas Hardy used the pillar in his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles, in a scene in which Alec d'Urberville instructs Tess to "put your hand upon that stone hand, and swear that you will never tempt me—by your charms or ways."[4] The pillar also features in Hardy's poem "The Lost Pyx".[4]

Manor house[edit]

The Minterne family was for a long time the Lords of the Manor and Newlands Farm was the manor house between the 16th and 18th centuries.[9] The front roadside wall of the farmhouse has an ashlar hamstone archway dating from 1622.


The parish church is the subject of one of Dorset's more curious tales, in which the local squire—who was known as 'Conjuring Minterne'—once rode his horse off Batcombe Hill and knocked off one of the pinnacles on the tower.[10] He dabbled in magic and was regarded with a great deal of fear and superstition locally. After setting off to ride over steep Batcombe Hill one day, he suddenly remembered he had left his magic book open on the table, where his servants might find it. To save going back by the road, he turned his horse round and spurred it to attempt a massive leap over the church, knocking off the pinnacle as he soared clear over the tower. The fearful villagers were afraid that they might offend the devil by repairing the damage, so for a hundred years they left it alone. When it was repaired, they repaired it at a crooked angle. It is said that Minterne vowed that he would be buried neither in nor out of the church, so he was buried half in and half out of the Minterne Chapel. Much of the church was rebuilt by John Hicks in 1864, which resulted in the loss of the Minterne chapel. The memorial tablets were repositioned on the north side of the tower.[3][dead link]

A "conjurer" used to be an important character in a Dorset village, and was generally of good reputation. He was supposed to be gifted with supernatural power, which he exercised for good. By his incantations and ceremonies he cured many sicknesses.


  1. ^ a b "Parish Population Data". Dorset County Council. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  2. ^ David Mills, ed. (2011). "A Dictionary of British Place Names". Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19-960908-6. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c Roland Gant (1980). Dorset Villages. Robert Hale Ltd. p. 70. ISBN 0-7091-8135-3. 
  5. ^ Ordance Survey 1:25,000 Pathfinder map, sheet 1299 (ST60/70), published 1986
  6. ^ "The Cross and Hand, Batcombe". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "'Batcombe', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1: West (1952), pp. 15-17". British History Online. University of London & History of Parliament Trust. November 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Batcombe". Dorset OPC Project. Retrieved 2 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "(No title)". The Dorset Page. 2000. 

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