Easton, Dorset

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Easton
Easton is located in Dorset
Easton
Easton
 Easton shown within Dorset
Civil parish Portland
District Weymouth and Portland
Shire county Dorset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Portland
Postcode district DT5
Dialling code 01305
Police Dorset
Fire Dorset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South Dorset
List of places
UK
England
Dorset

Coordinates: 50°32′43″N 2°26′11″W / 50.545345°N 2.436348°W / 50.545345; -2.436348

Easton Methodist Church facing the village square.

Easton is the second largest of eight villages on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England. The village is situated at Tophill, within the centre of the island. As with the rest of Portland's villages and settlements, Easton, including the settlements Reforne and Straits, has been designated as a conservation area, as it is a place of special architectural and historic interest, given protection to ensure that people can continue to enjoy their character for years to come. Easton, Wakeham and Reforne were designated pre-1974.[1][2]

The village has a small square with many shops and shopping arcade, the Secondary school Royal Manor Arts College, four churches, a small park, and other amenities, including various pubs. Along with Fortuneswell, Easton is the main hub of the Isle of Portland's activities. St George's Centre and The George Inn lies within the Reforne area of Easton, and provides facilities for many local events.

History[edit]

Like most of Portland's villages and settlements, Easton was established around a small watercourse. It is most likely the Romans discovered the natural pond at Easton, which had been walled and maintained from this time. Many cottages had their own small well or cistern. Before the Easton Square 100 ft well was dug in 1775, villagers from Easton had to travel to Reforne or Merrywell, the latter at Weston, for water during the dry season.[3]

Easton was the location of Portland's first school, established in 1720, named Maister's School. It was a simple building and ended up serving as Portland's only free day school for more than 100 years, before it eventually closed in 1857.[4] It was located within the Straits area of Easton, on the site of the Portland Tophill Library. St John's School in Fortuneswell was built along with St George's School in Reforne, to replace it. These were funded by compensation paid by the government for the loss of Portland's Great Common for the Verne Citadel and Breakwater schemes. Both schools had south-facing archways and were large, and well-equipped. Later in 1875 all of the island schools had become overpopulated and in 1877 the Wesleyans quickly raised £1200 and in 1877 the builders Messrs Lynham and Bayliss constructed new schoolrooms facing Easton Square.[5] The Wesleyans also opened a chapel at Easton in 1854, at Park Road.[6]

John Searle, a quarrying agent, decided to open Portland's first true inland quarry at Easton Lane, rather than the tradition of quarrying from the cliff edges around the island. The pit named "Maggot" was opened up and first drawn on 1 August 1825.[7] Up until the 20th century, a set of standing stones known as "The Frolic" was located near Easton Lane. These were of unknown origin and were one of many ancient relics destroyed by quarrying or development.[8]

The Easton Massacre was an incident in which the British armed forces shot and killed three citizens of Easton, during an attempt to press male members of the town into service. The gang were not aware that Portlanders were exempt. April 1, 1803 saw the first of several landings carried out by the frigate Eagle, commanded by George Wolfe to capture men and press them into the armed forces. The next day a larger force continued to Easton Square around 6:30am where they were met by a large group of citizens who had received warning of the press gangs and had gathered to stop them. When Robert Bennett was taken and the crowd attempted a rescue, the captain fired on them. The marines under his command also opened fire and after the shooting stopped 3 people had been killed. The dead were Alexander Andrews, Richard Flann and William Lano, and in addition there were two wounded, one of whom, Mary Way, later died of her wounds. Soon after, the force returned to their ship with no additional prisoners. A coroner's verdict was willful murder, but Captain Wolfe, three officers and ten soldiers were found not guilty of murder.

The area's characteristics changed dramatically in the late 19th century, although not as much as some villages like Fortuneswell. This was down to the demanding projects of building Portland's harbour breakwaters and the Verne Citadel, which led to a large influx of outsiders coming to Portland, (known as Kimerlins to Portlanders - a term meaning stranger), to work and serve on these government works. As a result businesses all over the island grew and thrived.[9] By this point sewerage systems had to be installed, as well as reservoirs etc. as the scattered wells and springs became totally inadequate to supply water for both the population and government works. Easton Square, before it became Easton Gardens, was barren land and featured a village pond, known as the Great Pool, which became somewhat contaminated.[10] This was down to the increasing number of carts passing by on the four roads that converged to the square. In the area was also the village's well, the shaft having been dug deep into the bedrock in 1775.[11] The pond ended up being filled in during 1885 as it was causing pollution of the parish well. However before the piped water supply was laid in the early 20th century, conditions deteriorated and the majority of the island faced diseases such as measles, bronchitis and typhoid. The old water pumps at Easton Square and Wakeham had been renewed beforehand in 1877.

On the site of the fuel station at Easton Lane, (once a stone yard), the Sawmill Tavern was once based there. The Punchbowl Inn, located within Easton, was the best place of brewed ales on Portland in the 19th century. The ale was described as "fine and clear with froth as stiff as waxwork". The special ingredient of the ale was water from the Great Pool, which was fetched in buckets. This was despite houses at Reforne having their drainage lead directly into the pool.[12]

In the late 1890s plans were announced for hundreds of new houses to be built around Easton to cope with the expanding population on Portland. The resulting dwellings included many at New Street, Victoria Place and the Rolls Croft Estate (today known as Grosvenor Road and Channel View Road). At Grove Corner, Messrs Hill & Co erected a corrugated iron "Tin Town" for families of workers of the breakwater project.[13] The prosperity of Portland around this time was symbolised by such expansions, and many impressive buildings were erected around Easton Square. In 1901, John Leather, who would end up purchasing Portland's grandest residence Pennsylvania Castle, built a fine stone house named "Nethercoombe" which overlooked Easton Square. At the same time John Patten and his sons built a large drapery store, which included a pinnacle turrent facing the square for E. J. Pearce. This is now the Co-op supermarket. Another notable building is the Jubilee Hall of 1888, now the South Portland Working Men's Conservative Club, of which it is the headquarters.[14] Meanwhile, the North Portland Working Men's Club is located in Fortuneswell.

On 5 March 1891, Easton Square was the scene of a major explosion, after Local Board men had exposed a poorly buried gas pipe whilst digging the road. J. Lawton Webster, a Board Surveyor, decided to investigate by running a lighted match along the pipe, and the resulting explosion shattered masonry and glass, whilst two stone cottages were completely demolished. Despite this there were no serious injuries, but various claims for compensation were made by poor house-owners who had lost all their possessions.[15]

Easton Village contains Easton Gardens, which have been a focal point for Portland's locals over 100 years. Once the island's basic needs of water and drainage were secured in 1901 with a piped supply, thought turned to recreation and pleasure. In 1902 an inspired decision was made to turn the barren wildness of Easton Square and Little Common (in Portland's Underhill area, near the village of Fortuneswell) into public gardens. Like Victoria Gardens, the crowning centrepiece of the gardens was a bandstand. Ernest Elford produced the designs of the two gardens. For the next 60 years, promenaders at the gardens were treated to weekly band concerts. Henry As chairman of the council in 1904, Henry 'Gaffer' Sansom performed two separate ceremonies for the gardens, with Easton Gardens being opened in August 1904, with Victoria Gardens already being opened earlier in May.[16]

Easton had a cinema; Easton Palace. The pianist Kath Pester would accompany the silent movies, and for special films the Live Wires Dance organisation would perform instead. During 1932, a new luxury cinema the Regal Cinema opened in Fortuneswell as well. Both are no longer in existence.[17]

During the late first half of the 20th century, Easton became the location of a new fire station on the site of F. J. Barnes' Easton foundry. It was built by Jesty and Baker. As part of a £4000 reorganisation the forces of Portland's Underhill and Tophill became unified, and street alarm pillars were erected across the island. A bright new red motor pump and tender was delivered in April 1938. Portland struggled without mains electricity until 1930. Since the turn of the century the Council had resisted all competition to its gas works, hoping that one day it would pay its way. The resistance could be held no longer, and an agreement was made to lay on an electric supply generated at Weymouth. In the £25,000 scheme Underhill and Easton were first to be switched on, on 1 July 1930, and two years later the cables were extended to Weston and Southwell, then the Grove. However Portland Bill and the Lighthouse had to wait until 1938.[18]

Easton is the location of Portland's only fuel station, and in addition to this, in early 2011, a Tesco, Portland's first major supermarket (discounting smaller convenience Co-Op stores), was opened in Easton too. Upon the opening, 800 individuals applied for the 100 vacancies that the store had on offer.[19]

Railway[edit]

In 1867, the Easton and Church Hope Railway was formed, and revealed plans to lay a railway from Easton to Church Ope Cove, by a 1 in 8 incline down the cliffside. At the cove a pier would be constructed for the loading of ships. This was impracticable, mainly due to the area's history of landslips and Portlanders' local rights to their common land.[9] The plans were dropped, but the railway company later obtained another Act of Parliament in 1884 to extend the Portland Branch Railway from Chiswell area to Easton, with a possible branch to Weston. The Weston one never came to fruition, but the track to Easton was constructed - as it skirted undercliffs, and reached above Church Ope Cove. The work on the line began in 1888, but due to the unstable land on which the railway was being constructed, the first contractor's engine didn't arrive at Easton until 1898. The railway opened to goods traffic in October 1900, and passenger trains followed a year later after it was up to the Board of Trade standards.[20]

The first passenger train of four carriages arrived on 1 September 1901, and so many passengers decided to take a souvenir ride back down that the Stationmaster ran out of tickets. Some bad events on the line included one in October 1903 when a shunting operation went wrong at Easton's station, and 15 trucks ran away down a slope, although the quick action of a signalman prevented them gaining speed. In the following month the station was destroyed by a fire.[21] Easton station operated until closing to passengers in 1952 and goods in 1965. During the Second World War the Easton railway was bombed at least 13 times during the war, and although it reopened in 1946, most previous passengers no longer expressed interest in catching a train to Weymouth. Some of the seven trains a day carried no passengers at all, and so the railway became goods only, despite a petition of 500 signatures against the decision. Three special trains in 1965 carried passengers for one last time, and the final goods train ran on 9 April. The rails remained in place for five more years until the government decided they should be removed.[22] Since the station has been completely demolished it is now the site of a residential home for the elderly, with much of the railway history being removed.[23]

Features[edit]

The area of Easton is surrounded by quarries, both working and non-working, including the nature reserve King Barrow Quarry and Tout Quarry, the latter an old quarry now used as a sculpture park, holding over 70 different sculptures and offering a workshop based on sculpturing, run by the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust, who also preserves the quarry.[24]

To the south of the village, and near Weston, are the two Portland Windmills. The disused and historic stone towers date from as early as 1608 when they were first recorded in the Land Revenue Accounts. Both windmills have been separate Grade II Listed monuments since September 1978, and are the only historic windmill remains to survive in Dorset.[25][26]

The Portland Museum is located near to Easton, in the small village of Wakeham, close to Church Ope Cove. The museum was founded by Marie Stopes and opened in 1930, where it continues to open in Easter and the summer each year.[27] The castellated building at Easton Lane is the Drill Hall of 1868. It was once the home of the Portland Volunteers, who were formed to man the gun emplacements around the island. In 1900 it was enlarged, and at the same time the handsome facade was built. During the late 1950s it was the headquarters of the 180th Battery, Royal Artillery (T).[28]

Grade Listed Features[edit]

Easton has a wide array of architecture and buildings, a number of which are Grade Listed.

Houses[edit]

4 Easton Square dates from the late 18th or early 19th century, and became Grade II Listed in July 1992.[29] 30 Easton Square, with late 18th century origins, became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[30] 31 Easton Square is a house with a shop, and dates back to the early to mid 18th century. The interior has been reputed to have been unaltered for long period, and to retain gas lighting brackets in shop. It has been designated Grade II since September 1978.[31] A fish house, to the north of No. 31 Easton Street, became Grade II Listed in May 1993. The fish house/warehouse dates from the early to mid 19th century, and is set behind No. 31, approached by a short alley from the square. It is a modest but unchanged auxiliary building of which few now remain on the island, and this particular one is known locally as the fish house. The building's stack could be to a smoking chamber, but the interior was not accessible at the time of survey when the building became listed.[32]

28 Easton Street, known as Stanley House, is dated 1760, with an inscription reading "William Pearce and Rebecca his wife builded this House." It has been Grade II Listed since January 1951.[33] 32 Easton Street is of late 18th century origins, and became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[34] 42 and 44 Easton Street also became Grade II Listed at the same time, and this pair of houses date from the early 18th century.[35] 41 Easton Street was designated Grade II in May 1993. Dating from the late 18th or early 19th century, it is a modest house, but less altered than most properties in the street, and representative of artisan dwelling on the island.[36] The detached house of 23 Delhi Lane, and its attached railings, are of late 18th century origin, and became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[37]

Reforne[edit]

Within the Reforne area of Easton are various notable buildings. The Sugar Loaf Cafe became Grade II Listed in May 1993. It dates from the late 17th century, or early 18th century, and continues to operate as a cafe to date.[38] During September 1978, Nos. 26, 30, 107 and 109 Reforne all became Grade II Listed. All four properties date from the early 19th century, although 26 may be of late 18th century origin.[39][40][41] 135 Reforne dates from the late 18th century, and is shown in records of 1805, however it was remodelled in the mid 19th century. It holds an important place at the west end of Reforne, and immediately adjoins The George Inn. It became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[42] Apsley House (54 Reforne), became Grade II Listed at the same time. The house was formerly as part of a row, but is now isolated by demolition of adjacent properties. It has the date 1815 cut in the stonework above porch, although has later alterations.[43] 111 and 113 Reforne were designated Grade II in September 1978, and date from the early 19th century.[44] At the same time 28 Reforne also became Grade II Listed, a house dating from the late 18th or early 19th century.[45]

Easton Methodist Church[edit]

Easton Methodist Church, along with its former manse and boundary walls, has been Grade II* Listed since May 1993. This church dates from 1906 and opened in September 1907, after four years of fundraising via teas and bazaars. The twin-spired building was designed by Mr La Trobe of Bristol (Latrobe and Weston of Bristol). Built at a cost of £7000, its builders were Wakeham Brothers of Plymouth, who also constructed the Portland Bill Lighthouse and Easton Gardens' clock tower. The church continues to be active to date, alongside the Underhill Methodist Church in Fortuneswell.[46] The church hall of the church was formerly a Wesleyan school, dated 1878 on porch. It was also designated Grade II in May 1993.[47]

Crews of sailors decorated the Easton Square with bunting for the opening of the church, which continues displays some of the finest masonry craft on Portland.[48] It is still active today, alongside Underhill Methodist Church, as part of the Portland Methodist Circuit.[49]

All Saints Church[edit]

Within Straits, the area of Easton linking to the hamlet of Wakeham, is the 20th-century Anglican church All Saints Church. Built between 1914–17, the church became the new parish church, and therefore succeeded to the rights, privileges, registers and silver of the St George's Church, which from then fell into disuse. It has been Grade II Listed since September 1978.[50]

Easton Gardens[edit]

At Easton Gardens, the prominent Clock Tower, completed in 1907, has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[51]

Lime Kiln[edit]

At Easton Lane is one of various lime kilns remaining on Portland. This lime kiln, and its attached outbuilding, dates from the 19th century. At the time of becoming Grade II Listed in November 1984, it was abandoned, and in poor condition, but still of historic interest as a substantial remaining kiln on the island.[52] It lay in ruin for decades, being exposed to weather and vandals. By 2002 this lime kiln was turned into a residence and craft workshop. Opposite this lime kiln is another which is larger and more complete, but not Grade Listed.[53] Portland's only other remaining lime kiln to be Grade Listed is the Grove Lime Kiln in The Grove village.[54]

St George's Church[edit]

St George's Church is found at the far end of Reforne - a Church of England church, built between 1754 and 1766 to replace St. Andrew's Church which had fallen into disuse and was no longer suitable as a place of worship. The church was designated as a Grade I listed building in January 1951, and is one of three buildings on Portland to be Grade I.[55] Its graveyard wall also became Grade II Listed in September 1978,[56] and in May 1993 the church's lych gate entrance became Grade II Listed too.[57] The George Inn is an 18th-century public house at Reforne, formerly built for the parish clerk of St George's Church. It is one of the oldest inhabited buildings on the island, and has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[58]

St George's Centre[edit]

St George's Centre, also in Reforne, was a former school opened in 1857, and now a community information and activity centre. It has been a Grade II Listed Building since September 1978.[59] At this same time, the centre's community hall, formerly the school assembly hall, also became Grade II listed. The hall was built circa 1880.[60] The boundary walls to the south of the centre are Grade II Listed as well, first listed in September 1978 too. The walls date from 1857, but have been subsequently modified. The wall is generally circa 450mm high, but swept up at ends to circa 1.5 metres. These walls appear to have been reduced in height since previous listings, which describes them as 1.5 metres throughout.[61] In 1997 the YMCA Centre at Reforne was completed, and it was carefully crafted in Portland stone to complement the style of St George's Centre next door.

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