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 a village 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]

In similarity with other settlements on Portland, Easton first flourished around a natural source of water. It remains most probable that the Romans first transformed many of Portland's springs into ponds and wells, while natural ponds would be enclosed and maintained from this period. Some residences had a personal cistern, though the public well was situated at Easton Square, at the centre of the village. This 100 foot well was created in 1775, and beforehand Easton residents would travel to neighbouring settlements such as Reforne or Weston for water during particularly dry periods.[3]

Easton saw the first school establishment on the island. Maister's School opened in 1720 and continued to be Portland's sole day school for over a century. It eventually closed in 1857, when its successors St George's School (at Tophill) and St John's School (at Underhill) completed.[4] The site of Maister's School is now the location of Portland Tophill Library, the island's only active library following the closure of the Underhill Library in 2012.

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 locals of the Royal Manor of Portland were exempt from compulsory service. On 1 April 1803 the first of several landings were carried out by the frigate Eagle, commanded by George Wolfe to capture men and press them into the armed forces. The first attempt saw the capture of one man, who was later released following a valid exemption. The next day a larger force landed and impressed two men. They continued to Easton Square 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. Though the coroner's verdict was willful murder, Captain Wolfe, three officers and ten soldiers were found not guilty of murder, which was met by dismay from the affected locals.

Until the 19th century Portland quarries were initially situated on the cliff-sides, but eventually the industry began opening expansive quarries across the island. An excavation named "Maggot" was the first inland quarry to open on Portland, situated near Easton Lane. Opened by quarry agent John Searle, the quarry was active by 1825.[5] Within the same proximity a group of standing stones stood near Easton Lane until the 20th century. Known as "The Frolic" the ancient stones' inception was never discovered, much like many similar artefacts that were destroyed through quarrying or development.[6]

The village, along with many other settlements on Portland, saw large changes in the late 19th century. This was due to the demanding projects of constructing the breakwaters of Portland Harbour, as well as the various defensive fortifications including the Verne Citadel. The island's population saw a major expansion from those working on the government projects. Naturally many businesses were established to cater the needs of the new population, and the local economy became extremely lucrative.[7] The large population increase soon meant the island's current water supply via the natural springs was inadequate. The water pumps at Easton Square and Wakeham had been renewed in 1877, but were no longer able to cope with the increasing demand. The village pond, named the Great Pool, had become contaminated and was filled in during 1885. Through the late 19th century the supply continued to remain insufficient, and disease spread, until a piped water supply was laid in the early 20th century. The increasing number of children on the island needing an education saw Portland's schools becoming extremely overpopulated by 1875. The local Wesleyans within the community raised money for a new school, which was built at Easton Square in 1877, by builders Messrs Lynham and Bayliss.[8] The Wesleyans also opened a chapel at Easton in 1854, at Park Road.[9]

By the end of the 19th century a large number of houses were built around the village to supply the island's continuously increasing population. This included dwellings erected at New Street, Victoria Place, Grosvenor Road and Channel View Road, as well as some corrugated iron homes for the families of those working on the breakwater.[10] Within this period many grand buildings were built facing Easton Square. In 1901, John Leather constructed a house named "Nethercoombe". E. J. Pearce's large drapery store was also constructed, which included a pinnacle turret. Today the store is now the Co-op supermarket. The Jubilee Hall, built in 1888, is now the South Portland Working Men's Conservative Club.[11] Meanwhile, the North Portland Working Men's Club is located in Fortuneswell.

During the first half of the 20th century, Easton was chosen as the location for a new fire station. It was built by Jesty and Baker, and once completed the Tophill fire service joined the force of Underhill. A number of street alarm pillars were placed around the island, and a red motor pump and tender was received by the station in April 1938. The island did not gain mains electricity until 1930, as the local council continued to believe that the local gas works would finally become financially worthwhile. By 1930 an agreement had to be made, to bring across an electric supply generated from Weymouth. The £25,000 scheme first supplied Underhill and Easton. From 1930 a demolition scheme by the local council threatened a considerable number of historical houses on the island. Despite strong local objection, much of the island's historic, Jacobean, Tudor and Georgian cottages would be demolished, rather than being restored. This included various dwellings at Easton.[12]

Railway[edit]

The year 1867 saw the establishment of the Easton and Church Hope Railway. The company's ambition was to create a line from Easton village to Church Ope Cove, using an incline following down the cliffside. The plan never came to fruition as it proved to be objectionable in regards to local rights of the area's common land. The occurrence of landslips was also a disadvantage set against the plans.[7] Undeterred by the plan's failure the company obtained a second Act of Parliament in 1884, which allowed them to successfully extend the Weymouth to Portland Railway from Chiswell village at Underhill to Easton. The planned branch to the neighbouring Weston village never came to fruition. To reach Easton the railway followed a track underneath the undercliffs of East Weares, rising above Church Ope Cove. The construction of the line began in 1888, and took ten years due to the unstable nature of the land. The first engine to arrive at Easton was in 1898, and the railway opened to goods trains in October 1900. The company continued to develop the line for another year which allowed it to open to passenger trains. The first passenger train arrived on 1 September 1901. In November 1903 a temporary setback occurred when Easton station was destroyed by a fire.[13]

Easton station operated until it closed to passengers in 1952 and goods in 1965. During the Second World War the railway had been bombed on over 10 occasions. By the time the railway reopened in 1946 many of the original train passengers no longer needed to use the service. A selection of the seven daily trains would carry no passengers at all, and a decision was made to close the railway to passenger trains. In 1965, the railway's final year, three special trains carried passengers for one last journey, and the final goods train ran on 9 April. Afterwards the railway remained intact until 1970, when the government made the decision to remove the line.[14] Since the station has been completely demolished it is now the site of an elderly residential home, with much of the railway history being removed.[15]

Features[edit]

Easton contains Easton Gardens, which has been a focal point for Portland's locals over 100 years. A scheme was suggested in 1902 to turn two open land sites into public gardens, including the centre of Easton Square The gardens were formally opened in August 1904.

Easton is the location of Portland's only fuel station. The site was once a stone yard, which had the Sawmill Tavern adjoining it. 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.[16]

Easton once had its own cinema, named Easton Palace. A pianist would accompany the silent movies played there. During 1932, the luxury Regal Cinema opened in Fortuneswell as well. Both are no longer in existence.[17] The Punchbowl Inn, located at Easton, was reputed to be the best public house for brewed ales on the island during the 19th century. The ale used water from the nearby pond Great Pool, despite houses at Reforne having their drainage lead directly into the pool.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20][21]

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.[22] 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).[23]

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.[24] 30 Easton Square, with late 18th century origins, became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] 32 Easton Street is of late 18th century origins, and became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34][35][36] 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.[37] 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.[38] 111 and 113 Reforne were designated Grade II in September 1978, and date from the early 19th century.[39] At the same time 28 Reforne also became Grade II Listed, a house dating from the late 18th or early 19th century.[40]

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.[41] The church hall of the church was formerly a Wesleyan school, dated 1878 on porch. It was also designated Grade II in May 1993.[42]

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.[43] It is still active today, alongside Underhill Methodist Church, as part of the Portland Methodist Circuit.[44]

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.[45]

Easton Gardens[edit]

At Easton Gardens, the prominent Clock Tower, completed in 1907, has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[46]

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.[47] 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.[48] Portland's only other remaining lime kiln to be Grade Listed is the Grove Lime Kiln in The Grove village.[49]

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.[50] Its graveyard wall also became Grade II Listed in September 1978,[51] and in May 1993 the church's lych gate entrance became Grade II Listed too.[52] 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.[53]

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.[54] 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.[55] 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.[56] 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.

References[edit]

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