Wakeham

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For the surname, see Wakeham (surname).
Wakeham
Wakeham is located in Dorset
Wakeham
Wakeham
 Wakeham 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′34″N 2°25′51″W / 50.542706°N 2.430769°W / 50.542706; -2.430769

The main area of Wakeham

Wakeham is a hamlet near the village of Easton, in Tophill on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England. It is situated between the Straits region of Easton, and Pennsylvania Castle at the bottom end of Wakeham. As with the rest of Portland's villages and settlements, Wakeham 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, an ancient hamlet in its own right, features an unusually wide street, which was once originally a simple track through common greens, however the grass became eroded away as stone traffic increased, and the road was laid down.[3] Many of Wakeham's older buildings of the 17th and 18th century survive, with characteristic porches and stone-mullioned windows.[4] As one of the more sheltered parts of Portland, the valley between Wakeham and Church Ope Cove has a small woodland area - a rare feature on the island. The name "Wakeham" is formed from the Latin meaning of "watch-valley".

History[edit]

Like most of Portland's villages and settlements, Wakeham was established around a small watercourse. It is most likely the Romans who discovered the natural springs across the island, and turned them into ponds and wells, including those at Wakeham. Many cottages had their own small wells or cisterns, and public wells were dug deep into the bedrock to obtain pure year-round supplies. The old water pumps at Easton Square and Wakeham was renewed in 1877, and the village well was still in use until Portland's piped water supply was laid in the early 20th century. It was located at the top end of the village. The pump was removed in 1904. Over Portland countless graves of the Roman period, almost 2000 years ago, have been found, including burials around The Grove, Southwell, Wakeham and on Verne Common.[5]

In 789 AD, the first recorded Viking attack within British Isles, including Ireland, happened on Portland's coast. Although the Vikings' landing place remains uncertain, it is likely that Church Ope Cove was the location. The reeve of Dorchester (a local high-ranking official) went to greet them after they landed, perhaps accustomed to welcoming Scandinavian merchants. He was killed. Due to Portland's lack of beaches, the cove would have been an ideal landing spot for the raiders. From the east, this was the only clear landing beach, and part of the defenceless Wakeham village, which extended down the dell to the clifftop above the cove, would have been seen from the sea. Later raids may have been at Chiswell and Chesil Beach.[6]

In Saxon times the hamlet extended down to the clifftop above Church Ope Cove. It was sheltered by hill and cliff on three sides, and through archaeological searches, it appears the original settlement was centred in the small valley around a small watercourse that is now situated within the grounds of Pennsylvania Castle. Wells and other objects have supported this theory, while the Saxons also had some defensive works and a church built at Church Ope. The church was the first on the island, situated on a sheltered platform high above the cove. The church would be rebuilt on the same site later after Edward the Confessor had bestowed Portland to the Benedictine Monks. This became St Andrew's Church.[7]

During the 13th century masons set to work on the most elegant building ever constructed on the island. It was an oratory locally named "The Vicars House", built within Wakeham, opposite where The Mermaid Inn once stood. It was the official residence of the first 25 plus rectors on the island. Like the church below it reflected the wealth of the medieval manor. The picturesque building was destroyed during the Civil War, but even as a ruin it remained an attraction. A public outcry occurred when quarrying finally demolished the ruins of the 700 year old building in 1917.[8]

In 1753 a committee of Portlanders was formed to decide whether to put further finances into the dilapidated St. Andrew's Church or to erect a new church at a more accessible position. St. Andrew's suffered from an unstable site, and was prone to landslips. Within two months a decision was made, with a survey of the old church finding that repairs would be at least half the cost of a new building. A new site, situated at the end of Reforne, close to Easton and Weston, was chosen, and the construction of St George's Church continued between 1754 and 1766. In 1756 though a temporary Tabernacle was established at the bottom of Wakeham, as St Andrew's Church had become to dangerous to use. For a decade the communion table was carried to and from to church to the Tabernacle for each service.[9]

In 1791, the wealthy Methodist Robert Brackenbury, who was based in Southampton, had just lost his friend and mentor Charles Wesley, who died. He decided to leave Southampton, and take the first coach that drew up. By complete chance Brackenbury ended up in Weymouth, where he was directed to Portland. In 1791 Brackenbury purchased a field below Verne Hill, at the top end of Fortuneswell, and built a large chapel there, including the minister's house, entirely at his own expense. Brackenbury continued to stay on Portland for long periods, and in 1792 he rented a thatched cottage at Wakeham for meetings, and there the first Tophill Sunday Schools were held, with girls upstairs and boys downstairs.[10] By the time of his death, Mrs Brackenbury, his wife, continued his work on the island. In 1825, at her expense, the first purpose-built chapel at Tophill was built at Wakeham. It was opened on 7 August by George Smith, the companion of Mr Brackenbury when he first visited Portland.[11]

Pennsylvania Castle is a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1797-1800 to designs by James Wyatt for John Penn, Governor of Portland and grandson of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. Penn was a perfectionist, and he would spent the remaining thirty years of his life enhancing the grounds of his cliff-top estate. In order to do so he proceeded to buy out a number of cottages at the foot of the Wakeham hamlet, in order to expand his own boundaries. A local man Shadrack Stone, however, was one who opposed to this, and did not want to move for Penn from his cottage. In the end Penn had to pay a high price of giving Stone one of the finest houses on the island, a Tudor house known locally as Girt House, which was probably the residence of earlier governors on the island. Aside from being a writer, Penn was an expert horseman, and in 1827 he built a 28 acre course of fine turf on the demesne farm at Wakeham, and therefore introduced Portland to horse-racing.[12]

During the mid-19th century the non-conformists on the island saw a revival, with their chapel building funds boosted by the new money circulating from the government projects of the breakwaters of Portland Harbour and the Verne Citadel. Between 1854 and 1860 no less than seven new chapels were built. The Bible Christians' branch built chapels at Maidenwell and Wakeham, known as Zion Chapel.[13]

After the First World War, a small area holding allotments became quarried exclusively opened for stone for the Whitehall Cenotaph and thousands of gravestones for the War Graves Commission. This carefully selected quarry, opposite Portland Museum, was restored soon after and it was agreed to leave the land untouched as a tribute to the dead of both World Wars. However in the late 1990s a small estate of houses was built on the site.[14] A little while before this, around 1904, the reopening of quarries around the south-east side of Portland caused some outcry. One wooded park area situated behind Rufus Castle at Church Ope Cove was destroyed, despite it being a popular location for picnics and recreational activities. The companies also tipped large amount of stone waste and overburden over the cliffs into the sea between Southwell and Church Ope Cove. In 1922, after a long legal battle, a High Court judge ruled against the stone firms and reaffirmed public access rights. Despite this the overburden remained, and was carried by currents to the cove, which in turn altered the beach of Church Ope Cove. Around Wakeham area stone was hewn for Manchester's Midland Bank, Library and Ship Canal Building, and in 1920 for the restoration of Westminster Abbey.[15]

Under the Housing Act of 1930, councils the council began to demolish many houses and buildings on Portland, and many historic houses throughout Underhill were the first to be threatened. Despite much objection, a good amount of the village's historic, Jacobean, Tudor and Georgian cottages would be demolished. In response to the objection the council continued to add more to the demolition list from Portland's Tophill villages, including Wakeham, as no builders would take the opportunity to restore the selected houses.[16]

With the importance of Portland's naval base, the island was a natural target for German aircraft during the Second World War. On 15 August 1940 a raid destroyed some secluded cottages in Bumper's Lane at Wakeham. These were never rebuilt, and after the war the land, including the gardens and road became part of a stone processing area.[17] Bumpers Lane now leads into Silklake Quarries, where the entrance is marked by a large carving of a head.[18] The village once held the Wakeham Soapbox Derby, which today is discontinued.[19]

Commercial business[edit]

Unlike the majority of Portland's villages, Wakeham has little commercial business in the area. The majority of the village is housing and a good amount of the houses are old cottages, built with Portland stone.[18]

A few small businesses are based in the area, and the Portland Residential Home is found in the village.[20] Accommodation in Wakeham village is a leading business and includes The Alessandria Hotel, the self-contained holiday let Church Ope Studio, found close to Portland Museum,[21] and the bed and breakfast Leam Guest House.[22] The Alessandria Hotel is a family run hotel, with Italian cuisine.[23] Before becoming a hotel, it was once the Alexandra Inn.[18][24] The Cove Holiday Park is found on the outskirt of Wakeham and is rated five stars by Enjoy England.[25]

The Mermaid Inn, now closed, was once open in the area.[26] The former landlord was sent to prison for threats against his ex-girlfriend and declared himself bankrupt, giving up the pub,[27] while the inn itself was the scene of interest in September 2007 when an Environmental Health Officer was grabbed by the landlord around the throat after following up a complaint about the pub's kitchen hygiene.[19][28] In 2010, work was successful in turning the pub into a house.[19]

The Portland Branch Railway was opened to Easton in October 1900, where it traveled from Castletown to the East Weares area. Near the back of the Mermaid Inn, the line turned inland and passed under the main road from Wakeham to Southwell. In the 1980s and 1990s the track was used by heavy lorries associated with the nearby quarries around Wakeham area.[19]

Grade listed features[edit]

Part of Portland Museum and the entrance leading to Church Ope Cove area

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

Houses[edit]

Tudor Cottage (167 Wakeham) is a wide frontage house, dating from the late 17th century. A date of circa 1680 has been postulated, but an earlier date seems possible. Originally it may have been a two-room cross-passage plan, but later modifications have obscured interpretation. The property was in the gift of St. Andrew's Church, and is one of the most interesting survivals in Wakeham, although major changes seem to have occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. It became Grade II Listed in September 1978.[29]

203 Wakeham, along with its attached outbuilding became Grade II Listed in January 1951. It dates from the early 19th century, with the outbuilding possibly being a former well or cistern.[30] 209 and 211 Wakeham - a pair of semi-detached houses dating from early 19th century were also Grade II Listed at the same time,[31] and so was 99 Wakeham, a mid 18th century house.[32] 95 Wakeham, an early to mid 19th century house,[33] and the pair of houses 205 and 207 Wakeham became Grade II Listed in January 1951 too. 205 and 207 Wakeham are of late 18th or early 19th century origin, and had replacement windows during the 20th century. In the late 20th century, No. 207 went through some changes, but still remains an important element in the mixed row of houses.[34] 97 Wakeham is an early to mid 18th century house, which became Grade II Listed in January 1951,[35] as did 213 Wakeham, which dates from the early 19th century.[36]

During May 1993, the following houses were Grade II Listed; early 19th century 65 Wakeham,[37] 106 Wakeham (late 17th century house with 19th century fenestration),[38] and Woodbine Cottage (112 Wakeham), which dates from the mid 19th century, but possibly has the remains of an earlier house.[39] 6 Wakeham was also designated Grade II at this time - an early 19th century house.[40]

127 Wakeham, a late 18th or early 19th century house, became Grade II Listed in June 1975. It has been much modified in 20th century but remains part of significant group at the widest part of this broad street.[41] At the same time 137 and 139 Wakeham - a pair of houses dating from early 19th century, with backs extended in 20th century - became Grade II Listed as well.[42] The characteristic modest pair of island cottages 129 and 131 Wakeham, date from the late 18th or early 19th century, and became Grade II Listed in June 1975 too.[43] 116 Wakeham, a late 18th or early 19th century house, became Grade II Listed in August 1976.[44] At the same time 114 Wakeham also became Grade Listed, and dates from the early 19th century.[45] 118 Wakeham was formerly two cottages from the late 18th or early 19th century. The property has lost all its original windows, but it part of a group including Nos. 114 and 116 that were probably built at one time. It was Grade II Listed in August 1976.[46]

215 Wakeham - a late 18th or early 19th century house, and immediately adjacent to Portland Museum, was designated Grade II in September 1978, as was the small house of 79 Wakeham (from the mid 18th century).[47][48] whilst the early 18th century 81 Wakeham became Grade II Listed in September 1987.[49]

A dovecote, approximately 5 metres west-south-west of 106 Wakeham, became designated Grade II in May 1993. The former dovecote still has a blocked gable opening which may have had louvre or dove openings. It later became a privy and now remains a store, but still retaining a grand privy structure. It is possibly of a 17th-century origin, and is an unusual and rare survival, attached to a small house of corresponding interest historically.[50]

Portland Museum[edit]

Portland Museum is located within Wakeham and close to Church Ope Cove, which is just east of the village. Founded by Dr Marie Stopes, a pioneer of birth control, in 1930, the museum continues to open during peak season to date.[51] The museum is housed in two former cottages, one titled Avice's Cottage, and both of which became Grade II Listed in January 1951. With both retaining thatched roofs, the cottages act as a reminder of the type of cottage that once appeared all across the island. No. 217 (known as the Marie Stopes Cottage) and Avice's Cottage is of the 17th century but much modified in the early 19th century. One of the museum's cottages, Avice's Cottage, was the inspiration behind the novel The Well-Beloved, written by Thomas Hardy, as the home of three generations of "Avice's" - the novel's heroines. Hardy was a friend of Stopes.[52]

Church Ope Cove[edit]

Although not quite a part of Wakeham, near to Portland Museum, and above Church Ope Cove is Rufus Castle - a ruined castle dating from the late 15th century, on the site of an earlier building (with origins dating from 1142) - making it Portland's oldest castle. It has been Grade I Listed since January 1951.[53] In addition to this, the castle has become a scheduled monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance.[54] St Andrew's Church sits between the castle and the cove. It was Portland's first parish church, dating from the Saxon period, and now lies in ruin. It has been Grade II* Listed since the same time as the castle.[55] Pennsylvania Castle is found just on the edge of Wakeham, near Church Ope Cove. The castle and its attached walls has been Grade II Listed since January 1951.[56] The gatehouse and lodges to the castle were also made Grade II Listed at the same time, although the lodges are now separated in ownership from the castle.[57]

References[edit]

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