Fontmell Magna

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fontmell Magna
Fontmell Magna - - 1297705.jpg
Fontmell Magna village centre
Fontmell Magna is located in Dorset
Fontmell Magna
Fontmell Magna
Location within Dorset
Population734 [1]
OS grid referenceST866169
Civil parish
  • Fontmell Magna
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtSP7
Dialling code01747
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°57′05″N 2°11′30″W / 50.9515°N 2.1918°W / 50.9515; -2.1918Coordinates: 50°57′05″N 2°11′30″W / 50.9515°N 2.1918°W / 50.9515; -2.1918
Parish church of St Andrew

Fontmell Magna is a village and civil parish in north Dorset, England. It is situated in the Blackmore Vale, close to the chalk hills of Cranborne Chase, on the A350 road five miles (eight kilometres) south of Shaftesbury and eight miles (thirteen kilometres) north of Blandford Forum. In the 2011 census the parish had a population of 734.[1]


The name Fontmell derives from a Celtic river-name meaning 'spring by the bare hill', and Magna—meaning great—distinguishes this settlement from Fontmell Parva (parva meaning small),[2] which is a few miles southwest in Child Okeford parish. In 877 Fontmell Magna was recorded as Funtemel, in 1086 in the Domesday Book it was Fontemale, and in 1391 it was Magnam Funtemell.[2]


Evidence of early human presence occurs in the east and northeast of the parish in the form of earthworks on the chalk hills: these consist of three cross-dykes, a barrow and a mound that is also possibly a barrow.[3]

In 932, King Æthelstan granted an estate at Fontmell to the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey under the condition that they would sing 50 psalms after Prime and offer masses at Terce, for the king's intention.[4]

Of settlements existing within the parish today, the earliest is the main village, which originated before the Norman Conquest.[3] The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded that Fontemale was in Sixpenny Hundred;[5] it had 3 mills,[6] 68 households, and the estate's lord and tenant-in-chief was Shaftesbury Abbey.[5] A land survey made by the abbey in about 1130–35 shows that the Fontmell Magna estate had 65 tenants, of whom 41 were villeins, each holding between half and one yardland, and the rest were cottagers, each with about four acres. The number of mills had increased to four.[7] A second survey made in about 1170–80 shows the population had increased to 80 tenants, of whom 55 were villeins.[7]

To the west of the main village, the hamlet of Bedchester is also of pre-Conquest origin, though the settlement furthest west in the parish, Hartgrove, wasn't recorded before 1254. Hill Farm, over the chalk hills in the east of the parish, first appears in records in 1333.[3]


Fontmell Magna is in The Beacon electoral ward, which extends to Cann in the north, Sutton Waldron in the south and Guy's Marsh in the west. The ward, which had a population of 2,277 in the 2011 census,[8] is part of the constituency of North Dorset, and is currently represented in the UK parliament by the Conservative Simon Hoare.[9]


The parish covers 3,200 acres (1,300 ha) and extends from the dip slope of Cranborne Chase in the east, to the area around the settlement of Hartgrove in the Blackmore Vale in the west.[3] From west to east the underlying geology comprises Kimmeridge clay around Hartgrove, a ridge of Lower Greensand east of the Twyford Brook, Gault and Upper Greensand from the valley of the Fontmell Brook eastwards, and then the high chalk escarpment of Cranborne Chase.[3] The chalk hill just outside the village to the east, Fontmell Down, is a nature reserve.[10]


The Met Office has a climate station at Fontmell Magna. Between 1981 and 2010 it recorded an average of 857.3 millimetres (33.75 in) of rain per annum, and average temperatures between 1.6 and 7.8 °C (34.9 and 46.0 °F) in January, and 11.4 and 21.7 °C (52.5 and 71.1 °F) in July.

Climate data for Fontmell Magna (90 m or 295 ft asl, averages 1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.8
Average low °C (°F) 1.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 86.0
Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 12.7 10.4 10.6 10.2 9.5 8.6 8.7 8.6 9.2 12.7 12.5 12.6 126.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.0 68.0 104.5 156.6 190.0 182.7 190.7 183.1 134.8 95.8 63.9 47.4 1,469.5
Source: Met Office[11]


In the 2011 census Fontmell Magna civil parish had 334 dwellings,[12] 319 households and a population of 734.[1]

The population of the parish in the censuses between 1921 and 2011 is shown in the table below:

Census Population of Fontmell Magna Parish 1921—2001 (except 1941)
Census 1921 1931 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 460 448 534 541 540 560 540 670 734
Source:Dorset County Council[13]

Notable buildings[edit]

There are 45 structures within Fontmell Magna civil parish that have been listed by Historic England for their architectural or historical interest. There are no structures listed as Grade I – the designation of highest significance – but the parish church is designated as Grade II*. All the other listings are Grade II.[14] In 1906 Sir Frederick Treves described the church as "one of the handsomest in Dorsetshire".[15]

Notable residents[edit]

Lieutenant Philip Salkeld V.C., who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in blowing open the Kashmir Gate in Delhi, India, in 1857, was born and grew up in Fontmell Magna, where his father was the rector.[16]

In 1930, art collector Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill bought the Springhead estate near Fontmell Magna. In 1934, writer and rural revivalist Rolf Gardiner and his wife Marabel bought a cottage on the estate, which they farmed. Gardiner was active in Dorset society, becoming a member of Dorset County Council between 1937–1946, High Sheriff of Dorset 1967–68, President of the Dorset Federation of Young Farmers Clubs 1944–46, a Chairman and then President of the Dorset branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England between 1957-1972 as well as other rural and landscape committees and working parties.

The Gardiners' son, orchestral conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner CBE FKC, was born in Fontmell Magna in 1943.

The village was also home to cinematographer Oswald Morris (1915–2014) in the last twenty years of his life.


  1. ^ a b c "Area: Fontmell Magna (Parish), Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b David Mills, ed. (2011). A Dictionary of British Place Names. Oxford University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-19-960908-6.
  3. ^ a b c d e "'Fontmell Magna', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 4: North (1972), pp. 21–27". British History Online. University of London & History of Parliament Trust. November 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  4. ^ Studies in the Early History of Shaftesbury Abbey. Dorset County Council, 1999
  5. ^ a b "Place: Fontmell [Magna]". Open Domesday. Archived from the original on 26 July 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Dorset A–G". The Domesday Book Online. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  7. ^ a b Bettey, J.H. (1974). Dorset. City and County Histories. David & Charles. pp. 42–3. ISBN 0-7153-6371-9.
  8. ^ "The Beacon ward 2011". Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Dorset North Parliamentary constituency". Election 2015. BBC. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  10. ^ Booton, Peter (April 2012). "Melbury Hill, Compton Abbas and Fontmell Down". Dorset Life. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Fontmell Magna (Dorset) UK climate averages". Met Office. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Area: Fontmell Magna (Parish), Dwellings, Household Spaces and Accommodation Type, 2011 (KS401EW)". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Parishes (A-L), 1921-2001- Census Years". Dorset County Council. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Listed Buildings in Fontmell Magna, Dorset, England". Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  15. ^ Treves, Frederick, Sir (1906). Highways and Byways in Dorset (1st ed.). Macmillan. p. 50.
  16. ^ "Lieutenant Philip Salkeld V.C." 26 May 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2014.

External links[edit]

Media related to Fontmell Magna at Wikimedia Commons