Jim Fisher's Genealogy and Family History Pages
Tarrant Crawford, Dorset
Tarrant Crawford is the last of a series of villages, all called Tarrant (something), along the course of the little, 8 mile long, River Tarrant, before it joins the River Stour at Spetisbury. It now consists of a few scattered houses, the remnants of an ancient stone cross at a road junction, two farms and an isolated very small church a mile or so away from most of the houses but close to one of the farms. Most of the standard amenities which would normally be regarded as distinguishing a village from a mere hamlet are missing now, but it once had greater importance (see below). I do not know which the inhabitants call it, if they think about the matter at all.
Each picture can be seen enlarged by clicking on it.
Origin of The Name
The name of the village is obviously in part derived from that of the river, itself meaning "trespasser" from its tendency to flooding. The second word comes from the original name of the crossing of the nearby River Stour, which was called Crow Ford, until the present bridge, called Crawford Bridge, was built.
Although Dorset generally is a very hilly county, around here the hills are not very big (although some are steep-sided), with cattle grazing in smallish green fields bounded by hedges, interspersed here and there with small patches of woodland - a quiet, gentle, very rural country.
The River Tarrant runs roughly north to south, but the lower part through Tarrant Keyneston and Tarrant Crawford to its union with the Stour veers to south west. It meets the Stour about at right angles, as the larger river runs north west to south east, eventually meeting the sea in company with the Salisbury Avon at Christchurch.
The Tarrant runs for most of its length through a narrow, steep sided valley, but Tarrant Crawford lies where the valley begins to open out a little as it joins the broader, flat-bottomed valley of the River Stour. The highest point in the parish, along part of its north east boundary, lies about 200 feet above sea level, while at its lowest where part of the south west boundary runs along the Stour it is only about 100 feet up. Almost every one of its buildings is close to the lower elevation.
The parish is very small in area, being only just over a mile along its longest axis, which runs north east to south west, and about four fifths of a mile at maximum in the other direction.
It is located about 3 miles south east of Blandford Forum and about 6 miles north west of Wimborne, both nowadays smallish market towns, but large enough to provide for most day-to-day requirements. The entertainments and amenities of a larger town are available about 10 miles away in Poole, and immediately beyond that, even larger Bournemouth. The nearest shops, pubs and similar village institutions are a mile or so away in Spetisbury, just across the River Stour.
A map of the parish (total 71,820 bytes) is on a separate page.
The earliest evidence of habitation in the area that I am aware of is the iron age hill fort variously called Crawford Castle or Spetisbury Rings. This, however, is situated on the hilltop on the Spetisbury side of the river, so is not strictly Tarrant Crawford, despite one of its names.
An abbey of Cistercian nuns was established near to where the church now stands, back in the reign of Richard I (1189-1199) according to one source, but a little later in 1223 according to another. The latter source, a booklet available in the church when I last visited, refers to an earlier community of Anchoresses, living in a house adjacent to the church (called the Manse of the Nuns), so perhaps this was confused with the abbey by the first source quoted. The building is long gone, but it is thought that some of the stones from the outbuildings have been incorporated in the large farmhouse, called Abbey Farm.
Two relatively famous names are associated with Tarrant Crawford. One is Queen Joan, the wife of Alexander II of Scotland and daughter of King John of England (Richard I's brother and successor), who is buried here and was the first lay abbess.
The other famous person was Bishop Richard Poore, builder of Salisbury Cathedral, who was baptised in the church and later (in 1237) buried in the abbey, which he founded. He was at one time Dean of the old cathedral at Old Sarum, and later became bishop of first Chichester, then Salisbury and finally Durham.
What the population was in those early days I do not know. The 1841 census shows that there were then 67 people living there. By 1851 it had risen to 77, only to fall back to 67 again by 1861. In 1871 it was still 67, but dropped further to 61 by 1881. I suspect that today it is no more than about half of that.
(photo 40,699 bytes)
The remnants of the old cross stand prominently on a stone plinth at a junction of the "main" road through the village and a side lane leading to Shapwick. The inscription on its base reads:
"THIS WAYSIDE CROSS WAS RESTORED & SET ON NEW STEPS
ON THE OLD SITE BY MANY FRIENDS OF TARRANT CRAWFORD
ANNO DOM MDCCCCXIV"
(photo 55,570 bytes)
This is a view of the Tarrant Crawford countryside and a couple of houses, from beside the cross.
(Photo 57,888 bytes)
St. Mary's Church is the jewel of Tarrant Crawford, and one of the most interesting in Dorset, despite its small size. It was originally dedicated to All Saints, in about 1170, when it was given to the Anchoresses, together with the Manse and the Mill, by Ralph de Kahaines.
The main walls and the chancel were built in the 12th century, and most of the remainder in the 13th. The only major (15th century) later additions were the upper part of the tower and two of the windows. The tower houses three bells, two of them mediæval and one 17th century.
This photo (31,757 bytes) gives a general idea of the interior of the church, but does not show the wall paintings (see below) at all clearly.
The thing which most attracts people to this church, however, is the set of ancient wall paintings which cover most of the aisleless nave. Most date from the 14th century, but the earliest is 13th and the most recent from the 16th or 17th century. Particularly impressive is the south wall of the nave, which is divided into two by a horizontal band. Above the band is a series of 14 scenes from the life of St. Margaret of Antioch, complete except for the last two - said to be the most extensive and complete such sequence in England. The sequence dates from the early 14th century, but, though rather faint, the twelve remaining paintings are still visible. In all there are 24 paintings on the walls, only three of which are indecipherable.
Not mentioned in any literature I have seen, but which my family and I found of interest, was the tiny organ (photo 38,482 bytes). No bigger than a standard upright piano, it has a single keyboard, and the two large pedals are used by the player to drive the bellows which operate it! (No, we didn't try it.)
I am indebted to the (unknown) author of the booklet from the church (mentioned above) for most of my information about the church and the history of the abbey. The booklet was probably produced by The Churches Conservation Trust, who maintain the church.
This 15th century nine-arched bridge (photo 75,098 bytes), just outside the parish where the River Tarrant joins the much bigger River Stour, still carries the road linking the parish with neighbouring Spetisbury. The second photo (49,220 bytes) shows the combined river looking downstream from the bridge, while the third (58,604 bytes) and fourth (85,562 bytes) show the River Stour and River Tarrant respectively looking upstream from the bridge.
This page is a tiny contribution towards the excellent Dorset On-Line Parish Clerks project, which makes transcriptions of various Dorset records available free of charge to family historians (and others). Volunteers to transcribe more records are always needed.
I have transcribed and indexed by surname the 1841 census for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
I have also transcribed and indexed by surname the 1851 census for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
A contributor who wishes to remain anonymous has transcribed, and I have indexed indexed by surname, the 1861 census for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
I have added, and indexed by surname, the 1881 census for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
Christine Crawford has transcribed, and I have indexed by surname, the Bishop's transcripts baptism records for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
Christine Crawford has transcribed, and I have indexed by surname (separate indices for grooms, brides and witnesses), the Bishop's transcripts marriage records for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
Christine Crawford has transcribed, and I have indexed by surname, the Bishop's transcripts burial records for Tarrant Crawford. Details can be found on the relevant page.
I would be happy to include here details of anyone else who may be researching either their family history in, or the local history of, Tarrant Crawford. This can include web site links, email addresses, possibly lists of surnames of interest in the village, and any resources in which you may be willing to do lookups for others (but no commercial advertising). If you would like a mention, please get in touch.
The following are the surnames of interest to me in this village:
These are of interest to other people (N.B. links are email links to the interested researcher):
HUND (Michael Sprackling)
KNOTT, Rev. Robert Rowe was the chaplain of the Donative of Tarrant Crawford from 1849 to 1865 (Maurice Snowdon)
MEADER, Henry, b 1830 at Oakley - owned the Willet Arms in Oakley in the mid-1850's. Father Andrew lived in T. Monkton. (Shelagh Kew Barker)
SPRACKLING (Michael Sprackling)
STEVENS (Michael Sprackling)
WARR, Reuben, b.1830 at T. Crawford & Charlotte (née Meader), b.1819 at T. Monkton. (Shelagh Kew Barker)
If you are visiting the area and want local accommodation, this (commercial) web site offers a variety of possibilities in the general area (but when I looked there was, not surprisingly, none in the village, the nearest being in adjacent Spetisbury)
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Genealogy and Dorset
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