Dorset Architectural Heritage Week 2017 - 8 places to visit

PUBLISHED: 11:28 31 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:28 31 August 2017

Sturminster Newton Mill

Sturminster Newton Mill


From a cliff-top folly to the turbulent past of a castle and its village, Dorset Architectural Heritage Week is a great way to discover more about the county’s historic buildings, as Edward Griffiths discovers

Dorset Architectural Heritage Week (7 - 14 September 2017) is an annual event celebrating Dorset’s rich heritage of architecture and building. Originally organised in 1994 by the Dorset Conservation Officers Group, it has been an East Dorset Heritage Trust event since 2014, the Trust having been involved with the event from the start. This year, there are over 200 free events at 70 different venues. The programme is totally reliant on the goodwill of the properties’ owners and all event holders are volunteers. This small but varied selection will give you a glimpse of some of the rare and extraordinary treasures you can admire and the guided walks and talks available. 

Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge

Prominent on vertiginous cliffs overlooking Kimmeridge Bay and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the four-storey circular Clavell Tower was built in 1830 as a picturesque folly by Revd. John Clavell of nearby Smedmore House, using stone retrieved from below the cliffs, with a Portland stone parapet and brick window dressings. John Richards assumed the name of Clavell on inheriting Smedmore in 1817. He died in 1833. Threatened with imminent destruction by the retreating cliffs, the tower, which featured as The Black Tower in P. D. James novel, was moved 25 metres back from the brink by the Landmark Trust in 2006-2008. It is now a holiday let owned and managed by the Landmark Trust.

• Open: 9 – 10 September, 10am to 4pm

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The Keep, Dorchester

The Keep was built in 1879 as a gatehouse to the Marabout Barracks which were built in 1795 when the Dorset Volunteer Rangers, later the Queen‘s Own Dorset Yeomanry, were raised. Now home to The Keep Military Museum it has displays which include the Dorset Militia, Dorset Yeomanry and the Dorset and Devon Regiments. The guided tour, on 7 & 12 September, explores Dorchester’s military architecture from the Roman period to the 20th century. Mainly based around The Keep, the tour also takes in other surviving 1860s to 1870s stone and brick buildings, including the riding school, the ‘Little Keep’ gatehouse and hospital.

• Where: Bridport Road, Dorchester

• Event: 7 & 12 September Military Architecture of Dorchester Guided Tour, 6.30 - 8pm

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St Andrew’s Church, Kinson

St Andrew’s is the oldest church in Bournemouth, and has been extensively refurbished recently. It has a late-Norman tower, a 13th century chancel which was restored in 1875, and nave and aisles rebuilt in 1894-95 by W.H. Romaine-Walker.

Inside there are numerous historic artefacts, including a 13th-century font, Hanoverian royal arms on canvas, prayer boards, a Queen Victoria memorial clock installed in 1904, beautiful stained glass windows, and a World War I memorial plaque.

• Open: 7 – 14 September, 11am to 3pm (Sunday 10th from 1.30pm, both Thursdays from 12.30pm)

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Byngley House, Poole

Built in 1567 by wealthy merchant Thomas Byngley, Mayor of Poole in 1555, this stunning Elizabethan period residence in Market Street is 450 years old this year and exudes a wealth of history. Original 16th century features include inglenook fireplaces, stone mullion windows, and one of the few remaining original solid oak Elizabethan stairwells in England.

Thomas Byngley’s main business was dealing in green corn, house building and cloth. In his 1567 will, he left substantial property, silver and gilt to his daughters and son. To his wife Alice, he left £400, a huge amount of money in those days.

During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell is rumoured to have spent time at Byngley House, a meeting place to pay his Parliamentarian soldiers who were billeted at nearby Scaplens Court, a merchant’s house and inn for rich travellers

• Where: 6 Market Street, Old Poole

• Open: 7 September 10am - 4pm & 8 September 10am - 2pm, with the owner on site to answer questions.

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Corfe Castle Village Guided Walk: Unlocking the Bankes Archive

Work is currently underway on ‘Unlocking the Bankes Archive’, a Heritage Lottery funded project to support the cataloguing and conservation of this internationally significant archive. This guided walk looks at the Bankes family’s influence on the village of Corfe. Questions raised during the project include: Why did John Bankes buy up so much property in Corfe village in the 1760s and 1770s? And what were the cottages on the ‘waste’? Research also investigates plans and drawings made by William John Bankes, a favourite of Queen Victoria, as he sought to restore the castle in the early 19th century.

• Event: 14 September at 10.30am

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Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle was built between 1831 and 1836 by distinguished diplomat Lord Stuart de Rothesay. Its romantic Gothic Revival style is largely due to the medieval masonry shipped here from France. The 9 metres high ‘Jesse Window’ is made from French medieval stained glass, the central panel believed to come from a church in Rouen. Rothesay’s grandfather, Lord Bute, had built an earlier mansion here when it was still open heathland.

In 1907, when Edward Stuart Wortley was the owner, Kaiser Wilhelm II visited in order to recover from ill health. In gratitude for the hospitality, the Kaiser gave Wortley a pair of stained glass windows. Harry Selfridge, founder of Selfridges department store in London, rented the Castle whilst planning to develop land at Hengistbury Head.

In 1967 and 1968, devastating fires left the Castle a roofless ruin, but in the 1990s a huge repair and conservation programme, jointly funded by Christchurch Borough Council, English Heritage and a £2.65million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, restored the building to its present impressive condition.

• Where: Rothesay Drive, Highcliffe

• Event: 7 September, 10.30am - 6.30pm, free admission for the DAHW Tours at 11.30am, 2.30pm, 4pm and 5.30om. Booking required call 01202 888992 or book online at

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Sturminster Newton Mill Open Day

Built on a mill site dating back to 1016, the present Sturminster Mill dates from 1566, with an additional fulling mill built in 1611 to manufacture ‘swanskin’ a waterproof wool material for Poole’s Newfoundland trade. The flour mill worked continuously until 1970, by which time it was producing animal feed. Sturminster Newton Museum Trust took over the mill and in 1980, a tenant miller began working the mill, but uneconomically and in 1991 it closed again. Peter Loosemore, whose grandfather Elkins had once been the miller at Sturminster Newton Mill, began making flour here once again in 1994, and he has been master miller and tour guide for the last 23 years.

Powered by a 100 year old turbine, the machinery will be running on the open day and a supervisor will give extra information. Tea and homemade cakes available.

• Event: 12 September, 11am to 5pm

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Weymouth Old Town Walk

Originally, two distinct ports divided by the River Wey, with Weymouth on the north side and Melcombe Regis on the south; the two, frequently disputing, sides were merged into ‘Weymouth’ by James I Charter of 1606. Previously, Elizabeth I had signed a Charter in 1571 but Weymouth side remained opposed. Again divided during the Civil War, Weymouth sided with the Royalists and Melcombe Regis with Parliament. In Maiden Street, the ‘cannon ball in the wall’, was fired by Royalist cannon from the Nothe, where Nothe Fort was built later in 1862. Discover more about this town’s architecture on the guided walk.

• Event: 9 September, 11am - 1pm. Weymouth Civic Society members will lead tours of Weymouth’s Georgian seafront, old harbour and historic town. Meet at Weymouth Pavilion, Esplanade

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