The Second Half of the Century
The first half of the century had proved that neither Marxism, Facism nor Feminism could provide satisfactory answers to the world’s problems. Standards of living in post-war British Society steadily rose, but at the same time the gap between the very rich and the comparatively poor widened. The State’s field of influence in everyday life increased enormously. The international threat of Communism and the IRA disappeared, only to be replaced by the violence of Islamist extremists. The year 1945 was a watershed in British Social History and this affected the Parish of Langton Matravers.
Birth-control became fully operational with the provision of the pill. Abortions became nothing to remark about. Sexual intercourse before marriage became almost a necessity. Divorce became prevalent.
Church-going declined steadily, as more and more people, influenced by what they had read in books or seen on television programmes, became sceptical about, if not actually denying, the existence of a God.
Communities, therefore, were not as closely knit as in former times. Folk still enjoyed gossip about their neighbours, but the really caring attitude became reduced to a handful of what the remainder of parishioners saw as ‘do-gooders’. Many cottages became second homes and were therefore lived in for only a few weeks or week-ends of the year. It does not do an old property with solid walls any good to be left empty without heating for any length of time so the gutting of interiors and complete re-styling of many homes has resulted. Those newcomers who came to live permanently in the parish have not always seen eye-to-eye with those whose ancestors have lived in the area for many years. Although gradual change is inevitable and new ideas are always to be welcomed and put to the test, this process was not always amicably achieved in Langton.
In the village about one third of the dwellings after 1950 had but one occupant, and almost another third had but two. Where a cottage became available, the asking-price was far too high for newly-weds or a prospective married couple. Such young couples were forced to look outside the parish for a home. Most young people could not wait to leave the place where they had been born and brought up, anyway, because they feared interference from family connections. .
Jet-propelled air-travel diminished distances between continents. In 1920 if one emigrated to Canada or Australia one was more or less gone for good, but by 1960 relations travelled out several times to visit such emigrants. Ease of travel and reduced fares caused a great increase in Langtonians taking holidays abroad.
Supermarkets and frozen foods brought seasonal diets to an end. All fruits became available in every season. The advent of the microwave caused a steep decline in the art of cooking. Young married women were often keen to explore a career and obviously they did not wish to return home after a day’s work and start cooking so pre-prepared meals became the vogue.
THE SOCIAL CLASSES
The sort of people who used to be thought of as the ‘upper classes’ in the village no longer existed. Everyone had some sort of work, even those who lived in large houses such as Lease Wood House or Steppeshill House. The Manor House of Durnford, built in classical style in 1725, was pulled down by an in-coming family called Savage and then rebuilt on a smaller scale in the 1950s, but using the same style and ashlar of the original. The reduced size of the façade but with the original height gives a box-like appearance which is not altogether pleasing. After the departure of the Savage family, it was bought by a London family who visited only occasionally, but even these have laid no claim to be ‘upper class‘. Nevertheless, a class system related to money has persisted, and the gap between the high-earners and the lowest-paid has increased.
During the Second World War, because of the influx of evacuees, the population of the parish reached 1,167, but by 1951 had dropped to a more normal 980. By 1981 it reached just over 1,000 and in 1991 was 1,100.
In 1944 Dorset County Council had become responsible for all education, primary, secondary and further.
In 1949 Langton School Authorities purchased three buildings which had been erected on the grounds of the former Durnford Preparatory School by the radar scientists during the war. These rooms became the School Hall and Gymnasium, the Canteen, the Head Teacher’s Office, the Staff-Room, the Secretary’s Office, a Medical Room, store-rooms and additional toilets. The land between them, which had been given to the school by Mr VEG Haggard, headmaster of The Old Malthouse School, became a second playground and small school garden.
Head teachers at Langton School from 1956 to 2000 have been Arthur Stuckey, David Drewer, Roy Parry, Deann Weeks, Margaret Carey, Chris Bradey, Mark Sandercock, Gill Burgess, and Angela John. Assistant teachers have been Frank Selman, Gordon Hill, Vera Chedd (later Mrs Nelson Bower), Ann Thomas, Sue Gee (later Mrs Colborne), Diane Stoneham (née Smith), Hilary Horton, Lisa Bennett, Helen Rochelle, Katina Burridge, Jan Crisford and Becky Meteau.
Langton School went from strength to strength after being changed to a Primary School in 1950, and then to a First School in 1953. A swimming-pool was added in part of the smaller east playground.
Older children went either to the Secondary Modern School at Herston, or to Swanage Grammar School and, after the latter closed in 1974, to the Comprehensive Upper School in Wareham, the School at Herston then being made a Middle School.
‘Ofsted’ Inspections took place at regular intervals and Langton School received some very fine reports. A Play-Group for children under the age of five was established on the First School premises and this had developed into a proper Pre-School by 1999. .
The Old Malthouse Preparatory School under joint headmasters Victor Haggard and Evan Hope-Gill participated in village life, especially where games were concerned. Mr Hope-Gill supported youth activities in the village for many years, and Mr Haggard gave village boys the freedom to play cricket and other games on the north playing-field belonging to his school. The Senior Assistant at that school, Peter Mattinson, played cricket in the village team which included Headmaster IE Peart of the village school, schoolmaster Frank Selman, David Templar and his brother Peter, David Saville, and the young temporary Assistants at the Preparatory School who were awaiting entry to University. The team regularly played against the Swanage Second XI, Lloyd's Bank, and the Studland village team among others.
When Mr Tadman retired in 1946 the new Rector, the Rev Douglas O’Hanlon, was an ex-RAF Chaplain who had also served as a missionary in Ethiopia. He believed passionately in putting the Sacraments to the forefront of his ministry. Mrs Katherine O’Hanlon was a specialist in Religious Drama and established the St George’s Players. This group of villagers produced Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and two mediaeval Mystery Plays of the York Cycle, ‘Mary the Maid’ and ‘Mary the Mother’. The latter was presented in churches all over the Diocese of Salisbury and eventually in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, to considerable acclaim.
Towards the end of Mr O’Hanlon’s incumbency the Sung Eucharist was broadcast nationwide by the BBC for the first time ever in the country, using Langton Parish Church, the preacher being Canon JB Phillips, a locally-resident retired priest whose 'translations' into more fluent contemporary language and books on theology had been widely praised (Note 167). Mr O’Hanlon was promoted to a Canonry upon leaving the parish. Many years later he returned to Purbeck to be Rector of Studland and wrote a book concerning his time as Rector of Langton Matravers (Note 168).
The next Rector, the Rev William AM Langdon, who arrived in 1951, continued the broadcast Services and a total of seven in all from Langton Parish Church resulted between 1950 and 1957.
Mrs Langdon continued drama in the village, but of the secular variety. When Mr Langdon left, also with an elevation to the rank of Canon, the Rev Anthony L Nind arrived in 1961. Under his ministry and that of his successor, the Rev John R Stewart who came in 1970 the church flourished, though the latter saw the introduction of the first experimental services. Rector Stewart was indefatigable in producing new ideas. At one time he had plans to ‘brick up the chancel-arch and convert the east end of the Church into a chapel‘, but this was rejected by the PCC and parishioners.
Both Rectors Nind and Stewart were raised to the rank of Canon and the former eventually became Archdeacon of the Anglican Churches in Europe, whilst the latter later became Treasurer of the Diocese of Salisbury.
Under Rector Stewart the three ecclesiastical parishes of Langton Matravers, Worth Matravers, and Kingston were united in one benefice and this meant much more hard work for the incumbent.
Originally the settings for the Choral Eucharist at Langton Matravers Parish Church were those by John Merbeck, the Missa de Angelis, and that by John Dankworth. The Series 3 Communion Service was used for the Parish Communion in Rector Stewart‘s incumbency and, as commercial settings did not go down well with the congregation, four ‘home-grown’ settings by the organist, RJ Saville, were employed, the first of which was the favourite. At this time the robed choir numbered between thirty-seven and forty-one and sang to a very high standard.
The last Rector of Langton Matravers was appointed in 1991. He was the Rev Robert N K Watton, who saw out the Twentieth Century.
THE 1951 FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN
The fortnight-long Langton Matravers Festival of the Arts was the parish’s contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. There was an event on every day of the fifteen days of the Festival and on some days more than one. The Patrons were Lady Coryton, Miss Dymond‘s niece, who was living at Twoleas House, and Admiral of the Fleet Lord Tovey, GCB, KBE, DSO, Baron Langton Matravers. The lords of the Manors of Langton Wallis and Langton Mautravers had been asked, but declined. Mr Bankes sent his best wishes but said that he was retiring from public life. Colonel Scott of Encombe replied that he did not own the manor, so it had to be explained to him that in fact he did. There was a Festival Committee of eighteen, under the Chairmanship of Cllr LJ Nichols, Chairman of the Parish Council.
The Festival opened with special Services at both Churches. The morning Anglican Sung Eucharist was, apart from the Sermon, a repeat of the service which had been broadcast on Easter Day 1950, sung to Martin Shaw’s Anglican Folk Mass, with SS Wesley’s Introit ‘Lead me, Lord’. There was a Choral Evensong sung to Stainer’s B Flat Service, with the Anthem ‘How dear are Thy Counsels’ by Dr Crotch. At 1.30pm in the afternoon the Langton Scout Group and the Cub Scouts, under their respective Leaders, revived the ancient ceremony of 'beating the bounds’ of the parish, one party going north and the other south, and meeting at Gully at 4.30pm.
Monday 9th June was ‘Schools Day’. During the morning there were various demonstrations at Langton School, which were open to visitors, as was the School Dinner. There was an Exhibition of pupils’ work in the School Hall. In the afternoon there were Field Activities, including a Mothers’ Race and a Fathers’ Race. Admission to all this was free. At 5.30pm the Old Malthouse Preparatory School staged a performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta ‘HMS. Pinafore’: the accompaniment was provided by members of the Bournemouth Pavilion Orchestra. Again, admission was free.
On Tuesday 10th there was a Country Dance Party in the Rectory Garden, organized by the Langton Folk Dance Club.
On Wednesday 11th St George’s School presented a Concert of Songs and three short Plays, ‘The Enchanted Ring’, ‘The Land of Lies’, and ‘Who’s Who’.
On Thursday 12th a Parish Exhibition was opened in two sections. The first concerned the general history of the parish and was arranged by the local historian. It was in the Memorial and Billiard Rooms. Admission was 3d but free to school parties accompanied by a teacher. The other section, to which admission was free, was at The Old Malthouse School. It dealt with local Geology and Prehistory, and had been set up by the local Archaeologist Bernard Calkin MA, FSA. Both exhibitions lasted for a week.
On the same day there was a Special Whist Drive in the evening. Also on that day the Langton Branch of the Mothers’ Union opened an Exhibition in the Parish Church. This also lasted for a week and admission was free.
On Friday 13th at 7pm there was a Secular Concert in the Methodist Church Hall. It included the One-Act Play ‘Mrs Methusela’ by Philip Johnson.
On Saturday 14ththere were Mimes and Exhibitions at the Seventeenth Century Dunshay Manor House, which included portraits and landcapes by the late George Spencer Watson RA, sculptures by Miss Mary Spencer Watson, and mimes by Mrs Hilda Spencer Watson. Teas were on sale during the afternoon at moderate prices.
On Saturday 14th there was also a Scouts and Cubs Camp Fire in the Old Marble Quarry near the village, at which the Langton Troop was joined by Swanage Troops.
Sunday 15th was Thanksgiving Day, There was a Special Service at the Methodist Church at which the anthem ‘All things praise Thee’ by G. Franklyn was sung. Choral Matins at the Parish Church used the Setting in B Flat by Stanford, the Anthem ‘O Praise the Lord’ by Goss, and a ‘Jubilate Deo’ specially composed for the occasion by the Choirmaster, RJ Saville. At 3pm there was a United Service in the Parish Church, attended formally by the Parish Council and by the Scouts, Cubs, and Brownies with their banners. The Service was taken by Mr Victor Haggard, Anglican Lay Reader and headmaster of The Old Malthouse School, and by the Rev RW Charlesworth, retired Methodist Minister who was also Clerk to the Parish Council. The parish incumbency was vacant at the time.
At 7.30pm that Sunday the by now famous St George’s Players presented Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ in the Church.
On Monday 16th from 2.30 to 9.30pm there was a special Library Exhibition in the Hall set up by the local County Librarian, Mrs BM Saville and the County Librarian Mr HW Elliott.
On Tuesday 17th the judging of the forty-six Classes of the Festival Competition took place. The six judges were from outside the parish. The adjudication of the Verse-Speaking, Choral Speech, Miming, Unison Choir, Part Choir, Vocal and Instrumental Solos and Duets (which were in age-groups took place in the evening.
On the same day the Langton Matravers Women’s Institute had a special Open Meeting at Twoleas. There were exhibitions, demonstrations of Arts and Crafts, Choral Singing, special competitions, a Bring and Buy Stall, and buffet teas.
On Wednesday 18th there was a Recital of Sacred Music by Handel and Bach at the Parish Church. There were eighteen items, including three well-known hymns for audience participation, the Chorale ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’, the Choruses ‘And the glory’ and ‘Hallelujah’ from ‘Messiah’, four Organ preludes and Fugues by Bach, and eight Arias from ‘Messiah’, all performed by the Organist and Choir of the church.
On that day the Garden Competition was judged.
On Thursday 19th there was a Garden Fete in the grounds of the Rectory. This also involved an Old Folk’s Treat and a bus toured the parish bringing elderly folk to the Fete free of charge; giving them tea; and free admission to the evening concert; and then take them home again. This treat was organized by the Langton Matravers Youth Club.
In the evening of Thursday 19th there was a Secular Concert in the Church Hall, at which the certificates and prizes for winners of the various competitions were presented, after which eight Grammar School pupils presented ‘The Gadshill Episode’ (Scenes from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV Part 1’).
On Friday 20th from 2pm to 5.30pm there were demonstrations of Arts, Crafts and Industries in the grounds of the Rectory, including spinning and weaving, sculpture, carving in marble, and work in stone, all by local people.
In the evening of the same day there was a Concert by the Langton String Orchestra under its Conductor David Lowe, Music Master at The Old Malthouse School. There were eighteen instrumentalists, one solo violinist and two solo singers. At the end of the evening the Festival’s Organizing Secretary was presented with an ebony baton with an inscribed silver end. The Rev Wilding Charlesworth, who made the presentation, said in his speech that during the previous fortnight he had learnt that ‘he was a citizen of no mean city’.
On Saturday 21st at 5.30pm at Coombe Corner the carved oak Village Sign was to have been unveiled, but in the event it was not completed in time.
From 8 to 11pm there was a Festival Dance in the Church Hall, accompanied by the Eddie Francis Broadcasting Band from Bournemouth. Refreshments, Ices and Soft Drinks were available.
Finally, on the Saturdays 14th and 21st there had been trips organized to other Festival Centres, including Bournemouth, Poole and Southampton.
It was all extremely enjoyable but very exhausting. It engendered a great pride in the parish and its varied accomplishments. The Secretary, RJ Saville, entered the Festival in the South of England National Competition and to his surprise it was awarded joint First Place, together with two villages in Essex which had achieved similar varied events as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain.
He then had to go to Broadcasting House in London to answer questions, together with the organizers of the other joint winning Festivals, put ‘live’ by Ralph Wightman on the Sunday afternoon BBC programme about country matters (Note 169).
By popular demand, further Council Housing was built in Three Acre Lane (the architect of which won a national prize for the stone cottages which blended perfectly with the old cottages of the village), at Steps Hill, and at Capston Field at the west end of the village. (The spelling of the latter group of houses was insisted upon by the District Council, although the field had been so named because it had previously been the site of some twenty quarry capstans).
Mr Thomas Bower opened a Camping Site at the south end of Tom’s Field and it soon became well-known and well-used. Then a second camping site was opened at Acton Field. Meanwhile at Knitson in the northern sector of the parish a camping and caravan park was established by the Helfer family. At Knaveswell, the other northern farm of Langton, there was for many years a regular summer camp for boys of Poole Grammar School.
SCOUT AND GUIDE HEADQUARTERS
The local branches of the Cub-Scouts, Scouts, Brownies and Girl Guides continued. On 8th May 1954 a newly-built Scout and Guide Headquarters was opened by Ralph Reader on the north-west corner of Durnford Drove. The site had been a gift from Reginald Bartlett and the building was paid for by local subscription. In 1996 Ralph Reader’s son Bob opened an extension to the premises.
OTHER CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
In 1955 there was a revival of the Women’s Institute Shakespeare Festival. The Langton Matravers Branch produced scenes from ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
In1959 the operetta ‘The Boy Mozart’ was produced by junior members of the Church Choir at St George’ School Hall. As this year was the Bicentenary of Handel’s death, a Handel Festival was held at the Church, which included a production of his St John Passion and various excerpts from his oratorios.
Mrs Cecily Bower ran Langton Youth Club very successfully for eighteen years, but after she retired, it soon closed down. The same lady also ran an Over Sixties Club, which was greatly enjoyed by elderly parishioners but which, again, folded after Mrs Bower’s retirement.
In 1965 Mr Arthur Stuckey, headmaster of the Village School, founded a Langton Matravers Football Club which used the school playing-field regularly on Saturday afternoons in the football season.
THE VILLAGE HALL
In 1969 a group of villagers collected subscriptions and purchased the old National Schoolroom from the Diocesan Board of Education at a cost of £1,800, re-naming it Langton Matravers Village Hall.
This has become one of the chief assets of the parish. It has a well-organized modern kitchen, a comfortable Committee Room, a Billiard Room, a stage, a store-room containing many modern tables, modern toilets for either sex, and sufficient comfortably-upholstered chairs to fill the hall itself. It is run by a Management Committee partly elected from parishioners and partly of representatives of the chief parish organizations which regularly use its facilities. One annual event was extremely popular: it was a sing-along Christmas Carol Concert for all age-groups, organized by Mr Frank Selman. Organizations and individuals have had to book use of the Hall well in advance, as this facility has always been extremely popular and well-used.
LANGTON’S SECOND ORCHESTRA
The Saville family had started a String Quintet in their home at Greystones, The Hyde, in 1947. This grew into Langton’s second orchestra a few years later under Mr David Lowe, the new Music Master at The Old Malthouse School. It met weekly in the Sunday School Room and gave several public concerts on the stage in the same room. It performed in the Old Malthouse Playroom during the 1951 Festival of Britain and again later when the Village Sign was erected in the School Playing Field.
The members were: Conductor, David Lowe; First Violins, Doreen Lowe (Leader), Albert Harding and David Saville; Second Violins, Percy Selwyn, Henry Marsh, David FW Saville, Olive Bower, and Miss Whitear; Violas, Lucy Howard and Reg Saville; ’Cellos, Beatrice Saville and Raymond Aplin; Double Bass, Elsie Farwell (the instrument used by Miss Farwell was the same one used in the first Langton orchestra of 1890) and Pianist Julie Hobbs. The total number was fifteen.
THE LANGTON MUSIC SOCIETY
In October 1964 a Langton Matravers Music Society was founded, with Choral and Instrumental Sections. A few months later a Musical Circle section was added by request, for recorded music followed by discussion, but this did not last long.
First, the Society produced a Christmastide Concert and then a production of Bach’s ‘Peasant Cantata’. It performed regularly each year in both Langton and Kingston Parish Churches for the next twelve years and the works performed included Bach’s ‘St Luke Passion’, Schütz’s ‘Seven Last Words from the Cross’, Vivaldi’s ’Gloria’, Steffani’s ’Stabat Mater’, Fauré’s ’Requiem’, Handel’s ’St John Passion’, Michael Hurd’s ’Music’s Praise’, Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’, Arthur Somervell’s ‘Passion‘, Elgar’s ‘Banner of St George’, excerpts from Handel’s oratorios ‘Messiah’ and ‘Samson’, as well as many madrigals, motets and part-songs. Three of its members, Valentine Greenleaves, John Beavis, and David Saville, and the director, gave two performances of ‘Bastien and Bastienne’ to music by Mozart in the Parish Church within a bower of branches and leaves, which proved to be extremely popular. The Society closed in 1982 when the conductor was advised to give up for reasons of health, and no successor could be found.
LOCAL HISTORY AND PRESERVATION SOCIETY
In 1971 the Langton Matravers Local History and Preservation Society was founded, the inaugural meeting being held at Leeson House. Almost immediately three members who had previously made collections of local bygone artefacts, documents, and photographs, brought their collections together and an exhibition of them was held at Leeson one Saturday.
Although people had to walk a distance from the village, the exhibition proved to be very popular and immediately afterwards hundreds of other items were received. The number of items being handed in has since fallen, but has never stopped, so that the total number of ‘exhibits’ by the end of the Twentieth Century had reached 22,000.
THE PARISH MUSEUM
A Parish Museum was set up in a small room which had once been a Butcher’s Shop and later a Dairy Shop in the centre of the village, and seven Exhibitions were mounted in sequence illustrating the history of the parish: Past Parishioners and their Personal Possessions; Churches, Chapel and the Leper Hospital; Farming and Dairying; Village Shops; Village Workshops (Blacksmith, Baker, Cordwainer and Carpenter); Quarrying and Stonemasonry; and Great Events.
When the Quarrying and Stonemasonry exhibition was mounted, there was a public outcry that it should never be taken down. The Society therefore leased the former Coach-house and Stables of the Old Rectory from the Parochial Church Council, and the Purbeck Stone Museum was the result.
The Society lost the Parish Museum room in 1985 for it was held on an annual tenancy agreement. So nowadays the social history of the parish is restricted to Courses and Illustrated Lectures and to Special Annual Exhibitions in the lecture-room of the Stone Museum, though the name of the museum is now Langton Matravers Parish Museum. A ‘Virtual Museum’, listing details of some 820 items, with illustrations of some two hundred, was added to the Society’s website in 2008, so that items normally in store would be accessible to the public by application in advance.
RARE TRADE TOKEN
In the 1970s a rare Seventeenth Century Trade Token of Nicholas Northover of Wareham was unearthed by a pupil of The Old Malthouse School in his garden plot, but the School preferred to deposit it at the Dorchester Museum rather than at the Parish Museum.
As the cemeteries in the High Street were becoming full the Parish Council opened a new cemetery in Crack Lane in 1960 with the generous help of Mr Ralph Bankes, lord of the manor of West Langton. Two years later the two older cemeteries were formally closed for burials except cremations. Details of burials and monuments in the new cemetery have been put on the Council’s website.
CHANGES IN USE OF LARGER PREMISES
Garfield, which was built as a dwelling and then became a Boys’ Boarding School, finally became a block of six flats. Spyway Boys’ School, which closed down in 1980, eventually became a block of ‘Time-share’ Flats. Leeson House, built as a Manor House, and later housing a Girls’ School and then a Boys’ School, has become a Residential Field Studies Centre run by Dorset County Council. The Old Rectory became a Retirement and Nursing Home.
MANORS AND FARMS
The Manor of East Langton, which was never large, dwindled after 1950 to two farms, Coombe and Putlake. Coombe Farm, once important enough to have been allocated to the man in charge of the Royal Hunting, was virtually ruined when its farmhouse, barton, orchard and outbuildings were separated from its fields by the construction of the section of the A351 from Yards Brake to Coombe Orchard in 1910, causing the disgusted farmer, William Edmunds, and his family to emigrate to Australia. After the First World War it was divided into two small-holdings for ex-servicemen. Putlake, which had been carved out of the large Langton Manor Farm in Victorian times, its farmhouse converted from two farm-labourers’ cottages, became an Adventure Farm in 1991. These farms became the property of two brothers of the Scott family which had previously resided at Encombe House. The senior branch of the family, which still held the title of Earls of Eldon, had long since migrated to Castle Bromwich.
The western manor of Langton Wallis was bequeathed to the National Trust by Mr Ralph Bankes of Kingston Lacy, who, some time before his death in 1981, had parted company with both his son and his daughter. The Trust was also bequeathed the Manor of Corfe Castle, so the old manor of Langton Wallis has been ’swallowed up’ in the Trust‘s 'Purbeck Estate'. This estate included the farms of Wilkswood, Spyway and Verny in the parish of Langton Matravers.
‘Small-holding’ farmers were mostly squeezed out of business but Knitson and Knaveswell Farms in the extreme north of the parish and Verny to the extreme south were still operational throughout the Twentieth Century. The National Trust has purchased more land abutting the coast of Langton and is now the parish’s greatest landlord. In some parishes the Trust has experienced difficult relations with its tenants but in Langton this has not been the case.
Langton Methodist Chapel closed in 1976, leaving the Parish Church once again the only place of worship in the village, as had been the case throughout history until the Nineteenth Century. The external appearance of the actual chapel has been preserved, and incorporated into a house called Wesley House, which also displays the date-stone of the original chapel.
Gradually the annual Choir Outings and Sunday School Outings ceased as families travelled with their children much more, so it was no longer such a thrill to be taken to Exeter, Bristol, Plymouth or Weston-super-Mare for the day.
Meanwhile church attendance has gradually fallen. Fewer couples have had their children christened and fewer have had a church wedding service, apart from those who could afford and not resist the appeal of an expensive social occasion: with the bride in white with bridesmaids in pastel-shades; with men folk in top-hats and 'tails'; a priest in a cope; specially chosen music by a good organist and four-part choir; and with lots of beautifully-arranged flowers.
Cremation and Inhumation Burials were running about even in numbers at the end of the century, but many of the Services at the Crematorium made little reference to God or to the life hereafter.
Memorials to those of a previous generation were, however, added to the fabric of the Parish Church. Two bells from redundant churches, one a mediaeval example from North Wootton, the other an early Seventeenth Century example from the disused old church at nearby Kingston, were added to the old tower in 1974 in memory of Mr and Mrs Thomas Pellatt of Durnford Preparatory School and one of their star pupils, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Tovey, Baron Langton Matravers. To complete the trilogy, as in mediaeval times, the old 1415 tenor bell was sent to be tuned to the other two and Langton Music Society gave a Concert of excerpts from Handel’s ‘Samson’ to defray the cost of £262 for this, but in fact so much was donated that there was enough to give each elderly resident of the parish a little gift. The three bells were in the original mediaeval bell-frame and experts judged that it would be unwise to ring them, so they were merely ‘clocked’. Even so, the two boys who were given this task soon broke the North Wootton bell by over-zealous pulling of the rope, whereas a flick of the hand was all that was necessary to produce the sound. The small bell now chimes the hours of the clock over the south door, and Services are announced once more by the old tenor alone, as in the period between 1835 and 1974.
There was a stone plaque fitted to the west wall to commemorate Baron Tovey and a Welsh Slate wall-plaque on the north wall in memory of the Pellatts.
Experimentation in Anglican Morning Services became confusingly varied during the second half of the Twentieth Century. The format of the regular weekly Sung Eucharist or Parish Communion of 1950, to a Setting led by a four-part choir, has changed several times during the following sixty years, often causing confusion and embarrassment to those whose attendance was only occasional. Much of the well-known and well-loved orders of service have been discarded in favour of modern ‘trendy’ and rather noisy gatherings which have turned many older would-be worshippers away. The Nominal Roll of the Anglican Church has declined steadily, but this is a national trend.
In 1961 the Government sent an Inspector to assess the dangers posed by the Purbeck Stone Quarry-Mines. He was appalled by the risks involved and upon his return to London persuaded the Prime Minister to convene an urgent Meeting of the Privy Council. An Order in Council was passed forbidding anyone to be employed in a quarry-mine from that day forward. At least one old miner saw a loop-hole in the Order and continued working his own mine as he was not employing anyone else, but his was the last stone mine ever to be used. They are now extremely unsafe and, as the abode of the various types of bat which live in the area, are forbidden to visitors.
The stone industry continued by reverting to the opencast type of quarrying which had existed from Roman times to the end of the Seventeenth Century.
There are some twenty-four strata or 'beds' of stone which are commercially viable locally, though seven of these can be subdivided into several other strata. Owing to the dramatic tilt to the strata it is possible to be working the lowest beds of the Purbeck Limestone on the South Purbeck Downs at a higher level than the topmost beds which lie in the central valley.
Well below the strata of Purbeck Stone lie the beds of Portland Stone, which can be obtained only at the cliffs.
THE STRATA OF STONE IN THE PARISH OF LANGTON MATRAVERS
1.Blue 'Marble' }
3.Grey 'Marble' }
4.Burr (with subdivisions)
5.Laning Vein (with subdivisions)
6.Rag (with subdivisions)
7.Grub (used a ceiling of mines) }
8.Roach (with subdivisions) }
10.Whetstone Bed }
11.Freestone (with subdivisions) }
13.Downsvein (with subdivisions)
14.Cinder (of no commercial use)
18.Flint (of no commercial use)
19.New Vein (with subdivisions)
Then, some 200ft lower, at the cliffs
21.Earth Rock (of no commercial use)
22.Shrimp (of no commercial use)
23.Bluebit (of no commercial use)
26.Flint (of no commercial use)
32.Cherty Beds (of no commercial use).
In 1954 there were eleven shops in the parish and this rose to fifteen in 1983, after which there was a steep decline to four in 1999. Of those remaining, one was at Knitson, one on the Valley Road at the St Michael’s Garage, and one within Toms Field Camp Site. The only shop in the village itself at the end of the twentieth century was the Post Office Stores.
RESTORATION OF THE PARISH CHURCH
The floors of both the Sanctuary and the Chancel of the church had been sinking for some years and were extremely uneven, so in 1949 it was agreed to undertake a further restoration at a cost of just over £500.
The chancel was lowered by five inches and the steps into it reduced from three to two, the first one being extended westwards to include the pulpit and the priest’s desk. The very low chancel screen was removed to the south chancel aisle. The sanctuary was lowered by eleven inches and the steps into it reduced from three to one. The coloured Branksome floor-tiles were replaced by Purbeck Stone slabs. The two stained-glass windows in memory of members of Mrs Pellatt's family on the north and south walls of the sanctuary were removed to the south chancel aisle, thus giving more light at the altar. The oak reredos and panelling in memory of the christening of the Pellatt children were removed and replaced by a rich dossal curtain. The length of the altar was increased from six feet to eight. This, of course, necessitated new altar frontals. The brass multi-petalled rosettes were removed from the ornate brass supports to the altar rail for ease of cleaning. These changes were dedicated by the Bishop of Sherborne on St George’s Day 1949 at a Festal Evensong at which the lessons were read by Baron Tovey. Sixty years later cracks are again appearing in the floor of the chancel.
Then it was decided to revert to the mediaeval practice of having a side-altar dedicated to St Leonard so the south chancel aisle became St Leonard’s Chapel. Local stonemason Walter Haysom carved a Purbeck Stone statue of the saint for the south wall between the stained-glass windows. The carved oak altar from the Middle Church, which had served as a vestry table since 1875, was brought back into use as the altar of the side-chapel. The chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury at another festal Evensong on St George’s Day 1950.
By this time the Parish Church silver had been enlarged by an additional chalice presented by the Rev. EJ Tadman. It was a North Italian example from the late Fifteenth Century ‘of silver, parcel gilt’. A modern silver Ciborium had also been anonymously presented.
THE PAGEANT OF LANGTON
A pageant illustrating the history of the parish in thirteen scenes from Celtic times to the 1950s was enacted in the summer of 1964 by over one hundred characters on the lower lawn of the Rectory House, the audience being seated on the bank and higher lawn to the south. It was an ideal setting, surrounded by trees, shrubs, and high stone walls, with glimpses of the North Purbeck Downs between the trees.
A Prologue and Epilogue was spoken by Mrs Cecily Bower, a well-known local character, dressed to represent the Spirit of Langton.
The scenes were:
(1) Members of the tribe of Durotriges at the time of the Roman Conquest;
(2) A Visit by St Aldhelm whilst awaiting favourable winds to sail from Wareham;
(3) A local Fyrd to support King Alfred against the Danes;
(4) King Edward the Martyr hunting deer in the Royal Warren (this scene involved a horse);
(5) Norman Domesday assessors trying to get information from local peasants (a humorous scene);
(6) Local Barons meeting to discuss King John’s quarrel with the Church;
(7) King Edward III and Baron John de Mautravres holding a local Court (this scene involved a recalcitrant dog);
(8) A visit by Royal Ecclesiastical Commissioners at the time of the Reformation;
(9) The Restoration of the Monarchy and the Established Church in 1660 (this scene involved Maypole dancing);
(10) A Regency period tea-party on the Rectory lawn, with talk of Napoleon and the possibility of invasion by France;
(11) A row between the Rectory and the Manor House, 1874, involving the two irreconcilable protagonists Mrs Frances Serrell and Rector Edward Fiennes Trotman; (12) The village during the Second World War;
(13) The Village Festival of the Arts 1951.
All the wooden chairs had been taken from the nave of the church for the audience, and the actors changed in the building before walking down the garden path to appear on the set. One lady on a day visit to the parish opened the church door, saw an abbess, with a dog drinking from a bowl of water, and in the distance a monk pulling on his habit. She fled in terror, claiming that she had been caught in a ‘time warp‘!
THE FIELD STUDIES CENTRE
On Monday 17th July 1967 Leeson House Residential Field Studies Centre was opened. It belonged to the Bournemouth Education Committee, which had purchased the building from the Crawshaws. Later Bournemouth became part of the County of Dorset so the Centre was handed over to the Dorset County Education Department. It has been a great asset to education ever since, and is still booked up in advance throughout each year. The villagers became used to the parties of children with their teachers walking through the village and walking the various footpaths, especially those between the village street and the sea. Relations between the Centre and the village have always been excellent. The County Council, which has never been rich, has spent a great deal of money on keeping the Centre in good condition and ready for the challenges of the future.
THE PAGEANT OF LANGTON CHURCH
1976 was the Centenary of the rebuilding of St George’s Parish Church in Langton Matravers so a Pageant was performed at the west end against the old mediaeval wall, the chairs having been turned around for the occasion. A stage had been erected, with wing-curtains.
There were thirteen scenes:
(1) 325 AD Early Christianity in the area;
(2) 705 AD St Aldhelm and a Benedictine Monk from Malmesbury Abbey visit local landowners;
(3) 1154 The appointment of Guido Martel as priest of Langton and a Cluniac Benedictine Monk of Wilkswood Priory and Leper Hospital meeting with the two lords of the manors of Langton;
(4) 1415 The addition of the tower to Langton manorial chapel and the arrival of the mediaeval tenor bell;
(5) The 1552 Inventory of Church Goods at the time of the Reformation;
(6) 1617 The introduction of the Authorized Version of the Bible;
(7) 1660 The ejection of popular pastor John Mitchell at the Restoration;
(8) 1774 The enlargement of Langton’s little church and the visit to the parish by Rev John Wesley;
(9) 1829 The rebuilding of the church and the flourishing Sunday School;
(10) 1845 The opening of the National Schoolroom;
(11) 1869 Contraband Brandy hidden in the rafters of the church by the Parish Clerk; (12) 1874 The dedication of the New Cemetery;
(13) 1876 (with the audience standing and facing east) the arrival of the Bishop of Salisbury to dedicate the newly-built church and the singing of the hymn ‘Now thank we all our God’ by all present.
There were three performances, all of which were packed. On the third performance there was a flash of lightning which fused the local transformer so all the lights went out. Members of the cast sang solos until the lights came on again. There were one hundred characters all told, though twenty had non-speaking parts.
In Centenary Year the Church Choirmaster, Organist and Choir presented a series of illustrated talks on the History of English Church Music, with audio tapes which could be purchased. The music ranged from mediaeval plainchant to an anthem written early in 1976.
DEVELOPMENTS AT SPYWAY
Mr Eric Warner, joint headmaster of Spyway Preparatory School, died suddenly in 1980. The 'Death-Duty' Taxes were so enormous that Mr Geoffrey Warner was forced to sell the premises and close the school.
It was sold to International House in London, which opened an International Boarding School at Spyway. Large numbers of boys appeared in the village from such countries as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Thailand, Egypt, the Lebanon and Algeria. However, the project did not last long as there was widespread cheating in the examinations and the war between Iran and Iraq caused many of the students to be recalled home. The premises then in 1984 became a Centre for Disturbed Adolescents. As time went on, older patients appeared, and some were known to have come from the Courts, though this had been forbidden in the initial agreement with the local community.
After the passing of a law which forbade patients from being locked in at night, a scandal hit national newspapers concerning the patients being drugged each evening. The Centre, which by then was owned by the American Company AMI, was closed and immediately re-opened under the new name of Langton House.
Several criminal offences were then perpetrated by some inmates, including a burglary and the burning down of a house in Worth Matravers, so the parish then declared that it wanted the Centre closed for good. As it could only have worked with local co-operation, which up to that time it had received, it folded in 1989 to the great relief of parishioners.
After remaining vacant for a couple of years, the premises were sold and converted into ‘time-share’ flats, under the name of Langton House Property Bond. This project has brought many delightful people to the village, some of whom have returned several times.
THE PAGEANT OF LEESON
In 1992, mainly because the pageants on the history of the parish and the history of the church in Langton had been so successful, the Local History Tutor at Leeson House Field Studies Centre, who was the author and producer of the two former pageants, was asked to write a pageant of the history of the Leeson Estate. It was originally to be acted by children who had visited the Centre, but when this proved impractical, a cast of eighty-six villagers was substituted. There were seventy-five characters, not counting the then staff of the Centre and a party of children who performed the final scene.
There were twelve scenes:
(1) The Romano-British farmer being paid for making shale armlets and then burying the hoard of Roman coins which was unearthed when the large dining-room was being added to the house in 1842;
(2) The Saxon Founder, Leofsige, who gave his name to the estate, meeting other known Saxon landowners of south Purbeck and a passing visit by the first Bishop of Dorset, St Aldhelm;
(3) Baron John de Mautravres on a visit to his manor of East Langton hearing a case brought by the local pinder against the Abbess of Wilton for permitting her dog to wander in the Royal Hunting Warren;
(4) A Manorial Court of 1612 held before the lord of the manor, Sir Walter Erle, when William Checkford of Leeson was presented for setting his hedge too far out into a field belonging to the Langton Matravers Manor Farm;
(5) The Rev John Dampier meets the Leeson farmer and the architect of his new Manor House, built adjoining the former farmhouse in 1805;
(6) The 1816 sale of Leeson Manor House to George Garland, merchant shipping magnate of Poole, and his wife Amy:
(7) 1850, when Mr Sheffield Serrell and his recalcitrant wife Frances were living at Leeson House because the lady refused to enter Durnford House as long as Sheffield’s sister resided there:
(8) 1885, the Stilwells and Lester families meeting at Leeson for the engagement of the daughter of the former to the son of the latter;
(9) 1929, a scene at Leeson House School for Girls (involving the ballet-style dancing which was taught there);
(10) 1940, when the Radar Scientists were in the house;
(11) 1952, when the Crawshaws’ School for Boys was on the premises;
(12) The Field Studies Centre receiving a party of children from a Bournemouth School.
Again the two performances were very successful, but on the evening of the second one it came on to rain and when this became torrential the remainder of the performance had to be abandoned.
NEW VESTRIES AT THE PARISH CHURCH
In 1964 it was decided that the curtained-off north-west corner of the church was no longer suitable for a vestry and music store. The Choirmaster and two choirboys trudged around the parish asking for subscriptions. Eventually a Priest’s Vestry and a quite large Choir Vestry were added to the north-west of the nave, one nave window being removed to make the doorway. Again, this proved to be of great advantage to the Church generally as the Parochial Church Council and other Committees could meet there. It contained cupboards for all the robes and locked cupboards for the enormous amount of choir music which had accumulated during the previous seventy-five years. Choir Practices were thereafter held in this centrally-heated room instead of in the cold choir-stalls.
NEW RECTORY HOUSE
The old Rectory building, with its sections dating from three different centuries, its different floor-levels and ceiling-levels, the upkeep of which was a great drain on church resources, was finally sold in 1973 and a modern Rectory House built in the north-east part of its grounds. Other parts of the lower lawn and kitchen garden were sold as building plots. The Old Rectory became an Old People’s Home.
RESTORATION OF THE CHURCH ORGAN
In 1989 so much of the church organ was ‘not speaking’ for various reasons that it was decided to have it taken apart and restored. In the meantime a portable electronic organ was borrowed from Swanage Parish Church. A Grant was forthcoming from the Diocese on condition that no alterations were made to the Binns specification and lay-out, so the organist’s dream of having a fifteenth stop added were doomed to disappointment.
After completion of the work it was found that the Bourdon pipes, which were situated in the far corner of the organ chamber, were not working properly, but, short of starting the work all over again, there was nothing which could be done.
During the second half of the Twentieth Century the work undertaken by all three layers of local councils grew enormously.
In 1955 the Parish Council passed a formal Resolution ‘That the path from Oakridge to Windmill is unquestionably a right-of-way and should be retained as such’. However, despite some six applications to have it restored to the County Council’s Definitive Map of Rights-of-Way, by the end of the century the section of it passing through Coombe Farm was still marked ‘private’.
In 1956 the Parish Council moved the Village Sign from the north-east corner of the School Playing Field to a more central position to the east side of the entrance to St George’s Close.
In October of that year the water-supply was eventually connected to the hamlet of Acton, exactly thirty years after the Council’s first urgent application.
A request for public toilets in the village was made to the District Council, because the shopkeeper reported that he had people regularly going up and down his private stairs for this purpose, but the reply stated that ‘it would be a waste of money, as no-one would ever use them’.
In 1958 Mr Leonard Sweet was appointed Clerk to the Parish Council.
In 1960 passing-bays were constructed in Crack Lane by the County Council.
The Parish Council recorded that between 29th December 1962 and 17th January1963 there was the most severe winter weather experienced locally since 1882.
In 1964 the cottages in the High Street were numbered 1 to 120 from Putlake Farmhouse to Jasper Cottage, leaving spaces in the numbering where gaps might be filled with extra dwellings. Shortly afterwards the side-roads were given name-plates.
In 1971 another new Clerk to the Parish Council wrote a booklet of statistics about the parish for holiday visitors and students doing local studies.
Early in 1972 the Parish Council gave its first annual grant to the Parochial Church Council to help with the upkeep of the two closed cemeteries in the centre of the village.
In 1973 Cllr Norman E Priddle became Chairman of the Parish Council. He was to prove the most innovatory, caring, efficient and successful leader since the Council’s inauguration.
In July 1977 the first Cremation Burial took place in the Parish Cemetery.
The Play Area in St George’s School Playing Field was taken over by the Parish Council in 1978.
Meanwhile the Clerk designed a Parish Badge which was quartered by the Cross of St George (Patron of the Parish), with the torch of progress and learning at its centre, representing the various educational establishments, and which combined the Arms of the two great families which had given their names to the two sections of the parish (Le Walleys and De Mautravres), and symbols to denote the chief local occupations over the centuries (farming and the stone industry). A version of this was then made by Thomas Fattorini of Birmingham as an enamelled silver badge of office to hang around the Chairman’s neck on official occasions.
In October 1979 the Parish Council became involved in the running of the Timson Trust properties; two cottages which had been left by Mrs May Timson to the District Council for the benefit of elderly Langton residents.
In May 1980 the first female Chairman of the Parish Council was elected in the person of Cllr Mrs Cecily Bower.
The Parish Council acquired from the Bankes Estate a triangular strip of land at the north end of Coles Ground with the intention of adding it to the School Playing Field, to make its rhomboidal shape more rectangular, so as to admit a regular football pitch. However, the School Managers refused to accept the gift.
Four years later the Council asked Dorset County Council if they might purchase or rent a strip of land across one end of the playing-field as access to the triangular plot, so that it might be used as a village car-park, but renting was ruled out and the asking price to purchase was £25,000, which, of course, the Parish could not afford.
After six years of negotiations, the lanes and paths of the hamlet of Acton were eventually declared public rights-of-way.
A Parish Council Grant of £800 was made to the Mothers and Toddlers Play Group, as this was thought to be a very worthy cause in the village.
Meanwhile the amount of work undertaken by the local councils had grown enormously.
The Parish Council’s Annual Precept had risen from £192 in 1966 to £2,185 in 1982.
The Clerk’s annual salary had increased from £12 in 1954 to £692 in 1985.
The disgraceful behaviour of visiting parties of young cliff-climbers (from a Centre situated to the north-west of Wareham) to the area around Dancing Ledge outraged many parishioners and those who knew about such things judged that the safety of the climbers was often in jeopardy. Therefore a meeting was held, attended by all concerned parties, and a definite improvement followed ending in the climbing being banned except for adult groups who were properly equipped and trained.
The Parish Council felt a responsibility towards other bodies within the parish so it gave several grants towards the Parish Museum, £500 towards the restoration of the organ at the Parish Church, several grants to the Village Hall, £350 towards internal decoration of St George’s School and £100 towards repairing the roof of the Parish Church.
The Parish Precept was £3,000 in 1990, but this had risen to £8,000 in 1993.
An Amstrad Computer was acquired for the Parish Council in 1990, upon request from the Clerk. In the previous year the farmer at Putlake made an application to open an Adventure Farm. Cllr Priddle immediately saw this as an opportunity to obtain public toilets for the village, which had been requested for many years but never obtained because no-one wanted them near their property. A stone-built toilet block was erected near the entrance to the Adventure Farm at a peppercorn rent from the Encombe Estate in return for the Parish Council finding no objections to the overall plans for the Adventure Farm. It was agreed that the ongoing costs of the block (rates, electricity, rent, cleaning and water-rate) would be shared equally between the District and the Parish Councils. The Adventure Farm duly opened in 1991.
In 1991 Street Lighting came to the High Street as part of an Enhancement Scheme which also involved re-laying the stone pavements which had been removed by the County Council and re-routing all the overhead wires from the central Conservation Area. There were furious objections to the lights, but after a while it emerged that these were well-orchestrated by a small group of four very strong-minded and self-willed parishioners, all of whom were related. The elderly were no longer afraid of falling, and could now attend evening performances in the village after dark, and the Conservation Area type of lighting, which was neither bright nor orange in colour, gave greater security to properties within the village.
In the final decade of the century the Parish Council made several Grants-in-Aid to village projects. It gave £500 towards the enlargement of the Scout and Guide Headquarters and £250 to St George’s School for repairs to its swimming-pool. A £2000 grant was made to the Village Hall towards the restoration of its ceiling. £500 was given to the Preschool to help it set up its premises.
On 12th January 1999 the Parish Council took over a lease of the upper flat at Palafox in The Hyde, for use as Council Offices. It sub-let one room to the Local History Society for use as a store-room for museum artefacts. In August of that year the first illustrated edition of the Parish Statistics leaflet was produced. By the year 1999-2000 the Parish Precept had grown to £10,000.
Occasional music recitals were given at the Parish Church by visiting choirs such as that from Salisbury Cathedral, and by instrumental groups from Bournemouth or Swanage.
The Local History and Preservation Society meanwhile presented an old-style Vaudeville Concert each autumn, at which it became a tradition that scenes adapted from the famous TV Series ‘Allo, Allo’ featured. There were also other humorous Sketches, Vocal and Instrumental Solos and Duets, Poems, Readings, and some audience-participation.
A vocal group called the May Day Singers first appeared at 6am on May Day 1990 on the roof of the church tower but subsequently, for safety reasons, it performed in the churchyard. Under the direction of David J Cook it has given good recitals at other seasons also.
A LOCAL ARTIST
Alan Marsh had been known locally as a very gifted sculptor, wood-carver and painter but when he died, leaving a wealth of works, he became widely recognized as a national artist. An Exhibition of his work was mounted in London at the Morley Gallery in Westminster Bridge Road from 22nd April to 15th May 1999, and also at Langton Matravers Village Hall.
One of his works in wood, the Langton Matravers Village Sign, remains in the centre of the village and his stone sculpture of ‘Moses down from the Mountain’ is on display in the Parish Museum. These are lasting reminders of the artist's skill.
The Southern National Buses were taken over by the Hants and Dorset Buses and they in turn were taken over by the Wilts and Dorset Buses. There has been an adequate bus service to Swanage, Wareham, Poole and Bournemouth throughout the half-century.
In 1947 the Railways were nationalized. In 1963 the Beecham Report doomed the Wareham to Swanage Railway to closure and the track through Langton Parish was taken up with tremendous haste thereafter. However, a Swanage Railway Society was formed almost immediately with the ultimate goal of re- opening the service.
In the 1930s Sir Alan Cobham had brought Air Displays to Langton, using a field in the south-east of the parish which could be reached by a rough lane and by a public footpath. For a fairly modest fee one might have a brief flight over the parish and Swanage Bay, and this delighted the younger generation and sowed the seed of future air travel for families during the second half of the century.
167. See Radio Times (Langton Matravers Parish Museum Ref. PM/LM/1/1685/1).
168. See "Parson in Purbeck" by Douglas O'Hanlon, privately published. Copy in Langton Matravers Parish Museum, Ref. PM/LM/3/123.
169. See printed Programme of the Festival at Langton Matravers Parish Museum Ref. PM/LM/1/1772