Learn about the amazing prehistoric landscape around Portesham

Find out the history of our famous Hellstone

"Under Blackdown" The Story of Portesham, 1868 to 1968

20th Century Portesham History

The following history of Portesham is presented from the 20th Century Portesham History group led by Bill Halford and David McKinna. The work was motivated by the fact that the history of our village life will be lost for ever if we don’t make the effort to record it now.

Village Life
The 1901 Census records a population of 351 persons residing in the village.
Of these 181 were male and 170 female. Their employment was shown as being:-

3 Wood sawyers
23 Agricultural and general labourers
5 Carpenters
1 Carrier
1 Groom
2 Bookmakers
4 Laundresses
10 Housekeepers domestic
3 Shepherds
3 Bakers
1 Dressmaker
2 Cooks
1 Postman
17 Fishing net makers
3 Gamekeepers
7 Railway workers
8 Dairymen
1 Thatcher
3 Innkeepers
1 Doctor
4 Living on own means
4 Stonemasons
5 Gardeners
2 Carters
3 Nurses

In 1901 a Tom Marshallsay is shown as Innkeeper of the Fountain Inn and also a baker who continued until sometime prior to 1920 when the baker is then shown as Edward Hunt. In 1925 Mr. Harding and Mr. Dike became shop keeper and baker. Mr. Harding ran the shop and Mr. Dike the bakery, they remained until the 1950's when the bakery closed. It remained a general store until 1989 when it became the village Post Office and store.

The Bootmaker’s shop was in Front Street, now number 16. Absolom and William Dawe worked at the rear of the premises prior to 1900. About 1915 William Dawe opened the cycle shop at the same premises and around 1920 took over the bootmaking business until his death in 1961. Harold Hodder continued in the business until early 1960's when it closed.
Photo of William Dawe

General Store
In 1900 George Jolliffe had a general store in Front Street. Records show that in 1911 he was a shopkeeper, Carrier and Farmer. The shop closed in about 1923.
Photo of George Jolliffe

There was small shop at Little Waddon run by Albert Downton who sold sweets , paraffin and sundry items. The shop ceased trading in the late 1930's and is now a house called Swallow's End.

The blacksmith's shop was adjacent to the Half Moon Inn in Front Street, and is now known as the Well House. 1900 shows James Stickland as blacksmith, and later in 1931 Edwin Thorne until the late 1930's. It was then taken by Taylor and sons and ceased trading in 1950's.
Picture of Edwin Thorne

The wheelwright's shop was situated where Dovecote cottages now stand on Portesham Hill. Frederick Stickland was wheelwright from 1915 until late 1940's. 
Photo of Mr Stickland and Mr Hodder

Started by William Duck in the 1920’s with his sons; exists today as Old’s Garage in Bramdon Lane.

Portesham Public Houses:

The Fountain
 The Fountain Public House or Inn stood on the site of the present Post Office in Front Street. It is shown in Kelly’s Directory 1895 as the licensee being Mrs Hannah Stickland. It would seem that the Fountain Inn closed around 1900 as it is not shown in Kelly’s Directory in 1903.

The King's Arms

The King's Arms Public House and hotel was in existence prior to 1900. In 1903 the landlord was Abraham Spiller, who remained until around 1911, when a Frank Carter is shown as landlord, until sometime prior to 1935, then Frederick G Way, followed by several licensees.

Hardy's Bar Kings Arms Public House

Half Moon Public House

The War Years
The first Portesham resident to be killed in conflict in 20th century was Harry Vine Norman. Born 1868 at Symes cottage, next to a dairy at the west end of the village. He worked as a wheelwright in Abbotsbury and later became a minister. He left England to become a missionary in Yung Ching, China. He was killed by hanging in the Boxer Revolt and is buried at Hsin-Min Chuang. There is a gravestone in Portesham churchyard to his parents, on which he is mentioned. 

Until 1914/18 war several parishioners served in the armed forces.
During this conflict the following lost their lives.

BARTLETT Walter died 8.8.1916
DUNFORD Charles died 31.5.1916 Killed in the battle of Jutland on HMS Queen Mary
which went down with a loss of 1226 lives.
FORD James died 18.9.1918
GILL William died 31.5.1916 also killed in the battle of Jutland serving on HMS Broke; although it did not sink 47 crew lost their lives.
JOLLIFFE Joseph died 18.9.1918
JOLLIFFE William died 10.7.1916
LOVELL Frederick died 16.8.2927
NEWMAN Charles died 15.9.1916
RIGGS Walter died 21.8.1914
RIGGS William died 23.4.1917 Brother of the above Riggs
ROGERS Sidney died 24.9.1917
THOMPSON Lewis died 21.11.1917
TOMS Walter died
WOODSFORD Alfred died 11.11.1914

All the above names being recorded in the church memorial, as far as can be ascertained the war did not affect the inhabitants of the village except of course the general trauma of war.

The period between 1914/18 and the 1939/45 wars villagers served in the forces.

Second World War
Evacuees arrived from Southampton and were billeted by local families. Formation of the Home Guard for local duties; working during the day and spending nights on guard duty.

The village school had no air raid shelter, when the siren sounded the children had to sit round the hall and stairs in the school house. Before D-Day American soldiers manned gun emplacements by the quarry. The stone form the quarry was also used by the Americans for road repairs etc. the road through the village being in very poor repair due to the many convoys of tanks and other military vehicles making their way to Portland for embarkation, it is estimated that some 100,000 thousand personnel passed through the village.

The world boxing champion Joe Louis came to visit the troops , a boxing ring was erected in the field opposite the now village hall, much to the locals disgust he did not exhibit his boxing prowess but only spoke to the assembled crowd . Sadly the following personnel from the village lost their lives in the armed forces:

Raymond Clark, Royal Horse Artillery - Died 31.05.1940 aged 20
Ernest Connolly, R.A.S.C. - Died 26.9.1941 aged26 (Buried in Portesham cemetery)
Bruce Johnston , R.A.F. - Died 19.08.1941 aged 21
Alan Johnston, R.A.F. - Died 09.07.1941 (brother of the above)
Eric Magawly, Wiltshire Regiment - Died 15.02.1944 aged 25
Victor Randall, H.M.S. Hood - Died 24.05.1941 aged 22
James Way, Coldstream Guards - Died 21.02.1944 aged 23
The memorial in Portesham Church showing the names of those killed in both wars was dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury, in March 1950, the church being full with people standing outside, the Last post being sounded by musicians from the Royal Marines

At the outbreak of the second world war the village hall and the temperance halls were commandeered by the government. Personnel who were evacuated from Dunkirk were housed in the village. Nissan huts being erected on the now Kings Arms car park and Blagdon Close; also in Walnut tree orchard (now Walnut Tree Close). They were occupied by the Durham Light Infantry and the Essex regiment and American forces among others. During the early part of the war there were many dog fights in the sky over this area. A German plane was brought down opposite Clover farm, the two German crew Otto linden Schmid and H. Eisold were buried in Langton Herring. Their bodies were later removed to a military cemetery in the1950’s.


There are several Photos of Portesham football club in the early part of the century, football was played opposite to the present field until the present ground was given to the parish.

Football photos 1906 to 1908

First photo
Back Row Jimmy Lovell , Charlie Legg, Sid Carter, Hardy Mansfield, Charlie Marshallsay, Fred Hine, Stevie Mansfield.
Middle Row Garth Bartlett, George Hallet, Arthur Bartlett, Bertie Marshallsay, Charlie Hodder.
Front Row Harry Hodder, Fred Bartlett, Harry Marshallsay, ? Hodder, Dennis Spiller,

Portesham Football team about 1953

Top Row: Ref. Brian White, Ray Harding, Ernie Ireland, Fred Mowlem, Phil Dennis, Peter Parrot, Dave Arnold, Peter Foot, Norman Harding,
Bottom Row: Ron Jolliffe, Phil Hutchings, Roy Harrison, Farmer Dunford, Bobby Burgin, Doug Cuttler.

Bus transport Bus services from Weymouth , the last bus would terminate at Abbotsbury and remain overnight , services operated by Southern National further information awaits

Train times in the late 1940’s were, first train in the morning left Portesham for Weymouth at 8.6am and arrived at 8.25am and the last train left Portesham at 9.0pm arriving in Weymouth at 9.20pm Weymouth to Portesham first train 7.28am and the last train 8.25pm. After closure a Bus service from Abbotsbury to Upwey station was provided via Portesham to connect with the Weymouth to Dorchester train this a once a day service 8.6am at Portesham Kings Arms and returned at 5.19pm
Portesham was served by the Weymouth to Abbotsbury branch line, closed 29.11.1952 the last Station
Master at Portesham was Roy Dawe (Photo)

Demolition of Railway Bridge Bram Lane

Village Hall
In 1929 a group of villagers assembled under the chairmanship of Mr Hardy Manfield to discuss the feasibility of raising enough funds to build a village hall. They decided that it must be self-sustaining, not sell alcohol, and be held in trust for the village. A fund raising committee was formed and garden parties, fetes were held. Donations were asked for in the village. The Carnegie Trust also pledged some money. Land to the east of the entry to what is now Bramdon Close was leased to the Committee by Major Groves at £1 per annum rent, and the Hall was built for £575, opening in 1932. Dances, lectures, games tournaments, parish teas and whist drives were organised as well as a library with donated books. At the annual fete prizes consisted of a packet of two cigarettes, and sticks of Portesham rock. Daily hire charge was 17s 6d. Annual insurance was £7 17s 6d.
With the onset of the Second World War the Village Hall was requisitioned by the military authorities in 1940. The Committee decided that the hall would be at the disposal of authorities for A.R.P. but as the hall was self-supporting they should at best be paid cost of electric light.
A committee was formed from ladies in the village to provide a canteen for the troops occupying the hall. All games and books were left for their use. Mr Corbett volunteered to act as liaison between the Committee and the Military and to look after the hall's interests. No committee meetings were held until the hall was derequisitioned and handed back to the Committee in April 1946. Canteen profits of £123 3s 9d were donated to various Army funds of which Mrs Cornish gave the Committee a list. Money was allocated for the complete refurbishment and decorating of the hall.

Village Hall prior to demolition 2008

1987 proposals were put forward by the Village Hall Committee to look into the possibility of building a new village hall as the present building was in dire need of repair. A surveyor's report in 1990 painted a sorry picture and it was clear that a lot of money would have to be spent on the hall to bring it back to an acceptable and safe standard. Mr Ron Doble offered to donate the land required at Malthouse Meadow. Again the village pulled together to raise funds from fetes fun runs, donations, fetes and activities. Donations and loans were received from West Dorset District Council, Lottery Fund, Dorset Community Action, Rural Development Commission, The Parish Council and many others. A total of £212,000 was raised, the hall was built by Fry & Sons Ltd, and opened with a gig by The Yetties at the end of 1999.

Post Office
In 1900 the post Office was at 11 Front Street and was shown to be operated by a James Russell, Mary Duck being the letter carrier

The Post Office moved to Victoria Terrace and was run by William Duck; he added a general store and continued the business until about the 1930 ‘s when Arthur Burgess took over. He remained as post master and shopkeeper until early 1950’s when a Mr Stewart became the proprietor followed by several other owners . The Post Office then moved to the site of the old Fountain Inn

St Peter’s Church, Portesham


Incumbent vicars 1900 - 1999
1825 - 1925 Reverend Sir John Charles Molyneux bart LL.B Camb. (see note 1 below.) The Revd Molyneux is commemorated in the church with a memorial plaque, which is situated on the north wall of the north aisle.

1925 - 1953 Reverend HRA Cornish

1954 -1981 Reverend Humphrey JK Jacques Revd Jacques took responsibility for the benefice of Portesham, Abbotsbury and Langton Herring on the departure of the Revd Green from Abbotsbury.

1982 - 1988 Reverend Royston D Wyatt (see note 2) The incumbent responsible for the benefice of Portesham, Langton Herring and Abbotsbury; with additional duties in the Salisbury Diocese. He, his wife and two children were the first to live in the new Rectory in Church Lane.

1988 - 1997 Reverend Philip T Seal Benefice responsibilities as Revd Wyatt above, but not including the diocesan duties.

1997 Date. Reverend Pamela S Thomas The first Lady incumbent with benefice duties for Portesham, Abbotsbury and Langton Herring; also St Edmunds, Lanehouse, Weymouth. Revd Thomas was among the first women to be ordained in Salisbury Cathedral. She was first curate at St Andrews, Preston, Weymouth and then priest in charge at St Edmunds before coming to Portesham.

Revd Molyneux lived in the old vicarage in Church Lane with his wife Ada and daughters Emily and Ethel. He had a cook, Bessie Bartlett, also a housemaid Beatrice Godden. Both these women were born in Portesham.

The Revd Wyatt was the first incumbent to live in the new rectory built immediately to the north of the church in 1988.

Banner in St Peters Church made by Dierdre Halford

Cricket Club
First President Mr. B.O.Corbett, The Ground was apparently given by Lord Ilchester to the parish council, fencing was made by sawing up railway sleepers this being done by Tom Legg and then erected by Arthur Woodsford and Jack Jolliffe. Money was raised by Whist Drives, Raffles etc. Nottingham Marl was used to make the pitch, the club played matches with other villages, also against Portland, Wincanton, and as far away as Sidmouth, matches were played on Saturdays and also in the evening league. Prior to this, Cricket was played on the opposite side of the road next to the railway line.

Photo of 1949 cricket teams

Back row
L.Harding, R. Harding, J.Bailey, P.Foot, E.Ireland, P.Dennis, A.Woodsford,
Middle Row
Mr.S.Dyke, Mr. W.Foot, J.Taylor, G.Dunford, J.Jolliffe, B.Dyke. J.Marshallsay, P.Furniss, P.Hutchings, R.Burgin, Dr. Rutherford.
Front Row
Com.de Labalmondiere, M. Dunford, W.Halford, W.Harding, H.Hodder, J.Harding, Mr B.O.Corbet.
  W Halford N Harding

Portesham Social Groups :
 Boy Scouts

Formed in the late 1940’s Commander Cox being the first leader, they met in a Nissan hut in walnut tree orchard the Cubs were formed shortly after, (further details await)

Girls Club

This was started at the end of the war and met in the School, Miss Symonds, Portesham Schoolteacher, being the leader, this ran for only a short time before it became a youth club, meetings being held in the Temperance Hall, Arthur Woodsford and Mr Vincent being engaged in these activities (closure dates and other information await)

Mothers Union (awaits as to its formation and closing)


Women’s Fellowship
First Meeting September 1959, First president Mrs. Bliss, meetings held at the Methodist Chapel still going strong.
Women’s Institute
Started in May 1929 meeting in the Temperance hall which then belonged to the Methodist Church next door. It was a condition of booking that there would be no smoking, drinking and no dancing! The ban on dancing caused a small problem as the first President, Mrs. Johnston was very keen on country dancing. A determined lady she renamed it as “exercises to music”. The Institute was kept busy during the war