This week we continue our very amiable stroll down memory lane to the Old Vicarage in Fordington, Dorchester.

Writer Mark Chutter, 43, got in touch because he is compiling a book on the vicarage, which was situated in Salisbury Field, but, sadly, was demolished in 1971.

Last week we looked at memories of Mark’s grandmother Faith ‘Dolly’ Demon, who lived at the vicarage from 1942 to 1971. She described her childhood at the Old Vicarage as ‘idyllic’. Mark is writing the book in tribute to his grandmother, who died last year aged 93.

We also heard of some of the Old Vicarage’s famous visitors - Thomas Hardy and William Barnes, and notable residents the Moule family, who lived there from 1829 to 1880. Henry Moule was known for helping the poor during the outbreak of cholera in the Victorian era and invented the earth closet to help with sanitation.

This week Mark, of Dorchester, can reveal that he has delved even further into Fordington’s history.

He tells us: “Fordington has such a rich tapestry of history. St Osmund, related to William the Conqueror, became Royal Chaplain to the Chancellor in 1072 and shared in the compilation of the Doomsday Book.

“He became Bishop of Salisbury, and was given Salisbury Field by his Royal uncle. There is also evidence that a priest lived in the Old Vicarage during the pre-Reformation era as a crucifix and holy water stoup were discovered underneath the floor of one room. They are now in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.”

To put together his book, Mark has also used Handley Moule’s 1913 book Memories of a Vicarage, published by the Religious Tract Society. This was the story of his childhood growing up in the Old Vicarage.

Moule wrote: “The lawn still spreads itself out, circled with a winding gravel path and bordering flower-beds, and the old beloved sycamores still, I am told, throw their shadows over it under the summer sun.“I write of the ancient vicarage of Fordington.”

Moule states that pupils were educated at the vicarage under the Fordington Times Society. He writes of the building ‘You enter and find a dwelling seemly, roomy, of entire simplicity. The dining-room is spacious, as long as the depth of the house.”

The vicarage was also used as a home of Christian education and scholarship.

Henry Moule’s son Horace would draw a plan of ancient Rome with lines of pebbles on the vicarage lawn, Moule wrote. Henry Moule died in 1880. In 1895 the parochial church and commissioners sold the Glebe Land known as Salisbury Field and sold the Old Vicarage, Mark discovered.

In 1912 Irish family the O’Rourkes moved to the Old Vicarage. May O’Rourke was a poet and writer and later became secretary to Thomas Hardy at Max Gate.

In her book Thomas Hardy: His Secretary Remembers, May describes that ‘In 1912 came one of the most outstanding events in my life: our removal to the Old Vicarage, Fordington. When the green doorway in that stone boundary wall first opened before me, I knew I had come home. Speechless with joy I followed my mother from room to room, peering through windows which swelled out into Regency bays and panes of glass which had withstood the gales of centuries. These were Georgian additions; the house was considerably older.’

May recounts how Hardy used to talk to her at Max Gate about her home and he was pleased that she took posies of flowers from the Old Vicarage garden to the Moule graves in Fordington Churchyard. Hardy also informed May that a predecessor of Reverend Moule in the late 1700s had been a ‘very queer man. I shouldn’t wonder if it was him you hear running about at night .‘Kilvert, in his diary, provides a specimen of this ‘queerness ‘in an anecdote told to him by Mr Moule : ‘One day there was a christening and no water in the font . ‘Water, sir!’said the clerk in astonishment ‘The last parson never used no water. He spit into his hand ‘.

Mark discovered that Robert Hunt owned the property during the O’Rourke period. In 1942 Mr AH Edwards of Mill Street Mission bought the Old Vicarage and the same year, Mark’s gran and her family moved in. If you have any information on the Old Vicarage, contact Mark by emailing