Below are brief articles on the following; Cranborne village, Cranborne Abbey & Church, Cranborne Castle, Cranborne Manor, Salisbury Street & Grugs Lane and the Ancient Technology Centre. Please email us if you find any errors.

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Cranborne derives its name from the Crane, the stream which flows through it, ‘the bourne of cranes’. It was once a place of considerable importance, holding a market every Thursday, and two Fairs, one on St. Bartholomew’s Day (24th August) and one on St. Nicholas’ Day (6th December). Cranborne also had a grammar school.

There is evidence of local Roman occupation; about one mile downstream Roman remains were found in the mid 19th century near the modern day cress beds.

By 930 AD. the Saxons had established a priory where, what is now the old vicarage garden.

By 1086 AD. Cranborne was one of the royal manors.

Around 1102 AD. Tewkesbury Abbey was rebuilt and Cranborne’s abbot was transferred there, making Cranborne the subordinate house though it retained some local importance as a religious centre, its church having four outlying chapels.

The village stands in what was once the largest Parish in the County of Dorset and the Manor House was the court for Cranborne Chase.

There were formerly seven inns in the town. It is known that there was a Swan, a Red Lion, a Black Horse and The Checkers. Only two remain today:

The Sheaf of Arrows became The Victoria but has now regained its ancient title. (A sheaf of arrows is part of the coat-of-arms of the Cecil family).

The other survivor from former days is the Fleur-de-Lys, (named The Inn at Cranborne for a few years before resorting to its old name).

In his Wessex novels Thomas Hardy calls Cranborne ‘Chaseborough’, “a decayed market town”, and it is at the Fleur-de-Lys that Tess of the d’Urbevilles is supposed to have rested on her journey to Trantridge (the real village of Pentridge which is a few miles northwest of Cranborne).

Ribbon making, tanning and glove making were established cottage industries in Cranborne in the 18th century.

By the early 19th century Cranborne’s commercial prosperity was declining with the weekly market virtually gone by 1815 and the market house pulled down in 1828 through lack of use.

Two major factors seem to have contributed to Cranborne’s decline:

  1. The Great Western Turnpike was built in the 1750s to speed coaches from Blandford to Salisbury (and beyond onto London). Today it is the A354 road which bypasses Cranborne. Modernisation of the road northwards through Cranborne via Tidpit, Toyd Down and Coombe Bissett was proposed but nothing came of it. This route was important however as can be seen by the placement of substantial milestones along it.
  2. Similarly, the rail network in the 19th century bypassed Cranborne running through Alderholt and Verwood instead.

Lord Shaftesbury built his own new road linking his estate at Wimborne St. Giles to the Blandford to Salisbury turnpike, i.e. the section of the modern day B3081 across Bottlebush Down to the Sixpenny Handley roundabout northwest of Cranborne.



By AD 980 an abbey had been established at Cranborne by Aylward Snow who was buried here in the church he had founded. His descendants enlarged and rebuilt the church.

At the time of the Norman conquest (1066 and all that!) a man named Brithric was the holder of the Manor. However, because he was discourteous to William the Conqueror’s wife Matilda, he was imprisoned and died at Winchester.

Brithric’s estates were seized and given to King William ll. He granted them to Robert Fitz-Hamon, Lord of Tewkesbury, a distinguished soldier. By 1086 the Domesday Book records that Cranborne was one of the important monastic foundations in England holding lands in Boveridge, Monkton-up-Wimborne, Langford, Tarrant Monkton and Gillingham.

By 1106 the Abbey held two hides (enough land to support two peasant families, about 240 acres) in Purbeck, and also the churches at Ashmore, Chettle, Frome and Pentridge plus income from the church tax (tithe) of Tarente. In the meantime, Fitz-Hamon decided to move the Abbey of Cranborne back to Tewkesbury. The Abbot of Cranborne, Giraldus and 57 monks moved to Tewkesbury and set about building the splendid church there.

Cranborne Abbey then became a priory with Cranborne church being rebuilt around 1272 in the Early English style. On one occasion in 1339, the prior was ordered by King Edward III to take an armed force to the Dorset coast to repel a foreign enemy.

At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, Tewkesbury and the dependent Priory of Cranborne were surrendered to the King on 31st January 1540. The Priory stood in what is now the garden of the old vicarage and was demolished in 1703 with the church surviving today as the Church of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew.

The church is in the Knowlton Circle Benefice sharing in the rota of church services with five other local churches.

Here is a link to a more detailed account of the history of Cranborne Priory.



About quarter of a mile south of Cranborne village is Castle Hill, a motte and bailey type of castle built by the Normans (i.e. after 1066 AD.).

The earthworks cover some 2.5 acres (1 hectare) and include a circular motte (mound) 180 ft. (55 metres) in diameter and 28 ft. (8.5 metres) high surrounded by a small ditch and an outer bank. A crescent-shaped bailey (outer compound) on the east is bounded by a rampart some 25 ft. (7.5 metres) high with an outer ditch.

At the southern end of the bailey there is causeway across the ditch and an entrance through the rampart.

In the early 19th century Lewis Tregonwell buried the remains of two of his favourite horses on the top of the castle mound.

Little is known of the castle’s history in that its location is unusual being away from Cranborne village. It is possible that Castle Hill represents a rare example of a Norman castle built on a new site chosen for its height or defensive position.



There was a hunting lodge in Cranborne by time King John came to the throne in 1199 and money was spent on repairs on four occasions between 1198 and 1207. King John was known to have made 14 visits in order to hunt.

Between 1207-08 the manor was rebuilt or considerably enlarged at a cost of £64 6s 4d a substantial sum. By the early 14th century the Earl of Gloucester had rebuilt the house entirely.

In 1604 Robert Cecil (First Minister to Queen Elizabeth I and King James I) bought the manor house from the crown and transformed it into its present form to entertain royalty. In 1609 King James I spent a couple of nights here killing five bucks in two days of hunting. And King Charles I let it be known he ‘chiefly delighted to hunt in the said walk or chase as the late King James’.

Cranborne Manor was said to be ‘the loveliest manor house in Dorset’, but it was never the main seat of the Marquess of Salisbury. They have preferred Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Cranborne Manor is the seat of the eldest son, the lord in waiting.

The manor house had a dungeon used to detain prisoners by Cranborne Chase officers. Ringbolts used to chain the prisoners survived into the early 1800s when the dungeon was converted into a larder.

Today the gardens are open to the public on a regular basis and the village church fete is held in the grounds, but the house itself is not open to the public.

Cranborne Garden Centre sits within the manor house former kitchen garden.




Salisbury Street in Cranborne might have been a major thoroughfare if the Great Western Turnpike (the modern day A354 road to the north) had not been so successful.

Edward Stillingfleet:

Edward was born at Pound Farm in Grugs Lane in 1635 and died in 1699. He was Bishop of Worcester from 1689 to 1899. The thatched cottage is known today as ‘Sinodun’.

Tregonwell House:

Lewis Dymoke Grosvenor Tregonwell is known as the founder of Bournemouth as a holiday resort. He lived at Cranborne Lodge as the squire. He bought 8.5 acres of land near Bourne Heath in 1810 (where Bournemouth town centre is today). In fact, one wing of the Royal Exeter Hotel is the house he built in 1812.

Cranborne Police Sation:

In 1856, the County and Borough Police Act meant that all counties were required to organise a police force for all rural areas and boroughs. Along with this, the policemen needed new homes and across Dorset new police houses were built in several villages, including Beaminster, Blandford, Sherborne and Cranborne.

Local builder, Henry Kilford was commissioned to construct the new house and police station at Cranborne in Salisbury Street which cost £581 to build, including fixtures and fittings, and the painting and papering.

The new police house was completed by 1860 and the new policeman, Sergeant George Andrews was recorded in the house with his family by the time of the 1861 census. Also in the house were Constable Charles Bart and his wife Sarah.

Not all Cranborne’s early police officers were pillars of the community. Sergeant William Webb was stationed at Cranborne from 1869, but the records show that in 1875 a prisoner escaped from the lock-up and Webb was demoted. Presumably he was promoted again because at a later date he was again demoted when he sent his constable to the pub “to fetch five pints of beer and half a pint of gin for two prisoners”. They were in custody at Cranborne on a charge of drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Apparently, Webb also released the prisoners from the cells and had a drink with them.

The police house continued in use until the late 20th century when it was converted into a private house.



The Ancient Technology Centre is an Outdoor Education Centre situated at the rear of Cranborne Middle School providing authentic National Curriculum linked historical school trips. It has six full sized reconstructions of ancient buildings:

an Earth House, Viking Longhouse, Neolithic Log Cabin, Iron Age Roundhouse, Roman Forge, Saxon Workshop.

There is also a fully working Roman water lifting machine reconstruction donated by TV’s Channel 4 Time Team after they discovered the remains of one in London.

As well as school visits the centre also hosts themed weekends and storytelling and music events.