Dorset County Museum Runs Literary Fundraising Event

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

Trustees and volunteers at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester are running a literary fundraising event on Saturday 30th August 2014.

The event is in aid of much needed refurbishment in the William Barnes Gallery – part of the Writers’ Dorset section of the Museum. A proportion of the money raised will also go towards the purchase of a portrait of Giles Dugdale – an author and previous member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society which runs the Museum. The portrait was painted in 1923 by Wilfred De Glehn, a distinguished British impressionist artist. This portrait, and accompanying collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are being offered to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society from a private family collection for £3,000.

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

“Giles Dugdale played a key role in bringing the literary genius of William Barnes, Dorset’s greatest dialect poet, to light,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “He was also co-founder of the Museum and therefore his portrait is an important part of our Dorset heritage.”

The William Barnes Society has already donated £500 towards the purchase of the portrait. It is hoped that the fundraising event on 30th August will raise the rest of the funds needed to keep the portrait in its rightful place in Dorset County Museum. The event will take place between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm at St Peter’s Church hall, High West Street, Dorchester on Saturday 30th August. Stalls will include home-made produce and preserves, books and bric-a-brac, and refreshments will be available. There will also be a number of activities for children. All are welcome.

For more information about the project, or to make a donation, please contact Jenny Cripps at the Museum on

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A British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

Maiden Castle, Dorchester, DorsetA British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

[An Archaeologist speaks.]

The grassy downs of Dorset,
Rising o’er our homes of peace,
E’er teem with life and riches
In the sheep and precious fleece;
And charm the thoughtful roamer
When, like us, he climbs to scan
Their high-cast mounds of war – the works
Of Britain’s early man,
Whose speech, although here lingers yet
His mighty works of hand,
Has ceased a thousand years to sound
In air of this green land,
And startled may it be to hear
The words of British kin —

An gwaliow war an meneth,(1)
An caer war an bryn.(2)

Their breastworks now are fallen,
And their banks are sunken low;
The gateway yawns ungated,
And unsought by friend or foe.
No war-horn (3) calls for warriors,
And no clear-eyed watchmen spy
For tokens of the foe, around
The quarters of the sky.

No band, with shout and singing, (4)
Sally forth with spear and sword,
Staying foes at wood or hill,
Or at the waded river ford;
Or else to take the hill, and fight
To win, or die within

An gwaliow war an meneth.
An caer war an bryn.

There were lowings of the cattle
By the rattling spears and swords;
There were wails of weeping women
And grim warriors’ angry words —
“Be every Briton fearless, or
For ever live in fear;
And bring his ready weapons out —
His bow, and sword, and spear! (5)
For what have we to fight the foe?
Our children and our wives!
For whom have we to fight? For those
Far dearer than our lives!
And we, to shield them all, will die,
Or else the battle win,

Yn (6) an gwaliow war an meneth,
Yn an caer war an Bryn ! “

But now, in sweet, unbroken peace,
May Dorset land-folks sleep;
In peace may speed the gliding plough,
In peace may graze the sheep;
In peace may smoke our village tuns,
And all our children play;

And may we never need nigh banks
To keep the foe at bay!
And blest be lord or farmer
Of the land, who wins our thanks
By sparing from the spade and sull
These olden British banks,
And not destroying, for a crown
Or pound that he might win,

An gwaliow war an meneth,
An caer war an bryn.


(1) – “The ramparts on the mountain.”

(2) -“The stronghold on the hill”  

This is In the old Cornoak or Cornish-British, that of our West of England.   The modem
Welsh would be —

“Y gwaliaie ar y mynydd,
Y au caer ar y bryn.”

Au pronounced ace; y like e in le, French ; ” mynydd,” munneethe.

(3) – Cadgorn.   The bugle-horn was used for hunting, war, and drinking.

(4) –  By the laws of Hoel Dda, when the Welsh marched to battle the bards were to go before them singing a national song, now lost, called “Unbenaeth Prydain” (“The Monarchy of Britain “). This, however, was later than the time of the upcasting of our earthworks.

(5) -A law triad gives, as law-bidden weapons which every man was to keep ready for battle, a sword, a spear, and a bow with twelve arrows.

(6) – In.

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Please help acquire this significant painting for Dorset County Museum

Giles Dugdale

Giles Dugdale, Oil on canvas, 1923. Wilfred Gabriel de Glehn RA (1870-1951)

This portrait, and accompanying collection of manuscripts, books and cuttings relating to William Barnes, are being offered to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society from a private family collection for £3,000.

All donations are welcome. Please speak to a member of the Museum team at Reception or contact Jenny Cripps on 01305 756823 or via email

Thank You For Your Generous Support


Giles Dugdale

Dorset was Giles Dugdale’s beloved home for many years. As a young man he had read for the Bar at Trinity College, Cambridge.  But his heart was not really in his studies and he chose to relinquish a legal career in favour of a literary one.

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

William Barnes of Dorset by Giles Dugdale

It was reading Llewelyn Powys‘ essay on ‘The Grave of William Barnes’ that first inspired Dugdale’s interest in the Dorset dialect poet.  With a nod to Powys’ work, Dugdale then published a selection of Barnes’ poems and biographical notes in a volume ‘Poems Grave and Gay’ in 1949

Dugdale’s admiration of Barnes grew with his knowledge of the poet’s works, sustaining him through his later life. In 1953, two years before his death, Dugdale wrote what is considered to be the seminal Barnes biography, ‘William Barnes of Dorset’, securing the legacy of both the subject and his biographer.

Dugdale’s other interests included art, architecture and archaeology, and he was an important member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.


Lecture: Thomas Hardy and Dorset Folklore by Dr. Peter Robson

Hardy Players' Mummers

The Mummers in the Hardy Players’ version of ‘The Return of the Native’. Eustacia Vye (extreme left, disguised) was played by Gertrude Bugler. On Christmas Night 1920 the players gave a performance at Hardy’s house, Max Gate.

The novels and stories of Thomas Hardy are filled with examples of folklore – customs, songs, superstitions, witches, mummers and much more.

But were these country traditions actually taken by Hardy from the Dorset of his childhood or were they products of his fertile literary imagination?  On the Thursday 25th July 2013 at 7.30pm at the Dorset County Museum Dr. Peter Robson will explore this question by looking at a variety of examples of Dorset folklore described by Hardy, from the Mellstock Quire to the Egdon Mummers, from Conjuror Trendle to the unfortunate William Privett and beyond. He will illustrate his talk by pictures of the people and places concerned and by sound recordings.

Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore for many years and has written and spoken widely on this subject. Most recently he has become particularly interested in Thomas Hardy’s writings as an almost untapped source for the study of rural folklore.

This is the second in a series of five lectures about Thomas Hardy and is part of a larger project including the National Trust and the University of Exeter. It is hoped that the more academic nature of these lectures will provide the general public and lovers of Hardy’s novels with an increased connection to contemporary ideas about his work.

Entry to the talk is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.  Doors open at 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

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William Barnes: The Dorset Poet

Portrait of William Barnes, Dorset County Museum

Portrait of William Barnes, Dorset County Museum

I, the son of John and Grace Barnes, was born at Rush-hay, a little farmling at Bagbere in the Parish of Sturminster Newton, in the Vale of Black-more . . . so wrote William Barnes, who was born on this day, 22nd February in 1801.

Though William’s grandfather had been a prosperous yeoman, his father was recorded in a census of Sturminster Newton taken on 10th March, 1801 (now in the Dorset History Centre) as ‘Labourer in Husbandry’. Yet in spite of lowly circumstances and his mother’s death when he was fifteen, young William had a happy childhood spent in his own home and in frequent visits to his father’s sisters at Pentridge Farm nearby. After schooling at a dame’s school and at Sturminster Newton, he was taken on as a clerk in a solicitor’s office in Sturminster, and in 1818 became engrossing clerk with the firm of Thos. Coombs & Son in Dorchester. It was in the High Street, soon after, that he first saw and fell in love with Julia Miles.

Encouraged and helped by friends of his youth, William Barnes had already developed gifts for music, literature, art and the classics, but her parents opposed him as a suitor, on the grounds of poverty. This eventually decided him to embark on a new career, and after he had kept a school at Mere for several years, he was at last, in 1827, able to marry Julia, the woman who was to be a source of intense happiness and a devoted support to him as long as she lived. At Mere he continued to keep school, practised his already developed talent for woodcuts and copper-plate engravings, brought out his first book on philology, for use in schools, studied the Welsh language, and in 1833-4 published seven eclogues in the Dorset dialect.

In 1835 he returned to his own county, settling first in a house in Durngate Street, Dorchester, later moving to another next door to Napper’s Mite in South Street, and in 1847 settling in the house on the west side of the same street which bears a tablet commemorating his 15 years’ residence there. His life was full, with his school, his children, his friends (amongst them, Thomas Hardy), his publication of ‘Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect’ in 1844, his interest in archaeology and geology which led him to become a member of the Council of the Dorset County Museum after its inauguration in 1845. He published a philological grammar in 1854, having mastered not only the classics but 60 other languages.

William Barnes Statue, St. Peter's Church, Dorchester

William Barnes Statue, St. Peter’s Church, Dorchester

In 1847 William Barnes was ordained deacon and instituted to the tiny parish of Whitcombe and its beautiful church, not far from Dorchester; but it was not until 1862, 10 years after his wife’s death, that he gave up his school and was presented to the living of Winterborne Came, the neighbouring parish. In the charming rectory which still stands on the Dorchester-Broadmayne road he lived with his daughters, and it was here that, according to Lucy, who was to write his Life under the pen-name of ‘Leader Scott’, he adopted the ‘cassock and wide-brimmed hat, knee-breeches and large buckles on his shapely shoes’ which became his characteristic garb, as well known today as in his own, since the fine statue by Roscoe Mullins was placed outside St. Peter’s Church in Dorchester.

William Barnes' Shoes, leather with buckle clasp, 'antique' style hand-made, 19th Century. Wearing these with knee breeches and cloak, he was a familiar figure in Dorchester until 1883.

Displayed in the Dorset County Museum, are William Barnes’ ‘shapely shoes’., leather with buckle clasp, ‘antique’ style hand-made, 19th Century. Wearing these with knee breeches and cloak, he was a familiar figure in Dorchester until 1883. © DCM

From the rectory, William Barnes, now old but vigorous still, went trudging out in every kind of weather to help his scattered parishioners. Indoors he had his family, his friends, and his interests. He lies in the churchyard of Winterborne Came, his grave is marked by a Celtic cross. Long before his death in 1886 he was famous in the outside world, but it was not his fame (hardly realized by most of his neighbours) but his poems, which he read aloud in the authentic dialect of his youth, moving his audiences to laughter and tears, which endeared him to his fellow men of Dorset, reflecting as they did the deep love of countryside, country ways and country people which characterized this learned yet essentially simple and genuine man.