The Caundle villages, rich in pasture land, lie in the heart of William Barnes country in the north of Dorset, and his poem, Bishops Caundle was written after the victory at Waterloo.

Today it is a dour village with church and churchyard dominating the main street. It feels old especially when you remember that men who saw the hail of arrows at Agincourt probably talked about it in this same street, because the village name goes back to the legend of Arthur, and the Dark Ages. Caundle is a Celtic word, a name given to the chain of hills which look from Dorset toward Somerset. In Domesday Book it is recorded as Candel. In the 13th century it became Caundel Episcopi. The Episcopal owner of the land at the time was the Bishop of Sarum.

The church of St. Peter and St. Paul has a 15th century tower and a nave of the same date which was partially rebuilt in 1864. The chancel is a good example of high Victorian taste - carved stone reredos and elaborate candle-holder are probably the best bits.

Almost a mile south of the village is the medieval Cornford Bridge, with niches for pedestrians to stand in.

'At Peace day, who but we should goo
To Caundle for an hour or two:
As gay a day as ever broke
Above the heads of Caundle voik,
Vor Peace, acome for all, did come
To them wii two new friends at hwome
. Zoo while we kept, wi nimble peace
The wold dun towir avore our feace
The air at last, begun to come
WIi drubbens of a beaten drum;
Ani then we heard the horns loud drouts
Play of a tuenis upper notes;
An I then agean a risen chearm
Vrom tongues of people in a zwarm;
Ani zoo at last, we stood among
The merry feaces oi the drong.

It is a long poem with a description of the feast and dancing on the vi illage green to the accompaniment of musicians platformed on a gal ily painted farm wagon.

'In Caundle, vor a day at least,
You woudden vind a scowlen feace,
Or dumpy heart in all the pleace.'

Purse Caundle is a village which always seems at peace with itself. At its center is a 15th century church and a beautiful Manor House. In 1241 the village was called Purscaundel, Purse being the old English word for priest.

One of Purse Candle’s most illustrious sons was one born Peter Mews, whose story would be excellent material for a swashbuckling film. Very briefly, this romantic figure of the Civil Wars was an undergraduate and a soldier of Charles. Always in the thick of battle, he received about 30 wounds. He was taken prisoner, became a fugitive and a royalist agent in Holland. He was a master of disguises and was nearly hanged.

Ordained, he became Bishop of Winchester in 1684, at the age of 66 years. When the Duke of Monmouth started his revolt, he went back to war and, in victory, pleaded for clemency for the misguided rebel. The old Bishop Cavalier died at the great age of 91 years, but does not rest at Purse Caundle - it would probably be too quiet for him.

Hithe Paradise is the name of a field in Stourton Caundle - and very aptly named because this delightful village has a clear stream running past its thatched cottages. This Caundle takes its name from the Stourtons who lived here long ago in a castle long since gone. Only the chapel survived and that does duty as a farm building.

 

 

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