Cerne Abbas signpost
The changing fortunes of Cerne Abbas
An estate agent's survey has named the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas the most desirable in the country but that hasn't always been the case. BBC Dorset's David Allen explores the village's ups and downs.
The Dorset Village of Cerne Abbas has come top in an estate agent's survey as the most desirable in the country.
But this pretty village nestled between Dorchester and Sherborne has had more than its fair share of ups and downs in its long history.
Anthony Garvey has lived in the village since 1999 and is the current Chairman of the Cerne Abbas Historical Society. He outlined the village's highs and lows.
The village's first rise to prominence came in AD 987 when the Benedictine Abbey was built. The Abbey dominated the area for the next 500 years, but with the dissolution of the Monasteries, the village's position as one of the most important sites in Dorset went with it.
St Mary's Church, Cerne Abbas
Centuries later Cerne Abbas was to thrive once more thanks to the many small industries which set up in the village.
They included glove making, tanning, milling, silk weaving and the brewing of beer. In fact, at one time the village boasted 14 pubs.
But this industrious village would fall into decline when in the 19th century the new railway line bypassed Cerne Abbas. By the end of World War I, the population had halved and many houses had fallen into disrepair. The village was then sold off by the owner, the Pitt-Rivers estate.
Cerne Abbas Historical Society
One of the most popular community groups in the village is the Cerne Abbas Historical Society, which was started in 1988 by a few enthusiasts meeting in the pub.
The society now boasts over 100 members who meet every three weeks in the village hall and enjoy an array of interesting guest speakers.
Former chairman of the Historical Society George Mortimer, who looks after the society's archives and is involved in the society's website, explained that the group are currently tracing the history of their homes - many of which date back centuries.
The group has also organised a heritage trail which has disabled access and follows important sites within the village.
The trail starts off at the Abbots Porch and passes by St Mary's church (which dates back to the 14th Century), and St Augustine's Well (which is said to have been created when the visiting saint struck the ground with his staff and water gushed forth) and finishes at the famous Giant.
The Cerne Abbas Giant
Most of all, Cerne Abbas is world famous for its Giant, carved into the hillside above the village, but its origins remain a mystery. In a scene reminiscent of the TV series Dad's Army, during World War II the Giant had his manhood covered because it was feared it may help German Aircraft by pointing the way to Bristol.
Even in the 21st Century the Cerne Giant has been used to promote the Simpson's Movie.
Today the village is once more riding high with numerous community organisations using the newly built village hall (which was built at a cost of around £700,000, much of which was raised by the villagers).
St Mary's Church, Cerne Abbas
The feeling of community has never been stronger.
Now with the title of the most desirable village in Britain, it looks like the fortunes of Cerne Abbas are set fair for many years to come.
last updated: 19/03/2008 at 10:31
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Jan and David Kirkpatrick