St Mary’s Church, Cerne Abbas

MOST English villages have an interesting history and that is certainly true for Cerne Abbas, which is marking the centenary of the day when all the village properties that were owned by the Pitt-Rivers family estate were sold at auction.

Written and directed by local resident Helen Hewitt, this is a dramatic re-enactment of that auction sale, the village church serving as the location which took place in Dorchester Town Hall on September 24, 1919.

For this occasion, the villagers, suitably dressed in Edwardian style as farmers, traders, housewives and toffs, packed the church as the drama unfolded with real-life auctioneer Garry Batt giving the proceedings a very professional touch with his supervision of the lively bidding from local buyers as houses, shops and land changed hands in an emotional atmosphere as the residents watched their homes being sold.

The church has also provided a background for an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia of 100 years ago, together with a comprehensive and illustrated guide to the properties that were up for auction on that fateful day.

It is interesting to note that the most important lot on the day was the beautiful Abbey House together with the surrounding land which sold for £7,600. The Cerne Abbas giant was originally included in that particular lot but was withdrawn before the sale and donated the following year by Alexander Pitt-Rivers to the National Trust who are planning to celebrate ownership of the iconic figure in 2020.

The exhibition in the church continues until Friday (October 4).