A HOME surrounded by trees and the scene of many happy childhood memories is the subject of a new book by a Dorchester author.

Mark Chutter was inspired to find out more about the Old Vicarage in Fordington, Dorchester, after the death of his 93-year-old grandmother in August last year.

The Old Vicarage, which has now been demolished, was situated in Salisbury Field and was surrounded by copper beeches and sycamore trees. The building dates back to at least 1222 when the Church of Fordington Saint George received its first vicar called Robert de Dorcestre.

This L-shaped building at the top of High Street, Fordington, had many significant residents.

From 1829 to 1880 the famous Moule family lived there and poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was a regular visitor there.

Henry Moule helped the poor in the Victorian era during the outbreak of cholera in Mill Street and he invented the earth closet to help with sanitation.

Henry and Mary Mullett Moule had eight sons who were brilliant scholars and attended Cambridge.

Thomas Hardy was a frequent visitor to the vicarage and he became friends with the gifted Horace Moule, who sadly committed suicide in Cambridge in 1873. William Barnes gave a reading of his poems at the vicarage and a friend of Charles Lamb's, Charles Valentine Le Grice, was another famous visitor.

Much has been written about the old vicarage. In his book Dorchester Antiquities' (1901), HJ Moule, son of Henry and curator of Dorset County Museum, states that 'to return to houses yet surviving, Fordington Old Vicarage is almost certainly the most ancient. Parts of the walls are 3ft thick'.

In 1830 a piece of the vicarage wall was pulled down and a 15th century two-arched tracery window was discovered. The stones were reset in the new wall by the front door to the Old Vicarage and now lie in the garden in Fordington Hill House

Mark's grandmother Faith Irene Damon, known as Dolly, lived at the Old Vicarage with her family, including her daughter (Mr Chutter's mother) from 1942 to 1971.

Dolly Damon was born in Fordington in 1924 in Pound Lane and died in South Walks Road, Dorchester.

Mark said: "When my mother and I were sifting through her belongings we discovered a document secreted away in her Holy Bible."

It was a piece of writing about the Old Vicarage.

Dolly wrote: "The year was 1942. As I walked into a tree laden path to a large grey house, it looked so lonely walled in from the road. I was quite alone, this was to be my first real home. The old oak doors creaked and groaned at my touch , but it seemed as if they had waited just for me. I felt a holy presence within me. That is when life and love started for me - it lasted 30 years. I will ever be grateful and never forget the Old Vicarage."

Dolly described her childhood at the Old Vicarage as 'idyllic'.

Sadly, the home was demolished in 1971.

Mark said: "Grandmother fought the developers and she was the last resident to leave that ancient building.

"Even the O'Rourke sisters May and Bride returned to the vicarage to help my grandmother to save the building, which was often painted by HJ Moule.

"After demolition in 1971 archaeologists found (within the area of a known Roman burial ground ) 21 inhumations and three cremations dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries."

A bench in Salisbury Field has been dedicated to Mark's grandparents Dolly and Jack. It is situated just outside where their beloved Old Vicarage stood.

Mark hopes to publish his book on the Old Vicarage later this year or next year. If you have any information on the Old Vicarage, such as photographs, paintings, documents, memories, contact Mark by emailing


*Next week we'll be sharing more history and photos of the Old Vicarage in Fordington.