Charmouth, Dorset (1872)

The following description and brief history of Dorchester, Dorset, England is taken from ‘Black’s Guide to Dorsetshire’ By Adam and Charles Black Published in 1872

CHARMOUTH (population, 664. Inns: Coach and Horses, The George), chiefly built upon the low land watered by the Char (which rises at Lewesdon Hill, 9 miles distant), and rambling along the sea-shore, but not altogether disdaining the beautiful prospects afforded by the hill — the “Plinlimmon of Dorset” — which rises in the rear, and whose slopes are now dotted with many pleasant villas.

It was at Charmouth, in 833, that King Egbert fought against a body of Danes who had landed from 35 ships, and “there was great slaughter made, and the Danish-men maintained possession of the field.” Seven years later, Ethelwulf was equally unsuccessful against a similar horde of rovers, but the Danes afterwards carried off their wounded, and retired to their galleys. The town played no important part in the after-history of England; but, in 1651, became associated with a romantic incident in the escape of Charles II. It had been agreed with the master of a small coasting-brig that a boat should await the arrival of the royal fugitive at Charmouth. The king, attended by Lord “Wilmot and Colonel Wyndham, in due time gained the appointed rendezvous, but the vessel had been accidentally detained, and there was no help for it but to pass the night in the village-inn. On the following morning it was discovered that the king’s horse had cast a shoe, and a smith was sent for to supply the want. Observing that the horse’s shoes were fastened according to the custom of the northern parts of England, the smith communicated the circumstance to a Koundhead trooper who officiated as hostler, and he, in his turn, conveyed the intelligence to the Puritan minister, from whom it travelled to the Puritan justice of the peace. A detachment of cavalry was immediately ordered out in pursuit of the fugitives, but taking the wrong road, the king was enabled to effect his escape. The chamber wherein he slept is still shewn in the quaint old cottage, next to the chapel, into which the inn has been converted.

The CHURCH, dedicated to St. Matthew, was rebuilt in 1503, and contains a screen, and some misereres carved with grotesque figures.

The angler will find trout and salmon-peel in the Char. The geologist may look for shells and fossil remains in the cliffs — ammonites and belemnites, — the bones of Plesiosauri, Pterodactyles, and Ichthyosauri. Coniferous plants, and remains of the elephant and rhinoceros are often discovered in a gravel-bed near the mouth of the river. The bituminous shale, which occurs here in the lias, took fire spontaneously in 1531 and 1751.

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