Each picture can be seen enlarged by clicking on it.
The name of the village is obviously in part derived from that of the river, itself meaning "trespasser" from its tendency to flooding. The second word comes from the original name of the crossing of the nearby River Stour, which was called Crow Ford, until the present bridge, called Crawford Bridge, was built.
Although Dorset generally is a very hilly county, around here the hills are not very big (although some are steep-sided), with cattle grazing in smallish green fields bounded by hedges, interspersed here and there with small patches of woodland - a quiet, gentle, very rural country.
The River Tarrant runs roughly north to south, but the lower part through Tarrant Keyneston and Tarrant Crawford to its union with the Stour veers to south west. It meets the Stour about at right angles, as the larger river runs north west to south east, eventually meeting the sea in company with the Salisbury Avon at Christchurch.
The Tarrant runs for most of its length through a narrow, steep sided valley, but Tarrant Crawford lies where the valley begins to open out a little as it joins the broader, flat-bottomed valley of the River Stour. The highest point in the parish, along part of its north east boundary, lies about 200 feet above sea level, while at its lowest where part of the south west boundary runs along the Stour it is only about 100 feet up. Almost every one of its buildings is close to the lower elevation.
The parish is very small in area, being only just over a mile along its longest axis, which runs north east to south west, and about four fifths of a mile at maximum in the other direction.
It is located about 3 miles south east of Blandford Forum and about 6 miles north west of Wimborne, both nowadays smallish market towns, but large enough to provide for most day-to-day requirements. The entertainments and amenities of a larger town are available about 10 miles away in Poole, and immediately beyond that, even larger Bournemouth. The nearest shops, pubs and similar village institutions are a mile or so away in Spetisbury, just across the River Stour.
A map of the parish (total 71,820 bytes) is on a separate page.
An abbey of Cistercian nuns was established near to where the church now stands, back in the reign of Richard I (1189-1199) according to one source, but a little later in 1223 according to another. The latter source, a booklet available in the church when I last visited, refers to an earlier community of Anchoresses, living in a house adjacent to the church (called the Manse of the Nuns), so perhaps this was confused with the abbey by the first source quoted. The building is long gone, but it is thought that some of the stones from the outbuildings have been incorporated in the large farmhouse, called Abbey Farm.
Two relatively famous names are associated with Tarrant Crawford. One is Queen Joan, the wife of Alexander II of Scotland and daughter of King John of England (Richard I's brother and successor), who is buried here and was the first lay abbess.
The other famous person was Bishop Richard Poore, builder of Salisbury Cathedral, who was baptised in the church and later (in 1237) buried in the abbey, which he founded. He was at one time Dean of the old cathedral at Old Sarum, and later became bishop of first Chichester, then Salisbury and finally Durham.
"THIS WAYSIDE CROSS WAS RESTORED & SET ON NEW STEPS
ON THE OLD SITE BY MANY FRIENDS OF TARRANT CRAWFORD
ANNO DOM MDCCCCXIV"
(photo 55,570 bytes)
This is a view of the Tarrant Crawford countryside and a couple of houses, from beside the cross.
The main walls and the chancel were built in the 12th century, and most of the remainder in the 13th. The only major (15th century) later additions were the upper part of the tower and two of the windows. The tower houses three bells, two of them mediæval and one 17th century.
This photo (31,757 bytes) gives a general idea of the interior of the church, but does not show the wall paintings (see below) at all clearly.
The thing which most attracts people to this church, however, is the set of ancient wall paintings which cover most of the aisleless nave. Most date from the 14th century, but the earliest is 13th and the most recent from the 16th or 17th century. Particularly impressive is the south wall of the nave, which is divided into two by a horizontal band. Above the band is a series of 14 scenes from the life of St. Margaret of Antioch, complete except for the last two - said to be the most extensive and complete such sequence in England. The sequence dates from the early 14th century, but, though rather faint, the twelve remaining paintings are still visible. In all there are 24 paintings on the walls, only three of which are indecipherable.
Not mentioned in any literature I have seen, but which my family and I found of interest, was the tiny organ (photo 38,482 bytes). No bigger than a standard upright piano, it has a single keyboard, and the two large pedals are used by the player to drive the bellows which operate it! (No, we didn't try it.)
I am indebted to the (unknown) author of the booklet from the church (mentioned above) for most of my information about the church and the history of the abbey. The booklet was probably produced by The Churches Conservation Trust, who maintain the church.
These are of interest to other people (N.B. links are email links to the interested researcher):
HUND (Michael Sprackling)
KNOTT, Rev. Robert Rowe was the chaplain of the Donative of Tarrant Crawford from 1849 to 1865 (Maurice Snowdon)
MEADER, Henry, b 1830 at Oakley - owned the Willet Arms in Oakley in the mid-1850's. Father Andrew lived in T. Monkton. (Shelagh Kew Barker)
SPRACKLING (Michael Sprackling)
STEVENS (Michael Sprackling)
WARR, Reuben, b.1830 at T. Crawford & Charlotte (née Meader), b.1819 at T. Monkton. (Shelagh Kew Barker)
Top of this page
Genealogy and Dorset