Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History


St.Peter's Church, Portesham

The parish church of St. Peter, Portesham

A quaint little village of limestone thatched cottages and a medieval church. Portesham is spoken in the Dorset dialect as "Possum" and was originally granted as a manor by King Canute in 1024. The lands had been given to Orc, his servant and Orcus and his wife subsequently gave it to the monastery of Abbotsbury. At the time of the dissolution this manor was granted to William Paulet, Lord St. John. At some point in time, the Trenchard family also held Portesham. The manor was partly sold in fee to the tenants by Sir Andrew Ricard and the remainder passed to his daughter Christian on his death in 1672. Christian married John, Lord Berkeley of Stratton and it passed down through his family.

The parish is large, extending quite some distance, particularly to the east of the village and once contained several manors of small hamlets. These manors were, Corton, Shilvington, Shilvington West, East and West Tatton, East and West Waddon and Friar Waddon.

Home of Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Portesham, Dorset

Portesham House

Lying about five miles to the West of Weymouth, the village of Portesham or Portisham has one of the most famous associations in British history. At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 during the Napoleonic War, the Captain of Nelson's flagship, the Victory, was Thomas Masterman Hardy of Portesham, Dorset.

Hardy had been appointed to the Victory in 1803 and was at Nelson's side when the latter suffered his fatal injuries during battle two years later.

Hardy lived at Portesham House at the bottom of Goose Hill.

Thomas Masterman Hardy was born in 1769 the son of Joseph Hardy, at Kingston Russell House in the parish of Long Bredy, Dorset. He joined the Navy in 1781 where he served under Nelson for several years before joining H.M.S. Victory in 1803. He played a major role as Nelson's Flag-Captain in the Battle of Trafalgar, during which Nelson lost his life. He was made a baronet in 1806, made Commodore in the Portuguese Navy in 1811 and in 1815 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He returned to England in 1824 and was made Rear Admiral a year later. He was appointed Governor of Greenwich Hospital in 1834 and promoted to Vice-Admiral in 1837. He died at Greenwich in 1839.

His memorial at Greenwich reads:

The Friend and Companion-in-arms of Nelson. Eminent for judgement and self-possession. Ever Anxious for the improvement of the service to which he had devoted himself. Equal to all its difficulties and duties, and conversant with its minutest details. The name of this gallant and distinguished officer will descend to posterity as one of the noblest ornaments of the profession to which England is so much indebted for security and renown.

A huge monument was erected in 1842 in honour of Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy on the summit of Blackdown Hill, high above the village of Portesham. From there the views on all sides are quite stunning. On a fine day it is possible to see the Needles of the Isle of Wight, some 50 miles in the distance. The site of the monument commands some breathtaking views of most of Dorset. Hardy's monument can be seen from many miles away, a solitary upright column standing tall on the horizon.

Naturally of course, the monument looks out to sea into Lyme Bay, part of the English Channel. Hardy passed by this part of the sea on his way to fight the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Hardy's Monument at Blackdown near Portisham, Dorset

Hardy's Monument

The hamlet of Friar Waddon, Portesham, Dorset

Friar Waddon

Friar Waddon, a hamlet and formerly a manor, was sold in 1782 to Henry Sherren, gent. By 1867 it had changed hands and was in the possession of Mrs. Cockeram of Kingsdon, Somerset. Friar Waddon once had a chapel near the farmhouse, but it was at some time turned into a dairy house.


Historical Parish Information


Parish Registers begin:


Hundred or Liberty:


Poor Law Union & Registration District:


Online Parish Clerk Project (external link):

Portesham OPC






Nearby Parishes and Places:


Bexington, East and West

Buckland Ripers

Fleet, Dorset

Kingston Russell

Langton Herring

Little Bredy



Winterbourne Abbas

Winterbourne Steepleton

Wyke Regis


Local Attractions and Places to Visit



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