The small Dorset village of Sutton Poyntz, nestling beneath the chalk downs lies just to the north of Preston, so close that the boundary between the two is almost unnoticeable. Indeed, Sutton Poyntz has always been a chapelry to Preston and the parish register of Preston covers both.
The village was known just as Sutton until the Poyntz family gave their name to it when they held the manor and liberty thereof. The last of the Poyntz family, Nicholas born circa 1320, knighted in 1353, died without male issue about 1376 and the manor eventually descended through his daughter Margaret to John Newburgh. Whether this is the same John Newburgh that she married is not clear, but at the same time he held Sutton Poyntz, he also held the manor of Winterborne St. Martin (Martinstown) in Dorset. Sutton Poyntz later came into the possession of William Harvey and by 1867 was in the possession of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle.
Sutton Poyntz is just out of Weymouth by approximately three miles to the North-East. It was incorporated into the Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in 1933. Sutton Poyntz is the kind of village that is quietly tucked away with a unique beauty that awaits discovery. Very close by is the hill that bears the chalk carving of the White Horse, which is said to overlook Osmington but in reality it appears to belong to Sutton Poyntz.
Roman remains and Bronze Age remains have been discovered in the area, probably connected with those found in the parish of Preston and at Bowleaze Cove.
Sutton Poyntz has more than one claim to fame of notoriety, for from this small village a resident was transported to Australia in 1814, murder most foul took place in 1862, and the village was home to the founders of one of Dorset's well known brewers.
Mary Lawrence, a widow, residing at Sutton Poyntz and late of Melcombe Regis, otherwise called Mary Butt was indicted on 24th March 1813 with feloniously stealing a watch with chain and key, the property of Thomas Courtin, from his dwelling house in Melcombe Regis.
Mary was aged 22 years when she was tried at the Summer Assizes in August that year and after spending several months in prison, she was transported to Australia for seven years. She left on board the Broxbornebury which arrived in Sydney in July 1814.
Sutton Poyntz was home to John Cox for many years prior to his committing a barbarous murder. He appears to have been born in Puddletown but by the time of the 1841 census was living in Sutton Poyntz with a butcher's family as a servant. In the adjoining schedule of the census, another butcher of the same family name is found. Maybe it was from this that he learned how to perform butchery, for in 1862 he butchered to death Doctor Adam Puckett of Broadwey, the Union doctor. Possibly the association with butchers gave rise to the legend of John Cox being associated with the Butchers Arms public house of Sutton Poyntz.
Sutton Farm was once the home of the John Allen Pope and he is thus recorded in the 1851 census aged 48, born at Toller Porcorum, a farmer of 1950 acres employing 40 labourers. His wife Elizabeth aged 49 was born at Beaminster. Eight children are listed, Mary Ann 20, Elizabeth 19, Tom 16, all born Toller Porcorum, Harriet 13, Charlotte 10, Alfred 8, Edwin 6 and George 4 all born at Clifton Maybank. The children had a governess, Sarah Genge aged 22 of East Chinnock, Somerset. The three youngest sons of John Allen Pope became brewers and went on to found the well known local brewery of Eldridge Pope based in Dorchester.
A short distance after entering the village the road presents a choice with a fork. The left-hand fork leads to a few houses and cottages in Plaisters Lane, while the right fork, a continuation of Sutton Road, leads to the village duck pond, the waterworks and the start of the river arising from the spring.
Formerly two cottages called The Elms, Bellamy Cottage was the home of a blacksmith whose smithy stood in front of it.
Bellamy Cottage and the River Jordan
The island in the middle has the river running through its centre, which then goes under the road to meander downstream towards Preston where it joins the main River Jordan. A walk along the path beside the river of Silver Street is quite idyllic.
Hidden treasures of old houses and cottages are to be found along the path of Silver Street, including the rear of the old mill. Laurel Cottage is reputed to have been built upon the original foundations of a chapel built by the Poyntz family in the fourteenth century. However some sources say that the site of the chapel is across the road in Plaisters Lane.
The chapel was recorded in a visitation of 1405 as a chapel of ease and was said to have two altars of St. Giles and St. Mary Magdalen. By 1867 the only remains of it were "three hip-knobs surmounting the gables and porch of the school buildings. The site of the chapel was occupied by a poorhouse called the Church House, till it was pulled down on the alteration of the poor law." - Hutchins', History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset.
Further along Silver Street, just opposite the rear of the mill, is a 17th century cottage called "Blue Shutters". It is mentioned in a document of 1634 when it was the home of Robert Fookes. Still further along and by a small bridge going over the river stands a cottage known as "The Rest". It was once two cottages, built sometime around the late 16th or early 17th century.
The rear of the mill can be seen in Silver Street with a tiny bridge going over the river and running between the mill and the Mill House. Built of red brick in the early 19th century it replaced a stone-built mill, the foundations of which are still evident. The original mill was built on the site of a fourteenth century Courthouse that Hugo Poyntz had converted to a watermill.
The Mill House and the Mill at Sutton Poyntz
The mill was sold by auction in 1819 on the death of its builder, George Hyde, a corn merchant. The land on which it stands was then leased by copyhold from Thomas Weld Esq. into whose hands the estate had passed during the late 18th century. The Welds of Lulworth held the manor of Sutton Poyntz with Preston until 1925 when it was sold.
In the Post Office directory of 1849, the miller was William Spicer who is listed in the 1851 census aged 29 born Tolpuddle, with his wife Elizabeth aged 39, born Wareham and children Frank 7, William 5, Emily 2 and Elizabeth 7 months. They employed a servant, Elizabeth Oram age 15 of Wareham, and an apprentice miller, Robert Keynes aged 18 born Warmwell. William Spicer is listed again in Kelly's Directory of 1855.
The 1861 census records Charles Shorto aged 24, born Dorchester, a corn miller employing two men and a boy. Two of these employees are possibly John Davis, a carter for a miller and William Galpin, age 16, miller also recorded in the census. The directory for 1867 has an entry for J. Shorto and Son, millers of Sutton Poyntz. The directory of 1875 lists a Levi Luckham as a miller of Sutton.
By 1880 the mill is in the occupation of John Welch, miller. In 1898 Kelly's Directory records that the mill is in the occupation of Barnard Henry Meech who is a miller (water) at Sutton Poyntz and also at Upwey. He is recorded as corn factor and attends the markets at Weymouth on a Tuesday and Friday, and Dorchester on a Wednesday and Saturday. He is also a General Contractor, Timber Merchant and Sawmills.
The mill and the Mill House were used by Thomas Hardy in his novel "The Trumpet Major" as the setting for "Overcombe". The Mill House stands beside the old mill on the left-hand side of the road after taking the right hand fork of Sutton Road. The mill itself has been converted to take Bed and Breakfast guests.
Opposite the mill on Sutton Road is the site of the old courthouse of the Weld family. The building, which had use as a dairy, was consumed by fire in 1908. Some of the timbers rescued from it were then used in the construction of the lych gate of St. Andrew's church at Preston.
Further upstream from the Mill the river broadens out to form the much photographed village duck pond. The pond is lined on one side by a row of quaint old cottages. Two of these cottages were once the public house called the Springbottom Inn and the last cottage on the corner of Mission Hall Lane was previously the village shop.
The Mill Pond & Cottages and the Springhead
On the other side is the locally well-known public house, the Springhead. Kelly's directory of 1898 has Charles Robert Clay as the publican of the Spring Head Hotel and advertises "good accommodation for visitors and cyclists, good tennis lawn and grounds, large parties catered for". From the garden of the Springhead the White Horse can be seen on the adjoining hillside.
Further up still, at the end of the village, is the water works of Wessex Water. The Victorian pumping station which still supplies Weymouth, also houses a museum of water and the history of its treatment. The history begins in Roman times up to the present day. The museum includes a water turbine pump dating from 1857.
On this site was formerly the Upper Mill which was demolished in 1855 to make way for the present building. This mill had been designated at the same time as the other mill during the time that Hugo Poyntz held the manor.
Prior to the waterworks taking over the site, the water supply for the local area of Melcombe Regis was taken from springs at the end of Coombe Valley Road in Preston. The spring here was known as Boiling Rock and an act of Parliament of 1797 granted permission for the water to be taken, routed via Lodmoor, by gravity to supply the town. About this time, George III was making visits to Weymouth and as this boosted Weymouth's (or more correctly, Melcombe Regis) popularity, so the demand for water increased.
In 1855 the Weymouth Waterworks Company bought the rights of the water in the springs and built the pumping station. The water was pumped to a reservoir on Rimbury Hill in Preston and was then routed by gravity to a reservoir at Rodwell, thus serving the Weymouth side of town.
The ship, the Great Eastern was around Portland in 1859 conducting trials when an explosion aboard blew off one of the funnels. It was salvaged and subsequently purchased by the water company. It was, and still is, used as a filter directly from the springs above Sutton Poyntz before going into the pumping station.
In 1900 steam power was introduced which improved efficiency and then electricity in 1950. It became part of Wessex Water in 1974 as it remains to this day.
For Historical Parish information, please see the Preston page
Nearby Parishes and Places
All text and photographs on this page are my own and I therefore hold the copyright. Please respect this and if you wish to copy any of them or use them elsewhere, please ask permission first.
The information contained on this page is accurate to the best of my knowledge and no responsibility is accepted for errors or omissions.