Greenwood History 1

Could this be Forston House where the first Asylum was established?

The story of Greenwood House actually starts long before it was actually opened in 1895 when it was an extension to the Dorset County Lunatic Asylum to accommodate female patients. There is quite a bit of information around and it is an interesting subject. There is the book In the Course of Time: A History of Herrison Hospital and Mental Care in Dorset 1832-1992 by Jennifer Rogers and published by West Dorset Mental Health NHS Trust, 1992. It is currently out of print – although quite a few Charlton Down villagers will already have a copy because there have been two reprints issued and sold in the village in the last decade. There are also several well-researched and comprehensive on-line accounts of the history of the Herrison Hospital on which to draw for information. One example of these can be found in the Charlton Down Village Hall web-site. [I will give links to other sources of information in further instalments of Greenwood history].

Apparently, It all started in 1827 when Francis John Browne offered his Forston House mansion, with land, and money, to establish an asylum. Astonishingly, before that time, there was no official or widespread free provision of care for this vulnerable group of people in the community. The County accepted Browne’s offer, and the Forston Asylum opened in 1832 with 65 patients. It proved to be a much needed facility, and before long the increasing numbers of people requiring this kind of support meant that the institution had to extend – until the point where it was no longer a practical proposition to continue on that site. An additional problem was the damp: the main building did not have adequate foundations, it was near the river, and subject to flooding. Floors were needing replacement. By 1860 they were planning a move to new and larger premises on higher and drier ground here on Charlton Down.

It took me a while to identify the location of Forston House, or what remains of the original asylum following some demolition. I believe I captured a glimpse of it accidentally some years ago near Forston Lower Farm about a mile along the public footpath from the lower part of the village (see the picture above). I took a photograph of a winter flooded field that I now think lies next to Forston House bounded by its long stone wall. I may be wrong so tell me if you know better.

Allotment Lane

I like to walk to the pathway by the allotments at the top of the village. I call it ‘Allotment Lane’. It is the by-way between Herrison Road and Sherborne Road. A fine group of pines marks the corner of this rough road, right next to the gate leading into the productive private domain of plots tended by Charlton Down residents. There is another gate on the south side of the path a bit further on. This leads to a field with an old derelict barn. I used to venture just inside this gateway to enjoy and photograph the wide panoramic views over the fields and far away. You can see Wood Hill Clump and Hardy Monument clearly from there. But the gate is always securely fastened these days to prevent fly tipping, unauthorised parking, and cattle rustling, no doubt. The hedgerows along the pathway are rich with wild plants (some domesticated too – maybe escapees from the allotments). The luxuriant growth makes a fine and biodiverse habitat that attracts lots of insects, small invertebrates, and birds. This Spring sees the hedge on the north side next to the allotments neatly clipped back. The hedge on the opposite side is still in its full growth from last year.

P.S Remember you can click on any picture to enlarge it and see all the images in the gallery.

New Lambs

Mothers and lambs just a few hours old. Many in the fields around the village right now. They are a delightful sight, but extreme caution is needed when walking nearby. These new Mums and their pregnant companions must not be disturbed in any way. They need a quiet life. I am sure you will all take care when passing by as some animals settle very close to the public footpath – I had to silently and slowly inch past on one occasion as there was no alternative route. Notices on the fence posts remind walkers and joggers with dogs that worrying sheep is a criminal offence. These pictures were taken with the camera zoom full out.

Have a Good Week-End

I hope you all have a lovely day – as beautiful as yesterday when I photographed these blossoms by the Gym (the old church).

Our Conservation Area (1)

I have known for years that Greenwood House is a part of a Conservation Area but, to be honest, I was not sure what that meant. I have now looked it up on-line and found what seems to be the key document from West Dorset County Council.

Longer-stay residents will already know that we live in a Conservation Area, and this influences our decisions concerning what we can and cannot do as residents of Greenwood House and part of the village of Charlton Down. Conservation Areas are places considered to be of special architectural or historical interest. The West Dorset District Council has a legal obligation to formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of these areas. Charlton Down was designated as a conservation area in 1991. A conservation appraisal for the ‘Charlton Down or Charminster Herrison Conservation Area’ was put out for public consultation in 2012 with the involvement of Charminster Parish Council, Charlton Down Local History Group, Charlton Down Village Hall, Dorset County Council, Dorset Gardens Trust, English Heritage, and Meadfleet. There was also a public information event in the village before the appraisal was amended and formally accepted as a technical document supporting policies in the West Dorset District Local Plan.

The full appraisal can be found on-line and it is a fascinating document containing lots of interesting details if you have time to read it. It is a useful source document for discovering many things that I personally have been wanting to know about this area.

What you will find here in my GREENWOOD blog, is just a paraphrase of the official content. The main part of the appraisal focusses on the ways in which Charlton Down is considered especially interesting by describing its location and setting; its historic development, and archaeology; providing a spatial analysis, notably the sequences of spaces, views in and out and landmark buildings; and undertaking a character analysis – listing building uses and types, the key listed buildings and the contribution made by local buildings, building materials and details, and ‘green’ elements.

The appraisal then outlines recommendations for management action, including landscape and tree monitoring; and ways of improving essential repairs and maintenance, with suggestions for environmental enhancement, for consideration by local authorities, land and property owners and the wider community.

Next time: a summary of the key characteristics of the Charlton Down or Charminster Herrison Conservation Area.

Trees at sundown

Late evening around the western edge of the village, the light reflecting in the upper branches of the tall bare trees highlighted them with colour, or threw them into silhouettes against a tinted background, as the sun was going down.

Holly berries in April

It seems a bit odd to me but I saw a couple of holly trees in a hilltop hedgerow the other morning which were laden with plump fresh red berries. How can that be? It must mean that flowering and fertilisation took place over winter.

View from my window 2

A shaft of late evening low sunlight created a lovely golden glow across the tops of the mature beech trees to the south of Greenwood House the other evening.

Weathered Peacock Butterfly

I have been surprised to notice a couple of Peacock (Inachis io) butterflies around lately. One was in the Community Orchard and the other on Higher Charlton Down. It’s fairly early for them to be out I would have thought. They looked a bit sad and weather-beaten so I guess they may have been overwintering somewhere and have been tempted out on sunnier, warmer days. The recent sharp frosts will have been a bit of a shock to them. I wonder if they will have survived.

The Butterfly Conservation Trust has a lot of information about moth and butterfly identifications, reserves, and the state of their conservation in a beautifully illustrated site.

New Shoots in the Fields

It doesn’t seem as if any time has passed at all since I watched the farmer ploughing the big field – but here already are the short green shoots of the new crop. It was wheat in that field last year and I think it is probably the same again. I will watch its progress. Always good to see things grow and develop.