' CHAPTER I
GROUND PLAN AND PATTERN OF THINGS
THE traveller who approaches Sherborne from the north, after crossing the Lower Lias clay-lands of the Vale of Ilchester, with its squares of pasture and cider-apple orchards pricked out by hedgerow elm trees, and its grey limestone villages and churches, finds that, from Marston Magna onwards, the road before him climbs upward in two distinct stages ; first, on to the narrow fertile terrace of the Middle Lias marlstone, and then on to the dominating heights of the Upper Lias, which is here represented by the Yeovil Sands.
This fine escarpment, which forms the natural boundary between Somerset and Dorset, winds, in inland bays and headlands, from Cadbury Hill and Gorton Beacon (647 feet), by the Sherborne Golf Links overlooking Sandford Orcas, westward to Montacute and the long terraced promontory of Ham Hill. The view from these sandy heights, northward and westward, across the broad Vale of Somerset to the distant hills of Mendip, Quantock, Brendon, Polden and Blackdown, is particularly fine : and all the lands, both those which lie open to our view, and those still further west, screened by the hills, in Devon and Cornwall, once formed the western portion of the ancient see of Sherborne.
We must return to these sandy heights later, for they have been the scene of still earlier human contacts, the home and hunting ground of Neolithic, Bronze and Early Iron Age peoples, who had free-warren of this upland terrain long before English History began. Southward, the land falls away down the long dip-slope of the Oolite into the valley of the River Yeo, where Sherborne lies hidden under the lee of the hill-side. Before descending and being hemmed in by the valley sides, the view southward from this high ground north of the town is, for historical reasons, well worthy of attention. Though not so open or so striking as the other view northward over the Vale of Somerset, this, to the south, is very fair to look upon, and full of significance, for it commands that north-west corner of Dorset where lay the broad estates which formed the Hundred and Manor of the Bishops of Sherborne, and, afterwards, of the mediaeval Bishops of Salisbury. The furthest hills, which line the southern horizon, are the Dorset Downs, part of the great chalk plateau of Southern England. They may be known by their bare smooth contours and by the gleam of an open chalk quarry on the flank of High Stoy. The nearer range, in the middle distance, with its harder outline, its shaggy woods, and its chevaux-de-frise of tall forest trees, is the escarpment of the Forest Marble and Fuller's Earth Beds, which forms the south side of the valley overlooking the left bank of the River Yeo.
Between these two ranges, out of sight, lies the broad vale of the Oxford Clay, over which the western extension of Blackmore Forest spreads a mantle of virgin woodland and rough pasture, where the roe deer still run wild within the screen of the thicker coverts.
It is in and around this forest area that many of the scattered hamlets and villages lie which owed suit to the bishop's Hundred Court in Sherborne - Long Burton, Holnest, Wootton, Purse and Bishops Caundle, Alweston, Haydon, Lilling-ton, Lydlinch, Down and Marsh. And, nearer Sherborne, within the girdle of the Forest Marble hills, lie six other members of the Out-Hundred - Bradford Abbas, Thornford, Oborne, Pinford, Over and Nether Compton. Last, and furthest of the eighteen tithings belonging to the bishop's Out-Hundred - Up Cerne and Alton Pancras, each at the head of a chalk stream, tributaries to the River Frome, lie out of sight, on the southern slopes of the Downs.
Besides these widely scattered country tithings, there was the more compact unit of the Manor of Sherborne, or, as it is sometimes called, the In-Hundred1. It stood in somewhat closer personal relationship to the bishop, and was confined to that portion of his estate that lay within the valley of the Yeo, and had its centre in the town. It consisted, in 1405, the date of the earliest extant Court Roll of the Hundred in which these six tithings appear by name, of Abbot's Fee, Eastbury, Westbury, Houndstreet, Over and Nether Combe. These six tithings owed suit to the court of the manor but were not thereby freed from attendance at the superior court of the bishop's Hundred.
Castleton and Newland, now integral parts of Sherborne, were once separate Boroughs of comparatively late creation, each with its own court, and its peculiar rights and liberties. It will make it easier, presently, to understand how the bishop's estates were administered, and to distinguish between the different kinds of jurisdiction exercised in the courts above mentioned, if from this birds-eye survey of the country spread out, as in a map, and with the help of a little imagination, a clear distinction is made between (i) the far-reaching Dorset estates of the bishop's Out-Hundred, (2) the nearer scene, in the Yeo valley, occupied by the manor, or In-Hundred, and (3) the small, and, from here, indistinguishable area forming the eastern end of the town of Sherborne itself, where lay the two Boroughs of Newland and Castleton.
The road from this view-point descends at a low gradient for more than two miles, with a fall of some 300 feet, to the right bank of the River Yeo, where Sherborne, true to its Saxon origin, lies close beside the stream. The course of the river is more.....'
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