22 May 2015

William Barnes in Dorchester and Winterborne Came, Dorset

The statue occupying pride of place in the centre of Dorchester is not a representation of Thomas Hardy but William Barnes. This is by Edwin Roscoe Mullins, in 1888.
 
 
 
'WILLIAM BARNES
1801 – 1886
 
ZOO NOW I HOPE HIS KINDLY FEACE
IS COME TO VIND A BETTER PLEACE
BUT STILL WI' VO'K A-LEFT BEHIND
HE'LL ALWAYS BE A-KEPT IN MIND.'

I have a very Foucauldian way of looking at institutions: the medical profession exists to give you illnesses, schools exist to prevent you from learning, the police exist to encourage crime, etc. So it makes perfect sense that tourist information centres exist to give you hopelessly misleading information: yesterday, at Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, this proved exactly the case. Now I knew that William Barnes is buried in St Peter's churchyard in Winterborne Came, and although Winterborne Came – a mere two miles from the centre of Dorchester – is a derelict village and the church redundant, both my AA map and Googlemaps show the ex-village but not the ex-church. So I wanted the exact whereabouts, because the Poets' Graves website notes that it's difficult to find. The girl at Dorchester TIC claimed the grave is easy to find, being on the A352 just outside Dorchester, only she called it Whitcombe church. I knew she was wrong and insisted that it was Winterborne Came church that I was looking for. She'd never heard of Winterborne Came, and continued to insist that Barnes' grave is in Whitcombe churchyard. I showed her the Poets' Graves site: 'Winterborne Came'. 'So they're wrong?', I ask. It clearly says it's hard to find too, and she starts backing down slightly and mentions the relativity of difficulty and names, and maybe in the past the church was, well who knows? Certainly the girl at the Dorchester TIC doesn't, although she continues to repeat that we want Whitcombe church. That's it then, and we walk away in the false knowledge that William Barnes's bones are at the side of the A352: I mean, she must know what she's talking about, mustn't she? Er...
 
But then I happen to wander into a secondhand bookstore in South Street and find proof positive that the girl at the Dorchester TIC was talking out of her arse: Douglas Ashdown's An Introduction to William Barnes: The Dorset Poet: 1801–1886 (Tiverton: Dorset Books, 1996). On page 12, there's a map showing Whitcombe church to the right of the A352, but there's a Came church down a road to the left of it. Furthermore, page 43 says that Barnes was buried 'on 11 October in the churchyard of his Winterborne Came church'. No arguments there then. For the benefit of anyone wishing to go there, I have to add that it is indeed extremely difficult to find: heading north on the A352 towards Dorchester, take the final unnamed road on the left about half a mile south of Max Gate, continue for about half a mile until you reach a triangle, park on it and walk a few hundred yards down the road on the left, then turn down a path on the right after a tiny path that says 'To the Church'. (In retrospect, I should have stuck a middle finger up in the direction of Dorchester TIC: they'd wasted a lot of my time.)

'IN MEMORY OF
WILLIAM BARNES
DIED OCT. 7th 1886
AGED 86 YEARS
FOR 24 YEARS RECTOR
OF THIS PARISH
 
THIS MEMORIAL
WAS RAISED TO HIS MEMORY BY HIS
CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN'
 
St Peter's, Winterborne Came.
 
A view from the pulpit.
 
A view of the chancel.

Church of St Peter: Winterborne Came, Dorset (London: The Churches Conservation Trust, 2009).

My other William Barnes post:

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Douglas Ashdown: An Introduction to William Barnes

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