East and West Bexington
Lying next to the sea and the great Chesil bank, West Bexington is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and part of the Heritage Coast. West Bexington lies within the parish of Puncknowle and today the tiny village shows little of its former history. It was however once a parish in its own right and there stood a chapel dedicated to St. Giles. Hutchins, in his History and Antiquities of Dorset says that the chapel stood near to the sea but had almost disappeared by the eighteenth century.
In 1086 at the time of the Domesday Book, Bexington was known as Bessintone. It was then held by Roger de Arundel and had land for seven ploughs. The granddaughter of Roger de Arundel, Maud, wife of Gilbert de Percey presented the village to Bindon Abbey in 1193. However, the right of presentation of clergy was bestowed upon Abbotsbury, the neighbouring parish to the east, to whom she had given a small parcel of land.
Some sources say that the village and the chapel were burnt by the French in either 1430, 1440 or 1470 and that the inhabitants were taken away. It is said that once depopulation occurred that there remained just a farm. The chapel of St. Giles was still in use when on 9th September 1451 the Bishop united Bexington with Puncknowle but ordered that the Rector of Puncknowle should still celebrate once a week and on St. Giles' day in the chancel at Bexington. Orders were also made for the Rector of Puncknowle to make repairs to the chancel of St. Giles and in return he gained the tithes of Bexington. However, around this time a small aisle was added to St. Mary's at Puncknowle for the people of Bexington, so few as they were by then. From this point on it would seem that the church of St. Giles fell into disrepair and only a small part of a wall remained by the time of Hutchins.
The Manor House, West Bexington
John Caryl was granted the manor of Bexington, along with the advowson of Puncknoll church with Bexington united at the dissolution of the monasteries. By 1579 the manor was in the possession of John the son and heir of the original John Caryl. In the later years of the reign of Elizabeth I it was sold to the Napier family. The Napiers built the original Manor House. In 1645 the farm at Bexington and that at Puncknowle held by Mr Robert Napier was sequestered. Eventually the manor was sold with Puncknowle to William Clutterbuck. Hutchins says it was sold by Sir Charles Napier but gives no date. As Sir Charles died in 1743 it would have to have been prior to this or else sold by his heirs. At sometime in the late 18th century it was sold to Thomas Rawlins of Druce and was at some time held by Thomas Bastard Esq. as mortgagee. By 1867 it was in the possession of the Reverend Edmund Hollond of Benhall Lodge, Suffolk. At that time it consisted of two farmhouses, ten cottages and a coastguard station.
Tamarisk Farm, West Bexington
The farm shown on maps of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is today that known as Tamarisk Farm. The proprietors of Tamarisk Farm also run Labour-in-vain Farm near the Abbotsbury parish boundary at East Bexington. In the late nineteenth century Tamarisk Farm was let to the Palmer family who later purchased the Manor House at Puncknowle. By the time of the map of 1890/91, still the only inhabited area was that of the farm, then shown as West Bexington Farm.
East Bexington may be the land that Maud, daughter of Roger de Arundel gave to the Abbey of Abbotsbury when she conferred the right to present the clergy of Bexington to it. In due course, this land passed to Sir Giles Strangways, along with Abbotsbury, at the dissolution. In a reorganisation of the parishes in 1889, East Bexington became part of the parish of Abbotsbury.
It is quite likely that the chapel of St. Giles was close by the Manor House and the Mill opposite. The latter two were built on the site of Napier's original farm buildings.
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