Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

Fleet

The Fleet Lagoon and Chesil Beach, taken from the churchyard of the old Church

The Fleet and Chesil Beach from the old church

The village of Fleet lies close to the lagoon of the same name. Beyond the Fleet is the famous bank of Chesil Beach where treacherous currents and a strong undertow have been the cause of the loss of many lives following shipwrecks. Some of the shipwrecks probably initially had many survivors, but few so strong as to survive the strength of nature.

It is the village of Fleet, this part of Chesil Beach and the Fleet lagoon, which was made famous by the novel of smuggling by J. Meade Faulkner, "Moonfleet" published in 1898.

On 24 November 1824 a huge storm whipped up the seas along this part of the south coast. Many places along the coast suffered severe flooding and damage to property.

Weymouth Esplanade was destroyed by it and nearby the village of Fleet suffered a fate it has never known before or since. The sea was so swollen and the winds so strong, that the waves were sent hurling over the Chesil bank, beyond the Fleet lagoon and into the village, destroying most of what lay in its path.

The small church at Fleet, lying close to the lagoon, suffered badly as the sea came crashing over the bank. The nave of the old church was completely demolished. All that remains today is a tiny church, with a few gravestones in the churchyard. Looking almost lost now, it stands behind the end of a row of cottages on its own.

Most small villages were built up around the parish church, as was Fleet. Four cottages nearby were also totally destroyed by the storm. Most of the cottages that were destroyed were just to the north of the old church. Another cottage was at the end of Butter Street, which leads down to the old church. Many others were severely damaged.

As was common practice in those days whenever a town or village suffered some major catastrophe, churches far and wide would hold collections to help towards relief for the stricken. Many such collections were made for the inhabitants and village of Fleet and are recorded in parish registers all over the country, many of them miles away and probably having never heard of Fleet before.

After the great gales of 1824 where much of the original parish church was destroyed, a new one was built a quarter of a mile further inland.

Building began in 1826 and was completed in 1829. The new church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity in a ceremony conducted by the Bishop of Bristol later in 1829. Some relics recovered from what was left of the old church have been placed in the new one.

Rear of Old Parish Church, Fleet,Dorset

Rear of the Old Parish Church

 

Butter Street, Fleet, Dorset

Butter Street

 

Holy Trinity church, Fleet, Dorset

Church of Holy Trinity, Fleet

 

The Manor of Fleet 

The manor of Fleet was held by the King at the time of the Domesday Book, but not long after it passed to the Priory of Christ Church, Twynham, Hampshire. Today the town is known as Christchurch and it has since 1974 been in the county of Dorset.

After the dissolution the manor of Fleet which included the land that the manor house stood on and land in West Fleet, was granted to William Cocke, a valet of the pantry. In 1563 the lands were granted to Robert Freke, gent. and John Walker. At some time after this it came into the possession of the Mohun family and in 1566 Owen Hebbes held lands in West Fleet of Robert Mohun at his death.

The Mohuns of Fleet were descended from Robert Mohun, his brothers being the ancestors of branches of the family in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Successively they were: Robert's son Maximilian (1564-1612) who married Anne daughter of John Churchill of Corton, in 1593; their son Maximilian (1596-1673) married to Elizabeth the daughter of Francis Chaldecot of Whiteway; their son Francis Mohun (1625-1711) married to Eleanor Sheldon; their son Gilbert Maximilian Mohun (1675-1721) who married firstly Elizabeth Squibb who died in 1701, and secondly Sarah daughter of Thomas Cooper of Sherborne. They had several sons, the last surviving, Robert, died without issue in 1758. At that time the estate consisted of the manor of east and west Fleet, the farms at both, the glebe of the parsonage, the advowson of the church, and "a large store of water called The Beach".and from thence the manor passed to his sister Sarah who had married as a second marriage, John Gould of Upwey.

Sarah Gould died in 1774 and her husband left the estate to his eldest son by his first marriage to Mary the daughter of the Rev. William Glisson, rector of Marnhull, George Gould of Fleet and Upwey. George married twice and by his second wife Abigail, daughter of Robert Gooden of Over Compton, he had two sons, John and George to whom the manor passed in succession. The latter George Gould became rector of the parish of Fleet and was responsible for the financing and building of the new church after the terrible storm. He died unmarried in 1841, left the estate to a relative, Miss Catherine Barbara Jackson who died in 1847 when it then came into the hands of George Gooden. George was the son of Robert Gooden, the brother of Rev. George Gould's mother. George Gooden also became vicar of Fleet and still held the manor in 1867.

Moonfleet Manor Hotel, once called Fleet House, the seat of the Mohun family, Dorset

Moonfleet Manor Hotel, once Fleet House

Standing on the estate overlooking Chesil Beach and the Fleet lagoon is Fleet House, now called the Moonfleet Manor Hotel. Fleet House was the seat of the Mohuns and thought to have been built by Maximilian Mohun. The arms of the Mohuns are still to be seen on the columns at the start of the village. Moonfleet is a derived from Mohun and the village name.

The Fleet and Chesil Beach at Sunset.  Picture taken from the Moonfleet Manor Hotel grounds

The Fleet and Chesil Beach at Sunset (taken from Moonfleet)

 

 

Historical Parish Information

 

Parish Registers begin:

1614

Hundred or Liberty:

Uggscombe

Poor Law Union & Registration District:

Weymouth

Somerset & Dorset FHS Census Volumes

1841 - Vol.8 1851 - Vol.2 1891 - Vol.4

Online Parish Clerk Project (external link)

some transcripts on the Misc page: Fleet OPC

 

Family History

Smuggling

Shipwrecks

 

Nearby Parishes and Places

Abbotsbury

Bexington, East and West

Langton Herring

Portesham

Portland

Radipole

Upwey

Wyke Regis

 

Local Attractions and Places to Visit

Links

 

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