Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

 Little Bredy (Littlebredy)

The village and parish of Little Bredy (often written as one word, Littlebredy) lies nestled in the Bride Valley and just below the Valley of Stones. The Valley of Stones is so known for its stone circles, monoliths and earthworks. High above Little Bredy is the earthwork Old Warren, thought to be an Iron Age hill fort. It stands some 250 feet high above the village.

The Manor of Little Bredy, then recorded as Litelbridia, was anciently held by the Abbey of Cerne and is recorded as such in the Domesday Book of 1086. The actual manor house and estate is not readily identifiable today but is in all likelihood that of Bridehead, the large house and estate lying to the East of the Church. Bridehead was the seat of the most influential family in the village throughout time from at least the late sixteenth century.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Cerne Abbey sold its lands and in 1544 Philip Vanwilder purchased the manor of Little Bredy. In 1584 he sold it to Robert Freke of Iwerne Courtney, a member of the armigerous Dorset family.

It passed in time to his son-in-law Sir Robert Meller, originally of Came House (Winterborne Came) and of the armigerous family of Miller. Robert Meller had already received his knighthood at the time of the Herald's visitation of Dorset in 1623. He built Bridehead house during the late sixteenth century. Bridehead takes its name from the River Bride, which rises nearby. The house is 16th century but enlarged and altered in the early 1830s.

Bridehead, Littlebredy, Dorset. Home of the Freke, Meller and Williams families
Bridehead

The manor continued down through the Meller family until in 1730 it was purchased by William Meech of Charminster, Dorset but leased to the Bridges family for most of the time it was in his ownership. It then passed to his grandson John Meech. In the Land Tax assessments of 1798, John Meech owned the land described as "the farm" assessed at 60.4.9 and "Petcome" assessed at 3.6.0, both were then in the occupation of Christopher Kellaway who also occupied the land of the Rev. Mr. Templeman. John Meech finally sold out in the late 18th century to Robert Williams of Hertfordshire. However, the Williams family were originally of Dorset who had previously lived at Winterborne Herringston since the time of Henry VIII. Robert Williams owned extensive lands already, and was an eminent banker in London. He also owned a fleet of ships trading with the Indies. He had married the daughter of a French refugee, Jane Chasserau who lived to be 102 when she died in 1841.

The Williams family changed Little Bredy over a period of time and over four generations of the family, all with the head named Robert Williams. The house was extended in the 1830s and its surroundings landscaped to include a lake formed by the damming of the spring area, the source of the River Bride. Further extensions to the house were added in 1850.

The old cottages belonging to the estate were rebuilt, but still retaining the charm of their original period. A small school was built at the same time and lodge houses built at the junctions of the drives made to the house and the turnpike road. One such was at Winterbourne Abbas, built in 1837, the same year that Queen Victoria came to the throne.

By the time of the 1861 census Bridehead's list of occupants show Robert Williams then aged 50 described as a banker and landed proprietor born St. George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex. His second wife, Emily Maria aged 45 born St. Marylebone, Middlesex, as were his children, Robert aged 12, John A aged 11, Mary F S aged 10 and Fanny L aged 9. The children had a governess, Ellen Worsley of Plymouth, then aged 36. The household contained numerous servants in the form of housemaids, laundry maids, Lady's maid, nurse, groom and others.

As was often the case, the Lords of the Manor were involved in village life and representing their villagers on a wider scale. This occurred at both county and country levels as the succession of Robert Williams were Members of Parliament.

St Michael and All Angels church, Littlebredy or Little Bredy, Dorset

St Michael and All Angels, Littlebredy, Dorset

The parish church of Little Bredy is dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels and is a chapelry to Long Bredy. The present church is largely a rebuild of the medieval building. The tower and part of the chancel survive intact of the early church, the rest having been rebuilt in 1847. Some of the original medieval windows of the chancel were preserved. Extensions were added of the north and south aisles. A steeple was added as were four new bells. The cost of the rebuild and restoration was borne by Robert Williams. The memorials to the Bridges family, which had been in the old church, were re-sited in the new one.

The first recorded incumbent of the church was Richard de Preston in 1297. He, and each subsequent priest, was presented by the Abbot of Cerne until the last one, Roger Bond who in 1531 was also put in charge of Kingston Russell. The likely reason for him being appointed to Kingston Russell is that the village is extra-parochial, that is: not a parish in its own right but affiliated, though not part of, another nearby parish.

Historical Parish Information

 

Parish Registers begin:

1717

Hundred or Liberty:

Uggscombe

Poor Law Union & Registration District:

Dorchester

Somerset & Dorset FHS Census Volumes

1841 - Vol.8 1851 - Vol.4 1891 - Vol.14

Online Parish Clerk Project (external link):

none at present

Pedigree of Meller Family

Nearby Parishes and Places:

Abbotsbury

Bexington

Buckland Ripers

Fleet

Kingston Russell

Langton Herring

Portesham and Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy

Puncknowle

Swyre

Winterbourne Abbas

Winterbourne Steepleton

 

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