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Portesham is located in Dorset
 Portesham shown within Dorset
Population 685 [1]
OS grid reference SY602858
District West Dorset
Shire county Dorset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WEYMOUTH
Postcode district DT3
Dialling code 01305
Police Dorset
Fire Dorset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament West Dorset
List of places

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Portesham, sometimes also spelled Portisham,[2] is a village and civil parish in the county of Dorset in southwest England, situated in the West Dorset administrative district approximately 6 miles (10 km) northwest of Weymouth, 6 miles (10 km) southwest of the county town Dorchester, and 2 miles (3 km) northeast of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site at Chesil Beach. The parish is quite large, covering several outlying hamlets and what were once their manors.[3] In the 2011 census it had a population of 685 in 316 households[1] and 342 dwellings.[4]


In 1905 Sir Frederick Treves described the village's site as being "in a hollow among the downs" so that it was "too low to command a view of the sea", but nevertheless "in a south-westerly gale the roar of the breakers on the Chesil Beach can be heard in the village."[5] The houses in Portesham comprise a mix of old grey stone cottages and more modern buildings in various styles.[2] A stream runs alongside the main street.[6]


The area around Portesham is rich in prehistoric remains. On the hills to the north of the village are several Bronze Age barrows and a Neolithic chambered long barrow called the Hell Stone,[7] which may have been used as a resting place for people awaiting burial in the nearby Valley of Stones.[8]

In 1024 Portesham was granted as a manor by King Canute. The lands were first given to Orc, Canute's servant and subsequently to the monastery of Abbotsbury. In 1086 at the time of the Domesday Book the village had 34 households, 24 acres (9.7 ha) of meadow and 9 ploughlands. It was in Uggescombe Hundred and the lords and tenants-in-chief were Abbotsbury Abbey and Hawise, wife of Hugh son of Grip.[9]

At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries the manor was granted to William Paulet, Lord St. John. The manor was also held at one time by the Trenchard family. The manor was partly sold in fee to the tenants by Sir Andrew Ricard. Upon his death, in 1672, the remainder passed to his daughter Christian and she married John, Lord Berkeley of Stratton. The manor then passed down through his family.[10]

Running through the parish is an outcrop of Purbeck limestone, which was formerly quarried. Portesham quarry operated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, producing stone that was used in domestic and ecclesiastical buildings within the local area, including Abbotsbury Abbey. A limekiln was sited within the quarry.[11][12]

A week-long fair was held in early August every year in Portesham until the First World War. Known as "Possum Fes' Wik", the event included all-night dancing.[2]

Portesham had a railway station sited across fields to the south of the village, on a branch line between Abbotsbury (the neighbouring village to the west) and Upwey (between Dorchester and Weymouth). The line and station closed in 1952.


Portesham is in the Chesil Bank electoral ward, which also includes the neighbouring settlements of Abbotsbury, Litton Cheney and Rodden. The total ward population at the 2011 census was 2,094.[13] The ward is one of 32 that comprise the West Dorset parliamentary constituency, which is currently represented in the UK national parliament by the Conservative Oliver Letwin.

Vice-Admiral Hardy

Captain Thomas Hardy, one of Lord Nelson's commanders at the Battle of Trafalgar, lived in the village. He was born a few miles away at Kingston Russell House,[5] lived in Portesham as a boy, and again as an older man at Portesham House.[2] He affectionately referred to the village as "Possum"[2] and is commemorated by the Hardy Monument, a tower 21 metres (69 ft) high, erected above the village in 1844 on the top of Black Down and visible over half the county.

Parish church

The parish church of St Peter is part of the Dorset Wildlife Trust's "Living Churchyard Project" and manages the churchyard for the benefit of wildlife. Part of the churchyard grass remains uncut to allow the growth of wildflowers, over 70 different species of which have been identified. A 1994 survey identified over 50 species of lichen. In 2011 the church won Best New Entry in the "Living Churchyard Competition".[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Neighbourhood Statistics. Area: Portesham (Parish). Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 14 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Roland Gant (1980). Dorset Villages. Robert Hale Ltd. pp. 163–4. ISBN 0 7091 8135 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Portesham". weymouth-dorset.co.uk. Retrieved 23 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Neighbourhood Statistics. Area: Portesham (Parish). Key Figures for Housing". Office for National Statistics. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sir Frederick Treves (1905). Highways and Byways in Dorset. Macmillan and Co. Ltd. pp. 244–250.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ralph Wightman (1983). Portrait of Dorset (4 ed.). Robert Hale Ltd. p. 172. ISBN 0 7090 0844 9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "British History Online.Portesham". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. West Dorset Holiday and Tourist Guide. West Dorset District Council. c. 1983. p. 14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Place: Portesham". Open Domesday. domesdaymap.co.uk. Retrieved 26 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Portesham". weymouth-dorset.co.uk. Retrieved 11 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Portesham West Dorset. History". www.portesham.org.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Portesham Stone Quarry". pastscape.org.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Chesil Bank ward 2011". Retrieved 26 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Portesham: St Peter, Portesham". 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links