Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sherborne / Scireburnan, Dorset

Sherborne is an affluent market town in north west Dorset, England. It is situated on the River Yeo and A30 road, on the edge of the Blackmore Vale six miles east of Yeovil.

Map showing Sherborne in England

The town has a population of 9,350 (as of 2001), and 40.8% are retired. Sherborne is famous for its history, including its abbey, castles, manor house and private schools. The picturesque town is a popular, though relatively unknown, tourist town.
Much of the town, including many medieval and Georgian buildings, is built from distinctive ochre ham stone, including the Abbey.
The town is served by Sherborne railway station.


Sherborne Abbey

The town was named scir burne by the Saxon inhabitants, a name meaning "clear stream".
The town was made the capital of Wessex, one of the seven Saxon kingdoms of England, and King Alfred's elder brothers King Ethelbert and King Ethelbald are buried in the abbey.

In 705 the diocese was split between Sherborne and Winchester, and King Ine founded an Abbey for St Aldhelm, the first bishop of Sherborne. The Bishop's seat was moved to Old Sarum in 1075 and the church at Sherborne became a Benedictine Monastery. In the 15th century the church was deliberately burnt down during tensions between the town and the monastery, and was rebuilt between 1425 and 1504, though some of the Norman structure remains. In 1539 the monastery was bought by Sir John Horsey and became a conventional church. Sherborne was for many centuries the centre of a hundred of the same name.

The Conduit
In the 12th century Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England, built a fortified palace in Sherborne. The palace was destroyed in 1645 by General Fairfax, and the ruins are owned by English Heritage.
In 1594 Sir Walter Raleigh built an Elizabethan mansion in the grounds of the old palace, today known as Sherborne Castle.
Sherborne was also home to Capt. Christopher Levett, a Yorkshire native who came to the West Country as His Majesty's Woodward of Somersetshire, and who remained in Sherborne as he turned to a career as a naval captain and early explorer of New England.

There has been a school in Sherborne since the time of King Alfred, who was educated there.
The school was refounded in 1550 as King Edward's public school, using some of the old abbey buildings, though it is now known simply as Sherborne School. The school remains one of the top fee-paying schools in Britain, boasts numerous successful alumni, including Alan Turing, Jeremy Irons, Chris Martin and John le Carré.
Until 1992 there were also two Grammar Schools, Foster's School for boys and Lord Digby's School for girls. The tradition of education within the town was continued with the founding of Sherborne School For Girls (now known as Sherborne Girls) in 1895, another leading Independent School. Eminent past pupils of Sherborne Girls include Emma Kirkby the soprano, Maria Aitken the actress, Santa Montefiore the novelist and Camilla Batmanghelidjh the psychotherapist and founder of the charity Kids Company. More recently, the other senior schools established in Sherborne are The Gryphon School and the Sherborne International College (for children from overseas).

Sherborne House

Historical Buildings
Other notable historical buildings in the town include the Almshouses of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, founded in their current form in 1438 and expanded in the Victorian Era in indistinguishable medieval style architecture. The conduit, Hospice of St Julian, and Lord Digby's school, now known as Sherborne House (designed by Benjamin Bastard) are also well preserved old buildings in the town.

References in Literature and Popular Culture

The Almshouses Sherborne features in Thomas Hardy's Wessex as "Sherton Abbas".

The film musical Goodbye, Mr. Chips was filmed in Sherborne.
The film The Guinea Pig was partly filmed in Sherborne.
The film The Browning Version was partly filmed at Sherborne school.
John le Carré's novel A Murder of Quality takes place largely in a fictionalized version of Sherborne: Carne. The house in which the first murder is committed is Hyle House, in the south west of the town.

Pitt-Rivers, Michael, 1968. Dorset. London: Faber & Faber. The 1985 AA illustrated guide to the towns and villages of Britain.

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