|This little market town seems to be more of a village than anything
else as time seems to have stood still here from where wool cloth and
sackcloth, rope and twice was made. The town has been devasted by fire
three times, the first time in 1644, in the Civil War during its time of
Royalist occupation, then in 1684 and 1781, today just a few of some of
the finest 17th century houses survive but the town still has over 200
buildings that are listed.
It is a lovely place to shop with tea rooms, farmhouses, hotels and restaurants all taking a pride in the town. There are also some nice walks in the area for the town stands at the head of Dorset's "Hidden Valley" The Vale of the River Brit.
This is in fact Blue Vinny (veiny) country the famous Blue Cheese of Dorset that is made from milk skimmed by hand and is eaten with crisp rolls called Dorset Knobs and was described by Treves as "the cheese without which no Dorset man is really happy" and Beaminster was the centre of the cheese making.
Beaminster is an old settlement that dates back to the 7th century and known as Bebingmyster which means the Church of the Bebbe the present church is dedicated to St Mary and is 13th to 15th century. A charter was granted at the end of the 13th century which allowed a Thursday market and an annual fair as this was quite a bustling little town which continued to thrive due to the woollen manufacturing.
One other thing that is associated with Beaminster (pronounced Beminster) is Cognac Hine, as Thomas Hine was born here and the Cognac is world famous and known as the cognac of connoisseurs. He was born in 1775 and when he was 17 he sailed to France and it was while the French Revolution was going on that he worked at Jarnac, on the Charente River in the Brandy country. He married the daughter of the house where he lived and was soon a partner and then he eventually owned the business. The French did not persecute him due to him retaining his English nationality and at the end of the Napoleonic war he gave his name to the company. He did in 1822 aged 47 and his first son became the first British Mayor to take office in France
That famous Dorset poet who wrote his verse in the dialect itself wrote of Beaminster:
Be'mi'ster, that bist abound
Parnham House is probably the best known in this area and it is the home of the Makepeace School for Craftsmen. It was in 1400 that the Gerard family built the house and Richard Strode married Elizabeth gerard in the reign of Henry Vi and it it stayed in the possession of the Strode's for three hundred years. The Strode men were famed for marrying rich women mainly because they then received rich dowries but it seemed that every Strode man married twice.
The long ownership by the Strode family got divided during the Civil War and it is said it is said that the beheading of Lady Ann Strode took place in the Great Hall by a Parliamentary soldier.
The house was under several ownerships until 1896 when Vincent Robinson purchased it and installed Renaissance furniture and great works of art. Then in the 20th century Hans Sauer bought the house to restore its Tudor interior and when he died it was owned by William Rhodes-Moorhouse who became the first RAF pilot to be awarded the Victoria Cross, sadly it was posthumously awarded and he lies butied with his son who was born at Parnham who was also a flyer and got shot down during the Battle of Britain.
The house was turned into a country club that was patronised by the Prince of Wales in the 1920s and in WWII was requisitioned and became an army hospital then the headquarters of the American army and played a strong part in the organisation leading up to the D-Day landings..
How it became the Makepeace School for Craftsmen is that in 1976 the famous furniture designer John Makepeace bought the house from the Mental Health Association who had purchased it in 1954 and he moved his cabinet making business in Oxfordshire here and each piece of furniture is designed exclusively for each customer, the wood being seasoned naturally at Parnham. Here he take on apprentices which are funded by and Edcational Trust that was founded in 1977.
Not far away is the Elizabethan Manor house of Mappeton which has a very attractive valley garden and the Earls of Sandwich have lived here since the Restoration of Charles II, and a lot of local events including concerts are held here.
And the Beaminster Festival of Music and the Visual Arts are held in the town at Midsummer, this lasts for ten days and includes a wide range of festivities,
What was Broadwindsor Farm is now a complex of craft shops and workshops with a restaurant and the pretty village of West Bay with its harbour is the ideal staring point for a walk of eleven miles along the valley of the River Brit which ends just north of Beaminster at Winyards Gap.