Three miles or more to the north of Toller are the villages of Wraxall and Rampisham (pronounced “Ramsom"). The former has near it two interesting old houses—the Elizabethan manor of Wraxall and an old farmhouse that was a manor in the reign of King John, though the present building was not erected until 1620. Rampisham is in a lovely situation at the bottom of a wooded and watered dingle. Here is another picturesque old mansion and an interesting stone cross in the churchyard with a platform for open-air preaching. The base of the cross is carved with representations of the martyrdoms of St. Stephen, St. Edmund and St. Thomas a Becket, though they are so worn that one must accept the identification on trust. Another carving is of St. Peter and the cock, with figures of monks, knights and fools. Within the church are some brasses worthy of inspection.
Hidden away among the hills of Western Dorset is Beaminster, a little town so placed that it may be visited from several different railway stations without much to choose in mileage or roads; possibly Crewkerne on the main line of the South Western Railway is that most used. It is about six miles from Toller, Bridport and Crewkerne, and therefore as quiet as one would expect it to be. But “Bemmister” is not by any means a dead town and is, for all its want of direct railway transport, of some importance as the centre of a rich dairy country. The situation at the bottom of a wooded amphitheatre is delightful:—
“Sweet Be’mi’ster that
By green and woody hills all round,
Wi’ hedges reachen up between
A thousan’ vields o’ zummer green
Where clems lofty heads do show
Their sheades vor hay-meakers below
An’ wild hedge-flowers do charm the souls
O’ maidens in their evenin’ strolls.”
The Perpendicular church has a remarkably handsome tower of yellow-brown stone with sculptured figures showing the chief events in the life of our Lord. Part of the interior is Early English. Monuments of the Strodes, a great local family, will be noticed, and also some good stained glass. The church, and the old “Mort House” attached to it, were fortunately spared in the several disasters by fire that, as in Dorchester, have removed almost everything ancient. The present smart and modern appearance of the main street is the consequence of the last conflagration in 1781, though this was not so serious as two others in the seventeenth century. The first of these started during the fighting between the forces of King and Parliament.