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Perched up close to the Dorset border on Lambert’s Castle Hill at an altitude of nearly 1,000 feet, lies the sleepy village of Hawkchurch.
This position was occupied nearly 2,000 years ago, most certainly by the Romans, as traces of a camp have been found hereabouts. As is usual with many of Devon’s villages, there’s the usual configuration of a village inn and church in close proximity. Incidentally, the Old Inn is not so old, sadly, the original burnt down in early 1800 and was rebuilt in 1806. Thankfully, someone had the sense to insert the original mason’s block above the front door, which shows the previous date the inn was built in 1547. In reality, many inns have been on the same site for centuries, and when fires, dilapidation and expansion occurs, along comes a new building, but the original sites are usually very ancient.
St John the Baptist church can be seen directly through the pub window, a sober reminder of the presence the church held in this village. The church was subjected to major reconstruction from 1859 to 1861, this work was financed by the Rev E. Cay Adams, and works undertaken by John Hicks of Dorchester. Although reconstructed, there are still many parts of the church remaining from earlier periods. For instance, the tower is from the early Tudor period and there are interesting Norman corbels and some of the most interesting and delightful Romanesque carvings in Devon. The firm of John Hicks involved in the reconstruction employed a certain Mr Thomas Hardy, who was apprenticed to the firm and even visited this church (the novelist).
An interesting story relating to the village, centres around the Rev John Going, he became the rector of the parish and apparently went to the trouble of planting rose trees on the walls of every cottage, and subsequently the villages was given the title of “The Village of Roses”.
Hawkchurch has many characters and villagers that’ve seen radical changes in their lifetime. One such person is Guy Searle, who’s selflessly given his time to village matters for decades. In his teens, he joined the local village hall committee and since the late 1970s, he’s been a dedicated bell ringer at the church.
Jill Matthews is another such person. The Old Inn was owned and run by her uncle and aunty. They’d bought the pub when the church had sold it back in 1955. Jill has memories of her grandad who had his carriage and horses housed at the inn, he’d ferry people about, sort of a taxi service to the local towns. There are old families such as the Bowditchs, who’ve farmed since the 1600s, and then there are people such as Meeri Wallace, a relative newcomer, who’s now been elected as the secretary of the village hall committee – village life continues. Editor.