Coasting in Dorset – Part Two

St Andrew's Church © Ellie Stevenson imagesA while ago (far too long) I promised a blog about Monkton Wyld Court. Here it is. Equidistant between Charmouth and Axminster (Dorset), the Court started out as the local vicarage. But with its Victorian gothic pedigree (built in 1848) it looks more like a stately home.

St Andrew’s Church, which is just down the road, was built about the same time, its first stone being laid in 1848, and the building being consecrated in March 1850. Elizabeth Hodson partly funded the church – she was riding past, possibly by carriage, and thought it might make a good location.

The church itself is of some interest, and worth a visit, with its lovely woodwork and attractive stained glass.The spire of the church is 120 feet high and the clock was added in 1911. It has since been reguilded.St Andrew's Church © Ellie Stevenson images

Various vicars lived at what is now the Court, one of whom was the Reverend Camm (1871-1896). It is said he lived there mostly alone as his wife wasn’t overly fond of the country. Reverend Camm was a music enthusiast and had more than 4,000 scores. He would frequently go up to London for concerts but only ever saw the rehearsals because the concerts themselves were held on Saturdays and he couldn’t get back in time for church.

In 1896 the then current vicar, the Rev. Salmon, moved the vicarage to another location, and in the 1930s Monkton Wyld Court became a hotel.

At some point during WW2 there was boarding for children who were separated from their families because of the war.

St Andrew's Church stained glass © Ellie Stevenson imagesWhen the hotel closed in 1940, the buildings and land were bought for £4,000, and a school was set up by a small group of graduates including Carl and Eleanor Urban. Urban admired the  philosophy of a man called Alexander Sutherland Wells who founded the Summerhill School in Suffolk (1921).

The Monkton Wyld School focused on a more cooperative way of living and working, and although it closed in 1982, the charitable trust (with the buildings and land) was transferred to some of the school staff. The Monkton Wyld sustainable community was born and now offers volunteering opportunities and holistic education for the general public. It’s also open to visitors for bed and breakfast and offers delicious vegetarian food.

Impressive now (if run down in parts), the building must have been stunning once. It had a gravelled drive, flankedSt Andrew's Church, stained glass © Ellie Stevenson images by trees and flowering shrubs in ten acres of land. The building was designed by Richard Cromwell Carpenter, a Victorian architect who admired the gothic and also designed St Andrew’s church. The Court was described as being of ‘the domestic style of architecture with rubble wallings…clad in a variety of choice flowering and evergreen creepers.’ (early sales material). It was certainly striking and even now has some special features including a reed bed sewage system.

Looking around, at its spacious rooms and enormous windows it’s easy to imagine the Court as an ideal place for a ghost to lurk. However, I could find no trace of either legends or ghosts. The community staff are focused and  practical, the house is in need of considerable upkeep, there are few shadows for ghosts to hide in.

There are however, ghosts in abundance in the local area: several stories are shared below.

St Andrew's Church, stained glass © Ellie Stevenson imagesIn 2005, a photo was taken of an alleged ghost in the Lyme Regis Boys Club. A girl of two was seen talking to herself, when asked who to, the girl said ‘Sam’. There was no Sam among the group of children and nobody else around at the time. Later, one of the adults took photos with his digital camera. A ‘ghostly’ image appeared on the photo. Was it a ghost or a trick of the light? Incidentally, the building had once the local church hall and was used by the U.S. Army in WW2.

One evening in 2004, a woman driver and her passenger, on the road between Charmouth and Bridport, saw a woman dressed in white sweep across the road. They both reported that the car became cold at the time of the sighting.

The 16th century facade is all that is left of the original building, now the Bridport Museum. ‘The Old Castle’ was bought by a Captain Codd in 1931 for £1,800, originally to house his own art collection. He donated the building to the Council on condition that they would pay for it to be turned into a museum and art gallery.

A man in a yellow smoking jacket, seen in the museum, is said to be the ghost of Codd and staff have also mentioned a woman called Gladys, thought to be associated with a Victorian dress on display upstairs.

Monkton Wyld Court © Ellie Stevenson images


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