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Bladen Valley & War Memorial

Written by Diana Holman

The peaceful and timeless small village of Affpuddle lies to the south of the river Piddle, and just east and west of the B3390.

The line of the village follows the gentle meanders of the river through its water meadows.

The church, the earliest part of which dates from about 1230 has been described by local historian, the late Joan Brocklebank, as one of the most beautiful of the small Dorset village churches. A stone seat situated at the eastern end of the church in the Peace Garden commemorates her life as a musician, artist, historian and woodlander.

The church is built mainly of Portland stone. Its most interesting and beautiful feature is the carving of the pulpit and the bench ends.  There are two Norman fonts, the round one having been brought there from Turnerspuddle church when its roof was in danger of collapsing.

The Peace Garden to the east of the church with its shrine commemorates the men who fell in the second world war.  Inside is a large wooden crucifix, the whole designed and by Loughnan Pendred. This was a gift to the village from Sir Ernest Debenham who bought substantial local land in 1914 and set about developing an ideal farming estate, centred around nearby Briantspuddle.  Sir Ernest maintained that the village of Affpuddle had too much natural beauty for further building at that time.

Standing in the Peace Garden and looking across the river, you will see the old mill which was at one time a flourishing bakery, making wonderful bread and cakes. Each February, the banks of the river to the east of the mill are carpeted with snowdrops of many different varieties.

On the south side of the road just east of the church is West Farm yard. It was in the then thatched barn here that John Lock of Affpuddle met James Brine and James Hammet, and was invited by them to the fateful meeting off the Tolpuddle Martyrs. This barn still stands, but its thatched roof, deemed a fire risk to stored agricultural machinery, has been replaced.

An early water-colour shows Affpuddle with cottages continuously along both sides of the road, but many of these have since disappeared as a result of fires and other misadventures.

As you stroll west from the church, you will pass Luck's Cottage on your right.  Just two generations ago, Luck the bootmaker's shop was here. A few yards further on to your left, you will notice a little square of land between Parva Cottage and Greatfield House. This was once a public house called The Four Bells.

Further west again, The cottage where the house Heronmead now stands was destroyed by Affpuddle's only bomb of the second world war.

Several new houses have been added since the 1960's on the south side of the road including Greatfield House, where Joan Brocklebank lived for much of her adult life. However, the north side of the road with the water meadows stretching across to the river, is designated to remain open farm land. This is the habitat for all sorts of wildlife and interesting birds.

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