History of West Stafford

the village of West Stafford lies approximately two miles east of the county town of Dorchester and as such is within the area referred to as 'Hardy's Dorset'. In Hardy's novels West Stafford is of course known as Talbothayes and the church therein hosted the fictitious wedding of Tess and Angel Clare in 'Tess of the D'Urbevilles'.

To the east of the parish on the road to Crossways lies Talbothayes Lodge and cottages. Here, Mary, Henry and Kate (Hardy's siblings) lived until the death of the former in 1915.

The landscape surrounding the village offers ancient earthworks such as barrows and tumuli as is typical in many parts of Dorset. Over the years several urns of Samian ware, in addition to animal bones, have been found on a hill to the north of Stafford Farmhouse.

Apart from the church (details of which can be found on the 'St Andrew's' page of this website) one building that is worthy of mention is Stafford House which lies to the north of the main body of the village. This was the seat of the Floyer family and one of the manors in the village. It was the principal manor of Frome Billet, alias Frome Everard, known as Everard's Manor, through which family it passed until it was granted to Edward Neville following the dissolution. By 1633 a new house had been built of Portland Stone, incorporating a wing of the original building, by John Gould a merchant from nearby Dorchester. It remained in the Gould family until sold to John Floyer in 1831.

The second large and imposing property in the village is the Manor House to the east of the parish and originally known as the Manor of Stafford or Bingham's Manor. The name came about as it was held by the Bingham family from Bingham's Melcombe. In 1571, when Robert Bingham sold the property it consisted of a farm and six tenements. By 1638 title had passed to the heirs of Richard Russell, a deceased rector of Stafford. The property passed down the line and through marriage to Robert White of Winterborne St Martin (these days more commonly referred to as Martinstown). His son, Richard, the HIgh Sheriff of Dorset (1714), inherited as in turn did his son George,who without issue bequeathed the property to George Acton. In 1780 the Acton family sold to a certain John Floyer of Upwey (the uncle of the John Floyer who was to purchase Stafford House in in 1831.