Shroton, also known as Iwerne Courtney, is situated in a wide valley reached by a lane which loops off the main Blandford to Shaftesbury road. It has changed little and, sitting in the church, you can imagine the 300 Clubmen cursing and quarrelling in the pews through the long summer night nearly 350 years ago.

Briefly, if you are not a student of history, the Clubmen were country folk, often generalled by clergy, who had grown weary of the battles between Cavaliers and Roundheads, which damaged their lands and ruined the crops. Few of them knew the merits of the quarrel between King and Parliament but, armed with clubs, pitchforks and scythe blades, they took issue with both sides. Their only uniform was a white cockade. They took a battering wherever they defended their land and, finally, some of them became entrenched on Hambledon Hill, led by the Rev. Bravel of Compton Abbas.

Cromwell sent 50 dragoons to drag the Clubmen from Hambledon Hill in 1645. Cromwell's dragoons overcame them and chased 300 of them down the slopes to be locked up in Shroton church. It is said that some escaped by sliding down the hill on their bottoms, amongst them 4 clergy. Oliver Cromwell decided that they were 'poor silly creatures' and the Clubmen were released next day and went home, having had enough of battle. Later, a more modern army mustered on the Hill under General Wolfe and used it as a training ground for their assault on Quebec.

Iwerne Courtney is first referred to in the Domesday Book (1086) as Werne - obviously the poor spelling of a Norman scribe! It appears as Yuern Curtenay in 1244, the distinguishing manorial affix being from the Courtenays, Earls of Devon, who held the manor from the early 13th century. The alternative name Shroton first occurs as Schyreuetone in 1337, that is 'the sheriff's estate', from Old English scir-refa and tun, alluding to the fact that at the time of the Domesday Book the manor belonged to Baldwin of Exeter, sheriff of Devon.

The church of St. Mary is very unusual because it is rebuilt in 1610 in true Gothic survival manner, rather than as many churches in a revived style in the 18th century. The west part of the south aisle is an 1871 extension and the roof was replaced at the same time. Although the chancel is 1610 outside, the inside was greatly altered in 1872, with more elaborate windows and a terracotta reredos. The north chapel which dates from the 1610 rebuilding houses a monument to Sir Thomas Freke, who paid for the rebuilding of the church

The church used to be reflected in a weedy pond - to the delight of photographs and artists - but is often dried up. On one side of the church are some rather formal looking stone cottages, and on the other a huge stone and thatch barn. The bulk of the village along the street consists of thatched cottages with some recent development, partly around a new village green.

Shroton celebrated the 700th anniversary of its Charter in 1961 but the great fairs, which included amusements and horse and pony sales, ended before the First World War. Both Thomas Hardy and William Barnes remember them.

Hardy saw a woman 'beheaded' in a sideshow, but Barnes remembers the Fair days with his usual delight, because the dialect poet turned his back on all that was distasteful and ugly. Here is part of his long poem which has been changed into plain language by Harry Ashleigh.

'We saw the dancers in a show
Dance up and down, and to and fro,
Upon a rope with chalky soles,
So light as magpies up on poles
And tumblers, with their streaks and spots,
That all but tied their selves in knots.
And then a conjurer burned off
Poll's handkerchief so blacks a snoff, (snuff)
And hit it with a single blow,
Right back again so white as snow
. And after that, he fried a fat
Great cake inside of my new hat;
And yet, for all he did him brown,
He did not even zweal the crown.'

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