Melplash is famous in the west of England because of the leading agricultural show which bears its' name. But visitors will soon be told of one of its colorful sons, Sir Thomas More, not - may I quickly add - the Sir Thomas More of Parliamentary fame. The Melplash Sir Thomas was Sheriff of Dorset in the time of Henry VIII.

After what we might call today a good night out, he set free all the prisoners in Dorchester Gaol. To the surprise and anguish of warders, the highwaymen, sheep stealers and pickpockets streamed out into the streets and quickly got lost in the crowds.

On sobering up, he had to beg a pardon from the King and that pardon was won for him by Lord Paulet who, with a touch of drama more akin to Victorian theatre, demanded in return one of the Sheriff's daughters, richly dowered, for one of his sons. That is how the Manor passed from the Mores into the hands of the Paulets, and over a fireplace is their motto Aimez Loyaulte, dated 1604.

The church, consecrated in 1846, is built in early Norman style, cruciform in shape with a square tower. Today a glass screen divides it into two parts . The pews have been removed from the west side to form a social meeting place, and it is laid out for a badminton court. The east end is retained for regular worship.

Melplash Court Gardens are sometimes open to the public. The lovely 17th century house is reached via an avenue of chestnut trees, and in the grounds are a fine barn and a circular pigeon house.

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