Portesham is a quiet, dour village. Set in a valley, motorists often pause to look at the pretty village green and pass on to Abbotsbury. They often miss the home of Dorset's other Hardy, Thomas Masterman Hardy who lived at Portesham from the age of nine

Hardy's Monument, Portesham, DorsetHardy was Captain of the Victory, in whose arms Nelson was to die at Trafalgar. On the heights of Black Down above the village, his memorial stands 770 feet above sea level, plainly seen from Weymouth, where many people still believe the column commemerates the famous author.

There are other monuments on the heights around the village, much older than Trafalgar days. Five huge stones stand here call the Grey Mare and Her Colts, plus the Fallen Circle at Tenant Hill and a cromlech called the Hell stone, the Stone of the Dead. Nine upright stones supporting a capstone 10 feet long was possibly the burial place of a chieftain in the late Stone Age.

This place is first recorded as Porteshamme in an Anglo-Saxon charter dated 1024, in which King Canute grants land here to his minister, Orc. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it occurs as Portesham, and indeed this is the usual spelling throughout the medieval period and up to modern times, with the variant Portisham appearing only from the 16th century.

From the earliest spelling the second element is shown to be Old English hamm 'a hemmed-in piece of land, an enclosure' rather than Old English ham (with a long vowel) 'a homestead, a village'. The first element is probably Old English port in the sense 'market town' (in the genitive case portes). Thus the original meaning would be 'enclosure belonging to the market town', this referring no doubt to nearby Abbotsbury, which was already a thriving manor, probably in the possession of the Abbot of Glastonbury, by the early 10th century.

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