This was one of the homes of the dreaded Isaac Gulliver [1745-1822] whose smuggling operations spread from Poole to Lyme Regis. He married innkeeper's daughter Betty Beale at Sixpenny Handley parish church [5 October 1768]. His father-in-law's hostelry, the Blacksmith's Arms, Thorney Down, was on the main road from Blandford to Salisbury and horse-shoeing was William Beale's other trade.
Those who think that smuggling has, of necessity, to be carried on somewhere near the sea, might note that Sixpenny Handley is around 30 miles inland, which is a long way to travel, loaded and under cover of darkness. Gulliver, though he had a liking for spirits and lace, might well have had another string to his bow - an enterprise founded on the availability of deer on the Chase ... and a tomb adjoining the local church where 'hot' venison could be stored for the duration of the hue and cry.
In a Blandford paper of 1770 it is related how the Excise Superintendent came with a posse of Preventive-men to seize a sotre of tea, tobacco, and brandy which lay hidden in a cottage in one of our hamlets [Sixpenny Handley]. On their return to Blandford, they beat off an attack made by the Free traders and brought their spoil safely to the Excise man's house. That night Blandford was held up by a body of 150 armed horsemen who persuaded the Excise man's wife, at pistol-point, to give back the contraband, with which they rode away in triumph.
The cottage is still in existence, and until a range was put in, one could stand in the open chimney and look up at the little chamber where the contraband was hidden.
In 1892, the village suffered a devastating fire, in which nearly 209 people were rendered homeless and destitute. It surprised me to learn there were that many villagers - they must have lived about 20 to the house - but something about the tragedy caught the public imagination because people rallied around in a way for which Oxfam have been praying ever since, and it was said that you could always tell a Sixpenny Handley man for some time afterwards because he usually wore two if not three waistcoats.
A great deal of money was collected and when all claims were met, there remained at least £1,000. But so much squabbling arose over how this large (in those days) sum was to be spent that it was put into Chancery and remains there, as far as I know, to this day.
The signpost on the main Salisbury to Blandford road (1 m. S.E.) reads: To 6d. Handley. Many an overseas visitors, (and many of our younger population), have been known to wonder what unit of length goes with '6d.' when trying to decide how far they have to go to Handley. But the love of money has nothing to do with the name of the village, which is derived from the two medieval hundreds of Saxpena and Hanlege ('Saxon hilltop' and 'high clearing').
Sixpenny Handley lies in an area of Dorset with many prehistoric remains. A considerable amount of work has been carried out by the School of Conservation Sciences at Bournemouth University. For those interested in the archaeology of the area, I recommend that you check out the reports on Goldfields Farm and Handley Down enclosure.