|Fontmell Magna or Funtamel
as it was called and whose name is derived from Funta which is Old
English for 'Spring' an mael being Celtic for 'bare hill'
can eb found four miles south of Shaftesbury on the A350 and here is one
of the oldest surviving West Country Charters that show a piece of land
granted by the father of King Ine, the King of Wessex, around the
village the land is classed as a conservation area of some importance
and is maintained by the National Trust and the Dorset Naturalists.
The old 'Gossip Tree' which stood in the hear of the village and where the villages used to congregate was killed by Dutch Elm disease which spread through the county and also by the bad drought of 1976 when a heat wave hit the south of England. A ceremony took place at the felling of the tree and a plaque was placed on the site and a young lime tree planted there as a replacement. Folklore has it that any person who participates in the destruction of the tree would have bad luck and not long after it was felled 70 year old Frank Hawkins who was a bell ringer at the church tugged on his rope and the wheel of the tenor bell shattered into pieces above his head and it was only two years before this that the bells had been restored and had rang out for the first time in 20 years.
This is an attractive village which has cottages and houses built in greensand some of them dating back to the 17th century.
The church is dedicated to St Andrew which had extensive rebuilding done by the Victorians in 1862 and only the tower survives from the original mediaeval church, the clock chimes only at intervals of three hours and it plays the tune of the hymn O Worship the King and this gave a villager the inspiration to pen the words:
I shall turn
again to Fontmell
The village though has its heroes and in the churchyard there is a memorial cross to Lt Philip Salkeld the son of a rector. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for leading a party who blue up the gate at Cashmere in the siege of Delhi in 1857 and was killed at the age of 24.
The story is that he and five others crept up to the gate at dawn on 14th September 1875 to commit the 'act of glorious heroism' which was to lead to most of them being killed but also made the taking of Delhi possible. But before Salkeld could light the fuse he was hit by a bullet, which shattered his arm. In the second attempt a sapper called Burgess was killed and then another sapper called South managed to light the slow match and he and the bugler were the only ones to survive. Salkeld was buried there but a s tone remembers him at Fontmell Magna. Inscribed upon the stone are the words 'who personally fastened the powder bags to the gates, fixed the hose, and although fearfully wounded continued to hand to a non-commissioned officer the light to fire the train'.
It was in 1843 that a school was built by Sir Richard Glyn. Fontmell Brook was damned to form a millpond at the watermill which is known as Springhead then the brook flows through the village and under the Blandford to Shaftesbury road near to the church.