Below are some of the notable people with connections to Dorset (listed by earliest birth date to latest):
Ethelbald was King of Wessex from 856-860. He was a popular king but created a scandal by marrying his 16 year old step-mother, Judith of France. He died in Sherborne and is buried in Sherborne Abbey.
Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1554 –1618)
Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer, soldier, courtier, spy, poet and explorer. He is famous for bringing potatoes and tobacco to England. He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I who granted him ownership of land including the Sherborne estate (and Sherborne Castle). He built Sherborne Lodge in the grounds of the estate (now known as Sherborne (new) Castle). He later fell out with the Queen because of his secret marriage in 1591 to Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton (a lady-in-waiting to the Queen) and was sent to the Tower of London. He was later beheaded for treason at the command of King James I.
Mary Anning (1799 –1847)
Mary was a British fossil collector and palaeontologist who became famous for her important finds in the Jurassic fossil beds at Lyme Regis near her home where she lived. Major finds include the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified (found when she was 12), the first two plesiosaur skeletons to ever be found, and the first pterosaur skeleton to be found outside of Germany. Her work contributed to fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the earth and her observations played a key role in the realisation that coprolites were fossilied faeces and that belemnite fossils contained ink sacs. Anning narrowly escaped death in 1833 during a landslide that killed her dog Tray. She died from breast cancer on 9th March 1847.
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 –1877)
Fox Talbot was born in Melbury. He was a British inventor and a pioneer of photography. He invented the calotype process, and made major contributions to the development of photography as an artistic medium.
William Barnes (1801 –1886)
Barnes was a writer, poet, minister, and philologist who was born at Rushay in the parish of Bagber. He wrote over 800 poems, some in the Dorset dialect. He first contributed the Dorset dialect poems to periodicals, including Macmillan’s Magazine. A collection of Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect was published in 1844 and it was translated into common English in 1868. A second collection Hwomely Rhymes followed in 1858, and a third collection in 1863. A combined edition was published in 1879. He published a Glossary of Dorset Dialect in 1863. His memorial and grave can be found at the 14th century St Peter’s Church, Winterborne Came.
Thomas Hardy (1840 –1928)
Hardy was a poet and novelist of the naturalist movement. He set much of his work in the semi- fictitious place of Wessex. He was born at Higher Bockhampton , east of Dorchester. His most famous works include Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. His body is interred at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey but his heart is buried at his wife Emma’s grave in Stinsford.
James Meade (1907-1995)
Economist James Mead was born in Swanage. In 1977 he was joint winner (with Swedish economist Bertil Ohlin) of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for “Pathbreaking contribution to the theory of international trade and international capital movements.”
Anthony Frederick Blunt (1907 –1983)
Blunt was born in Bournemouth. He was a Professor of the History of Art at the University of London and was knighted for his achievements. He was exposed as a Soviet spy when he was found to be a member of the Cambridge Five and subsequently stripped of his honours.
Buster Merryfield (1920-1999)
Harry “Buster” Merryfield was an actor best known for his performances in the popular BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses. He was born in Battersea, London and died in Poole General Hospital on 23 June 1999 from a brain tumour. He is buried in Verwood.
John Makepeace, OBE (1939)
John Makepeace is a world renowned furniture designer and maker. He lived at Parnham House, which he bought in 1976. He founded the Parnham Trust and the School for Craftsmen in Wood (now Parnham College) to provide courses for aspiring furniture-makers. Following the sale of Parnham in 2001, John Makepeace purchased Farrs, a listed house in Beaminster. He taught Viscount Linley, nephew to the Queen of England. He uses the art of lamination (layering wood) and explores form, structure and a range of indigenous and sustainable resources. In 2016 he won the Prince Philip Designers Prize.
Antony Kenneth “Tony” Blackburn (1943)
DJ who broadcast on the “pirate” stations Radio Caroline and Radio London in the 1960s. He was the first disc jockey to broadcast on BBC Radio 1 at its launch at the end of September 1967. He was educated at Castle Court School in Parkstone, Poole.
Billy Bragg (1957)
Born Stephen William Bragg, Billy Bragg is an alternative rock musician and left-wing activist. His music blends punk, folk and protest songs and his lyrics often deal with political or romantic themes. During the 2001 UK general election he tried to combat voter apathy by promoting tactical voting aimed at unseating Conservative Party candidates in Dorset. The Labour Party won South Dorset with their smallest majority, and the Conservative majority in West Dorset was reduced. Bragg lives in the south west Dorset village of Burton Bradstsock and can regularly be seen at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival (an annual event celebrating the memory of those transported to Australia in the 30’s for founding a union).
Martin Clunes OBE (1961)
Martin Clunes OBE (born Alexander Martin Clunes on 28 November 1961) is an English actor. He is best known for portraying Martin Ellingham in the ITV drama series Doc Martin and Gary Strang in Men Behaving Badly. He lives in Beaminster with his second wife Philippa. They organise the annual Buckham Fair to benefit a range of charities.
Alan Carr (1976)
Comedian Alan Carr was born in Weymouth. He can be seen regularly on the stand-up circuit, on tour and on TV. In 2001 he won the BBC Best New Stand Up award and in 2008 Carr won Best Entertainment Personality at the British Comedy Awards.
Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1977 –2005)
Anthony Ashley-Cooper became the 11th Earl of Shaftesbury in 2005 on the confirmation of the death of his father, the 10th Earl, also of the same name. He died suddenly and unexpectedly following a heart attack in New York.
I am thrilled that I have been given the opportunity to feature some comments about family history.
When I was younger I wasn’t interested in family trees and I didn’t even know what the word ‘genealogy’ meant, but when I grew older it seemed a good idea to search my family roots to see where I had originated from. Because I had the name Turner I was very inquisitive to find out if I had any connections to the famous artist JMW Turner as I had some artistic members on both sides of the family. My large Turner family were discovered to have initiated from a place called Stockland in Devon which used to be in Dorset. I also found that the family of JMW had originated from South Molton in Devon and that I had five links to the great man.
The Dorset family Hann/Hand and the family Billet has branches over several counties. The action of similar named families linking to others sometimes more than once has given me links to many famous Dorset associated characters such as the already mentioned artist JMW Turner who painted sunsets over Poole Harbour, swashbuckling sailor Sir Walter Raleigh authors Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley and Mary Anning the ‘fossil lady’. I also have associations to Giles Turner the Mayor of Corfe, whose daughter Susan Turner married into the Dackombe family and whose grandson was John Morton who owned the Morton Manor House which apparently had secret tunnels to Corfe Castle. I have links to Robert Turner the Rector and owner of Studland and Sarah Turner of the Isle of Purbeck, who married Gload De Bague. There are also further links to John Bond of the illustrious family at Creech Grange and his secret (007) acquaintances.
Keith Pott Turner