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Povington Hill from Whiteway Hill

A view east from the Range Walk along the mighty Purbeck ridgeway. The summit of Povington Hill is over 200 metres above sea level, and at a distance of 1 mile from the sea this is very imposing indeed. The road in the photo is only accessible when the MOD ranges are not open.

© Copyright Jim Champion and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

The Priory of Povington

Povington, formerly a manor and now a hamlet in the parish of Tyneham in the isle of Purbeck, was granted to the abbot and monks of Bec-Hellouin in Normandy by Robert Fitz Gerold, (fn. 91) a Norman who accompanied the Conqueror to England, and who is returned in Domesday as holding 'Povintone' of the king, the manor being valued then and in the days of Edward the Confessor at £11. (fn. 92) In the roll of Norman landowners in England of the year 1205 the manor of Povington belonging to the abbot of Bec was valued at 100s. unstocked, and at double that amount with the stock. The prior of Bec was reported to have removed since Easter eighty-five cheeses and all the wool of the flock, together with 1 mark from the sale of beans, 15s. from the sale of oats, and 20s. 9d. of the Easter rent.

Notwithstanding the many charters granted in favour of this Norman abbey by the Norman and early Plantagenet kings, the claim of the monks to their estates here did not pass unchallenged. As a result of a trial by wager of battle fought out between Avenel Fitz Robert and Henry abbot of Bec by his attorney, William de Wanecing, the former by a fine levied within fifteen days of Michaelmas, 1223, released to the said abbot his claim to the manor of Povington, and received by way of compensation the sum of 30 marks of silver.

Towards the close of the thirteenth century the manor of Povington with its members of West Whiteway in the parish of Tyneham, Lutton and Blackmanstone in the parish of Steeple, and Milborne Bec in the parish of Bere Regis, had come to be reckoned as parcel of the priory of Ogbourne, Wiltshire, another cell to Bec; the temporalities of the prior of Og in Tyneham and Steeple, Milborne Bec and Povington being assessed at £11 10s. in the year 1291.

In common with other alien cells Povington was constantly taken into the king's hands during the wars with France. By an inquisition held on the occasion of its seizure 8 October, 1324, by Walter Beril and Martin Roger de Blokkesworthe the goods found in the manor of Povington and Lutton were valued at £58 9s. The sheriff in 1337 was charged with the issues of Povington and Lutton, and of 'a certain place called Milborne Bek,' amounting to £28 4s. 9d., which had been taken into custody by Henry Haydok, clerk, and delivered to him. The inquisition at Wareham the Monday after Easter, 1387, probably ordered with a view to ascertain the cause of the steady decrease in value then taking place in most of the alien cells, showed that the possessions of the prior of Ogbourne at Povington and West Whiteway, Lutton, and Blackmanstone were worth £6 13s. 4d. after all charges and deductions had been made.  

The vicissitudes of the manor during the fifteenth century were many and various, and one can hardly account for the contradictory effect of many of the grants. Before the final suppression of alien priories in 1414 Ogbourne, with all its rectories, manors, land, and possessions, &c., was granted by Henry IV to John duke of Bedford, who, piously recollecting the religious nature of the benefaction, made it over to the warden and canons of St. George's, Windsor, the gift being confirmed by Henry V. Henry VI, on the death of the duke in 1435, granted the manor of Povington—together with pensions and portions in Milborne Bec, Turnworth, Charlton, and Up Wimborne—parcel of the sometime alien priory of Ogbourne, which had reverted to the crown, to Richard Sturgeon, clerk, for life, and in 1442 bestowed the reversion of the manor with its members on John Carpenter, the master and brethren of the hospital of St. Anthony, London, for the exhibition and support of five boys or scholars 'well disposed' at the university of Oxford, each of whom should previously have been well and sufficiently instructed in the rudiments of grammar at Eton College and should receive at the university 10s. per week until he had attained the degree of bachelor of arts. This arrangement notwithstanding, the king nine years later gave to the provost and college of Eton the farm or rent to be paid by John Newburgh, knt., for the custody of the manor of Povington to which he had been appointed the previous Michaelmas, 1450, together with the reversion of the same. Edward IV, in the first year of his reign, while confirming the previous grant to St. George's, Windsor, of the alien priory of Ogbourne and all its appurtenances by John duke of Bedford, granted the manor of Povington to William Beaufitz for the term of twenty years. In 1467 he made it over to Eton College, and again in 1474 made it the subject of another grant in favour of the chapel of Windsor.

The schemes of the Yorkist king for the union of Eton and Windsor and the enrichment of the royal chapel of the latter by the endowments of Henry VI's college were foiled by the decision of Archbishop Bourchier. Edward IV by letters patent of May, 1478, appears to have repeated his grant of this manor to Windsor, but Povington was, nevertheless, restored to Eton with other lands of which it had been deprived in anticipation, and remained in the hands of the college down to the reign of Henry VIII.  

There is in the case of Povington little to favour the presumption that a religious house was actually maintained here. A single reference to it as a 'priory' occurs years after it had passed away from its ancient possessors the abbots of Bec, and, in all probability, it would be most accurately described as a grange.

Source: 'Alien houses: The priory of Povington', A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2 (1908), pp. 118-119. URL:

Domesday Book 1066



A view over Povington Heath

You can match the tracks with the mapping in the OS 1:25000. The image of the main tracks is approximately three kilometres from bottom left to mid right.

© Copyright Stuart Cankett and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

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