top of page


He made matters worse by sending them to a  number of prominent MPs.  They were clearly heretical and were suspected of being the work of a Quaker, so the Speaker ordered the offending publications to be burnt by the public hangman in the Palace Yard at Westminster.  Shortly afterwards the author was detected, hardly surprisingly, as he had used the pseudonym Gul Libera Clavis (William Free Key).  He was fined the enormous sum of £500, forced to recant, and bound over for three years.  Effectively deterred from his theological exercises he then turned his attention to what is now known as psychology and published `A Dictionary of Dreams` followed by `A Collection of Dreams`.  Sadly his efforts in this field met with no greater success, and the Dorset historian The Rev John Hutchins described them as `a medley of folly, blasphemy and  obscenity` adding as a side text `he acted as a Justice of the Peace for many years`.


Thomas Freke owner of the now substantial Dorset estate died in 1698 and, as his eldest son was childless, the estate would have passed, in due course, to his second son William.  However, his father took the view that his eccentricities made it impossible to leave him the reversion of such a valuable property, which in addition to Hinton included the Cranborne Chase Estate based on Rushmore, Shroton and Burton Bradstock.   In the absence of any other Freke candidate the estate was left to George Pitt of Stratfield Saye who was unrelated but was connected to the Frekes by marriage.  Remote though his claim may have been, he made up for it by being respectable, orthodox and a large landowner in three counties, one of which was Dorset.  He was also MP for Wareham and had the added attraction of never having published anything.  After his father`s death William Freke lived on at Hinton for another 44 years and was followed by other members of the family until the Rev John Pitt died in 1799.

Although Stratfield Saye was sold in 1828 and George Pitt, now Lord Rivers, moved to Rushmore in Wiltshire, Hinton and the adjacent parishes of the Blackmore Vale estate most interesting resident during the period was the Rev Thomas Lane-Fox, a cousin of

Lord Rivers who was appointed curate of Sturminster Newton.  For many years he refused to become vicar as that entailed residing in the parish and he preferred to live at Hinton, nevertheless he was a substantial benefactor of Sturminster Newton restoring the fine late gothic church at an estimated cost of £28,000 (around £500,000 today).  This and other benefactions seriously depleted his fortune and ultimately, he was forced the accept the living of Sturminster and move into the vicarage.  His financial affairs appear to have been chaotic and after his death in 1862 Lord Rivers felt obliged to ask his agent to wind up his estate.  Four years later the agent was gratified to be able to inform his employer that the Rev Thomas had died with a net worth of 19s 3d.


In 1880 General Augustus Pitt-Rivers, the archaeologist,  inherited the estate from his cousin Lord Rivers and the Manor House became the dower house where his eldest son Alexander  lived from about 1895.  Alexander was an architect and amongst his works are the Lodge adjacent to the entrance gates to the Manor House.  Until that date there were paddocks where the garden now is, and the tithe barn and stables were let to an agricultural tenant.  Around 1900 the house was enlarged and modernised, the garden was laid out in roughly its present form and the medieval tithe barn was converted into a hall.


At the same time the present front drive was constructed, previously the approach to the house was round the southern boundary of the churchyard.  The sunken garden was built in 1915, and the conversion of the tithe barn into a theatre was completed in 1939.  Finally the large elms which had been mature trees in a picture painted in 1846 and had dominated the house and its surroundings all died in the 1970s and were replaced by Tulip Trees – Liriodendron Tulipifera.

For the past 50 years, Anthony and Val Pitt-Rivers have lived at the Manor House, run and managed the estate.  Their nephew William Fox-Pitt with his wife Alice, moved to the village in 2003 and they now live as neighbours in Hinton St Mary.

Around AD350 a large Romano-British villa was built at Hinton St Mary from which a tessellated pavement depicting the head of Christ was found in 1961, and is now in the British Museum, in London.  From the 12th century until the dissolution of the monasteries, the Manor of Hinton was a lay-brothers settlement belonging to the Abbey of Shaftesbury.  The settlement consisted of a dormitory, demolished at the dissolution, the stables and the tithe barn.  In 1545 Henry VIII granted the Manor of Hinton and others in Dorset, to William 7th Lord Stourton.  He was succeeded by his son, also William, who was a prominent catholic in Mary`s reign.  He became Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset but he was dissolute and neither his position, his religion, nor his mother`s pleas saved him from being hanged at Salisbury, with two accomplices in 1556 for the brutal murder of his father`s bailiff.  In 1564 Queen Elizabeth granted Hinton to Robert Freke, a servant of the Tudors and aspiring Dorset landowner, who held the post of teller to the exchequer. 


Members of the Freke family lived at Hinton for 230 years and during that time most of the older houses in the village were built or rebuilt, including the Manor House which is on the site of the monastic dormitory and incorporates what remained of the 13th century building.  Rebuilding was started by Thomas Freke sometime during the 1630s.  Thomas died in 1642 and the work was carried on by his widow Mary, who lived on at Hinton until 1686.  It was eventually completed in 1695, by their son The Rev John Freke, who was vicar of Gillingham until his death in 1711.


A year after the work was completed, The Reverend’s eccentric cousin, William Freke came to live at Hinton.  Born in 1662 he was educated at Wadham College, Oxford and qualified as a barrister.  However, his main claim to fame were the inflammatory pamphlets he published anonymously bearing the titles `Essay Towards an Union between Divinity and Morality: to which is added a clear and brief Consultation of the Doctrine of the Trinity` and `A Dialogue by way of Question and Answer Convening the Deity`.

bottom of page