Cerne Abbas is a quaint village located on the edge of the river Cerne in Dorset around 7 miles from Dorchester. This is a beautiful but small village that is perhaps not well known in itself, but is world renowned for the ancient figure named the Cerne Abbas Giant or perhaps more descriptively known as the Rude Giant that overshadows the village from the chalk hillside above.
The village of Cerne Abbas has less than 800 permanent occupants but that belies the fact that it has a huge amount to offer to the large numbers of visitors that come to see the hamlet and the surrounding countryside each year.
Just over 1000 years ago the Benedictine’s built an abbey which quickly became surrounded by a small hamlet that eventually grew into the village as it is today. For five centuries the abbey was a dominant force in the area until Henry VIII dissolved all of the nation’s monasteries in the 16th Century.
As a result of Henry’s actions the abbey was destroyed with the only remaining section being the Abbot’s Porch and to a lesser extent the Abbey Guesthouse still found in the village.
The area also an association with the ancient abbey found in St Augustine’s Well located on Abbey Street in the old burial grounds, according to ancient legends the well was used and blessed by St Augustine.
Another connection with the long lost Abbey is the very charming St Mary’s Church which was built some time towards the end of the 13th century, and 700 years later is still very much the centre of the village and boasts many original facets from when it was constructed
Despite the loss of the socially important abbey the village managed to not just survive but prosper. It has an extremely clean water supply filtered by the chalk in the surrounding hills that proved to be perfect for brewing quality beers which became famous throughout the south of England.
So much so that despite only having a few hundred inhabitants the village at one-time had no less than 15 pubs. The water was not only essential to those with a taste for good beer it was also used as a free and effective power source that helped establish new industries in the village and surrounding areas such as weaving silk making hats and gloves the other tanning industry and the milling of grains.
With the disappearance of these industries just over 100 years ago the village fell very much into decline with many of its inhabitants moving out to larger towns in order to make a living.
However with the advent of more prosperity and growth in tourism in the mid-20th century the village again found new life with a new industry servicing the needs of visitors with its ancient pubs, quintessentially English tea rooms, and of course the ever present Rude Giant enticing people not only from all over Britain but also from across the globe.