St. Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, was given Salisbury Field by his royal uncle, William the Conqueror, in the 11th century. Fordington vicarage was built in 1222 and demolished in 1971 to make way for social housing.
From 1829 to 1880, the Moule family lived here. Henry Moule was vicar of Fordington for over 50 years. He and his wife Mary nursed the poor during the cholera outbreaks in 1854 and 1855. The vicar invented a dry earth closet to help improve sanitation, which became famous all over the world. Their eight sons were brilliant scholars; H. J. became Curator of the Dorset County Museum and an accomplished painter.
The house, which was surrounded by copper beeches and sycamore trees, had strong literary connections. William Barnes gave poetry readings and fellow poet and novelist, Thomas Hardy, was a frequent visitor. It became a home of Christian education and scholarship, and was fondly remembered by those who wrote about it.
In 1912, the O’Rourke family moved to the house. May O’Rourke often picked flowers from the garden to place on the Moule family graves in Fordington Churchyard. She became secretary to Thomas Hardy at Max Gate and typed the dramatised version of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’.
From 1942, the house was an idyllic home to the Damon family for nearly 30 years. Faith Irene Damon, affectionately known as Dolly, with the O’Rourke sisters, fought hard to prevent the demolition of the house in 1971. Dolly was the last resident to leave the ancient building. She passed away at the age of 93 in August 2017, and a dedication to her is on the bench next to this board.
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