Upton Grange, A Chapter of Dorset History

700 Years from farmstead to a unique Grange holiday destination…

The Doomsday Book records a hamlet of 19 inhabitants which has become the Upton village of today. Coincidentally, Upton still has 19 inhabitants. The early settlers prospered on the rich pastureland, producing foods for the surrounding manors and towns. By 1285 records show a farmstead at ‘Upringstede’ or Upper Ringstead, the village we now call Upton. You can see an original stone slab embedded in our reception floor inscribed 1587, indicating that a farmhouse of substance had been erected on the estate at the time. By the early 17th century the Grange comprised an aisled barn and a large cow house, all constructed of local stone and ships’ timbers. The complex would have resembled the courtyard form of today’s Grange buildings.

Smugglers, Excise men and Gaol…

Smuggling was a way of life around Ringstead Bay through the 18th century. ‘The Smugglers Inn’, then known as ‘The Crown’, was home to the notorious ‘Charles’ family, 27 of whom were convicted as smugglers. Remote coves were ideal for landing contraband, while steep cliffs hid the smugglers from the watchful eyes of the Excise men. The ‘Smugglers’ path is a steep winding trail descending 500ft from the Coastguard Cottages perched on the summit of ‘White Nothe’. This path is accurately described in the 1898 novel ‘Moonfleet’. The owners of Upton Grange regularly found themselves in the cells of Dorchester Assizes after frustrated officials raided the house expecting to find contraband. However, the judiciary usually took a lenient view and, when little evidence was found, everything returned to normal within a few days. But who knows? There was, and still is, a well trodden path to the ‘Smugglers Inn’, a fine 13th century hostelry at the head of Osmington Cove.

Thomas Hardy’s Dorset.

Between 1840 and his death in 1928, the novelist Thomas Hardy was deeply influenced by the area around Upton Grange. Dorset’s area of outstanding natural beauty is the inspiration for most of Hardy’s novels.

RAF Ringstead…

A portion of Upton Grange became an RAF radar station in 1941, only finally closing in 1974. President Eisenhower’s Chief Meteorologist was stationed here for D-Day to observe troop ships leaving Weymouth for France. Very wisely, he is reputed to have chosen Owls Roost Cottage for his quarters.

Upton Grange, the Unique Holiday Destination for the Discerning Holidaymaker…

After the war, agriculture mechanised rapidly leaving much of the original Grange redundant until 1980. Despite time and weather having taken their toll, the Grange buildings have been painstakingly restored with authentic materials. The six superbly converted holiday cottages now combine every modern comfort and convenience with an atmospheric sense of history and permanence.