Minterne Magna

Coordinates: 50°50′13″N 2°29′05″W / 50.8369°N 2.4847°W / 50.8369; -2.4847
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Minterne Magna
Minterne House, south front
Minterne Magna is located in Dorset
Minterne Magna
Minterne Magna
Location within Dorset
Population184 [1]
OS grid referenceST659042
Unitary authority
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townDorchester
Postcode districtDT2
FireDorset and Wiltshire
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°50′13″N 2°29′05″W / 50.8369°N 2.4847°W / 50.8369; -2.4847

Minterne Magna is a village and civil parish in Dorset, England, situated midway between Dorchester and Sherborne. In the 2011 census the parish had a population of 184.[1] The village is sited near the source of the River Cerne among the chalk hills of the Dorset Downs. Some of the highest points in Dorset, including Telegraph Hill (267 m) and Dogbury Hill (248 m), are nearby.

The church contains the tombs of several members of the Napier family, who were Lords of the Manor from c.1600 to 1765.

Minterne House[edit]

Minterne House is the ancestral home of the Digby family and earlier the Churchill family.[2]

The estate was once owned by the Abbey of Cerne from around the year 987[3] and after the dissolution of the monasteries around 1539 it was passed to Winchester College[4] who in 1642 leased it to the John Churchill father of the first Sir Winston Churchill (1620-88), then it was inherited by his son Charles who died without an heir so the house went to his wife's family the Goulds who sold it to Admiral Robert Digby in 1768. Robert Digby's brother was Henry the 7th Lord Digby who owned Sherborne Castle. When Robert died in 1815 the house passed to his nephew Sir Henry Digby who later purchased the freehold from Winchester College in 1856. Sir Henry was a senior British naval officer, who served in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in the Royal Navy and it was his wealth that established the original manor house, the bulk of which came from prize money. In 1799 he had been given command of the frigate HMS Alcmene, during which time he captured dozens of small merchant ships and had a hand in seizing the Spanish treasure frigates Santa Brigada and Thetis. The resulting prize fund was one of the richest ever recorded, the sterling value of the cargo was calculated as not less than £618,040 in 1799 (equivalent to £64,600,000 in 2021)

Sir Henry's children Jane Digby, the noted adventuress and mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria, was also raised there along with her brother Edward Digby, 9th Baron Digby.

In 1900 the house was found to be riddled with dry rot and was demolished and the current house, designed by Leonard Stokes, was built.[2]

Pamela Digby Churchill Harriman, (1920–1997), daughter of Edward Digby, 11th Baron Digby, was raised at the manor house from 1920 to 1938, and lived there before her marriage to Randolph Churchill in 1939.

Minterne House has a large woodland garden with many Rhododendron species, which runs in an elongated 'u' shape around the slopes of a small spur of land that stretches into the valley floor. Providing shade for the rhododendrons are many mature trees, including more unusual specimens such as Davidia involucrata ('handkerchief tree').


  1. ^ a b "Area: MinterneMagna (Parish), Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Minterne – The home of Churchills and Digbys". Dorset Life.
  3. ^ "Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Cerne". British history online.
  4. ^ "Minterne House". Historic England.

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