Monastery Farm, in the foreground, as viewed from Flower’s Barrow
© Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence
The establishment of a Monastery at East Lulworth
A colony of six monks from the Abbey of Val-
Collections, illustrating the history of the Catholic religion: in the ...
by George Oliver, published 1857
Arish Mell is listed as Arish Mill on a map in Robinson (1882). A curiosity here is drinkable water coming out of the foot of the Arish Mell cliff. Inland of here, between 1794 and 1817, was the Trappist monastery farm supported by the landowner Mr Thomas Weld. Robinson repeats an account of a visit to this monastery made in 1800. The visitor was unimpressed. After 11 miles horse ride from Dorchester he commented, by no means in the best of tempers, that the monastery is built of very rude materials and in a very rude style.
"Its immediate neighbourhood presents a picture of bleak desolation. The hills are destitute of wood, and the east wind, sweeping from the Channel, perishes the early shoots of vegetation. Ringing at the gate of the monastery, we were received by the porter. It is impossible to give an accurate idea of the hideousness of this man's dress, which was composed of a tunic made of coarse, thick and woollen cloth: over his shoulders he wore a cape made of the same material; this was partly thrown back, so that his face was visible; but the other monks, who were clad precisely in the same manner as the porter, covered their visages so that nothing but the eyes and noses could be seen. Their stockings are made of coarse cloth, and their shoes are wooden, and about three inches thick in the sole. After being asked whether we had any women in our party, and being answered in the negative, the porter attended us to the refectory. .... The appearance of the soup, I must confess, turned my stomach. The bread was absolutely black. .....
Passing from the chapel, through a cloister, we visited the burying ground, which occupies a small inner court, overgrown with rank weeds and tall luxurient grasses. Two graves, already tenanted are marked by two wooden crosses; and one grave is always kept open ready to receive the next deceased. Our conductor assured us that each individual of the fraternity prayed sincerely that he himself might become the occupant. At this I am not surprised; for such misery and such a degradation of human nature is exhibited within the precincts of these walls I never elsewhere witnessed.
None of the brotherhood except the porter, are permitted to speak, unless by special permission of the superior. The stillness of the place was awful. ....
When taking leave of this gentleman, he cast his eyes on the ground, with modest humility, half extended his dirty paw.. A few shillings was the toll levied on our exit from this gloomy abode of ignorance and nastiness, which I quitted with a sigh, breathed in compassion of the lot of those whom vice or folly drive for the expiation of real or fancied iniquities into the community of La Trappe. "
Robinson , C.E. 1882. A Royal Warren; or Picturesque Rambles in the Isle of Purbeck. The Typographical Etching Company, 23 Farringdon Street, E.C., London. 186pp. By C.E. Robinson, M.A., Barrister-
The nuns [of Stapehill Abbey, near Wimborne] quickly established contact with the monks at that other centre of Catholicism in Dorset, the Weld family’s estate at Lulworth. The monks sent them supplies, then a cow to provide milk, and made shoes for the nuns; in return, the nuns washed and mended the monks’ altar linen.
Source: Dorset Life, May 1998