Long Crichel

Long Crichel lies in a shallow valley below Crichel Down in the Vale of Allen, in the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village and surrounding land forms part of the Crichel Estate, formerly wholly in the ownership of the Sturt family. There are twenty-four round barrows in the Parish.

It is primarily an agricultural estate village having once been the centre of three farms, each with their own farm houses. The village remains entirely surrounded by the fields and woods of the Crichel Estate.

The village is, as the name suggests, strung along the chalk winterbourne which rises at Chettle, and has no clear centre. Houses, mostly 19th century estate cottages, are grouped in small terraces, many bearing the names of members of the Sturt family. There are other 18th century houses, notably Middle Farm and Lower Farmhouse, and the former rectory, Long Crichel House. The former estate-built school house is now a private house, having been sensitively restored. The church of St Mary the Virgin forms part of Diocese of Salisbury. The nave and apse make a curious composition for its date – 1852 – which stylistically would be of its time a dozen and more years earlier. They are additions to a 15th century tower. The church has been revived from the doldrums of redundancy by the Friends of Friendless Churches, and is still in use. Recent events have included epic poetry readings, memorial services, and musical events. The acoustics are particularly good. Enquiries for events in the church will be warmly received. (Call 01258830250)

There is an artisan bakery in the stables of Long Crichel House, baking organic and sourdough bread in a wood fired oven.

Crichel Down is known as the source of the Crichel Down Rules, guidelines for compulsory purchase, which were drawn up as a result of the Crichel Down Affair. It is a complex and long story with ramifications far greater than the action of a landowner (the Hon. Mary Anna Marten) who fought for the right to repurchase agricultural land which had been expropriated from her father (Lord Alington) during WWII for use as a bombing range. The ultimate success of the action had forced a public enquiry and left in its wake the resignation of a government minister, the creation of the office of Ombudsman and enormous ramifications for government procedure. It may be the first instance of close and public scrutiny of a Minister of the Crown in the execution of their duties.