by Harry Hogger
THE THOUGHT of Siegfried Sassoon, fellow First World War poet Edmund Blunden and T.E.Lawrence sitting down together for lunch at the house of the late William Barnes before a trip to the Hardys for tea is enough to spark the interest of any literary enthusiast.
The intriguing encounter is just one of a whole host of fascinating stories uncovered by Sedley Proctor when he began researching the history of Old Came Rectory, just outside Dorchester at Winterborne Came.
The fruits of Sedley’s labour are short book Old Came Rectory - A Guide, which is packed with tale after tale from the life of the multi-talented Dorset dialect poet Barnes and the house where he spent more than 20 years.
Sedley was inspired to write something about Old Came Rectory by the enthusiasm of old family friend Warren Davis, who lives in the property today and has worked hard to preserve the intriguing history of the house.
Barnes, who served as rector at St Peter’s Church in Winterborne Came, moved into the rectory in 1862 and lived there until his death in 1886.
Sedley says his book touches not just on Barnes’ renowned poetry but also on his many other interests and talents, such as philology – he knew as many as 70 languages and translated poems from Persian – as well as engraving and his role as an enlightened school educator.
During his time at Came, Barnes welcomed a host of visitors as the literary fame of the ‘half hermit, half enchanter’ grew.
As well as regular encounters with near neighbour Thomas Hardy, he welcomed poets Coventry Patmore, William Allingham and Poet Laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson...