Lawrence of Arabia

Not far from Swanage, about 10 miles to the North West, is a small village called Moreton where Lawrence of Arabia is buried. In the village is the quite spectacular Moreton Tearooms and the article below is an extract from their menu and information leaflet.
A brief history of Moreton

Moreton has been occupied for a very long time. There is evidence of Bronze and Iron Age settlements here, including the remnants of hut circles on the small rise behind the tea rooms. The village has always been based on farming the fertile lands either side of the River Frome which meanders slowly eastwards towards Wareham and Poole Harbour. Originally “Moor Tun”, loosely translated as the village on the moor, or bog, the farmers drained the bogs and channelled the river to create broad meadows and other pastures, creating Thomas Hardy’s “Vale of the Great Dairies”.

The Village falls within Moreton Estate, the longest single ownership estate in Dorset and one of the oldest 50 estates in England! The Framptons go back to a de Frampton who married the daughter of the local squire in the 1300’s and, through her lineage, even further back! The estate has had it’s share of heroes and villains including Tregonwell Frampton who, as keeper of the Kings Horses, founded Newmarket Racecourse and was known as the “Father of the Turf”. Later Framptons were responsible for arresting the Tolpuddle Martyrs and charging the Sherborne riots with the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry.

In the centre of the village is St. Nicholas’ Church, famous internationally for it’s engraved glass windows – all the stained glass having been blown out by a German bomber in WW2.

The Tearooms was the village school until 1967 and had been empty until it’s refurbishment in 2001. Behind the old green plasterwork, they found what you can now see as a series of different building materials which have been left exposed for interest.

You might be able to trace the lines of the old calf shed, then the larger cart shed, prior to its enlargement as a school that held over 100 children at its peak.

Over the road from the Tearooms, and behind the brick wall, is Moreton Gardens, refurbished as a landscaped garden in 1977. The gardens and plant centre are fully open from March to September every year but you can go round at any time of year. To get to the Gardens, go past the Church Yard (not a cemetery) on the main road. Bordered by a hedge, the Church Yard has a portico gatehouse.

At the far end of the Church Yard lies Lawrence of Arabia. Why is he here? It’s a long story but he was a soldier at Bovington, hiding from the world and living a slightly strange life. He rented a cottage (Clouds Hill) from his cousins the Framptons and when he died following his motorcycle accident, his family asked their cousins if he could be buried here. In the Lawrence Room of the Tearooms, you can see photos of his funeral attended by the great and the good including Winston Churchill. Our “cake table” is, in fact, the village bier which carried Lawrence to his grave. The choir in the photos came from the school. In fact, in the colour school reunion photo, you can see the Pitman twins who were in the choir and also filled up his bike in Bovington just before he crashed!

During WW2, Moreton was full of American Army units and all the fields had Nissen Huts as far as the eye could see. Moreton House was a hospital and still has doors in the cellars and attics that have ward numbers chalked on them.

While you are down at the ford – the longest in Dorset – if you watch carefully and quietly, you may see Kingfishers, the occasional Pike or a Salmon.