Lytchett Matravers is a Dorset village situated at the gateway to the Purbeck hills and the Dorset heathland, overlooking the waters of Poole Harbour. It is almost six miles equidistant from Wareham, Wimborne and Poole.
The Celtic people gave our village its first name, Litchet. It means the grey wood. A Saxon settlement was here before William the Conqueror came. He awarded the land to one of his knights, Hugh Maltravers, and that family added their name to the Celtic Lytchett. In Norman times the village clustered around its church and manor house in the valley, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The Maltravers family held Lytchett for just over 300 years.
The Black Death ravaged Dorset and England in the second half of the 14th century, and Lytchett was severely depopulated. The surviving people abandoned the village by the church and fled to the top of the hill. The Maltravers heiress married an Earl of Arundel and 200 years later the manor was purchased from the Arundels by the Trenchard family.
This prominent Dorset family lived in the Lytchett manor house and collected the rents from the farmers and copyholders of the parish for more than 250 years.They pulled down the ancient Maltravers manor house and built one of their own – with a ballroom and a tower. The direct line of the Trenchard family foundered in 1829, and the manor passed to the Dillon family who added the name Trenchard to their own. The Dillon-Trenchards did not live in the manor house.
It was let to a succession of tenants. Through the 19th and 20th centuries the ancient estate was neglected and gradually dispersed and sold. The lives of the people resolved around the agricultural seasons and the village was largely self-sufficient. Festivals and holidays were part of the church life, with the mediaeval building remaining half a mile away in the valley.
In 1774 a small band of people came together to form a Methodist Society in Lytchett. In 1824 John Parsons, a local brick-maker, gave the land on which the Methodist church was built. The Chequers Inn, of uncertain date, but the name indicates it could be from the 15th century, is on the road through the village which led from Poole to the World’s End public house, and thence to Bere Regis and Dorchester. A maypole and an open green used to be in front of the inn, where a fair was held from time immemorial until the end of the 19th century.
The present Rose and Crown public house was built in 1912, but ale was sold from a cottage there from the middle of the 19th century.
Around 1837 about 30 children attended a National Society School which had been built near to the higher crossroads. In 1875 education for all children became compulsory and the Board School was built on land on the opposite corner of the crossroads. Children were taught there for 115 years before the present school for over 400 pupils was built in Wareham Road.
‘Homes for heroes’ had been promised to men returning from the First World War. Some new houses were built before 1939, and many of the old cottages were improved at that time. In 1901 there were 640 people living in Lytchett. Today, just over a century later, the population is nearly 4000 people.