The Durweston Poltergeist

The story, briefly summarised below, is told in the book Tales of Old Dorset by Sean Street, published by Countryside Books, 3 Catherine Rd, Newbury, Berks. It was discovered by Mrs Barbara Kennedy of Christchurch, Dorset.

According to the story, in the winter of 1894-95 a Mrs Best of Norton, took in two orphan girls, aged four and thirteen, from the local workhouse. They were boarded out through the generosity of two sisters, to give them a change from their sad surroundings. Mrs Best, it was noted, was a respectable woman, well liked in the community.

Soon after their arrival, strange things began to happen – scratchings and knockings, increasing in volume, and stones and other things began to fly about. The phenomena attracted great national attention at the time and the place was thoroughly searched, by the rector, the schoolmaster and others – even the Duke of Argyll visited Durweston to personally examine the story.

The girls were moved to another house and the phenomena followed them and peace only returned to the village when the girls left. They went to Iwerne Minster where the strange happenings continued, then to London, where the elder girl died not long after.

Mrs Kennedy notes that Norton (or Nordon) was a pair of cottages just outside Durweston on the road to Bryanston. Jane Best, wife of Andrew (d 1881), is recorded there in both the 1881 and 1891 censuses. In 1891, William Adams, a gamekeeper (presumably on the Portman estate at Bryanston) lived in the other cottage with his wife, Charlotte (nee Best). A daughter of a gamekeeper who lived at Norton later became the sister-in-law of an elderly neighbour of Mrs Kennedy and confirms that strange things did happen in the house at that time.