Travel Guide to the village of Malfoy Intrinsica 2001 with maps of the village and floor plans of the manor
[From Rambles Through Ancient Uplands by Meredith Llewellyn Maxwell, author of The Hiker's Companion To West Wiltshire; The Hiker's Companion To East Dorset; Through The Welsh Marches by Cob; In the Steps of Offa etc. Reproduced by kind permission of the author].
The village of Malfoy Intrinsica (which has declined considerably in status from the prosperous market town noted by Celia Fiennes and by Defoe in their respective journeys) is located in southern Wiltshire, close to the Dorset border and in the heart of the area Thomas Hardy referred to as "Wessex". This part of England has been inhabited almost since the dawn of time and each successive wave of inhabitants has left traces and moulded the landscape behind them as they passed through. Within a few-mile radius of the village are chalk-figures cut out of the down land, ancient earth-works, long- and round-barrows, and, some miles over to the North-East, the great brooding mystery of Stonehenge itself.
It is a haunted landscape, especially in autumn, when wisps of mist lie in the hollows of the road, and cling to the slopes of the downs. Travellers driving through after dark find themselves pressing down on the accelerator with more emphasis than is perhaps prudent, and looking uneasily in the rear-view mirror or at the passenger seat, in a vain effort to rid themselves of the conviction that they are not alone in the car.
The village is located at the foot of a chalk escarpment, and to the North of the village the ground rises at first gently and then very steeply, cresting in a ridge of grassy, bare, open downs which then fall away over the crest in a shallow slope which, in turn, drops down into a rolling plain, occupying the Vale between the downs and Salisbury. The main railway line crosses this Vale: its line runs East/West and the track is located a few miles North of the village. It would appear that even in the glory days of Victorian railway building no one ever considered running a branch line through to Malfoy Intrinsica itself. The nearest station is located some nine miles from the village.
The main road comes from Salisbury in the North-east, looping down through the centre of the village and making a great right-angled bend (running momentarily due West for a couple of hundred yards) turning almost due South and, ultimately, crossing over an ancient stone bridge on its route to Blandford Forum and Dorchester. Through the southern portion of the village runs the River Ebble. It is a trout stream; a little more water or more prudent management of the upstream waters and it might have been a salmon river to rival the Test, with favoured beats being handed down from father to son, or changing hands for astronomical sums in London clubs. But in the sporting field as elsewhere, Malfoy Intrinsica has followed its apparently traditional pattern of being, somehow, overlooked despite its manifold attractions.
Up to the end of the 19th century there was almost nothing of the village lying on the southern bank of the river: the lush water meadows were devoted mainly to the grazing of cattle. Now, by 2001, some outlying houses and the village hall (a single-storied piece of Tudorbethan vulgarity, erected in 1922 to commemorate the 87 men, and three women of the village who fell overseas in the Great War) have spread southwards. The bulk of the village - and all its important buildings - still lie to the North of the Ebble, thickly clustered on either side of the main road which plunges down the hill.
To experience the true flavour of the village, and to describe its most important features, it might be best to put oneself in the position of a hiker; approaching from the Salisbury direction at the end of a long and weary day, and for the last mile or two of his journey taking to the main road, having been warned by his battered and venerable copy of The Hiker's Companion To West Wiltshire that the local landowners "discourage" pedestrian intrusions.
On his right hand side as he descends towards the village runs the high paling fence which surrounds the grounds of Fontwell Abbey, formerly the seat of the Fontwell family, but now in the possession of the National Trust. He passes, at the south-western corner of the Fontwell estate, the entrance to a narrow cart-track, which runs along the boundary between the Fontwell estate and its western neighbour, which he learns from The Hiker's Companion To West Wiltshire is the Malfoy Manor Estate. The invaluable Ordnance survey map in his rucksack shows the track - a bridleway - curving up the hill and around to the North-West, forming a complete loop around the whole of the Estate and eventually dropping back down into the village close to the Manor Farm. It would - in normal circumstances - be a charming detour. The Manor Estate - while thickly wooded on its perimeters - appears from the map to comprise largely open parkland, dotted with follies of the type favoured during the age of the great landscape gardeners.
The Hiker's Companion To West Wiltshire references a mausoleum and a Temple of the Winds, each of which lies tantalisingly close to the bridleway running along the eastern boundary of the Estate. Once past and up-slope of the Manor itself (which is located towards the North-Eastern corner of the Estate upon which it sits, and is reported to be "a fine Jacobean mansion dating from 1620, built of Cotswold stone in the traditional "E" shape") the hiker would command a splendid view of the house and grounds, and by proceeding further onwards would be rewarded by his proximity to the Seven Sisters, a stone circle of immeasurable antiquity and sinister fame which lies on the edge of the Malfoy Estate, somewhat to the North-West of the Manor.
However, as our hiker looks up the bridleway which runs between the two great estates - the one, still in private hands, the other now the stamping ground of the polloi - he suddenly finds himself conscious of a blister he had not previously felt, and the attractions of the beer at the Rose and Crown - Malfoy Intrinsica's admirably unmodernised Inn - strike him with forcible appeal. Once again, the detour round to view the Manor Estate must wait another time and season.
Proceeding onwards downhill on the Manor side of the road so as to face on-coming traffic, our hiker can see little of the Estate over the tall stone wall and through the tree which, here, thickly border the main road. However, at length an apparently new set of gates in the Manor wall appear, and through them he can catch a glimpse of greenhouses. A few hundred yards further on, and the old gateway (the time-defaced winged serpents still proudly capping the stone pillars on either side of the entrance) appears. The gateway is now anachronistically defaced by security barriers and a polite young security guard in a kiosk asks visitors their business. Even the oldest of landed families have to bow to the economic pressures of the twenty-first century, and part of the Manor - which has stood here since the year the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth - has passed into the hands of an American multi-national. Our hiker - continuing on the road and resisting the temptation to strike off down the bridleway which drops steeply down from the opposite side of the road, winding down behind the gardens of the houses which flank the High Street - soon passes the Manor Farm to the North - his left - and sees spread out below him in the glow of the late-afternoon sun the splendid curve of the village street, on which it seems even the twentieth century - let alone the twenty-first - has left the lightest of possible imprints.
The houses on the left hand side of the Street - as our imagined hiker quickens his steps in anticipation of the cool excellence of the Rose and Crown's beer - hark back to a more gracious era. On the edge of some of the best grazing land in the country, Malfoy Intrinsica has clearly in the past supported a prosperous yeomanry and gentry, who have spent their wealth in building and improving properties in the former market-town. One or two have been converted for business use; there is, here and there, a discreet brass plaque denoting a solicitor, doctor or architect practising here, and the largest of them all, a square built, veranda'd villa in the midst of its own substantial grounds, is a guest-house rightly renowned throughout the south-west for the excellence of its (vegetarian) cuisine. The large detached properties line the left side of the street until, finally, the church-yard and lych-gate of St Sebastian's Church is reached.
The church was originally a monastic foundation: a daughter house of Fontwell Abbey, which enjoyed considerable celebrity in early medieval times as a place of pilgrimage, cherishing among its other relics an arrow-head reputed to be one of those used to perpetrate the martyrdom of the eponymous Saint. It was almost wholly rebuilt in the aftermath of the Black Death. The former Lords of the village and virtually all their feudal dependents succumbed to the disease, leaving the castle (whose overgrown ruins can still be faintly discerned on the hill immediately behind - to the East - of the Church) abandoned. The owners of what is now the Manor - then a mere hunting lodge - took it upon themselves to find new villains for the deserted and overgrown fields (the outlines of whose strip system can still be discerned to this day) and, quarrying extensively from the castle, built the Manor which stood from 1350 until destroyed on a night of folly and superstition in the early seventeenth century. They also cemented their prestige locally by rebuilding the Church, relying on the stone from the same source, and making significant donations to the Fontwell Abbey. From that date the old name of the village (by which Domesday Book knew it) lapsed entirely and it adopted the soubriquet of its new Lords.
Across Vicarage Lane, which leads off to the left on the lower edge of the church-yard, a comfortable eighteenth century parsonage house houses the Rector of St Sebastian's.
The houses on the right hand side tend, on the whole, to be humbler, though no less charming in their way. The Rose and Crown, situated down in the bottom half of the village on the right hand side of the road as our hiker approaches, is, indeed, a magnificently traditional Inn, located directly opposite the Church, in an apposite balancing of the claims of God and Caesar. A little lower down Mrs Waley's emporium - the Village Shop - acts as a welcome reminder of what a true pleasure an old-fashioned grocer's can be, in these days of mass-market chains. Following a pint or two and a well-deserved meal, what better finale can our hiker take to his day but to wander eastwards along the bridleway on the North bank of the Ebble in the bat-haunted twilight as far as the Mill House, charmingly converted to a residence but still bearing all the quaint insignia of its workaday origins, when, back in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century its powerful wheel harnessed the water to grind the village's corn. And looking back towards Malfoy Intrinsica as our hiker puffs contemplatively on his pipe by the mill-pond, he will reflect on what a jewel this village is, strangely untouched by time, oddly overlooked by tourist or developer alike; a magical island of other-worldliness amid the noise and haste of our 21st century existence.