A 1930s woodcut by Shaftesbury’s High House Press features the L-shaped thatched cottages that formerly occupied the end of Laundry Lane.
The cottages probably stood on the same site as the ancient Laundry House, referred to by the Rev John Hutchins in his 18th century History of Dorset.
Hutchins explained that Laundry or ‘Lander’ Lane ran from Shaftesbury Abbey in what is now Park Walk down to St James’s parish and that there was a well called Laundry Well in a garden at the bottom.
Even in Hutchins’ time, Laundry House was ‘pulled down but the well is still in use’.
Hutchins believed that nuns from the Abbey carried their linen down the footpath to wash it in the well.
Most of the old Laundry Lane is now known as Stoney Path but its route has not changed since the nuns trod it daily 1,300 years ago.
The thatched cottages in the woodcut were destroyed by fire during the Second World War.
Tradition has it that a woman jumped from an upstairs window and was caught in a blanket by people from a nearby pub.
The cottages were replaced in 1953 by a house called Stonehaven, which had its own unusual links with the war.
It was built using not only stone from its fire-ravaged predecessor but plywood bomb cases to line the roof and tiles ‘robbed’ from Tyneham, the abandoned Dorset village that was famously requisitioned by the government during the war and never given back.
In 2018 the then owners of Stonehaven told me they believed the site of the old Nuns’ or Laundry Well was in the corner of their garden.
By: Roger Gutteridge