Curiosities of the Vale: The Constable’s Sword

Constables sword

This sword is owned by the Bowditch family of Stoke Abbott. It is approximately 170 years old.

In the early 19th century once the Napoleonic wars were over there was a deep agricultural depression. Dorset was already a poor county and mostly agricultural so it suffered greatly. There were riots and it was this discontent that led eventually to the deportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Because of the riots and fear of further disorder, the government issued senior churchwardens with a sword. They were called Constables and would have been called upon to assemble with their weapons if a riot occurred: hence the Constable’s Sword.

The churchwarden who has handed this sword down the generations was Robert Barrett, Cllr Matthew Bowditch’s great-grandfather’s uncle. All male Bowditch children are christened with Barrett as their additional Christian name. You pass Robert Barrett’s headstone on the righthand side of the path up to the church door in Stoke Abbott.

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