St Laurence church, Farnham
A beautiful rural village on the borders of Cranborne Chase, Farnham was famous as the original location of the Pitt-Rivers Museum. This huge collection of antiquities was created by General Augustus Pitt-Rivers, who founded the museum that bears his name in Oxford in 1884.

General Pitt-Rivers lived at Rushmore, just outside the village. Such was his influence of British awareness and interest in archaeology that is often called the Father of Modern Archaeology. Rather than collect valuable artefacts for their market value he sought to uncover the past for what it could teach us.

After General Pitt-Rivers gave his collection to create the Oxford museum he kept on collecting items of archaeological and ethnological interest for his own personal enjoyment. Pitt-Rivers' collection was housed in an old schoolhouse at Crossways.

The Pitt-Rivers Museum was ground-breaking. Rather than simply display dry artefacts behind glass cases, General Pitt-Rivers used the objects he collected to create a vision of how they were used in everyday life. He truly did try to make the past 'come alive'.

So popular was the collection that the village inn was transformed into the Museum Hotel to cater to visitors. The collection was broken up in the 1970s, with some pieces sold into private hands and British pieces given to the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.


The village name comes from Old English words meaning a homestead where ferns grow. Farnham must have been an ancient settlement by the time it was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 when the name was written as Fereneham. From the medieval period through the 19th century Farnham was owned by the de Tollard family of Tollard Royal, just across the county border in Wiltshire.

St Laurence Church

The parish church of St Lawrence is an attractive medieval building, with the addition of Victorian remodelling. The first church here probably dated to the 12th century. The most striking feature is an embattled west tower of flint and sandstone, erected in the 14th century. Inside are a pair of fonts, one dating to the medieval period.

Outside the churchyard entrance is an ancient well, covered with a timber frame erected in the 19th century, along with a cranking mechanism. The village itself is typical of rural Dorset and Cranborne Chase in general, which is to say its as pretty as a postcard!