The name Farnham is derived from the Saxon, meaning the ‘meadow of ferns’. It is variously mentioned in ancient records as Fearneham, Fernham and, in the Domesday Book, is called Ferneham.
The 17th Century plague came into the country through Weymouth and Dorset suffered huge losses, so undoubtedly Farnham was considerably larger before the plague years. There are archaeological as well as historical indications that there had been many more houses in the village in medieval times. The old stocks outside the Museum Hotel, the brick-built Well House at the bottom of the church path and the former Wesleyan chapel are clear remnants of a former lifestyle. It is likely that before the plague, dwellings were clustered around the church but rebuilding meant that the church was no longer situated at the centre of the settlement.
In the Domesday Book, Farnham was surveyed in five parcels with some of the property being held by the Abbess of Shaftesbury, Aiulf the chamberlain, the wife of Hugh Fitzgrip and “Hugh de Luri and other foreigners”. In 1869 there are two distinct manors, or moieties of manors, each maintaining its own poor. The principal manor had various owners through the years but had become the property of the Earl of Sandwich and the Duke of Cleveland from whom Lord Rivers purchased it in 1866. The second manor, Osmond’s Manor belonged some time to the Arundells and was bought by Lord Rivers in 1820.
Returns to Parliament in 1801 indicate that there were just 22 inhabited houses with a population of 88. In 1851 this number had risen to 28 houses with 128 people. There are now 102 houses in the parish with a population of approximately double that number.
The village is small and very attractive with many of its thatched cottages end-on to the road, possibly a common-sense measure against the bite of the north winds and to maximise the sunlight. Until the 1990’s Farnham was distinguishable by its avenue of mature beech trees; the replacement trees are now well established despite the rigours of modern traffic.
Like many other villages, Farnham no longer has a shop or school. It does however have a popular pub – the Museum Inn – in the centre of the village, a children’s playground and the parish church which is set slightly above the village. The village noticeboard just outside the playground proves to be a popular starting point for many country walks, taking in the Rushmore Estate, and The Museum is always busy especially at weekends.