The parish of Fifehead Magdalen has an area of 973 acres and lies on the N. bank of the R. Stour. The northern and central parts occupy a ridge of Corailian Limestone, rising to 32Oft.above sea level. Below the ridge the land is Oxford Clay, inclined E. and S. to the Stour and W. to its tributary the Cale. The two rivers flow together at the S.W. corner of the parish, 17Oft. above sea-level. The village stands on the ridge, the houses flanking a street which runs W. from the parish church. Manor Farm and Middle Farm, beyond the W. end of the street, are on Clay and appear to represent an extension of settlement from the original nucleus, presumably following enclosure of the open fields. Manor Farm (8) has a late 16th-century house, indicating that enclosure occurred at that period, or earlier.
(1) THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY MAGDALEN has walls of squared and coursed rubble with ashlar dressings, and stone-slated roofs. The Chancel, Nave and South Tower are of 14th-century origin. The North Chapel appears to have been designed as a setting for monument (ii) and therefore in its present form is presumably of c.1750; the wording of monument (iii), however, implies that it replaces a chapel or burial vault of 1693. The church was restored in 1905 (Faculty, Sarum Dioc. Regy.).
The E. window of the Chancel is modern. In the N. wall, a vertical joint on the E. of the N. chapel indicates the position of a former window. The opening to the N. chapel has a chamfered segmental arch of rubble springing from chamfered imposts on lightly chamfered jambs. Further W. is a blocked window with a segmental rear-arch, of uncertain date. In the S. wall are two restored 15th-century windows, each of two cinquefoil-headed lights in a hollow-chamfered square-headed surround; between them is a 14th-century doorway with a chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs; the rear-arch is two-centred and chamfered.
The North Chapel has walls of ashlar and of coursed rubble with plain square plinths. Internally, a moulded trefoil wall-arch at the head of the gabled N wall springs from shaped corbels, forming a recess for the Newman monument (ii). In the W. wall is a square-headed window with a moulded surround, probably of the 17th century, reset.
The Nave has, on the E., a two-centred chancel arch of one order, lightly chamfered, the chamfers continuing on the jambs and ending at broach stops. A straight joint in the N. spandrel is probably the jamb of a former rood-loft doorway. The N. wall has been extensively restored. At the E. end is a modern buttress; at the centre is a 14th-century buttress of two weathered stages; at the W. end is a small modern buttress of old masonry reused. The window at the E. end of the N. wall, with a chamfered round head and a wooden lintel in place of a rear-arch, is of the 17th century; further W. is a restored 15th-century window of two cinquefoil-headed lights in a square-headed casement-moulded surround; the western window is of 14th-century origin, with two ogee-headed lights under tracery in a square-headed surround; the heads and the tracery are modern. The S. wall has, on the E., a rebuilt buttress of two weathered stages on a plinth which suggests that the original buttress was larger than at present. At the S.W. corner is a modern angle-buttress in which each wing is capped with reset 15th-century weathering. Of the two windows between the E. buttress and the S. tower, that on the E. is similar to the western-nost opening in the N. wall; that on the W. is similar to those in the S. wall of the chancel. The S. doorway is of the late 14th century and has a chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs; the rear-arch is segmental and chamfered. The western part of the S. wall has been rebuilt above window-sill level, with a restored and reset 15th-century window of two cinquefoil-headed lights. The W. wall has a 15th- century window of three cinquefoil-headed lights, with vertical tracery in a casement-moulded two-centred head with continuous jambs; the head and tracery have been renewed. At the N. end of the W. wall is a modern square-set buttress with reset 15th-century weathering.
The South Tower is of two stages, with moulded string-courses and an embattled parapet; the upper stage was rebuilt in 1905. In the lower stage, the Porch archway has a chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs; above is a modern trefoil-headed loop. The vice turret is modern.
BELLS: three, treble by John Wallis with inscription 'Prayse God IW 1595'; 2nd by Thomas Purdue, inscribed 'Anno Domini 1683 EG TM CW TP'; tenor inscribed 'ave maria' in black-letter, Salisbury foundry, 15th century.
CHANDELIERS: four, of brass, with globular pendants supporting two tiers of sconces on scrolled arms, with vase-shaped upper and gadrooned lower finials; 18th century.
CHAIR: of oak, with turned front legs, enriched rails, shaped arm-rests, panelled back with flower enrichment and large fleur-de-lis in central lozenge, and scroll-cresting; 17th century.
CHEST: of oak, with panelled sides; late 18th century.
CHURCHYARD CROSS: S.E. of chancel, with chamfered stone base with shafted angles, 15th century, reset on modern plinth and with modern shaft and head.
COFFIN STOOLS: two.of oak, with turned legs and enriched rails; 17th century.
COMMUNI0N TABLE: of oak, with turned legs, enriched rails and plain stretchers; late 17th century, top modern.
DOORS: two; one in S. doorway, of oak planks hinged at centre, with enriched border and cover-fillets and two-centred head; planks carved with letters WTB, OIT, each letter occupying shield-shaped recess or boss, and 1637 in sunk panel; another in porch archway, with plain boards and beaded fillets, late 17th century.
FONT: with octagonal stone bowl with two trefoil-headed panels on each face, 15th century, on gadrooned and fluted baluster-shaped pedestal, with moulded octagonal base and cable moulding at top; early 18th century.
FONT-COVER: of oak, octagonal, with turned finial, 18th century.
(i) in N. chapel, reset on E. wall, of Thomas Newman, 1649 [actually 1602] and his son Richard, 1664, marble tablet in segmental-headed moulded stone surround, surmounted by three cartouches-of-arms of Newman; tablet, 17th century, surround probably 18th century.
(ii) in N. chapel, on N. wall, of Sir Richard Newman Bart., 1721 his wife Frances, 1730, his son Samwell, 1747, and his daughters, Frances, 1775, Barbara, 1763, and Elizabeth, 1774, large wall monument of white, grey, pink and yellow marbles, ,with busts of Sir Richard, his wife and his son, medallions of his daughters, foliate brackets, wreaths, inscription tablet, cartouche and obelisk-shaped back-plate; voids left in inscription for dates after 1747, subsequently filled in, hence monument probably c.1750.
(iii) in N. chapel, reset on W. wall, of Richard Newman, 1683, stone tablet recording transfer of coffin, 1693.
(iv) in nave, on N. wall, of George Davidge, 1772, his wife Joan, 1759, their children John, 1744, Hester, 1758, George, 1772; tablet in stone surround with enriched architrave and entablature, and broken segmental pediment with urn finial.
(v) in churchyard, 10 paces S. of chancel, of Maximilian Marsh, 1642, table-tomb.
(vi) in churchyard, 12 paces S.W. of porch, of 'Thomas Newman, 1668, table-tomb.
(vii) adjacent to the foregoing, table-tomb, anonymous.
NICHE: in S. porch, in E. wall, rectangular recess with segmental head, probably mediaeval.
PISCINA: in chancel, in S. wall, 14th-century stone bowl with quatrefoil sinking, in square recess with chamfered two-centred head.
PLATE: includes Elizabethan silver cup and cover-paten with assay marks of 1573, and the same date inscribed on cover paten; also silver paten of 1822.
ROYAL ARMS: in relief, gilded, late 18th-century.
MISCELLANEA: cherub head with wings, carved in softwood, 18th century.
(2) BRIDGE (79012061), over the Stour, of coursed rubble with two elliptical arches, dates probably from the late 18th or early 19th century. (1993 note: TRILL BRIDGE).
(3) BRIDGE (76702014) over the Stour, of coursed rubble with two main arches and two susidiary arches for floodwater, all round-headed, is of the first half of the 19th century. (1993 note: REDBRIDGE, on Courts Hill opposite Factory Farm).
(4) INSCRIPTION (75911999), on a stone built into a modern bridge over the Cale, 'Here Ends the Stalbridge Road', is of the late 18th century. (1993 note: On CALE BRIDGE, beyond Factory Farm).
(5) FIFEHEAD HOUSE (78362161), some 50yds. S.E. of (1), was demolished in 1964; it was of three storeys, with ashlar walls and slate-covered roofs. It was built in 1807 and had a class-U plan. The E. front was symmetrical and of three bays, with large sashed windows in each storey and with an elliptical- headed central doorway sheltered by a portico with four unfluted Corinthian columns and an enriched entablature. The ground-floor windows flanking the doorway were set in shallow segmental-headed recesses. A slender plat-band marked the first floor; an entablature above the second-floor windows had a triglyph frieze and a moulded cornice capped by a low parapet wall; the corners of the facade had rusticated quoins. The N. and S. elevations of the main building were each of three bays, with architectural details as described; the W. elevation was masked by a two-storey service range. Inside, the principal rooms had ceilings with enriched plaster cornices, doorways with moulded and reeded surrounds, and carved marble chimneypieces. The open-string stairs had balustrades with panels of foliate trellis-work in cast lead, set between plain iron uprights; the handrails were of mahogany.
(6) THE VICARAGE (78052152), about 275yds. W. of (1) is of two storeys and has rubble walls, in part rendered, with ashlar dressings, and a thatched roof; it is probably of 17th-century origin, with 18th-century alterations and enlargement. The 18th-century S. front is of six bays, with a plain string-course at first-floor level and with plain quoins at the S.E. and S.W. corners, that on the S.W. partly obliterated. The lower storey has four french windows and two two-light casement windows, all with moulded stone architraves. The upper storey has six uniform two-light casement windows. A wing projecting northwards at the E. end of the S. range has a heavy stone quoin, indicating that this part of the house is of earlier date than the S. range. The N.W. wing is of the 18th century. Inside the house, some chamfered and stop-chamfered beams are exposed. (1993 note: THE OLD RECTORY).
(7) MIDDLE FARM (77662125), house, of two storeys with rubble walls and tile-covered roofs, was built on an L-shaped plan in the 17th century. The S. front is approximately symmetrical and of three bays, with a central doorway with a chamfered four-centred head, and casement windows of two, three and four square-headed lights with rebated and hollow-chamfered stone surrounds; the windows in the lower storey have labels. The N.E. wing was added late in the 18th century. Inside, the S. range has a central through-passage flanked by moulded plank-and-muntin partitions.
(8) MANOR FARM (77472114), house of two storeys with rubble walls and tiled roofs, is probably of late 16th-century origin. The N. front is of four bays, with stone windows of two, three and four square-headed lights, with moulded labels in the lower storey. The doorway is square-headed, with stout timber posts and lintel. A small round-headed mezzanine window near the E. end of the N. front, now blocked, indicates the position of an original staircase. In the western part of the S. elevation is a stone doorway with a moulded four-centred head, continuous jambs with run-out stops, a moulded square surround, and small blank shields in the spandrels. Elsewhere, the S. elevation has three-light and four-light windows uniform with those of the N. front. Internally the original plan has been obliterated, but the entrance vestibule retains the ends of truncated, heavily moulded beams and wall-plates.
(9) COTTAGE (77492117), of two storeys with rubble walls and a thatched roof, is of the early 17th century. The N. front has casement windows of two and three lights with plain timber surrounds and leaded glazing. Inside, the plan is a variant of class F, with two ground-floor rooms instead of three; the S. part of the through-passage has been turned into a store room. The living room, on the W., has a chamfered beam with moulded stops and chamfered wall-plates; the open fireplace has a cambered and chamfered bressummer. (1993 note: Until 1992 MANOR FARM COTTAGE - now MY LADY'S COTTAGE).
(10) COTTAGE (77312109), of two storeys with rubble walls and a thatched roof, is of the 17th century. Although the building was at one time divided into two tenements it appears originally to have been a single dwelling with a class-F plan. The living room has an open fireplace with a chamfered, four- centred timber bressummer and chamfered stone jambs, and a ceiling of four panels formed by deeply chamfered intersecting beams and wall-plates. (1993 note: THE LONG HOUSE).
(11) LOWER FARM (76582041), of three storeys, with ashlar and rubble walls and slate-covered roofs, dates from the early part of the 19th century and probably is the property advertised in the 'Salisbury Journal' on 6th February, 1826, as A'Court's Mill, a newly erected flour and grist mill with a dwelling house adjoining. The S.W. and N.E. fronts are uniform, each being symmetrical and of three bays with a central doorway and large segmental-headed sashed windows; plain plat-bands occur at first-floor level. The corners are defined by rusticated quoins, and the eaves have brick dentil cornices. A two-storey wing on the S.E. has a lean-to roof masked by swept parapets; the details of the wing are similar to those of the main building. Single-storeyed outbuildings extend the range to S.W. and S.E. (1993 note: FACTORY FARM).
(12) POST OFFICE (78122151), a single-storeyed cottage with dormer-windowed attics, with rubble walls and a slate-covered roof is probably of the late 18th century.
(13) THE VILLA (78232151), a two-storeyed house with rubble walls and a slate-covered roof and with a symmetrical N. front of three bays with a central doorway and segmental-headed casement windows, is of the mid 19th century. (1993 note: HOME FARM).
(14) COTTAGES (77952150 and 77822134), two two-storeyed, with rubble walls and thatched roofs, are of the first half of the 19th century. (1993 note: MANDY COTTAGE and KEEPER'S COTTAGE respectively).
MEDIAEVAL AND LATER EARTHWORKS
(15) CULTIVATION REMAINS. The date of enclosure of the open fields is unknown, but it appears to have taken place by the end of the 16th century since Manor Farm (8) came into existence after the enclosure. Air photographs show that ridge-and-furrow of the fields formerly extended over much of the southern half of the parish (R.A.F. CPE/UK 1925: 1311-12). It was arranged in furlongs, sometimes with reversed-S curves.