Yetminster is a lovely village, situated on the River Wriggle and built almost entirely of honey coloured limestone, and is well worth visiting. Its sleepy, old fashioned atmosphere is at least partly due to the lack of through traffic. Many of the houses date back to the 17th century. In spite of this, the village is quite accessible. The railway station is just a few steps from the centre.
Turn right from the Railway Inn towards the village centre. The well stocked Oak House Store (stop and try the cheese or indulge in locally produced cakes and biscuits) is at the hub of village life. From here continue along the street to the village Post Office which doubles as a tourist information point - next door to an excellent butchers.
Six times every day the bells of the Minster of St. Andrew chime the National Anthem. These bells belong to a faceless clock, which is three hundred years old. However, the chimes were installed to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. There must be someone in the village who is a true loyalist as it is necessary to climb to the belfry each day to wind the movements.
Yetminster Fair claims to be one of the oldest in Dorset. It was started in the 13th century, when a charter granted to the Bishop of Salisbury for a fair to be held in “his manor of Yetminster”. This large is held on the second Saturday of each July.
The village has another, rather curious, claim to fame. Apparently, it is where the first recorded vaccination against smallpox took place, well before the time of Jenner.
A farmer, Benjamin Jesty, lived in Yetminster with his family in 1774. During that year smallpox raged in the area. Benjamin was immune to the disease, as he had recovered from smallpox as a child, but he feared for the health of his wife and family. He was aware of the belief that people who had earlier caught the milder disease of cowpox did not catch the much more serious disease of smallpox. At this time, the Jesty’s had two dairymaids, both of whom had previously had cowpox. Although they both nursed others with smallpox during the epidemic, neither contracted the disease.
Apparently Benjamin reasoned that someone who was deliberately given cowpox might well be immune from smallpox. He therefore resolved to infect his family with cowpox with a procedure that was later to become known as vaccination. As there was an outbreak of the milder disease at a nearby farm, Benjamin took his family there. He took the pus from a cow’s udder and inserted this in the arms of his wife and children, by first scratching them with a needle.