THE THOUGHT of Siegfried Sassoon, fellow First World War poet Edmund Blunden and T.E.Lawrence sitting down together for lunch at the house of the late William Barnes before a trip to the Hardys for tea is enough to spark the interest of any literary enthusiast.

The intriguing encounter is just one of a whole host of fascinating stories uncovered by Sedley Proctor when he began researching the history of Old Came Rectory, just outside Dorchester at Winterborne Came.

The fruits of Sedley’s labour are short book Old Came Rectory - A Guide, which is packed with tale after tale from the life of the multi-talented Dorset dialect poet Barnes and the house where he spent more than 20 years.

Sedley was inspired to write something about Old Came Rectory by the enthusiasm of old family friend Warren Davis, who lives in the property today and has worked hard to preserve the intriguing history of the house.

Barnes, who served as rector at St Peter’s Church in Winterborne Came, moved into the rectory in 1962 and lived there until his death in 1986.

Sedley says his book touches not just on Barnes’ renowned poetry but also on his many other interests and talents, such as philology – he knew as many as 70 languages and translated poems from Persian – as well as engraving and his role as an enlightened school educator.

During his time at Came, Barnes welcomed a host of visitors as the literary fame of the ‘half hermit, half enchanter’ grew.

As well as regular encounters with near neighbour Thomas Hardy, he welcomed poets Coventry Patmore, William Allingham and Poet Laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Sedley said he was inspired by Barnes’ vision of Old Came Rectory as a ‘rural idyll’ and its appeal to all those who came to see him.

He said: “You have this idea of a rural idyll here, which is something he was promoting in his poetry.”

Sedley said that, while many of the visits to Barnes during his time at Old Came Rectory are well documented, he decided to go further and explore the continued literary links and famous visitors to the home after his death.

One such occasion saw Sassoon and Blunden stay at the rectory as paying guests during the 1920s when they came to the area to see Thomas Hardy.

In his diary Sassoon actually recorded that he stayed in the room where Barnes had passed away.

From the 1930s to the early 1950s, Came Rectory was home to a lady called Bertha Rylands and the literary connections continued as her son Dadie was a leading Shakespeare scholar and theatre director who was an associate to the likes of Virginia Woolf.

The book finishes by looking at what happened to the house in the post-war years and onto when Warren and Phil Leach acquired the property in 1998.

Sedley described the two-and-a-half years he spent working on the book as a ‘labour of love’.

Having spent around 20 years in Italy, where he worked as a translator and a teacher, he said he began work on the book in 2013 as a way of ‘getting myself back into this country’.

He said he was inspired by his friend Warren’s passion for Barnes and the rectory, which he found infectious, as what was intended to be a short piece grew and grew.

He said: “You have these snippets of history here which I just find fascinating.”

The book is illustrated with a series of old photographs and images and is designed to be easily digestible and point people towards areas of further research, rather than present as an all-encompassing, weighty tome.

He said: “It’s written in a user-friendly style telling the story of the house, what happened and who came here, but if you want to do more research you have got all the notes so you can go away and look it up for yourself.”

The book is due to be stocked at the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre and is currently available from Westbourne Bookshop in Bournemouth and Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne.

• Sedley also hopes the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester will take the book and is looking to get it on Amazon.