CRANBORNE

St. Mary and St. Bartholomew

This is an ancient town that once had a market and a parish of 13,000 acres, the largest in Dorset.  These facts alone would have been enough to guarantee a big and impressive church, however the present building has its origins in monasticism.  The Abbey of Cranborne was established as a Benedictine House in 980 by Aylward Sneaw (Snow) who made the Abbey of Tewkesbury, where he was also patron, subordinate.  As a result of an insubordination by a descendant to Queen Matilda, wife of the Conqueror, the estates were given to William Rufus, who gave then to the Patron of Tewkesbury.  In 1102 the Abbot of Cranborne and 57 monks were removed to Tewkesbury and Cranborne  became just a cell and Priory.  The monastic buildings were demolished in 1703.

The oldest part of the present building is the Norman doorway in the north porch: about 1120.  The church was rebuilt in the 13c and the nave has some very notable murals.  The superb wagon roof was entirely renewed in 1958.  The tower was built in 1440, probably at the expense of the Duke of York, and contains eight bells.  The chancel was rebuilt in 1875. 

The chancel screen, the reredos in the Lady chapel and the tower screen were carved  by Rev. F.H.Fisher, who was vicar from 1888 to 1910.  Note on the south wall a memorial to John Tregonwell, who lived at Cranborne Lodge, subsequently retiring to a 'farm on the coast where a small stream runs into the sea'.  From this grew the town of Bournemouth.

The oak pulpit bears the monogram 'T.P', which stood for Thomas Parker, who was the Abbot of Tewkesbury and Cranborne 1381-1421.  The octagonal Purbeck marble font is 13c.  Note on the north side, the delightful monument to a schoolboy who rests his elbow on a skull and holds a posy of flowers.