The church, near the largely restored castle in a parkland setting, must be regarded as one of the really great treasures of Dorset. It was built in 1786–7, to a design by John Tasker. This exceptionally pleasing, but most unusual building, has its origins in the fact that it was the first Roman Catholic church to be built after the Reformation and since the religion was still almost illegal, Thomas Weld, the landowner, had to seek the permission of King George III. The King gave his consent provided he built something that did not look like a church, hence this rather house-like structure. After an inspection in 1789, it received His Majesty's approval.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©
Although one commentator has suggested it looks like an oversize garden temple from one direction and like a house from another, in reality the whole has been most skillfully moulded into one truly homogeneous structure, completely discharging Mr. Weld’s obligation to the King. This came at a cost of £2,380, which would have been a fortune at the time.
On either side of the simple entrance are Tuscan columns, which perhaps hint quietly at something spectacular inside. One is certainly not disappointed because, after passing through the apsidal porch, one is met by a sensational interior. There is a feeling of peaceful lightness largely brought about by the high domed roof with its recently re-worked mural and the pastel colour of the walls. Windows on either side allow daylight to stream in. Yet it is the altar with its kneeling angels, which is the immediate focus of attention. This, together with the crucifix and candlesticks were designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and made in Rome. More Tuscan columns abound and there are galleries on three sides, one of which houses the small, but elaborate organ, originally built in 1785 by Richard Seede of Bristol for the castle. The pale green coloured pews are open in design and are cleverly inconspicuous as a result.
Recently, two chairs in memory of Sir Joseph and Lady Weld and made by John Makepeace of Parnham, Dorset have been placed on either side of the altar area.
The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Claire Dutton of Lulworth Estate for the assistance received in the preparation of this entry.