St. Mary


The church stands below a line of hills from where, tradition has it, 'The Conjurer Mintern', a C17 local squire is supposed to have jumped over the tower on his horse, knocking off one of its pinnacles as he went! True or not the splendid C15 tower has been repaired. The nave with a wagon roof, attractive stone screen and chancel arch are all C15 although there was a restoration by John Hicks in 1864. The small round font is Norman.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer Hackett

Beer hackBeer Hackett

St. Michael

This little church was rebuilt by Crickmay in 1882, probably replacing a medieval building.  In 1897 the tower was added by Ponting.









The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Bishops Caundle

Bincombe1.jpgBishops Caundle

Unknown Dedication

This a most attractive roadside church serving the village around it. The tower and nave are C15, although the nave was restored in 1864 by W. Slater. The chancel is 1300 in origin, but that too was altered and restored at the same time.

There is a Victorian carved stone reredos and a C15 octagonal font. The large memorial of 1815 commemorates the Daubeney and Herbert families. Note also Charles II's coat of arms dated 166, just one year after the Restoration - see also Trent.

Other Dorset churches by Slater are: Chetnole, Oborne (new church), Pentridge, Sherborne Abbey (in partnership with R.C.Carpenter).








Bradford Abbas

Bradford AbbBradford Abbas

St. Mary the Virgin

Bradford Abbas must rank as one of Dorset's most important village churches.  This is a largely 15c building with a magnificent embattled and pinnacle west tower with many niches, two still having the original figures.  Close to the tower is the remains of a 15c preaching cross.

The exact origins of this church are unknown, but according to the excellent guide book, when St Aldhelm became the Bishop of Sherborne in 705, his policy was to encourage churches in the nearby villages and this may have been one of them. Certainly, the present building was started by William Bradford, Abbot of Sherborne (1436 - 59).  Originally, there would have three altars in addition to the high altar.  By 1828 when a new incumbent was installed, he had to report that the building was in a sorry state with the roof leaking so badly that it could not be used in wet weather.  By 1848, things had improved and the seating increased by 183.  The wall above the rood screen and the box pews were removed in 1848.  In 1890 the roofs were completely repaired and the internal walls stripped of their plaster and re-pointed with the grim grey seen today.  The vestry was added in 1911.

The chancel screen is 15c.  The pulpit is good example of Jacobean craftsmanship and dated 1623.  There is a superb 16c font carried on four pillars decorated with the figures of Aldhelm, the first Bishop of Sherborne, Bishop Osmund of the 11c, Richard Beauchamp and John the Baptist.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©




St Peter and St Paul


The village of Cattistock has a history reputedly reaching back before the reign of the King Athelstan (924-39), who was the first recorded king of England and who gave the settlement to Milton Abbey.  Now it is a peaceful and quintessentially English village with delightfully rural architecture clustered around the triangular centre.  However,  dominating this and the scene for miles around stands George Gilbert Scott jnr's supremely elegant church tower.

The monks of Milton Abbey built a church here in C12, although nothing is now left of that structure.  The present building is essentially Victorian, although the north transept was rebuilt in 1630 by the Rev. John Mayo, with the exception of the Arts and Crafts glazing in the east window, depicting St Dorothy, which is from 1923.  The church is unique in Dorset ecclesiastical design, being the result of a very talented son adding to his father's work.  The nave, south aisle and chancel were entirely rebuilt in 1857 by the eminent London architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78).  When he arrived there was a gallery that extended for a third of the length of the nave and is said to have given the area a "forlorn appearance", so he removed it and installed a new west window, known as the Jesse window.  The Rev. Henry Hughes paid for all Scott's work.  The south aisle is also by Scott snr. and contains some very important stained glass windows. One window, erected in 1882 in memory of Mrs Digby, is by William Morris and Sir Edward Burne Jones and another is by Hardiman.  The south transept Lady chapel is lined with C17 wood paneling and was endowed by the Strodes of Chantmarle. The baptistry is perhaps the most memorable area, it is dominated by the truly magnificent 20 ft high font cover, designed by Scott junior's assistant and successor, Temple Moore, and installed in 1901-6.  The walls are lavishly decorated with a 1901 mural of St George and the Dragon by W O & C Powell.

The organ of 1869 is by F W Walker of London.  The octagonal pulpit, adorned by figures of the Apostles in Caen stone, is constructed from Ham Hill stone supported on four columns of Serpentine marble.  The oak lectern of 1922 features a Pelican pecking her breast, a symbol of Christ sacrificing himself for man.

Outside, the building is dominated by Scott junior's superb tower of 1872, which was paid for by the Rector, Rev Keith Henry Barnes. It was his first major church brief and the structure rises to 100 ft. It was designed to accommodate a baptistry in the base with a ringing chamber above, a clock chamber above that and a carillon chamber at the top.  It proved to be stunningly expensive. From an original estimate of £2,700, it rose in cost to £6,046 when it was completed in 1876.  The clock was certainly designed to be seen from a great distance because it had a face which was almost the entire width of the tower and has been described as being not much smaller than Big Ben!  However the 35 bell carillon, which was regularly played to the great delight of people who came from far and wide was lost when the tower was consumed by a fire in 1940.  The bells melted and the whole structure had to be pulled down.  It was rebuilt in 1950 using Scott junior's original design by the Arts and Craft architect J.S. Brockerley, although, sadly, there was not enough insurance money to replace the carillon. This is one of the finest examples of a C19 church in Dorset and handsomely repays a visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges basis of text by Robin Adeney and Drone Photography by Richard Noble 2018  © DHCT 2018

Caundle Marsh

Caundle Marsh

St. Peter and St. Paul

This simple chapel style church, enhanced by a central bellcote, was built in 1857 to a design by R. H. Shout of Yeovil.  The wooden porch is particularly worthy of note.  There is a grave and monument to General Fox-Pitt, who was a co-founder of the Welsh Guards and lived nearby at Marsh Court.









The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©




St. Peter

Like many village churches Chetnole's has evolved over the centuries, but somehow the result here is exceptionally pleasing.  As you approach you are confronted with a magnificent C15 tower with a working clock and some intriguing gargoyles.  

The nave is C13 with a wooden barrel roof and one original lancet window.  The chancel and north aisle are by Slater (1859 - 65).  There is a most attractive, if tiny, organ in the chancel.

This is a delightful little church.






The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



Holy Trinity

Chilfrome is a delightful little hamlet set amidst water meadows.  There is no intrusion by modern buildings, almost as if all development ceased in 19c.

In the chancel arch of the little church there is evidence of an earlier building of 13c, but nothing else remains in this Victorian rebuild of 1852.  Inside it is a pleasing composition with a stone pulpit, accessed through the chancel arch and corbels sculpted into angels by the eminent Dorset craftsman Benjamin Grassby, who was responsible for some of the very best work in the county.*

(*For some other examples see Long BredyNorth PoortonEast Holme)




 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. Mary

There has been a church in this delightful setting since, at least 1315, when the list of known vicars was started.  None of the original structure remains because it was entirely rebuilt in 15c.  Of this work only the west tower, three bays of the south arcade, the north porch and parts of the north wall survive.

In 1746, in common with many others, the building was found to be badly decayed and the whole was repaired and the vestry rebuilt at the expense of one Thomas Hollis.  By 1876 the church was once again in a sorry state and was rebuilt and expanded by extending the nave eastwards and enlarging the chancel and south aisle.  These works were to a design by Mr Allen of Crewkerne and mostly paid for by George Troyte-Chaffyn-Grove.

Note on the list of Rectors William Grey, who in 1512 was only 21 years old and had to have a dispensation from the Pope.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


East Chelborough/Lewcombe

East Chelborough/Lewcombe

St. James

St. James'  is one of those Dorset churches which is awkward to find, but well worth the effort.  This one is buried away at the end of a very long drive and adjacent to a private house.

At just 38 x 15 feet it is very small and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner thought it dated partly early 16c and  partly early 18c.  However, by far the most striking feature is the huge circular window that dominates the east wall.  This is a veritable regiment of angels shown from a variety of angles and records a death in 1893, so the glass is Victorian although the wood surrounding the lower half is clearly 18c.  Another smaller circular window adorns the rear of the building below the bellcote.  Interestingly and unusually,  the font has been placed in front the communion rails and is clearly 18c.  There is no formal pulpit, but there is a small three decker clergy pew.  The organ is generous for such a small building.

In all a tranquil and delightful place.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©




St Osmond

Evershot is a settlement that seem too large to be a village yet really too small to be called a town.  It must have grown in importance with the coming of the nearby railway during the 19c.  The main street is generous and replete with the famous Acorn Inn, called 'The Sow & Acorn' by Thomas Hardy in 'Tess of the d'Urbevilles'.  At the higher end of the road, overlooking the houses is the church.

The original building to stand on the site was Norman, erected during the reign of Richard I (Coeur de Lion 1186-99).  The only elements to survive are part of the tower arch and the chancel arch, which was rebuilt between the north aisle and the organ chamber during the 19c restoration.  The present structure is essentially Perpendicular (1335-1530) and of great character, but the Victorians felt obliged to twice improve it in 1852-3 and again in 1864, both to designs by the Yeovil based architect, R H Shout*.  The walls of the organ chamber are lined with Ham stone ashlars and the exquisite corbels were sculpted by Benjamin Grassby   The embattled tower has a curious stair turret with a clock just below what Sir Nikolaus Pevsner describes as a "domical top and spire".  The clock, a gift from the third Earl of Ilchester in 1853, was designed by E. B. Dennison, who designed Big Ben, and made by E. J. Dent who was clockmaker to the Queen. The font is Norman, although the pedestal and wooden cover are Victorian.

Perhaps the most important item in the building is the small brass on the north side of the chancel, which is a memorial to William Grey, who was the rector here from 1511 to 1524.  Known as a 'Chaliced Priest', this is a rare example of a brass because he is shown actually holding a chalice.

This is a most attractive and very interesting church.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges the basis of text by Robin Adeney and Drone Photograph by Richard Noble.  DHCT © 2018



St. Lawrence

There is a trace of a Saxon door in the tower, but the first real reference is of 1292, when mention is made of the building being a chapel belonging to the Mother Church at Sherborne.  By 1405 it was described as being dependent on that church.  However, this fascinating Gothic Survival (not Revival) church was completely rebuilt in 1628 and sits at the end of a quiet lane, in a very peaceful setting, adjacent to a mellow manor house.  The plan is still medieval with an architectural style that leans towards Late Perpendicular.  There was a rebuild in 1875 of both the arcades and the crenellated parapets were added externally.

The wonderful furnishings owe much to classical influence and are designed for Prayer Book worship.  There are pews with shell top ends and a magnificent wooden screen surmounted by a great scroll, with a smaller one at the entrance to the north aisle.  The pulpit has an hour glass stand.  There is an interesting lectern, which is just a desk attached to the screen.  Note the small scrolled font with a lavish later cover.  In a glass case, there is an amazing wooden chain of 769 single links and cross, all carved from a single piece of lime wood by the Rev Wm Mayo, a past incumbent.

This delightful church will enchant anyone interested in beautiful wooden objects.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges basis of text by Robin Adeney  and Drone Photograph by Richard Noble © DHCT 2018

Frome St. Quintin

Alton St. Pancras

From St.Quintin

This must be almost unique in Dorset because the church, which is surrounded by a hedge, is in the corner of a field with no road access to it. 

Like so many English villages, the origins of Frome St Quintin are lost in the mists of time. Hutchins records "on a hill in the parish, the ground marks an old encampment".

Certainly, the village and the surrounding land formed part of a royal estate in Norman times, being held by Queen Mathilda, wife of William the Conqueror. In the Doomsday Book it appears as Litelfrome but by the end of the twelfth century it was held by Herbert de St. Quintin, one of King Richard the Lionheart's powerful barons, from whom its present name derives. The mediaeval patrons were the Abbots of Tewksbury and the list of incumbents begins in 1132. Tradition has it that the original village surrounded this delightful little building, but was depopulated as a result of the Black Death, leaving the church isolated.

.The doorway which leads to the vestry beneath the tower is partly twelfth century, whilst the nave and chancel are C13. The surprisingly short tower was added in the fourteenth century and the chancel arch rebuilt about 1400. The south main entrance porch is C15. The various windows reflect these periods. The octagonal font with a cylindrical stem and chamfered base is C12. The church was restored in 1881, with the result that many of its features are late Victorian. Note the splendid oil lamps. The mediaeval altar is of Purbeck marble, repolished and with five more recent crosses, whilst the window above it, depicting the Nativity , is Victorian, as is the carving of the Last Supper. 

 This enchanting little church has a stunning barrel roof and an aisle that dramatically rises towards the chancel and hugely rewards a visit. 

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Linda Williams for the assistance received in the preparation of these notes.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Frome Vauchurch

Bradford AbbFrome Vauchurch

St. Francis

This little hamlet, close to the river Frome, is almost a 'suburb' of the much larger village of Maiden Newton.  The church is placed end-on to the road so that the little bell turret is the first thing that greets one.  It is surrounded by a surprisingly large churchyard containing an impressive sundial.

The building is almost entirely Norman, with just a Victorian chancel added.  The Jacobean pulpit is an important feature and especially interesting because access to it is through an aperture in the chancel arch.  The interior is very intimate and really charming.  

The font is 13c. Note the moving painting of the Crucifixion on the north wall of the nave.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Glanvilles Wooton

Bradford AbbGlanvilles Wooton

St. Mary the Virgin

The earliest part of this delightful little church is the 1344 chantry chapel, which was endowed so a priest would say mass for the departed every day for ever.  The tower was added a little later.  However the building seen today is the result of a major rebuild by the Victorians to a design by G.R.Crickmay 1875 - 76.  There are two modern clergy stalls by Robert Thompson of Kilbury, Yorkshire, known as The Mouse Man because all his work is decorated with a carved mouse.






The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Bradford AbbHalstock

St. Mary

This is a very interesting country church built from local rubble.  The oldest part is the C15 tower with its five bells.  The nave is to the design of the celebrated Victorian architect, Augustus Pugin, and completed around 1845-6.  In 1872, further alterations were made to the chancel.  The chapel in the north aisle was given by the rector, Rev. Irving, in 1959 and dedicated to the Saxon saint St. Juthware.  The tradition is that she carried her head to the altar after being beheaded and is the inspiration for some of the Dorset 'Quiet Woman' pub signs.

The corbel stones are exceptionally plain for a Victorian build and it has been suggested that they were left like that in anticipation of decoration by a stone carver.  Perhaps the money ran out? 





The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Bradford AbbHaydon

St. Catherine

This is a rather forlorn building just outside the southern gates of Sherborne Castle.  Pevsner says it was built in 1883 to a design by Carpenter and Ingelow who were also responsible for North Wooton and a memorial to George Wingfield Digby in Sherborne.













The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Bradford AbbHermitage

St. Mary

This church is in a most attractive and peaceful setting adjacent to an 18c farmhouse.  As is often the case, the origins are obscure, but it is certain that in the 14c there were a group of hermit friars here following the rule of St Augustine and enjoying the patronage of King Edward I (1239-1307).  By 1460 the friars had gone and it had become a free chapel with its own priest.  In 1514 it was annexed to Cerne Abbey and after the Dissolution of the Monasteries it became a perpetual curacy under the Crown.  This arrangement continued until 1935 when the then Prince of Wales (later to be Edward VIII) transferred the Hermitage and Hilfield Village School to the people so that it could be used as a Village Hall.

The present church was extensively restored during the 17c and rebuilt in 1800.  There was once a tower at the west end, which included a room to house the curate and there was a chamber over the porch which accommodated a bell and wood for his fire.  The single bell in the stone bell-turret is dated 1795 although the bell-wheel was rebuilt in 1990.  

During the Second World War (1939-45) several pictures from the Bournemouth Art Gallery were hung in the church to reduce the risk of damage from bombs.  The small picture in the nave was a gift in memory of the assistance given.  To the right of the altar, note the very sensitive Madonna and Child.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackHolnest

St. Michael

This little church lies almost all alone in a large graveyard on the western side of the main Dorchester to Sherborne road.  The village it served has largely vanished.  It has not always been so for Sir Frederick Treves reports in his 'Highways and Byeways in Dorset', first published in 1906, that there was a huge mausoleum, "of marvellous hideousness" erected by a local squire.  This squire was clearly rather hung-up about death because he used to make his staff practice his funeral arrangements, including the full procession, on a regular basis!  There is nothing left of the building now.

The church is delightful with a short tower and a variety of roof shapes.  The experts seem to be coy about the dates of this building, although it is mainly C15 and the chancel is definitely 1855.  Inside, the most important feature is the charming white painted box pews with a unique (for Dorset) curved candle sconce above each.  There is a Jacobean pulpit and C13 font.



 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackLeigh

St Andrew

The hamlet of Leigh rests on Oxford clay and it is a feature of this soil that settlements tend to be small with several quite scattered farms.  Another feature of clay is the width allowed between hedges, which is usually much wider than on better draining soils.  This was because before the days of a metalled surface to roads a greater area was needed to avoid becoming completely bogged down in wet weather.

The church, like so many in Dorset, still has its C15 tower replete with some splendid gargoyles.  The nave and chancel are the result of a Victorian restoration in 1840.  This was to a design by R J Withers of Sherborne, whose only other recorded churches are St Nicholas at Hilfield and St Mary at Melbury Bubb. There is an impressive bench end probably dating from C16 and a good font.

Leigh is also famous for its miz maze.  Centuries ago, these were a common place amusement and consisted of an intricate arrangement of low banks and trenches, through which local lads would wander at certain seasons of the year.  Nothing now survives apart from a low bank and ditch.  It is very small.  Other examples can be found at Pimperne and Troy Town.  The English for maze is "caertroi" and "troi" means "turning".  This must be where Troy Town derives its name.

 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St Martin of Tours

This is an ancient church in a tiny and most attractive hamlet just three miles from Sherborne.  According to Hutchins, the great Dorset historian, it was an out-chapel of Sherborne Abbey at the time of the Domesday Survey (1085) and may well have been a replacement of an even earlier wooden building.  To this day it remains part of the Sherborne benefice.

The present nave dates from the 13c when it was thatched and was entered through a South doorway, complete with a stoup for Holy water.  However, this became redundant and was blocked-up when the small, but rather splendid tower was built in the 15c incorporating a new Western entrance. (Note the scratch dial on the South-West buttress).  Later in the 17c or 18c a new entrance with a porch was built on the North wall, which is what is used today.

Inside and out, there are consecrated crosses cut into the masonry.  During the Middle Ages, it was common to incise twenty-four into a church, three on each internal wall and twelve outside.  The bishop who consecrated the building would anoint each one with the words 'Sanctifecetur hoc templum' (blessed be this church).  This was a visible sign of dedication and a defence against the powers of the Devil.  In this case, the fact that there are both internal and external examples indicate that it was done according to the English Rite and not that of Rome, which only required consecration on the inside. 

Although the nave was built in the 13c, the plastered barrel roof is from the 15c when the thatched roof was removed and replaced with stone tiles, necessitating heavier timbers.  The four bays each have four panels with moulded plates and ribs with carved bosses at the intersections.  (The central bosses are modern).>The chancel is almost certainly 15c, although the upper part of the arch may be 17c or 18c.  The 18c South chapel is now used as a vestry.  The octagonal font is late 15c and has quatrefoil panels on each face, which alternately enclose shields and roses: the wooden cover is 17c. The whole building was sensitively restored in 1848. Next door to the church is a tithe barn of 1600, which has been tastefully converted into a dwelling.

This is a charming little church well worth a visit.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges the basis of text by Robin Adeney and Drone photography by Richard Noble © DHCT 2018


Beer hackLongburton

St. James

The village of Long Burton lies strung out along the main A352 road, a few miles south of Sherborne and the church is situated on the east side of the road.  The building is essentially C15, but the tower is C13.  There is an early C17 north chapel, built as a memorial, which houses two sets of fine table tombs and some exceptional effigies.  These depict Thomas Winston (1609) and Sir John Fitzjames, dressed in armour (1625), together with an identical representation of their respective wives. Inevitably, the building was pulled around by the Victorians who added a north aisle in 1873 (William Farrall).

Above the south doorway there is a royal coat of arms of 1662 with the following inscriptions "Feare thou the Lord and the King and medelle not with them that are given to change" above the arms and below "Curse not the King, noe, not in thy thoughts". These were almost certainly pleas for support from Charles I during the Civil War.

Arthur Mee writes in 'Dorset' that the font is C15.  Note the C17 screens: both originally divided off the north chapel from the chancel. They have now been resited, one in the tower arch and one making a vestry area at the back of the North Aisle.  Both were rescued from the vicarage where they had been dumped by the 'restorers'.

The church is beautifully illuminated at night.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Melbury Osmond

Church imageMelbury Osmond

St. Osmond

This is a very interesting church in a delightful village full of charming thatched cottages and country gardens.  An ancient place, recorded in the Domesday Book, which noted, there was a smith, the only one mentioned in Dorset.

There seems to have been a church here since Domesday because Hutchins refers to the right to appoint the parish priest being held by the Prior of Montacute.  However, the building such, as it was, had been allowed to decay to such an extent that it was almost entirely pulled down in 1745 and a 'new' one erected on the same foundations and paid for by Susanna Strangways Horner.  In 1888 the chancel was rebuilt to a design by Sir Arthur Blomfield, the three-decker pulpit, complete with tester, was reduced to the present rather unimpressive structure and the 5 ft box pews had the doors removed and were also cut down.  It is tempting to call this vandalism, but it was the fashion of the day to indulge in a certain amount of display and you could not be seen in a box pew!  A Mr Roe was the rector responsible for the rebuilding and must have been quite a man.  He was the last to visit on horseback, the last to have a curate, a part-time dentist (he would remove teeth in the rectory dining room!) and would thrash any schoolboy who was too much for the schoolmistress!

The church is entered through the tower, below a most attractive bell ringing chamber of 1955.  The nave is uncomplicated and quite plain, although the wood panelled ceiling is very pleasing. The chancel is more colourful.  It was extended again by Mr. Roe's successor, Herbert Foley Napier, and the reredos and ceiling are the work of his hands. There is a 19c round window of the parable of the Sower placed by an Earl of Ilchester in remembrance of Thomas Elliot, who was a head gardener at Melbury Sampford for 40 years.  The simple font is thought to be Norman.

The author Thomas Hardy's parents, Jemima and Thomas, were married here in 1839.

There is an excellent church guide 'Melbury Osmond - Its Church and People' by Canon John Townsend


 The Trust gratefully acknowledges basis of text by Robin Adeney and Drone Photography by Richard Noble DHCT © 2018

Melbury Sampford

Melbury Stampford

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Nether Compton

Church imageNether Compton

St. Nicholas

By any standard this is an interesting church.  A building has stood here for 700 years, initially almost certainly being served by Benedictine monks from Sherborne Abbey until the first Rector was appointed in 1405.  Also in the 15c the church was enlarged, given a western tower, a northern side chapel and the nave was partly re-built and covered with a barrel roof, becoming more or less as it is today.

Tradition has it that after the Battle of Langport during the English Civil War, Cromwell's troops stabled their horses in the building and "burnt popish furnishings".  (see Corfe Castle)

The 15c stone screen between the nave and chancel is most attractive and nearby there is an excellent example of a stairway and arch once used to service the rood loft.  It is much more common to find these apertures partially or entirely blocked-up.  The barrel roof to the nave has moulded ribs and intriguing carved bosses.  The one shown above is of a human face.  Some of the pews are 17c, although some are modern.  The pulpit is Elizabethan with classic blank arches.  Of particular note are the consecration or 'splash' crosses, which can be found both inside and outside the church.  These indicate the position where Holy water splashed against the structure during the consecration ceremony.  The north chapel was originally 15c, but altered by the Victorians when, in 1885, the Gooden family from Over Compton restored the whole building and added a vestry, laid tiles on the floor and installed under-floor heating.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Oborne - New Church

Church imageOborne New Church

St. Cuthbert

This high Victorian church complete with an apse and single bell turret occupies a rural setting apart from other buildings.  It was designed by Slater and completed in 1862 after a decision was taken to leave the 'old' church because it had been allowed to decay so much as to make restoration unrealistic.  It was subsequently demolished, leaving just the chancel (see Oborne Old Church)

The 'new' building is impressive and enjoys large windows, which allow light to stream in.  The chancel arch is moulded with different stone in alternate courses, but perhaps the most striking items are the brilliant white stone pulpit and font; unmistakably High Victorian.





The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Oborne - Old Church

Church imageOborne Old Church

St. Cuthbert

This little building, now redundant, sits on a site beside a busy road that has been occupied by a church since 970 AD.  There is no trace of the original building that would have been served by monks from nearby Sherborne Abbey.

The present building dates from 1533, of which only the chancel remains.

As was so often the case, the building had been allowed to decay badly and by 1860 the advice was to abandon it and build something else on an entirely new site half a mile away to the north.  And so the old church was demolished leaving just the chancel standing for the next 70 years. (see Oborne New Church)

In the 1930s it was restored with the help of the architect A W Powys.  There is an excellent 16c barrel roof and a pulpit dated 1639.  The Communion rails are described as ‘good examples of 17c rustic workmanship’.  The 15c octagonal font came from the now vanished church of North Wooton.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Over Compton

Church imageOver Compton

St. Michael

You approach the church via a long drive from the main road which it shares with Compton House and Worldwide Butterflies and the Lullingstone Silk Farm.  The church forms part of a suite of buildings in a most attractive setting.

The entrance is up some steps into the 15c tower.  Inside the arrangement is unusual.  The beautiful three-decker Jacobean pulpit is sited half-way down the nave, presumably so that the preacher could speak directly to members of the Goodden family, who owned the estate and would have sat in the north chapel (1776).  The chancel is a Victorian addition of 1877.  There is a really charming baptistry on the south side and a lovely memorial erected by the family to the memory of a faithful servant.  However, the most impressive item is the life-size statue of Robert Goodden, erected in 1825.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imagePoyntington

All Saints

Originally, there was a Saxon church here of the traditional two cell layout and part of the nave wall, the north doorway and font still remain.  Unfortunately, some excellent murals uncovered in the 19c faded due to exposure to light.  There is a curious arrangement of windows in the north wall of the nave, which has come about as a result of various 'improvements'.  Two windows are 14c restored and the middle window is 16c.  When the 16c window was installed half of the nave window was destroyed, but in 1896 the window was moved and the other restored to its proper proportions.

There is a pleasing apse shaped chancel decorated with sculpture by the eminent Victorian stone carver, Benjamin Grasby, whose work can be found in many of the county's 19c churches.

The north doorway is a superb example of Norman craftsmanship and the door itself is also 12c and made of nail studded battens with strip hinges and moulded ribs.   The font is a simple Norman example with just a single band of cable ornament.

There is a good stone effigy on an altar tomb of circa 1340 and a wall monument to the Tilley family erected in 17c.  Attached to the north wall of the nave is a carved wing of an angel, which was blown off the cathedral at Amiens, Flanders during the First World War.  It was picked up by Major H.M.Warrand and presented to the church in 1961 by his daughter, Mrs. Urwick and is preserved there by permission of His Grace the Archbishop of Amiens.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imagePulham

St Thomas Becket

This attractive church, with its associated 18c rectory nearby, sits a little apart from the village it serves.  It is essentially a Tudor building, but the north aisle and parts of the south were re-built by the Victorians.  The south windows were designed by Rev F C Hingeston-Randolph of Ringmer in Devon.  There is a very splendid and elaborate niche in the chancel, though probably not in its original position.

Perhaps the most interesting item is the porch with a steep staircase from the church into the parvis chamber above.  Parvis chambers had a number of uses, but, most commonly, to accommodate visiting priests, either on a temporary basis or semi-permanently if they were needed for duty in chantry chapels.  Some chambers had a fire-place for warmth in winter (see Bridport St Mary).  There is a good Norman tub font.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageRampisham

St Michael & All Angels

The church and adjacent manor house mark the centre of the village which is hidden in a fold of the chalk upland.

The exact origins of the church are uncertain, but it is safe to say that there has been a parish church on the same site for over 700 years. The oldest part is the tower, which is square and unbuttressed and is built on the south side of the church rather than on the central axis. Its first two storeys date from 1326 and housed a chantry chapel in memory of the son of the then lady of the Manor. The base, now the vestry, contained an altar which permitted a view of the main altar by means of a hagioscope. The tower's belfry was added during the 1858 reconstruction, and houses a peal of five bells.

The church was restored mid C19th, in the decorated style of the C14th. The large font was installed in 1844, a gift to the then rector from his brother. Augustus Welby Pugin designed the rebuilding of the Chancel work completed in 1847. The piscine (basin) and sedililia (priest's seat) are ancient and were incorporated into the rebuilt chancel. Pugin also designed the east window of the chancel, which was made by John Hardman of Birmingham, at a cost of £70 (£7000 today). Pugin's fee was £20 (£2000 today)

The nave was rebuilt and extended by John Hicks, a local architect from Dorchester, in 1858-9 in a similar style to the chancel giving a consistent appearance to the church. One of Hicks employees at this time was an 18 yr-old trainee architect, Thomas Hardy.

Outside, there are remains of what was once a large perpendicular cross of Ham Hill stone on a plinth on which are sculpted the murder of Thomas a Becket and other scenes relating to him. Underneath is the following inscription:
'Fili Dei misereri mei et sic Porter in nomine thu Amen Obit A.D.MDXVI
(Oh Son of God have mercy upon me and thus says Porter in thy name. Amen)

Porter died in 1516. The platform to the side of the Cross is dated 1606. It has suffered the ravages of our climate and so is difficult to be sure of its history.

According to Sir Frederick Treves in his superb 'Highways and Byeways in Dorset' (1906), “Rampisham is one of the most beautiful villages in Dorset. It stands in a valley of trees through which runs a stream. It is a place of old thatched cottages ...” He notes that Rampisham's most famous son was a distinguished physician called Francis Glisson, who was born in 1597. He studied at Cambridge where he eventually rose to become Professor of Physic and after moving to London, a founder member of the Royal Society. He wrote many learned papers, amongst which a series on rickets (partly observed in Dorset) and most famously of all, his description of the anatomy of the liver and in particular the fibrous sheath, known to this day as Glisson's Capsule. He died in October 1677.


The Dorset Historic Churches Trust gratefully acknowledges the contribution to these notes made by James Read and the generous hospitality of Michael Nisbet during various visits to the church. 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Ryme Intrinseca

Church imageRyme Intrinseca

St. Hippolytus

This little church, another of Dorset's gems, tucked away in a village.  It shares the dedication with only one other church in England, near Hitchen in Hertfordshire.

The original church was built in 1292/3.  The chancel with its lancet windows and most of the nave, with another pair of lancets, survive.  However, the building was considerably altered in the 17c by the addition of a handsome tower with pinnacles and embattled parapet and a porch.  In the chancel and north nave wall, classical 17c windows were installed, one in the form of a trefoil, specifically to light the pulpit.

The simple wagon roof and the uninterrupted view of the chancel is most appealing.  The font cover is dated 1637 and the white and gold coloured organ is early 19c.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Sandford Orcas

Church imageSandford Orcas

St. Nicholas

The church of St. Nicholas stands next to a wonderful mellow 16c manor House.

This is a very old Christian site because the first known record of a building is from 1216 during the reign of Henry III (1207-72), who is regarded as one of the most cultured kings ever to have occupied the throne.  There may even have been an earlier church suggested by some 13c work found the 14c chancel.

The present building consists of a 15c south porch, a nave of uncertain vintage, a 15c ten foot square west tower and a north aisle with a vestry at the western end, added during a major Victorian restoration of 1871 by Henry Hall.  The south chapel is also 15c and is notable for its most attractive oak ceiling with moulded beams and square panels.

The round bowled font with continuous fluting is 13c.  The elaborate cover is later.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Sherborne Abbey

Alton St. Pancras

Sherborne Abbey

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Sherborne is arguably the most attractive town in Dorset.  It is an ancient place with roots in the Saxon period when it was already a village.  Surprisingly, the centre is still largely unspoilt by encroaching red brick terraces or mindless housing estates or even inappropriate modernization of the old buildings.  It has the venerable feel of a small cathedral city and certainly the calm of a place of learning, which it still is.  Timber faced buildings jostle with stone from the Georgian period and others with quaint half-hidden courtyards.  Right in the middle of this wonderful cacophony of styles rests the Abbey behind its green, resplendent like some fabulous crown on a velvet cushion. 

The view from the south over the green, shows an almost entirely 15c perpendicular style, apart from the south porch, which is a mix of 12c ground-floor rebuild and 19c above.  Yet it is the rich golden colour of the Hamstone from which it is constructed coupled with the majestic tower and superb flying buttresses that all combine to produce an unforgettable image.   When the sculptural floodlighting illuminates the Abbey at night, there is a wholly serene quality about it.


In 705, King Ine divided the vast see of Winchester into two by establishing a new see at Sherborne, where he appointed his relative Aldhelm, the abbot of Malmesbury, as its first bishop.  It was still very large because the new see included, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.  Leaving aside the size, this became an important place because the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that two Kings of Wessex are buried in the church: Ethelbald (860) and Ethelbert (866), older brothers of Alfred the Great (the fifth son of their father King Ethelwulf).  Although Cornwall became a Saxon see in its own right as early as 870, the rest lasted for 200 years before being divided again in 909 by the creation of sees at Wells, Credition and Ramsbury.  Towards the end of the Saxon period, Sherborne was joined to the see of Ramsbury (Wiltshire and Berkshire).  However, soon after the Norman Conquest (1066) in 1075 the Bishop's seat was moved to Old Sarum (Salisbury).  The Bishops of Salisbury retained the great Manor of Sherborne and their 12c castle remained theirs for centuries.

The site on which the present Abbey stands has been consecrated for more than 1200 years.  St. Aldhelm's Abbey church was a cathedral seat for a total of twenty seven Saxon Bishops.  From 1075 to the Reformation, it was the church of a Benedictine monastery.  The monastery was dissolved in 1540 as part of Henry VIII's Reformation, since when the building has been a parish church.

The original Saxon single-cell building probably stood to the west of the present nave.  In the late 10c, a large eastern tower and side chapels were added.  The last but one Bishop of Sherborne, Alfwold (1045-58) started to build a new church on fresh ground, consisting of a nave with crossings and a choir, although shorter than today.  A Lady chapel was added during the 13c.

By the 14c, the town of Sherborne had grown considerably and a new, but separate parish church for the benefit of the townsfolk, dedicated to All Hallows, was erected to the west of the cathedral church and over the site of the original Saxon Abbey.

The Abbey as we see it today, was largely the work of Abbot Ramsam (1475-1504), who completed the exquisite choir and rebuilt the nave and north transept.  In total, however, the rebuild took more than 100 years to complete.  Building in those days tended to be a slow process, partly because it depended on funds being available, but also partly due to the nature of the workforce.  Building only moved forward between March and September because the unskilled workers had to return to their land for the harvest in the autumn and could not leave until they had ploughed and sown their crops in the spring.  Only the skilled masons etc. remained to work through the winter preparing stones for the next building season.

Just before the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the Abbey building, along with some land, was purchased by Sir John Horsey.  After the Dissolution, he sold the building to the townsfolk for the sum of 100 marks, but somewhat slyly demanded more money for the lead on the roof and the bells.  Since by then the monks had been dispersed, there was no further use for the old church of All Hallows and it was demolished and the stones sold off.  The Abbey school was re-founded by King Edward VI and in 1564 the western end of the Lady Chapel was converted into the headmaster's house.

Little maintenance was carried out until 1850.  The interior stonework had been painted white and box pews covered the whole building.  Galleries spanned the nave aisles and the north transept.

The church was restored by public subscription and great generosity by the Digby family in 1850-8, the work being supervised by R C Carpenter and William Slater.  R H Carpenter was responsible for the tower restoration in 1884.  It is to these people that future generations must be deeply indebted for saving the Abbey so sensitively and avoiding what the Victorians regarded as 'improvements' that so often led to irretrievable damage to so many medieval churches in the county.

The huge roof, which extends to nearly half an acre (1/5th hectare) plus all the windows were re-leaded and much stonework renewed during 1978-81.  The cost of £750,000 was raised by public subscription and a generous grant by the Department of the Environment.

There are some excellent guides available for the Abbey.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks for the assistance received in the preparation of these notes by the Vicar, Canon Eric Woods,  and the staff of the Abbey.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. Mary Magdalene

This is an interesting church with a chancel and west tower of the 14c.  In 1866 the nave was altered and the north aisle added, together with south porch and north vestry, to a design by Slater and Carpenter.  Mercifully, the 14c stone screen between nave and chancel survives.  The impressive 19c pulpit is decorated with inlaid marble and panels from an earlier wooden Jacobean version are to be found on the sanctuary walls. There are three piscinae and two fonts.  The principal font is 15c.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

West Chelborough

St. Andrew

This is a delightful little church in an equally charming village.  Entrance is through the simple, square, slightly squat, tower of 1638.  Well-worn steps lead into the building, which is essentially 15c.  However, there was the usual Victorian restoration in 1894.

Points of particular interest are the Norman tub font, The 1763 altar rails, the 1935 two-decker pulpit by Sir Charles Nicholson and the most attractive wainscot around the nave, which was made from deal reclaimed from the old pews and stripped of paint in 1969.  Note also the memorial to a woman who died in child-birth.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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