Alton St. Pancras

Alton St. PancrasThe church is tucked away from the road at the end of a short drive it shares with a manor  and farmhouse.  There has been a church on this site since Norman times, although little is known about it other than the fact that the building had reached such a dilapidated state that by 1870 it was said to be "nodding to its fall".  It was entirely rebuilt with the chancel designed by Euan Christian (1874) and the nave by G. R. Crickmay (1875), leaving only the 15c tower standing with its four very ancient bells.

Read more: Alton St. Pancras




St. Martin

Broadmayne is a village dominated by the busy road, however the church standing back and slightly above is a haven of tranquillity.

The rather rare south tower, which was started in 13c, but not finished until 15c, is the only really old part of the structure.  The rest was rebuilt by John Hicks of Dorchester in 1865 – 6.  Perhaps the most notable items in this church are the sculpted corbels.  These take the form of angels and although very Victorian and somewhat wan for today’s taste do certainly express piety.  These are by Richard Boulton, whose work is to be found in several Dorset churches of this period.  An obviously very gifted artist, he was sufficiently recognised to have his work featured in the Great Exhibition and incorporated in buildings as far apart as Winchester Cathedral and the Courts of Justice in Bombay.







Buckland Newton

Buckland Newton

The Holy Rood


The church rests on the edge of the village near an early C19 manor house.  The building is unique in Dorset because it is the only church to be completely rendered externally.

The nave is essentially C15 and very light and airy, but the chancel, originally C13, was 'improved' several times by the Victorians and the final result is gloomy, despite triple lancet windows and some marble shafting.  The reredos in the sanctuary is brilliantly coloured and by a Mr. Tolhurst of Mowbrays 1927.  Two squints and an aperture high up on the left side, which once led to a rood screen, makes the chancel arch particularly interesting.  There is a C15 font and an intriguing Elizabethan alms box, heavily carved from a single piece of oak.

Very early in the C21 a bequest was received, which funded the building of a superb gallery against the west wall and the installation of a superb new organ.

Above the splendid south porch, with its vaulted ceiling, is a priest's room where once, before the days of vicarages, visiting monks would have been expected to spend the night.  Note, above the door, the small Norman seated Christ.

This is a most interesting church that generously repays a visit.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Cerne Abbas

Cerne Abbas

St. Mary the Virgin

Cerne Abbas was once one of the most important towns in Dorset.  It owes its origins to the presence of the great abbey founded there in 987 by Ethelmar, Earl of Devon and Cornwall, but during the C19 the railways went elsewhere with the inevitable result that it withered commercially.

Nevertheless, the town is a most appealing place set in its own beautiful fold in the chalk hills and blessed with some exquisite half-timbered buildings, which nowadays attract tourists from all over the world.  All that remains of the great abbey, which was dissolved in 1539, is a gate house with a most impressive oriel window.  Slightly outside the settlement is the famous Cerne Giant cut into the chalk on the side of a hill.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


The church of St. Mary is almost entirely C15 and at first glance, the eye is naturally drawn to the elegant, if slightly dominating, tower. But take a longer look and the overall effect is breath-taking. Soon other features reach out to you, for example, the Madonna and child above the west door that miraculously escaped desecration by Cromwell's men and the generous battlement decoration of the porch. 

Inside, the building is flooded with light. Tall slender ham stone pillars reach up on both sides of the nave to support elegant arches that in turn support a clerestory above. Apart from the generous impression of space, perhaps the most interesting artefact is the stone screen that divides the nave from the chancel. Before 1870 a wall literally excluded the congregation from sight of the chancel. After that date the wall was reduced to form a base for the screen and the chancel arch, as seen today. The pulpit of 1640 is an excellent example of Jacobean craftmanship. The C15 font has a richly painted modern cover (1963) designed by Kenneth Wiltshire. 






Chaldon Herring




St Nicholas


This is an interesting and attractive church in a delightful little village.  The unusual name is probably derived from the old English 'Calvedon', which means "the hill where calves are pastured" and the C12 manorial family 'Harang' whose family crest includes herrings.  This family also gave their name to Herrison, Langton Herring and Winterborne Herringston.

Originally, there was also a church at Chaldon Boys, but its closeness persuaded the Bishop to amalgamate the two parishes under one Curate in 1446.  The exact C12 origins of the present building appear to be obscure, however it is certain that the north wall and tower belong to the C14, although the tower was not completed until the C15.  As usual, the Victorians could not resist a major rebuild and G.R.Crickmay of Weymouth was retained to design and oversee the work in 1878.  It is to his great credit that the alterations were done with such sensitivity that it was possible to incorporate the genuine medieval windows and arches in the final structure.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


The church has two fonts.  The plain cylindrical C12 font was turned up by the plough in a field in West Chaldon, near the site of a now lost church or chapel at Chaldon Boys (bois probably) and replaced in the church in 1897.  There is evidence of a hinge mounting that would have supported a lockable cover to deter the unauthorised use of Holy Water for sacrilegious purposes. The second font, although rather splendid, is clearly Victorian and presumably installed around the time of the restoration.  There are several examples in the county of ancient fonts being thrown-out by the Victorians, who felt their design was inappropriate (see Kimmeridge and Beaminster).

Note the attractive organ with pipes to the ground.  Also the wooden pulpit with a curved stone stairway to it and a truly magnificent central heating radiator.




Compton Valence

Compton Valence

St. Thomas of Canterbury

This is a very important country church, occupying an attractive site behind a mellow stone wall. Between 1839 and 1840 Benjamin Ferry, the distinguished Victorian architect, made a very genuine attempt to re-create a medieval church, complete with an apsidal chancel.  This was before Pugin and Scott, who are more usually associated with the style.  The embattled tower is 15c and has been most skillfully grafted into the 'new' structure to form a pleasing building.

Benjamin Ferry was responsible for at least ten other churches* in Dorset, including alterations to Christchurch Priory, and a number of private houses and public buildings.

(*The others are: Holy Trinity Dorchester: All Saints Dorchester: Little Bredy: Melplash: Osmington: Plush: Tarrant Hinton: Tincleton: Winterborne Whitechurch)




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



All Saints

This charming little church, which harmonizes perfectly with its tranquil village surroundings, is approached through an avenue of magnificent yew trees. It is constructed from a mixture of flint and stone. The interesting tower, however, is entirely of stone and was started in the early C14, but since the upper element is perpendicular, may have had to wait until later to be finished. (The perpendicular period ran from mid C14 to mid C16). The north porch protects a rebuilt Norman doorway, replete with characteristic zigzag mouldings.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Inside, the north aisle, with attractive paneled arches, is from C16. The stalls are made from Jacobean paneling and the pulpit is entirely from this period. The Victorians were busy and T H Wyatt (1872) is credited with the south aisle, although he reused existing medieval masonry. Perhaps the most striking item in the building is the huge monument to Field Marshall Sir John Michel, who died in 1886. His home was at Dewlish House, but during a colourful army career he had served in the Kaffir (South African) and Crimea Wars (1853-6), been shipwrecked on his way to China, defeated mutineers in Bombay and risen to the highest rank. (See his Wikipedia entry) His son, also in the army, appears to have been quite fearless and was awarded the VC.







Beer hackHolworth

St. Catherine by the Sea

This is a church made out of little more than a garden hut.  The vicar of Stroud Green, Dr. Linklater (1887 - 1915), used Holworth House for holidays.  His widow built the church after selling Holworth House in 1926.  This is a very simple, but holy place.  (See Dottery)








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Milborne St. Andrew

Church imageMilborne 

St. Andrew

This village is an ancient place with the Iron Age earthwork, Weatherby Castle, only about a mile to the south.  The novelist, Thomas Hardy, renamed the village 'Millpond St Jude' when he featured it in his book 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.  As is so often the case in Dorset, there has been a church on or near this site for more than 900 years.  The Saxon building was almost certainly constructed from wood and there is no sign of it now.  The present building dates from about 1150 and the nave has remained Norman.

The wagon roof to the nave is C15 and the three-light window on the south wall is C16.  The south doorway is Norman and is protected by a C15 porch.  Note, the scratch dial at the south east angle of the nave (see Guest Contributions).

In 1878, the Victorians could not leave the venerable old building alone and employed the eminent architect, George Street, to drastically alter it.  He rebuilt the chancel, resetting the tall three-light lancet east window and created the single-light windows with stained glass.  He added the north aisle and arcade together with all the pew furniture and pulpit.

During the Victorian period it was sometimes the fashion to throw out ancient fonts and Street did just that, installing in its place a new replacement.  Fortunately, the old Norman font, decorated with a cable motif, was rediscovered in 1930 and put back in the north aisle, where it remains in use to this day (see Kimmeridge).

In the sanctuary there is a small canopied table-tomb in memory of John Morton, whose uncle was Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England (see Bere Regis).  His grandfather was a Turberville and therefore a theoretical ancestor of Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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