Church imageOwermoigne

St Michael

St Michael's is a church that benefits from an attractive village setting.  It is an ancient place, which was recorded as 'Ogre' in the Domesday Book.  The name gradually evolved into 'Oweres' and finally because of the association with  the Le Moigne, into 'Owermoigne'.   

Although the first recorded Rector was instituted in 1333, the present building is essentially the result of a Victorian restoration of 1883 to a design by Sidney Jackson of Weymouth and cost of £756.00.  A feature of the design is the square headed windows.  Almost all the wooden furniture and memorials were permanently removed from the building.  The 18c columnar font suffered a similar fate and was found filled with flowers in the rectory garden before being finally restored to its proper place in the church.  The 15c tower did escape the restoration and is known to have been used by 18c smugglers, who used it as a store.  It is more than possible that the Rector knew what was going on, but was kept 'sweet' by finding kegs of the finest brandy left on his doorstep from time to time! (See also Studland).

During the reign of King Richard II (1367-1400), Owermoigne came into the hands of the Sturton family as a result of a marriage between Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Moigne and Lord Charles Sturton.  Much later the Surtons fell out with the family of Hartgills, but there was much rejoicing at an apparent reconciliation which was sealed  in January 1557 when Lord Sturton invited Hartgill and his son to dinner.  Unfortunately, Sturton's motives were not as pure as the driven snow and during the dinner he had the two men clubbed and murdered by his staff who slit their throats.  He and his men dug a pit 15 feet deep in the cellar where the bodies were deposited.  Later, news of the crime reached the ears of authority and all were condemned to death by hanging at Salisbury.  His Lordship appealed to Queen Mary on the basis of being a Catholic and a nobleman, but the only concession she allowed was that he should be hanged by a halter of silk ..."in respect of his quality."  The sentence was carried out on 16th March and the estate came into the hands of the Crown.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imagePortesham

St. Peter

The little village of Portesham lies in a hollow in the Downs below the mighty Blackdown Hill.  A road runs past the church sharing the space with a twinkling stream that rushes headlong towards the sea.  This is an ancient building that, judging from the base of the tower, the eminent Dorset historian Hutchings says, is probably standing on a Saxon site.

Most of the nave, tower and chancel are 13c.  Interestingly, the chancel is out of alignment with the nave suggesting that it may have been deliberately ‘drooped’.  It was quite a common practice to symbolise Christ’s head drooping on the Cross.  Yet the north and south aisles of the nave, added in 16c, are curiously aligned with the chancel rather than the nave.  A most attractive wooden screen divides chancel from nave and above, both have excellent examples of wagon roofs.  Note especially the painted bosses on the chancel roof and the hagioscopes (or squints) in the chancel arch.

The pulpit is Jacobean, mounted on a modern base and the font is either 12 or 13c (church guide).  The south aisle houses an organ specifically built for the church by Hill Norman and Beard in 1968.  It replaced one built in Upwey and presented by a Lady Molyneaux in1895.  Above the west door to the tower, note, King George II’s Royal Arms, painted by Thomas Ironside in 1754.

Some Dorset guides make much of the tomb in the wall, where a man was buried half in and half out of the church.  Certainly there is a large tomb attached to the outside and inside of the south wall of the building and it belongs to William Weare, who was a committed Royalist during the English Civil War.  Unfortunately, being on the loosing side, he lost all his property after the war.  The story has it that he asked to be buried “neither in nor out of the church” and this was the ingenious solution.  However, the excellent church guide makes no mention of this and one is left wondering.

Perhaps the most important figure associated with the village is Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy of “Kiss me Hardy” fame, who was Nelson’s Flag Captain at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  He was born at Kingston Russell in 1760, but spent his childhood here in the delightful house just to the west of the village crossroads.  He died after a very distinguished career, in 1839. The 80 ft tower on top of Blackdown Hill was erected as his formal memorial.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Portland Reforne

Church imagePortland

St. George

St. George's Reforne sits on top of windswept Portland as a marvelous example of a C17 church constructed of the very stone upon which it rests. This impressive building with pedimented transepts in the long facades was designed by a local architect, Thomas Gilbert, 'Gent, Architect and Master Builder' and completed in 1766. There is a suggestion that he was much influenced by the great Sir Christopher Wren, with whom he would certainly have come into contact, because of the use of Portland stone in St. Paul's, London.

Inside, one is struck by the dominance of the two central pulpits and the fact that half the congregation would have been sitting with their backs to the altar, which has been reduced to not much more than a fireplace feature. There are three galleries from where, once again, the pulpits dominate. One was used for the sermon, which could last up to two hours, and the other for reading the word. This church was built for the ministry of the 'word' rather than the 'sacraments'. 

The box pews are particularly interesting because their freehold was originally sold as a means of raising funds to build the church. At the eastern end on the northern side there is a larger family pew and this was reserved for the rector's family. On close examination on the side nearest the pulpit by the aisle, a small hole can be seen. This was made by a daughter so that she could see her father in action! From time to time more money was required to carry out repairs and eventually a need arose to extend the church due to a dramatic increase in the population. By 1901, many of the freeholds were untraceable and anyway as the then bishop strongly objected to the seating arrangement, it was decided to build a new church, All Saints, Easton, which was consecrated in 1917. 

Since 1971 this magnificent church has been in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund and is often open during the summer. It is quite exceptional and very well worth a visit.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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