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 ©

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