Iwerne Courtney

Beer hackIwerne Courtney

St. Mary

The church was rebuilt in 1610 in the true Gothic Survival manner at the expense of Sir Thomas Freke, who died in 1645.  In the same year, the building was used as a temporary gaol for 300 Dorset Clubmen, who had failed to escape after their defeat on Hambledon Hill.  However, Oliver Cromwell apparently thought them "Poor silly creatures" and set them free after they "had promised to be very dutiful for time to come."

The west aisle was extended in 1871 and in 1872 the chancel was drastically altered internally and provided with a new window.  The attractive reredos is of terracotta and was made locally to a design by Lady Baker. It features corn ears and grapes and an exquisite head of Christ, which is flanked by an angel on either side.

Dominating the north aisle chapel, is a huge monument to Sir Thomas Freke, erected by his two sons, Raufe and William, in 1654.  Sir Nikolaus Pevsner rather charmingly describes the sculpture as "inept if loveable!"  In front, however, is a beautiful, delicately carved, oak screen, which is of exceptionally high quality.

Also of interest is the generous boot scraper outside the porch and the collection shoes inside.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Iwerne Minster



 Iwerne Minster

St. Mary

The Normans rebuilt the church on the foundations of an earlier one in 1100, but all that remains now are the massive pillars and rounded arches of the arcading to the north aisle, a single window, which may have been reset and the north transept.  There are sculpted corbels on pointed arches dividing the north chapel from the chancel, which are thought to be King Richard II (1377-99) and his first wife, Anne of Bohemia.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Perhaps the most important feature of the building is the 14c 60 ft tower, surmounted by an octagonal 15c spire; one of only three examples in Dorset. (The others are at Trent and Winterborne Steepleton.)

The vestry is of the 1870 rebuilding, by T.H.Wyatt, when a medieval rood screen and much else was torn down.  However, the Lierne stone vaulted roof and proportions of the 1889 south chapel, in memory of the second Lord Wolverton and designed by the distinguished Gothic revival architect, J.L.Pearson, is exceptionally pleasing.

The beautifully carved reredos, altar rails and stone paving were designed by Sir Giles Scott.  Above, is the east window, set in curvilinear tracery that frames marvellous 1920 stained glass, by Christopher Whall, to provide a quite outstanding setting.

Pevsner dates the pulpit at 1610 and it is a good example of Jacobean craftsmanship.  On the left hand side of the south door there are two fine mosaics, one is of Boaz, in memory of James Ismay, a brother of Bruce, who is remembered for his association with the Titanic disaster.  James's daughters presented the organ loft and Walker organ in 1913.

Most dramatically, the church was floodlit through the generosity of Percy Davis.

The north chapel has been cleverly enclosed in glass panels to form a meeting room, while still being very much a part of the church.






St. Nicholas

There has been a church here since Norman times and the building still retains a 12c porch.  The Victorians completely rebuilt the one-piece nave and chancel in 1872, but they did preserve the 15c bellcote, buttress and bell.  The font is interesting because, according to the excellent church guide, the present one was discarded by the architect as being "extremely ugly and utterly unsuitable for its purpose."  About 1920, two workmen digging a ditch found it in a hedge and it was returned to the church and mounted on a new pedestal.  As an act of supreme irony, the Victorian version is thought to have become a bird-bath! (See Beaminster and Chaldon Herring




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney © 






Kings Stag

Beer hackKings Stag

The Memorial Chapel

This is a curious half-timbered or 'mock-Tudor',  chapel-style church.  The foundation stone was laid by Lady Octavia Legge in memory of her sister Lady Barbara Yeatman-Biggs.  The Yeatman family are landowners in the area.  Their ancestral home is at nearby Stock Gaylard.

The church is locked.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackKingston

St. James

Kingston is unique in Dorset in that it has two Victorian churches. The first, designed by his son-in-law George Repton, now a dwelling, was built in 1822 by the 1st Lord Eldon to replace a small chapel. However by the 1870s the 3rd Lord Eldon felt it was his Christian duty to provide a new church and wanted something rather grander, despite only ever serving a relatively small parish. Others, less charitably, have said he built it as a personal statement of his wealth and prestige. Whatever the real reason, he has bequeathed the area an incredibly beautiful object that can be seen for miles around.

Entered through a western narthex, Kingston, popularly known as the 'Cathedral of the Purbecks', is a magnificent gothic revival church by the eminent Tractarian architect, G. E. Street, who is better known for the contemporaneous Royal Courts of Justice in London and several other important churches including St Peters in Bournemouth. The tall central tower, with its peal of eight bells, is a local landmark. The church shows the influence of French Gothic, but internally Street used local Purbeck marble for shafting. The chancel is vaulted in stone and has a fine wrought iron screen. The pulpit by Potter is another example of superb wrought iron work, all of which was executed to the designs of the architect. There is a very important three-manual organ by Maley, Young and Oldknow built specifically for the church and contained in the shallow north transept. The nave is tall and lofty, lit by a clerestory and, at the west end by a magnificent 12ft. rose window, designed by Street and executed by Clayton and Bell. There are no pews, just chairs. The hallmark of the building is certainly the highest possible quality even in the smallest details.

At the age of just 28, the third Lord Eldon, who lived nearby at Encombe, commissioned the architect to build his grandest church at a final cost of around £70,000. Although a fortune at the time, the work was undertaken entirely by the estate staff, thus providing employment during a period of depression. The stone was quarried on the estate and the timber was imported from Lord Eldon's Gloucester property. It was completed in 1880 and Street is reputed to have remarked "It is a pleasure to make work so much after one's heart as this will be; I think it is the jolliest church I have built". No expense had been spared to erect a monument notionally to the memory of Lord Eldon's great-grandfather, the first Lord Eldon (1751-1838), who had been the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain for 25 years during the reigns of both George III and IV. 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Kingston Lacy

Beer hackKingston Lacy

St. Stephen


Perhaps the most striking feature inside the building is the quality of the woodwork, constructed from oak grown on the Kingston Lacy Estate.  In particular, the roof is an exceptional example of quiet perfection and worth a visit on its own.  However, also beautifully executed are the pews, each end exquisitely carved with a Bankes' family fleur-de-lys, and the splendid choir stalls.  The glittering tiled reredos is by Carters of Poole, who used 'battered brass' to form the golden wings of the angels and mother-of-pearl for their halos.  On either side, it is flanked by Sanctus angels engraved directly into the stone.  Above, the east window is sumptuous. 

The rich colours and artistry used by Horace Wilkinson to convey Christ on the Cross with a serpent below, are inspirational.  The left hand panel depicts Ralph Bankes sitting on Christ's lap with his sisters, Viola and Daphne, looking on.  Mrs Bankes is reputed to have been devoted to her rather sickly son, but not to her two daughters. To the right, further panels of Mary and Martha, the Good Shepherd and the Calming of the Storm.  The south transept windows have the theme of childhood.  The surprisingly small organ by the Positive Organ Co., costing £175, was accorded its own loft above the generous vestry.  Immediately below the organ and attached to the wooden panelling is a simple, but moving record of the sixteen men who did not return from the First World War; which was unveiled on 2nd April 1921.

The eight Bankes' family pews are at the back of the church, where presumably they could keep an eye on their tenants and employees in front!  Standing over the pew, is a copy of the Wimborne Minster astronomical clock and above and behind, the west window features the historical family armorials with a fleur de lys and the various bride's arms. Before the building of this church, the window was installed in Wimborne Minster. The pew is served by its own private door on the north side from where a path leads directly to a lane where the family could be conveyed by carriage to and from the great house.  The habit of always leaving during the last hymn, further insulated the family from any risk of contact with the congregation.

Until the building of this church, the people of Cowgrove and Pamphill had to go to Wimborne Minster for services.  However, the new church was within the parish of Wimborne Minster and not a parish in its own right.  This had to wait until 1922, when as a result of Mrs Bankes' efforts and her endowment of £6,000, the benefice of St Stephen's was finally established with its own vicar.  The beautiful grass enclosure in which the church rests remains unconsecrated and consequently has never been used for burial.  The stone cross in front of the church is a memorial to Walter Bankes, Mrs Bankes' husband and benefactor.

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








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Kington Magna

Beer hackKington Magna

All Saints

The church sits on the edge of an escarpment in a commanding position, overlooking farmland.  In 1861-62, a new church, designed by Charles Turner, was grafted on to the C15 tower.  The final result is pleasing and the east window to the chancel with reticulated tracery works well.  Moreover, the glass by Shrigley & Hunt (1914) in the east end of the south aisle is said to be particularly good.








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackKnowlton

Dedication unknown

North of the Horton Inn and west of the Wimborne to Cranborne road lies an ancient circular neolithic henge earthwork (135 ft in diameter and 12 ft high).  In the middle, rests the remains of a little church, the only structure left from a once thriving village.  It is very possible the community was wiped out by the Black Death, but in any event the church itself was finally abandoned in C18.  (The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, entered England at Melcombe Regis in 1348 and spread very rapidly, claiming between a third and half of the population. There was a second epidemic in 1361.)  The tower is C14 and the nave C12 with Norman doorways.  Its font is now in the Woodlands church.

There have been suggestions that the church may have been deliberately built in the middle of an ancient and probably sacred henge as a statement of the ascendancy of the (new) Christian religion.




 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackBeer Hackett

St. George

Between Buckhorn Weston and Gillingham lies a hamlet called Langham. At the eastern end, near the road and amongst some magnificent tall trees, rests the only thatched church in Dorset. This tiny building was completed in 1921 as a memorial to the men from the nearby estate who laid down their lives in the First World War. It was designed by C.E.Ponting, who was the diocesan architect of Salisbury.* The charming interior is very simple and there is no electricity. Here is great tranquillity in a lovely setting.

* Also by or modified by Ponting: Beer Hackett, Bourton, Bradpole, Dorchester (St. Mary), Gillingham, Ibberton, Kingston Lacey, West Stafford, Weymouth (St. Martin).





 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Langton Herring

Beer hackLangton Herring

St. Peters

This charming little church stands quite prominently in the centre of the village next to the pub.  There has been a church here for a very long time and with absolute certainty since 1299 when the first rector was recorded.

As with so many churches, this one was 'improved' and enlarged by the Victorians in both 1827 and 1858 when the south aisle was added.  However, the little tower and some lancet windows were left undisturbed.  The font is C15. The chancel rails are C17 and the pulpit was made in 1787.  

The charming little three stop organ is by William Hill & Son and Norman & Beard of London.  The attractive case is new and half closing the cabinet doors gives a pianissimo effect for quieter occasions.

Note the large clock on the west wall.  Was this installed to discourage the preacher from over long sermons? Note also the Christian fish symbol, made of stones, which is let into the left side of the path approach to the main entrance in the tower.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Langton Long

Beer hackLangton Long

All Saints

This building by T.H.Wyatt of 1861 replaced an earlier church on the same site and is generous for the tiny size of the hamlet it serves.  However, when it was built it catered for the nearby Langton Long House, a large mansion with an army of servants, which was pulled down in 1949.  It has an impressive tower generously adorned with pinnacles and the whole is constructed of very finely worked banded flint and stone.

The exterior gives little hint the exquisite interior, which is an example of Victorian design at its best.  It is complete with a crossing and north and south transepts.  Note also the beautiful font, supported on a central pillar and four marble shafts.





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 ©


Beer hackLillington

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.  (See also Marnhull)

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 images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackLittlebredy

St. Michael & All Angels

A Church has stood on this site since the 13c, but today's visitor mostly sees the reconstruction of about 1850, carried out by the third Robert Williams of Bridehead (1811-1890), to the designs of Benjamin Ferry, with additional architectural contributions from Williams' brother-in-law, Arthur Acland.  The only visible relics of the older church are the tower and porch beneath it, and some of the features in the chancel, such as the vestry doorway, the piscina beside it in the south wall, and some of the windows, though the nave and south aisle also pre-date the Victorian transformation.

Robert Williams was a keen Tractarian in his youth, but a close friendship with John Henry Newman at Oxford did not survive the latter's conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845: indeed Williams seems to have reacted violently in the opposite direction - he apparently destroyed all correspondence from Newman, to the loss of his subsequent archivists - and his works here certainly demonstrate a strong "Low Church" influence.  Hence, in particular, there is no screen between nave and chancel, and no extravagance in church furniture, where wood is preferred to brass throughout.

All the same, great care was taken to ensure quality in the 1850's restoration, when the nave was lengthened, the north aisle was added, and, most significantly in visual terms, the church was embellished with one of Dorset's few steeples.  The stone for the rebuilding came from Caen in Normandy, the estate Bailiff having been sent there to buy it direct from the quarries.  Care that only the best materials should be used extended to a written offer by Williams to Acland at one stage to take up the newly-laid library floor at Bridehead and use the oak in the Church, rather than settle for inferior timber if that were otherwise the best available.  (This contingency did not in fact arise.)  The stones of the new spire were fastened with dowels made of flint, rather than metal.  It is not known whether this was the fruit of architectural theory or an attempt to emulate the building of Solomon's Temple (see 1 Kings, chapter 6, verse 7).  Whatever the reason, it proved a costly foible retrospectively, when the spire had to be repaired in 1963.

There are six bells in the tower, of which two are Mediaeval, one is Victorian, one was cast in 2002 from the material of three discarded 1850 bells, and two, dating from 1933, came here second-hand from Cornwall during the major restoration of the bells in 2002.  They are inaccessible to the visitor, but a longer description is to be found on a notice board beside the tiny belfry just west of the porch, which houses the chiming mechanism.

Apart from the Bridge family, who died out here in the early 1800's, most of the internal memorials recall the Williamses of Bridehead.  The most notable is that of Jane (1739-1841), the daughter of one Francis Chassereau, who came, aged 14, to this country from Niort, in France, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  Those whose history is shaky may like to be reminded that the Edict of Nantes of 1598 had guaranteed freedom of worship to Huguenots (French Protestants).  Its Revocation in 1685 (by Louis XIV, at the instigation of Madame de Maintenon, who had secretly become his second wife shortly before) led to large-scale emigration from France of those who feared subsequent persecution.

Two distinguished churchmen are also commemorated here.  The grave of Frederick Wallis, Bishop of Wellington, N.Z., is marked just east of the church by a tall memorial carved from a New Zealand tree, sent for the purpose by his erstwhile Diocese at the time of his death in 1928.  The rest of the timber was stored on the estate and used for Williams graves until it was finally used up in 1948.  Bishop John Wordsworth of Salisbury married (as his second wife) Wallis' sister-in-law, and he is commemorated with a plaque on the north wall of the chancel.  The father-in-law of both bishops, Sir Robert Williams of Bridehead (1843-1943) was President of the Church Missionary Society for over 25 years, among his many other public offices.

Historically, the parish of Littlebredy has been linked with those of Long Bredy and Compton Valence, but reorganizations in the late 20c have severed ecclesiastical links with the latter.  The parish is now the most eastern of the Bride Valley Team Ministry and the Deanery of Lyme Bay (in the Archdeaconry of Sherborne, Salisbury Diocese).

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust gratefully acknowledges the above contribution based on notes originally prepared by Judge Giles Best (resident of Littlebredy 1965 -1977) and supplied by Sir Philip Williams, Bt.

 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Litton Cheney

Beer hackLitton Cheney

St. Mary

The church of St. Mary is perched high up above the bulk of the village and adjacent to a delightful old rectory with a magnificent magnolia tree in the garden.  It is an awkward building to photograph because of the difficulty in getting sufficiently far away for a proper perspective and the need for a wide angle lens - in reality the tower does not lean!

The origins of the church are certainly Norman and maybe earlier.  There are sections of the nave and the porch which are 14c and the tower is late 14 or early 15c.  The chancel arch is of the same date; note the blocked-up hagioscopes (or squints) on both sides, which would once have given a view of the altar from the side chapels.  In 1878 the building was radically restored and a north chapel added.  The altar came from Balliol College, Oxford, and the bowl of the font is thought to be Norman, although the base is modern.  The barrel roof of the chancel is most attractive and there are some interesting oil lamps.

At the rear of the building is a delightful children's corner. 


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackLoders

St. Mary Magdalene

This is an exceptional church set in a beautifully gardened, walled churchyard. Nearby stands the manor house whose lord endowed the church and enjoyed the right to choose the vicar. The Lord of the Manor and his family still sit in the chancel with the incumbent.

The building has Saxon origins and the remains can be seen in the north wall, the chancel and a walled-up doorway opposite the porch. In the C12 the manor was presented by the Earl of Devon to the Abbey of St Mary de Montebourg in Normandy, whereupon some French monks took possession and brought with them the art of cider making. In 1399 King Richard II presented Loders to the Carthusian monastery of St Anne at Coventry. King Henry IV (1399-1413), wishing to placate the French, restored much property to the original French owners, including this and to celebrate, the monks built the Lady Chapel in the 'new' perpendicular style. The chapel was connected to the chancel through what is called an ambulatory (or covered way), which is now partly blocked up, giving the appearance of a squint (or hagioscope). After the Suppression of Alien Houses of 1414, Loders passed into the ownership of the nunnery at Syon at Isleworth (Middlesex).

Read more: Loders

Long Bredy

Beer hackLong Bredy

St. Peter

.The church rests in a fold in the chalk downland, a little apart from the rest of the village, at the end of a road that it shares with buildings that were once the church school and school house.

There may have been a Saxon church here, but it is first recorded when land was given to the great Abbey at Cerne Abbas.  The chancel is C13 and the tower C15.  In 1842, Benjamin Ferry designed a refurbishment of the chancel but, almost everything else was swept away in John Hicks's 'restoration' of 1862/3, including "an old ugly gallery perilously supported on a single iron pillar".  A south aisle and small vestry were added at the same time.  In fairness to the Victorians, it would appear that they had little alternative, because "the greater proportion of the building was in a very dilapidated condition..."

Without doubt, the most important feature of this undertaking is the work of the sculptor, Benjamin Grassby of Powerstock.  His skill in crafting the corbels and capitals is a sumptuous bequest to posterity.  Perhaps the most important of his work is to be found in the font. The bowl is of Purbeck marble with medallions of alabaster depicting the emblems of the four Evangelists let into the vertical surfaces.  It is supported at the corners by serpentine columns and a Purbeck marble shaft.  The whole rests on a Purbeck marble plinth found buried under the old floor belonging to the original font.  Grassby's work can be found in a number of Dorset churches. (see North Poorton)

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


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 ©

Lulworth East

Church imageLulworth East

St. Andrew

Resting in parkland among some really splendid mature trees with glimpses of the castle behind its magnificent C15 tower, this otherwise rather plain Victorian building has been invested with great charm.   There has been a church here for a long time and the list of known vicars stretches back to 1312.

It has been rebuilt at least twice.  As with many churches in the county, it had been allowed to decay to a ruinous state and by 1785 a faculty to rebuild most of it, together with an apsidal chancel, had been applied for.  It is likely the design was by John Tasker, who was also responsible for the enchanting nearby Roman Catholic chapel - both buildings being funded by Thomas Weld.

The second rebuild of 1864 is by John Hicks of Dorchester, who was responsible for more restorations in the county than any other architect working at the time.  Thomas Hardy, the author, was articled to him.  Apart from the tower, he swept everything away, including the apse, and added a vestry.  This was certainly radical surgery, but there is a curious and very pleasing harmony about the finished work.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©