Lydlinch

Beer hackLydlinch

St Thomas a Beckett

Hardly a village, more a large hamlet, Lydlinch sits on top of rising ground with the river Lydden running below and consists of a collection of houses either side of the A357 road and one road running at right angles to it.  Yet, set back in a delightful churchyard, framed by old trees, stands a  most attractive and unspoilt ancient church.  

It is perpendicular in style and predominately 15 and 16c.  The venerable tower complete with a clutch of gargoyles is certainly from the 15c when most of the better towers in the county were constructed.  Immediately above the porch, with its 16c door, is a sundial and above that again is another attached to the tower.  Inside, the building offers an air of lofty spaciousness, which is most apparent when viewed from the 19c gallery at the rear.  This is a unique structure because it is supported on wooden pillars, painted to resemble stone, and has a front constructed, in part, from cast iron.  At the back there is a surprisingly small organ. The high chancel arch with a wooden cross supported on a beam is very striking.  

On the southern side of the nave, the 1838 stone arcade is very pleasing.  Above and between the arches hangs a really excellent hatchment.  Hatchments are generally thought to have started in the 17c and were diamond shaped painted with a deceased person's coat of arms.  These formed part of an elaborate funeral heraldry and were hung outside the house, sometimes for the duration of the period of mourning, before being moved permanently into a church.  The practice continued into the very early years of the 20c with a slight increase in the size of the later versions.

The pulpit is early 19c and the 12c font, under the gallery, is fashioned from a square block decorated with arches.

Two people are particularly associated with this church.  Perhaps the more famous is Parson Barnes the Dorset poet, who spent his childhood years on a nearby farm and who went to school in Sturminster Newton.  He left a well-known poem about the church bells. (See Winterborne Came). The second person is commonly known as 'The Lady of Lydlinch'.  Legend has it that she was born and brought-up in West Parley during the 14c.  In due course, she married a man from Lydlinch where she lived for the rest of her life.  However, her heart was always in West Parley and when she died, she left instructions that her heart should be buried there.  During restoration of the West Parley church, a 14c urn was found and placed in a glazed niche, behind bars, in the outside of the east wall where it can be seen to this day.  Outside the porch at Lydlinch church there is an ancient tomb with the following words inscribed:

'Here lie the remains of a lady who gave the rector of this church for ever one portion of 'tyths' arising out of Dudsbury farm in West Parley and another out of Knowle farm in Woodlands'.

Such generosity; it seems a shame she was so modest that we do not know her name.

This is an exceptional church that handsomely repays a visit.

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Lyme Regis

lychett-minster1.jpg

 

Lyme Regis

St. Michael the Archangel

The wonderful rather squat building seems to cling to the hill as if the elements and the sea, which is only twenty yards away from the west wall, might seek to tear it away.

There has been a church here certainly since AD 774 when the land was granted to the monks of Sherborne, who needed a source of salt from the sea to preserve food.  However, the present building dates from Norman times and the remains can be found in the porch and the base of the 58 ft tower where there is an excellent Norman arch.  The upper parts of the tower are C16 and the nave was completed around 1506. 

There is a superb barrel roof and bosses with an impressive mural of 1850 depicting 'The raising of the Cross' at the junction wall with the chancel.  Below is a screen of 1889.  In 1885, steps in the nave were removed and the whole sloped up towards the east, which always creates a most pleasing theatrical effect.

In a pew near the front there are arms, which were for the use of civic dignitaries. The splendid Victorian font in the baptistry under the tower, was erected in memory of Rev Hodges, vicar 1833-80.  There is an exceptional Jacobean pulpit with canopy of 1613 and the west gallery is 1611.  Note, the small window in the northern wall of the porch, which is a memorial to Thomas Coram, a wealthy sea captain and merchant.  He was so appalled by the destitution of children in London that he set up a Foundling Hospital, into which he poured all his money, eventually dying a pauper.

In September 2009 a new purpose-built traditional pipe organ arrived from the Anton Skrabl works in Slovenia. This superb three manual instrument with mechanical key action and electric stop selection occupies most of the central section of the west gallery.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Lyscombe

Church imageLyscombe

Chapel - Dedication unknown

Buried in a fold of the chalk downland between the villages of Piddletrenthide and Cheselbourne rests a delightful relic of medieval ecclesiastical buildings. 3½ hides of land at Lyscombe formed part of the original endowment of Milton Abbey and was mentioned in 1311 with the chapels at Wooland and Whitcombe. It passed to Sir John Tregonwell when King Henry VIII granted him the Abbey's possessions in 1540.

The chancel is C12, but the nave was entirely rebuilt in C15 and C16. Originally, the east window was a single light that was widened in C13 and a chamfered trefoil head inserted. The Chancel arch is mid C12. The stone stair in the chancel is late C16 and gives rise to the proposition that the building may have been used as a dwelling. Alongside, are the remains of the priest's house.

Although in a ruinous condition, the buildings were Grade II Listed in January 1956. In 2005 the whole suite was repaired with a grant of £260,000 from DEFRA and converted into a public space and over-night shelter for walkers on the Downland Way through Dorset.

This work, using traditional materials of lime mortar, masonry, green oak carpentry and thatched roofing, won the RIBA Wessex South West Town & Country Design Award 2006 and a Civic Trust Award 2007.

 This is a most sensitive restoration in a beautiful setting, which generously rewards a visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Maiden Newton

 

 

Maiden Newton

 Maiden Newton

Maiden Newton is hardly a town yet is almost too large to be called a village and its splendid medieval church reflects this slightly superior status.  It has been an important place from time immemorial, the rivers Hooke and Frome meet here, a major road runs through the centre and the Victorians built a railway past the outskirts and provided a station, which is active to this day.

The church is ancient and much of it is Norman from around 1100, but this probably replaced an earlier Saxon building of before 787, when it was burnt by marauding Danes.  Of the original Norman building only the west end, the north wall, although the windows are of about 1540, and the lower part of the tower survive.  Of very great importance is the original Norman wooden door in the north wall, which is believed to be still hanging on the original hinges. (It has been suggested that this is one of the oldest church doors in the country.)  Note, behind the pulpit, there is a small Norman door, which leads via a stairway built into the thickness of the wall and a buttress, to the bell ringing chamber above.  Much of the rest of the church is 15c.  Note, the squint on the south side of the chancel arch and the impressive nave roof of 1450. The south porch was built in 1500, although the actual door is early 17c and it too, may be on Norman hinges.  The octagonal font is thought to have been made in about 1250.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

This is a fine church that seems to have been little 'improved' by the Victorians, who restricted themselves to simply adding an organ in 1885, a vestry to the north side of the chancel in 1886, an east window and chancel glass and the roof above.

Maiden Newton is hardly a town yet is almost too large to be called a village and its splendid medieval church reflects this slightly superior status.  It has been an important place from time immemorial, the rivers Hooke and Frome meet here, a major road runs through the centre and the Victorians built a railway past the outskirts and provided a station, which is active to this day.

The church is ancient and much of it is Norman from around 1100, but this probably replaced an earlier Saxon building of before 787, when it was burnt by marauding Danes.  Of the original Norman building only the west end, the north wall, although the windows are of about 1540, and the lower part of the tower survive.  Of very great importance is the original Norman wooden door in the north wall, which is believed to be still hanging on the original hinges. (It has been suggested that this is one of the oldest church doors in the country.)  Note, behind the pulpit, there is a small Norman door, which leads via a stairway built into the thickness of the wall and a buttress, to the bell ringing chamber above.  Much of the rest of the church is 15c.  Note, the squint on the south side of the chancel arch and the impressive nave roof of 1450. The south porch was built in 1500, although the actual door is early 17c and it too, may be on Norman hinges.  The octagonal font is thought to have been made in about 1250.

This is a fine church that seems to have been little 'improved' by the Victorians, who restricted themselves to simply adding an organ in 1885, a vestry to the north side of the chancel in 1886, an east window and chancel glass and the roof above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapperton

Church imageMapperton

All Saints

Although the approach along a drive, bounded by beautifully manicured lawns and an avenue of trees, creates both anticipation and excitement, nothing could prepare one for the sheer pleasure of seeing this delightful suite of manorial buildings. 

The stone house, in the form of an 'L', is from mid C16 and is surely one of the most beautiful in Dorset. The little church creates the final element of a 'U' shape with it, thus creating a courtyard. 

The origins of the church are medieval, and thought to have been started by Robert Morgan, who was one of the few men allowed to wear a hat in the presence of King Henry VIII '.........in consideration of diverse infirmities which he hath in his hedde.' The present building is mostly as commissioned by Squire Brodrepp in 1704. The round headed windows may have been designed to harmonize with the house. However, each of these memorable windows has an heraldic or pictorial medallion of stained glass, dating from 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Brodrepp is reputed to have paid the sum of £10 for them.

The font is Norman.

 

 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Mappowder

Church imageMappowder

St. Peter and St. Paul

Mappowder stands in a commanding position south of the village of Pulham and high above the edge of the Blackmore Vale. For 300 years this was the seat of the Coker family whose 1654 mansion has long since been pulled down to make way for a splendid farmhouse, whose gate posts are the only relics of the earlier building.

The brown stone church of St.Peter and St.Paul is almost entirely late C15 although the chancel is by Slater and Carpenter of 1868. This is a very beautiful church in a lovely setting. The west tower has Somerset tracery in the bell openings. The simple porch and south aisle elevations are embattled and the different decoration of the later chancel elevation is a clever reminder that it was an addition and not a part of the original. Inside, the large plain glass windows allow light to flood into the building. It is a surprise that there is no stained glass and one must assume that Cromwell's men probably smashed what there was.

In the south aisle there is a niche which contains the small (2 ft) C14 recumbent figure of a knight with crossed legs, holding a heart. There appears to be some uncertainty as to the origins of the figure because there is no formal date or inscription. One theory suggests that it represents a boy whose mother dedicated him to the crusades, while another has it that it records the death of a knight in a foreign land whose heart only was brought back for burial here.

The impressive square table font of C12 is of Purbeck marble. Pevsner described the screen under the tower as being 'prettily flamboyant' and looking Victorian. In fact, both it and the reredos are the 1925 work of the Rev. G.A.Coleman and his friend Mr. Ringrose.

This is a church that generously rewards a visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Margaret Marsh

Church imageMargaret Marsh

St. Margaret

This is a small hamlet in Blackmore Vale country.  The name probably derives from one of the Margarets who were C14 abbesses of the nunnery at nearby Shaftesbury, and 'Marsh' simply refers to the soggy land.  The dedication to St. Margaret may refer to St. Margaret of Antioch, who was a popular saint in the medieval period with around 200 English churches bearing her name. 

The church is almost entirely from the 1872-3 restoration by Crickmay, although the pleasing tower, with Somerset tracery on the bell-openings, is C15.

The church is locked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Marnhull

Church imageMarnhull

St Gregory

Marnhull is a hill-top settlement and stands above the river Stour.  It was once a place famous for bull-baiting, which took place on the 3rd May each year and was very popular until "put down" in 1763 because of the very bad behaviour of the spectators.  Later in that century, the rector wrote that the place was renowned for its tall people, both men and women.  Thomas Hardy made the village 'Marlott' in his novels and the home of one of his most famous heroines, Tess of the D'Urbevilles.

The church is very impressive with a splendid 15c tower that can be seen for miles around and regarded by some as the finest example in Dorset.  There is a lone Norman pier, decorated with scallops and masks, in the north arcade, which indicates that there must have been a substantial building on the site from that period.  However, the present church is essentially 15c and the richly coffered roof of the nave also belongs to that century.  The Victorians re-built the south wall and installed the south arcade in 1852.  They improved the chancel in 1882, although the east window had to wait until 1911 for glass by Morris & Co.

The mural painting of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer above the chancel arch is from Queen Anne's reign (1665-1714), although whether this was paid for by her Bounty (the result of a strong resurgence of Anglicanism) is not clear.  There is a rood-loft stairway on the northern side of the arch.  This would have led to the rood loft stretching across the chancel arch and on which would have stood figures of the Cross, St Mary the Virgin and St John the Baptist.  The oak screen below the west gallery is from the Charles I (1600-1649) period and on either side are traces of Consecration Crosses.  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.

The Nottingham alabaster effigies on an altar-tomb depicting a knight in armour with a woman on either side, have been near certainly identified as John Carent (senior), who died in 1478, with his two wives.  The somewhat mutilated state of the work is thought to have been caused by the theft of alabaster to make dies for coins.

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner declares that the font is ".....an enormous, uncouth square block with top spurs...."!  However, it was almost certainly made from the great stone of a wayside Cross.  The references are all coy about giving it a date.

The church at Marnhull has been blessed with two families who have provided quite astonishing service through successive rectors.  Three generations of Glissons put in 106 years during the 17c and 18c and the Place family 107, one of them, Harry Place, managing 50 years.

This is a wonderful church that amply rewards a visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Marshwood

Church imageMarshwood

St. Mary

This interesting Victorian church sitting on an exposed hilltop site next to a primary school was originally built in 1841, but re-modelled, apart from the tower, in 1884 to a design by G. Vialls.

Inside, the building is simple with the chancel arch just suggested by Purbeck marble columns, but it does have a south side aisle.  The chancel pews and red wall lamps were designed by Thomas Hardy, the celebrated novelist.  The church silver was given to the cathedral at Juba in the Sudan.

Most impressively, when this contributor visited in March 1995 the offertory box had been wrenched out of the wall, but still the church was open for visitors - surely an example for others.

 

 

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Martinstown

Church imageMartinstown

St. Martin

The siting of this church, in the middle of the village, yet set slightly back from its own green and among majestic trees, has been carefully done and the resulting scene is most attractive.

Like so many others in the county, the building has evolved over the centuries.  The original was built in 12c, but it was rebuilt in the perpendicular style when the tower was added in 15c and finally ‘restored’ in 1905.

The piers and arches of the nave are early Norman as is the square font (about 1125) with its interesting later cover.  The Chantry of St. Martin was founded in 1367 and was probably in the north aisle where the Lady Chapel now is.  The present pulpit is sadly a cut-down version of the original three decker of 1626.  The wall panelling was fashioned from the old family pews when they were removed to make way for more modern seating.

The chancel is a good example of a ‘droop’, although according to the excellent little church guide, there is apparently no documentary evidence to confirm it.  The inclination to the northeast symbolises Christ’s drooping head on the Cross.

Note the very rare George II (died 1760) hatchment; most are George III or later.

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, uniquely 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 images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Melbury Sampford

Church imageMelbury Stampford

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, uniquely 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 images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Melplash

Church imageMelplash

Christ Church

This is an interesting Neo Norman church of 1845 built at the expense of the local land owner, James Bandinel., to a design by Benjamin Ferry. He was a friend of Marc Isambard Brunel (father of the great engineer Kingdom Isambard Brunel) and was instrumental in the construction of the Thames Tunnel and at one time secretary to William Wilberforce. This large church was built in anticipation of a big increase in population to produce flax for the Bridport rope and net industry.  Unfortunately, it did not materialise.

The building is cruciform with a massive central tower containing just two bells.  Originally the sanctuary was apsidal, however in 1975, which marked the 900th anniversary of the Salisbury Diocese, a decision was taken to divide off the nave with a glazed screen and remove the pews. 

The area is used for exhibitions, meetings, social functions and badminton.  In this bold and brave alteration, the altar was moved to the north transept, the apse became the baptistry and the south transept effectively became the nave.  The result is a building much used and a church more in keeping with the community it serves.  The guide says that before the alterations 50% of the income went in heating, now the revenue from badminton covers the cost.

Note, the church was modelled on the old Norman church at Shoreham in Sussex and the font is a copy of a broken font found at Whitchurch Canonicorum.

 

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 ©

Milton Abbas - Chapel

Church imageMilton Abbas Chapel

St Catherines

This little building requires a some determination to find because it is somewhat hidden in a wood on the hill immediately above and in line with the east end of Milton Abbey.  Nevertheless, the effort is well rewarded.  The chapel is set in a charming woodland clearing and there is a delightful serenity about it.  There is also a quite stunning view of the Abbey, 300 yards below, all the more enchanting in the autumn when the leaves are turning.  After St Catherine was martyred in Alexandria her body was taken by angels to the summit of Mount Sinai, where her monastery still stands.  This was a hugely popular saint and is commonly associated with churches sited on hill tops. (see Abbotsbury St Catherines)

The chapel is late Norman and built by the monks as a pilgrim chapel. It is the oldest building in the Milton Abbas complex and is very simple with two Norman windows and two Norman doors. Over the south door is an inscription that promises pilgrims 120 days indulgence. (For an explanation of indulgence see Milton Abbey Chantry)  The nave was strengthened in the 16c but by the end of the 19c the building was derelict.  In 1901, the Hambro family restored it and a service of consecration was held on St Catherine's night.

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Milton Abbey

Abbotsbury

 

Milton Abbas Abbey

Milton Abbey occupies probably the most beautiful setting of any church in the county of Dorset.  It rests in a natural amphitheatre surrounded by delightfully wooded hills.  The first church was established here in 933  by King Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, to commemorate his brother lost at sea.  Legend has it that Athelstan was responsible for the death because he thought his brother was plotting to take the throne and had him cast adrift in a boat with neither oars nor sail.  Almost certainly prompted by guilt, he endowed the Abbey with the income from sixteen manors in Dorset and several important relics of saints from Brittany, thus ensuring a generous income from pilgrims.

 

King Edgar (959-975) sacked the secular priests and replaced them with Benedictine monks in 964.  It has been suggested that it was still quite a small establishment consisting of a stone church with the monastic buildings constructed from wood. 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


 

 The monastery appears to have grown in importance during the Norman period, sitting roughly in the middle of the monastic income league for Dorset.  More than Abbotsbury and Sherborne, but less than Shaftesbury and Cerne.  Whilst not a lavish income, it was certainly enough to maintain a programme of building to replace the early temporary structures.

There was a catastrophic fire in 1309, caused by a lightening strike on the spire.  Although the building of a replacement church was soon started, it took a long time and only reached its present size under Abbot William Middleton, who was elected in 1482.  The delay was caused by a number of reasons.  Arguably, the most important was the fact that the Abbey had become exceedingly lax with the brethren failing to adhere to the monastic rules to the extent that they were even keeping women!  In addition, as has been mentioned elsewhere on this website, 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.  Construction 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.  So it needed a man of vision like Abbot Middleton to drive the project forward.  Gradually a town, called Middleton, had developed alongside the Abbey and this had prospered, partly as a result of a weekly market and an annual three day fair, granted by a charter from King Henry III in 1252 and partly because it was on an important route between Blandford and Dorchester and was used by many pilgrims.  By 1332, it was the biggest provider of a personal tax in Dorset demanded by the King to fund his wars with France


MILTON ABBEY

 

Monastic building continued until terminated by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.  The monks were sent elsewhere, all with pensions, and Abbey's estates sold off. 

 

John Tregonwell, a lawyer who had assisted Henry VIII in obtaining a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, accepted the surrender of the Abbey and its lands on behalf of the King.  He was anxious to become the owner of the Abbey and after offering bribes to Cromwell for another monastery, was successful in purchasing Milton Abbey and some of its estate a year later for a down payment of £1,000 plus a rent of £12 per year.  He gave the Abbey to the towns people as their parish church and took up residence in part of the old monastic buildings.  Despite the fact that the country had become Protestant, he and his family still practiced Roman Cath

olicism, which stood him in very good stead when Queen Mary ascended the throne.  He was knighted during Mary's coronation and made Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset.  When he died there was confusion over his estate, which led to bitter feuding within the family and was not sorted out for several generations.  Things were more settled by the time John Tregonwell IV married Jane Freke ( the daughter of Sir Thomas Freke - see Iwerne Courtney) whose son, John V, fell in 1605 from the Abbey roof and was saved by his billowing skirts that acted as a parachute.  There were more Tregonwells and more litigation amongst rival beneficiaries until finally, in 1752, the estate was sold to the immensely wealthy Joseph Damer.  His fortune had been amassed in Ireland and he had married Lady Caroline Sackville, the daughter of the second Duke of Dorset.  In the same year he was elevated to the Irish Peerage and created Baron Milton.  The ancient town of Milton close by irritated him and he set about destroying it.  He had the grammar school transferred to Blandford and demolished each house as the leases fell in.  Finally, when only a few houses remained, he flooded them by opening the sluice gates, but he had met his match because one of the tenants was a lawyer who successfully sued and won.  He did, however, build the model village of Milton Abbas, albeit out of sight!

In 1771, he instructed the eminent architect, Sir William Chambers to design a new mansion house in a pseudo gothic style to blend with the Abbey church.  It was not long before the architect and client fell-out.  The architect referring to his client as "..this imperious lord".  Chambers resigned whereupon Damer retained James Wyatt, who finished the house and designed most of the superb interior.  He also worked on the church, although he was responsible for destroying many of the medieval features.  The famous landscape gardener, Capability Brown had been employed, since 1763, to re-model the setting, including the provision of an ornamental lake.  Damer was not a happy man, his wife died in 1775 and his sons were hopeless spendthrifts.  He was elevated again and created Earl of Dorchester in 1792.  He died in 1798 at the age of eighty, whereupon one of his sons reformed and settled down to manage his inheritance.

After passing through the hands of several other family members, the house and estate of over 8,500 acres was sold to Baron Hambro in 1852.  It is to this Danish merchant banker that subsequent generations must be profoundly grateful for his restoration of the Abbey church.  The building was in a poor state of repair and he retained the services of Sir George Gilbert Scott as architect to carry out a complete restoration.  He and his son Sir Everard Hambro were exceptionally good landlords and paid for many charitable undertakings in the area including the provision of a hospital and doctor in the village.  By 1932 the rents from agricultural holdings were abysmal and the house with the estate were put on the market.  It was not until 1939 that the house and church were finally sold to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with a view to converting it into a theological college.  This was not to be and the building was used as a faith healing centre for some years before being sold again in 1953 to establish a boy's Public School, which it still is.  The Abbey church is used as a chapel and the only remaining monastic building, the Abbot's Hall, as the dining room.

Milton-on-Stour

Church imageMilton-On-Stour

St. Simon & St. Jude

This is a Victorian church of elegant proportions, which stands next to a modern church school, but remote from the hamlet it serves.  It was built in 1868 to a design by Slater & Carpenter.  The west tower with its broach spire is particularly pleasing.

The church is usually locked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Minterne Magna

Milton Magna

 Minterne Magna

St. Andrew

This fascinating little church abuts directly onto the main road and since there is no porch, one must hope for little traffic during weddings and funerals!

The church was originally late medieval, but altered in 1615-1620 and again in 1800 when the tower was added.  There is a nice gallery at the west end, which houses the organ.  There are important memorials, particularly the one to General Charles Churchill (1714), who was the brother of the Duke of Marlborough.  Also Sir Nathaniel Napier 1708

 

 

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Monkton Wyld

Church imageMonkton Wyld

St. Andrew

The hamlet of Monkton Wyld is so close to the western boundary of Dorset that it is almost in Devon.  This is very rural hill country with only a scattering of houses here and there and yet quite suddenly and rather unexpectedly, you come upon a simple war memorial with this superb church behind and all held in a fold of the hill.  Beyond the exquisitely styled lych gate a path, bounded by beautifully clipped yews, leads to the porch.

The porch is wooden and open at the sides, yet the tracery and colonnettes suggest an anticipation of the quality awaiting inside.  The building is superbly proportioned and surmounted in the middle by an elegant 120 ft. broached spire with twin tiers of lucarnes.  It was constructed in 1848-9 from flint with Caen stone dressings in pure Decorated style to a design by R.C.Carpenter.  Richard Cromwell Carpenter was (and is) a well regarded architect who specialised in Ecclesiological design and is important particularly for his exceptionally sensitive restoration of Sherborne Abbey (1850-5).

Inside, the church is breathtaking; every aspect speaks of the highest quality.  The nave is simple and unadorned and, as a result, the eye is naturally drawn forward towards, first the richly decorated choir screen, with a carved and painted rood, and then beyond to the chancel with its luxurious altar rails and coronas (candle sticks).  There is a superb pulpit with a magnificent curved stairway leading up to it and the choir screen has an elegant pair of brass gates.  The chancel is, according to Pevsner, almost as long as the nave and very much in line with the teachings of the Ecclesiologists.  It has a stenciled painted ceiling.

The parish of Monkton Wyld was formed in 1850 from part of Wooton Fitzpaine.  In 1891 the civil parish consisted of 327 people, but with only 162 in the Ecclesiastical parish.  So this has never served a large population and was originally built at the expense of a wealthy person who lived in the nearby mansion.  (Now a holistic education centre).

The church and its lovely setting is undoubtedly one of the little gems of Dorset and well worth visiting.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Morden

Church imageMorden

St Mary 

The church stands very upright at the top of rising ground, which invests it with a slightly surreal feeling as you approach up the path from the road.  The tower is tall and so is the nave, tending to accentuate the air of loftiness.

It was rebuilt in 1873 by Joseph Seller, who was then eighty years old.  With its height and clerestory, the building is well lit and gives the impression of spaciousness.  Interestingly, there is a curtain that can be used to screen off the chancel; no doubt to conserve heat for evensong in the winter.  Of great interest is the figure of a knight, kneeling on one knee, attached to the north wall of the tower arch.  This is Thomas Earle (1597), who once owned Charborough Park, according to Nikolaus Pevsner, in the act, not of prayer, but in homage.  

There is an ancient font and outside in place of regular gargoyles, there are some rather nice bear-like creatures.

 

 

 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©