St. Mary the Virgin
The church was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin in 1299, but of the original building only the west arch under the tower remains. The present church seems to have been rebuilt during the 15th century – the tower somewhat earlier. The chancel, the north colonnade of the nave and the south porch are of the early 16th century. The south porch has been partly restored and the door was blocked up when it was made into a vestry.
The north porch was added in 1867 and on the west wall is a coffin lid with a moulded edge and the remains of a cross, dating from the early part of the 14th century. Under the wooden seat on the east side there are three floor slabs, one of which is in memory of an earlier rector, John Hooke, who died in 1700. These were originally under the communion table, but were removed to the porch when the church was enlarged in the same year.
The south tower is the oldest part of the church and on the north pillars there are some delicate carvings of roses and oak leaves with acorns. The rose symbolised spiritual love and the oak was the sacred tree before the arrival of Christianity.
The tower itself contains a peal of six bells. The first was cast by Thomas Purdue in 1683, the second by W. Knight in 1721 and the third and fourth have Latin inscriptions on them and were re-cast in 1947. The fifth is by Roger Purdue and dated 1633. In 1949 all the bells were re-hung and a sixth, a treble, was added in memory of Commander Charles Swayne RN. A board in the south transept states “A peal was rung at Piddlehinton on Christmas Day Morning 1820, 4 hours and 2 minutes”.
In 1961, while repairs were being carried out, the removal of defective plaster revealed two Hagioscopes or Squints, one on each side of the chancel arch. These enabled the congregation in the aisles or transepts to see into the sanctuary. Both have been opened up. This work also revealed two early 16th century niches on either side of the altar which would almost certainly held statues of St Mary the Virgin, and St Peter, before the desecration by the Puritans.
A single square-headed piscina, with a little shelf called a credence upon which the sacred vessels would have stood, can be seen in the south wall of the sanctuary. The piscina is a basin with a drain leading to consecrated ground in the churchyard, for disposal of water used in the cleansing of the chalice. Unfortunately, the basin appears to have been removed or filled in and there is no visible sign of the drain.
Further to the west, in the south wall of the chancel, there is an unusual late 15th Century sedilia. These are usually two or three stone seats, often differing in height, used to accommodate the priest, deacon and sub-deacon. The back of the sedilia has three stone panels, side standards and over-hanging cornice. It would appear to have been made for three people, although it is rather small, but perhaps the clergy of medieval times were thinner than they are today! Certainly the floor would have been higher.
In the north wall of the chancel is a memorial, painted on wood, to the memory of the wife of Thomas Clavering, rector from 1629 to 1665, who died of the Plague whilst ministering to the sick of the parish. The eloquent is in Latin and there is a translation underneath. To the right of the memorial, neatly scratched on one of the small panes of glass in the window is the name of "Alfred Barnwell, January 1833". Was this just an erring choirboy or perhaps just the signature of the person who installed the window?
In 1867 the church was enlarged to seat 300 people. The north aisle was rebuilt and widened by 6 feet and the nave lengthened by 12 feet; the cost of this was £1,050, which was partly paid for by selling the lead from the roof. The Incorporated Society for the Enlargement of Churches also gave a grant of £30. The architect was Ewan Christian, who worked on five other churches in Dorset, including Piddletrenthide and Alton Pancras. The whole extension serves as a memorial to Mary Emma Roper, the wife of the rector, the Rev Thomas Roper. He and his second wife, Elizabeth are commemorated in one of the two windows in the south wall of the chancel.
In 1999 flood lighting was installed as a thanksgiving for the new millenium.
Ann Winzer - Nursing Heroine of Waterloo
Close to the north boundary of the churchyard there is a gravestone to the memory of Ann Winzer, who died in 1873, aged 82, a resident of the parish.
She was born Ann Keates in Fordington, Dorchester in 1791 and christened in St George's Church, Fordington 21/1/1795. She married James Winzer at the same church 1/4/1811.
The following tells her story, as far as we know it:
Ann Winzer acted as a nurse to the wounded at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, many years before Florence Nightingale's famous days pioneering the nursing of the sick and wounded in the Crimean War. Born in Dorchester in 1791, Ann came to live in Piddlehinton after her nursing days with the army were over. She married James Winzer, who was also born in Dorchester. He must have seen military service, probably overseas, for he was one of the many Chelsea Pensioners who did not live at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. It seems that Colonel Astell, who came to live at West Lodge (Piddlehinton) in 1862, took steps to ensure that Ann got a pension in recognition of her service to the army. In the census of 1871, James gives his profession as plasterer journeyman. Their son Joseph (born 1844), was living with them at that time, aged 27. He was a plasterer like his father.
Ann died in 1873 and is buried in Piddlehinton churchyard. Her tombstone near the north boundary tells her story. Her husband died two years later.
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE BELOVED WIFE OF
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
NOVEMBER 28th 1873
AGED 82 YEARS.
SHE WAS A WATERLOO HEROINE
WHO ASSISTED AT THAT FAM
OUS BATTLE A.D. 1815 BY AIDING
& ASSISTING THE SICK AND WOUND
ED SHE ENDURED MANY HARDS
HIPS HAVING FOLLOWED THE
BRITISH ARMY FROM BRUSSELS
TO PARIS. FROM PARIS TO DUNNEY
RETURNED TO ENGLAND & FROM
THENCE TO THE ROCK OF GIBR
ALTAR WHERE SHE REMAINED
4 YEARS. SHE AFTERWARDS RE
SIDED IN THIS PARISH WHERE
SHE RECEIVED A PENSION THRO
UGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF
COLONEL ASTELL WITH THAT OF
MANY OTHER OFFICERS BY WHO
SE KINDNESS THIS STONE IS
RAISED AS A TRIBUTE OF RES
PECT TO A LONG LIFE SPENT
IN TRUE AND FAITHFUL SERVICE.
The present clock was re-discovered in 1976 during a routine church inspection, lying as a heap of rusting iron in one of the tower rooms. The parish must be indebted to Mr J. Hooper who undertook extensive research into its provenance and was responsible for the partial restoration. These notes are based on his work of 1979.
The first recorded church clock was made by Ralph Cloud of Beaminster, who was paid £5 in 1697 “for making ye clork”. However, it is possible that there had been an earlier instrument because there is a record stating that “2d was pd Wm Arnold for the clork used for the former churchwarden’s times”, which may have been a reference to the sale of the old clock.
Lawrence Boyce of Puddletown constructed the clock on display at the back of the church in 1730. He and his son, John (1699–1766), had a thriving business and were craftsmen of considerable ability. They were responsible for many long case clocks in the district as well as a similar turret clock built for Bere Regis church, but which can now be seen running in the County Museum in Dorchester.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©