Church imagePiddletrenthide

All Saints

Piddletrenthide must be an early example of ribbon development as it strings along both sides the road that shares the valley with the Piddle river. From time to time roads lead off to the west and one of these leads down into a delightful suite of cottages that stand below the slightly unexpected, but nevertheless splendid village church.

From the outside, the most important feature is the magnificent tower of 1485, replete with twin light bell openings, numerous pinnacles and terrifying gargoyles. Inside the porch is a doorway featuring a zigzag decoration, which confirms the building's Norman origins. The nave and aisles are C15. In 1852 the building was restored and the walls raised by John Hicks, who was the brother of the incumbent. This was Hick's first major commission since setting up an office in Dorchester. He went on to become the architect of choice, restoring and building more than 27 churches in Dorset, before his untimely death in 1869. The chancel is of 1880 by Ewan Christian.

There are some excellent Victorian memorials.

Outside, on the south east side of the chancel can be found two semi-circular headstones that mark the graves of members of the the Durbefield family, whom Thomas Hardy immortalised as the D'Urbervilles in 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imagePilsdon

St Mary 

Pilsdon is an ancient place, taking its modern name from 'Pilesdone' in the Domesday Book of 1086, which probably meant a hill with a peak.  Pilsdon Pen, a mile away to the north is, at 908 ft., the highest point in Dorset, but the hamlet rests fairly sheltered at its foot.  This is delightfully rural countryside with only the thinnest scattering of houses.

The most attractive yellow stone C17 manor house with mullioned windows is, by far, the most impressive building in the area.  It had a side role to play in the flight of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester.  After his abortive attempt to sail to France from Charmouth, he returned to Trent, stopping for the night in Broadwindsor.  However, his pursuers were convinced he had holed-up in Pilsdon Manor because it then belonged to Sir Hugh Wyndham, a well-known Royalist judge (see Silton).  Not satisfied with the owners denials, the troops, having turned the place upside-down to no effect, suggested that one of his daughters was Charles in disguise!  Having found that was false too, they rode off.  (For Charles's exploits see 'Charles II's 19 days by Jonathan Caseley)

The exquisite little church of St Mary has C13 origins, with C15 windows.  Major restorations took place in 1830 and again in 1875 when Pevsner suggests the bell-turret was erected.  There is a simple tub font, a stoup and a canopied piscina.  The two carved stone figures on the north wall are interesting.  Today, the church has no pews, just straw bales to sit on and is used, several times a day, by the Pilsdon Community for their simple, yet incredibly beautiful, services.

The setting of the church next to the manor house within a most attractive garden, brimming with flowers, makes this a truly inspiring visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imagePimperne

St. Peter

A church has been on this site since Anglo-Saxon times, however it was rebuilt in 1873-4 at the expense of Viscount Portman of Bryanston.  Two original Norman arches remain, one between the porch and the church itself and a dog-tooth arch on the north side of the chancel.  There are some important stained glass windows.  The east window of 1868, which is largely painted,  was transferred from the old church.  Charles Kingsley of 'Water Babies' fame was a curate here in the early 1840s.  The Norman font has an unusual replacement cover of unknown vintage, but of exceptional quality.

Outside, there is a lych gate erected by the Woodhouse family as a World War Two memorial.  Beyond this stands a 14th century preaching cross, which was reduced in height during Cromwell's rule, when all were supposed to have been cut down to the height of a man.




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 ©



St. Mary the Virgin


The Church sits firmly in the centre of this charming village on rising ground.  There has been a building here since the middle of C12, but as with most country churches, it has evolved and been altered by successive generations.  The most outstanding features remaining from the original are the magnificent chancel arch, complete with typical dog-tooth moulding, and the lowest stage of the tower.  The Church guide suggests that some of the gargoyles may have come from the Norman building.

The north and south aisles are C14.  There are two squints (hagioscopes) on the southern side of the chancel arch and these would have given a view of the high altar, so that the raising of the host could be synchronised in the aisle chapels.  Above the squints, originally reached by a wooden stair, there is a C15 doorway, which would once have led to the rood loft.  The south doorway, within the porch, is also C15 and features some elaborate and important carving (see below).



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


By 1848, when the Rev. Thomas Sanctuary arrived (pictured below), the church was in a dilapidated state and anyway too small to accommodate the growing congregation.  The architect, John Hicks of Dorchester was employed (1854 -59) to rebuild the north arcade of pillars, open the west arch leading into the tower to provide more seating (after the galleries were removed) and rebuild the chancel.

The floriated design painted on the walls of the nave is the work of Mrs. Sanctuary, the vicar's wife.  Further exquisite wall painting can be found in the chancel and this was done by a Miss Gunning, whose father was also an archdeacon.

There is a C13 font, which was at one time relegated to the churchyard, but reinstated in 1972; a Victorian black marble one being removed. (note the floor tiling is almost identical to North Poorton)  The brilliant Caen stone pulpit is by R.L.Boulton of Worcester and very similar to the North Poorton pulpit


The Rev. Thomas Sanctuary, vicar 1848 - 89 is worthy of comment because he became Archdeacon of Dorset and was responsible for not only rebuilding Powerstock, but for North Poorton and West Milton as well.  When he arrived in the village it had a reputation for being very wild and he was offered the living because he had been a boxing Blue!

For those who are interested in wall painting, there is an intriguing connection with the East Holme church in the Purbecks.  (See towards the end of the description).


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 ©


Puddle townPuddletown


The great Edwardian surgeon and chronicler of all things Dorset, Sir Frederick Treves, wrote "The feature of greatest interest in Puddletown is the church, one of the few in the county which has been happy escaping the hand of the restorer.....  No church can compare with this in human interest and nowhere can one come into closer communion with the homely spirit of the Dorset of the past."  His words were as true at the turn of the last century as they are today, because this must be one of the most exciting parish churches in the county.

There was certainly a church here in Saxon times, probably on the present site, but the oldest part of the building is a section of the tower, which is not older than 1180-1200.  This may have been a restoration.  During the 13c, the building was made cruciform by the addition of transepts. The bulk of the present structure was erected in about 1400, when the magnificent oak roof was added.  In 1505, there was a further restoration, when the opportunity was taken to raise the roof so that a clerestory could be inserted.  Further works included adding the north aisle, raising the tower by a further 20 feet with an external staircase and the provision of a parapet around both church and tower.   Patronage was in the hands of the Prior of Christchurch Priory until the dissolution in 1539.  He had granted permission to hold a weekly market and fairs twice a year.  (The fairs continued until the 1914-18 war.)   Reginald Pole, the son of the Countess of Salisbury, was vicar here from 1532 to 1536.  He went on to become a Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Mary.  (See Christchurch Priory - Salisbury Chantry.)


In 1634, following a meeting of parishioners, it was agreed that there should be new seating throughout, repair of the defective pillar and arch, a new pulpit and prayer desk, Communion Table and rails, a western gallery and a new font cover.  So it is from this period that we have been bequeathed the superb church furnishings seen today.  The triple-decker pulpit with tester above is a particularly fine example and the box pews are a delight.  Until Charles II (1679) men and women sat separately and scholars and little boys had to sit right under the rector's pew!  Under Charles all this primness was swept away.

Despite a campaign, led by Thomas Hardy the author, to preserve the tiny original chancel, it was enlarged in 1911 at the expense Rev J C Brymer, who was the Lord of the Manor.  Two years later, the slate roof of the porch was replaced with a stone one.  By 1933 the magnificent oak roof was in a poor state and a very comprehensive and careful restoration was carried out.

Thomas Hardy, the celebrated Dorset writer, used Puddletown as 'Weatherbury' in his novel 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.  There had been a family association with the village because his grandfather had played the violincello in the church band.  However, by 1845 the band, much to their disgust, were dismissed and a barrel-organ installed in their place.  It does not seem to have lasted because by 1852 it, too, was replaced by a small organ.  The present instrument, erected in 1906, was made by Hele & Co. of Plymouth.

The unusual beaker-shaped font is Norman.  Damage to the lip may have been caused when seals were removed following an Interdict laid on England by Pope Innocent III in 1209.

The painted texts of Holy Scripture on the walls are from the 17c.

There is an excellent church guide.

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 ©


Church imagePuncknowle

St. Mary the Blessed Virgin

This is an ancient village even by Dorset standards with a name pronounced 'Punnle'.  There is plenty of evidence of dense population in the late Stone-age and the Romans were certainly here.  Today, the village is most attractive with a variety of old and new houses.

The church sits above the village street and adjacent to an old mellow manor house that was once the home of Henry Shrapnell, who invented the shell that bears his name.  The building has its roots in the Norman period, but all that remains now are the chancel arch and the tower with its attractive pyramid roof, although there was some 17c reconstruction.  The wall paintings on the chancel arch are thought to be 14c.  During the Reformation they would have been obliterated with lime-wash and remained so until discovered during the 1891 rebuild.  Only the left hand section is really legible with two pictures that depict the placing of the crown of thorns on Christ's head and either the flagellation or crucifixion.  The simple wooden cross hanging in front indicates where the rood screen would have been.  In 1660, the south aisle, known as the Bexington Chapel, was rebuilt for the benefit of the people of Bexington following the wrecking of their church by the French in the middle of the 15c. Virtually the whole church was rebuilt in 1891 to a design by J. Houghton Spencer.  The pulpit is of this period.  

The font is Norman.  Note the superb 1960s iron screen.

Before leaving the village, notice the oriel windows of the houses opposite the church, which have panels of glazed tiles arranged below the windows. 


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Purse Caundle

Church imagePurse Caundle

St. Peter

This is a delightfully peaceful and serene church in an equally charming village complete with a superb mellow stone manor house of C15.  There is good evidence to suggest that there has probably been a church on this site for more than a thousand years.  However, the first recorded Rector arrived in 1315 and the present building dates from a re-build in 1480.  Subsequently, a chantry chapel was added by William Lange, who died in 1524.  It was subsequently restored in 1896 and again in 1955.

There is a most impressive and attractive Jacobean pulpit with a hexagonal tester above.  The pews have been fashioned from timber salvaged from the destruction of the C18 box pews. The chancel was re-built in 1731 and the nave in 1883.  Note the very fine timber work above.  The font is C15 with a later cover.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageRadipole

St. Ann

Uniquely, mounted on the ceiling above the nave, are four very moving paintings of the Christian story by Ann Tout.  Beneath the gallery, there is a fifth painting of the 'Walking on Water'. A further point of interest is to be found on the cill of the priest's door on the south side of the chancel, where there are fragments of medieval floor tiles.

 Outside, the striking feature of the building is the rather Italianate triple bell turret.  Together with the adjacent church school, it makes a most attractive suite of buildings.






The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageRampisham

St Michael & All Angels

The church and adjacent manor house mark the centre of the village which is hidden in a fold of the chalk upland.

The exact origins of the church are uncertain, but it is safe to say that there has been a parish church on the same site for over 700 years. The oldest part is the tower, which is square and unbuttressed and is built on the south side of the church rather than on the central axis. Its first two storeys date from 1326 and housed a chantry chapel in memory of the son of the then lady of the Manor. The base, now the vestry, contained an altar which permitted a view of the main altar by means of a hagioscope. The tower's belfry was added during the 1858 reconstruction, and houses a peal of five bells.

The church was restored mid C19th, in the decorated style of the C14th. The large font was installed in 1844, a gift to the then rector from his brother. Augustus Welby Pugin designed the rebuilding of the Chancel work completed in 1847. The piscine (basin) and sedililia (priest's seat) are ancient and were incorporated into the rebuilt chancel. Pugin also designed the east window of the chancel, which was made by John Hardman of Birmingham, at a cost of £70 (£7000 today). Pugin's fee was £20 (£2000 today)

The nave was rebuilt and extended by John Hicks, a local architect from Dorchester, in 1858-9 in a similar style to the chancel giving a consistent appearance to the church. One of Hicks employees at this time was an 18 yr-old trainee architect, Thomas Hardy.

Outside, there are remains of what was once a large perpendicular cross of Ham Hill stone on a plinth on which are sculpted the murder of Thomas a Becket and other scenes relating to him. Underneath is the following inscription:
'Fili Dei misereri mei et sic Porter in nomine thu Amen Obit A.D.MDXVI
(Oh Son of God have mercy upon me and thus says Porter in thy name. Amen)

Porter died in 1516. The platform to the side of the Cross is dated 1606. It has suffered the ravages of our climate and so is difficult to be sure of its history.

According to Sir Frederick Treves in his superb 'Highways and Byeways in Dorset' (1906), “Rampisham is one of the most beautiful villages in Dorset. It stands in a valley of trees through which runs a stream. It is a place of old thatched cottages ...” He notes that Rampisham's most famous son was a distinguished physician called Francis Glisson, who was born in 1597. He studied at Cambridge where he eventually rose to become Professor of Physic and after moving to London, a founder member of the Royal Society. He wrote many learned papers, amongst which a series on rickets (partly observed in Dorset) and most famously of all, his description of the anatomy of the liver and in particular the fibrous sheath, known to this day as Glisson's Capsule. He died in October 1677.


The Dorset Historic Churches Trust gratefully acknowledges the contribution to these notes made by James Read and the generous hospitality of Michael Nisbet during various visits to the church. 

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Ryme Intrinseca

Church imageRyme Intrinseca

St. Hippolytus

This little church, another of Dorset's gems, tucked away in a village.  It shares the dedication with only one other church in England, near Hitchen in Hertfordshire.

The original church was built in 1292/3.  The chancel with its lancet windows and most of the nave, with another pair of lancets, survive.  However, the building was considerably altered in the 17c by the addition of a handsome tower with pinnacles and embattled parapet and a porch.  In the chancel and north nave wall, classical 17c windows were installed, one in the form of a trefoil, specifically to light the pulpit.

The simple wagon roof and the uninterrupted view of the chancel is most appealing.  The font cover is dated 1637 and the white and gold coloured organ is early 19c.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Salway Ash

Church imageSalway Ash

Holy Trinity

This interesting church, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as "rather Home Counties with tilled roofs", is brilliantly sited to take advantage of its high commanding position. At 250 feet above sea level, the views are wonderful.

Prior to the building of the present church, the vicar of Beaminster and Netherbury, the Reverend William Bookland BA, built a chapel of ease at Coles Ash, which opened in 1842. Although called a chapel of ease, the new building was only a licensed room for divine services. This meant that funerals and weddings had to be conducted at Netherbury. The chapel doubled during the week as a schoolroom and the arrangement continued until the opening of Holy Trinity and it remains part of the school to this day.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid by a Mrs. Reeves on 5th August 1887 and the church was consecrated on 17th January 1890. The church is in the early English style by architects Crickmay of Weymouth.

The organ is by The Sweetland Organ Co. of Bath and cost £125.00. It was pumped by hand for 47 years, until 1951 when it was electrified. Electric light was installed in 1947.

The chancel stained glass is of 1895



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Sandford Orcas

Church imageSandford Orcas

St. Nicholas

The church of St. Nicholas stands next to a wonderful mellow 16c manor House.

This is a very old Christian site because the first known record of a building is from 1216 during the reign of Henry III (1207-72), who is regarded as one of the most cultured kings ever to have occupied the throne.  There may even have been an earlier church suggested by some 13c work found the 14c chancel.

The present building consists of a 15c south porch, a nave of uncertain vintage, a 15c ten foot square west tower and a north aisle with a vestry at the western end, added during a major Victorian restoration of 1871 by Henry Hall.  The south chapel is also 15c and is notable for its most attractive oak ceiling with moulded beams and square panels.

The round bowled font with continuous fluting is 13c.  The elaborate cover is later.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageSeaborough

St. John

The little church lies at the base of Bubb Down next to a splendid 17c manor house and a scattering of other dwellings in this remote, but very beautiful, part of Dorset.

By far the most important artefact inside is the Saxon font, which suggests that there may well have a very early church on this site.  The decoration is an interesting bestiary with four large animals, including a stag biting a serpent, whose coils entwine the feet of other animals and the whole thing is upside-down!  It was almost certainly the base of an Anglo-Saxon carved cross and was probably hollowed out by the Normans.

If there was a very early church here, nothing now remains prior to 1474 when it was rebuilt.  In 1854, the Victorians completely restored the building, leaving only the tower from the earlier structure and re-using some of the stained glass.  At night, it is illuminated with oil lights and the heating is provided by a solid fuel stove.  Musical accompaniment is provided by a harmonium.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Shaftesbury - Enmore Green

Church imageShaftesbury - Enmore Green

St. John Evangelist

This little building clings to the northern slope of the ramparts to Shaftesbury. It was built in 1843 to a then fashionable Neo Norman design by G. Alexander. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner records that there is an apsed chancel, transepts and a crossings tower. 

The church is locked.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Shaftesbury - St. James

Church imageShaftesbury

St. James

Modern Shaftesbury has emerged from a genuine fortified hill town that overlooks, without dominating, the Blackmore Vale. The site was chosen because the slopes on all sides, except for a narrow strip on the north east, are very steep and therefore comparatively easily defended. There has been a settlement here from C9 and King Alfred founded a nunnery for his daughter, Ethelgiva. By C14 Shaftesbury had become the most populous town in Dorset because the nunnery were the custodians of the bones of Edward the Martyr, which guaranteed it as an important place of pilgrimage. (For about this saint see the Corfe Castle entry). 

The parish of St. James extends below the high ground, on the southern side, and can be reached via the world famous Gold Hill, which connects it to the centre of the town.

The original church is thought to have been built in 1138, however the first recorded rector was appointed in 1327. It stood in open ground until 1725 when it was enclosed by a stone wall. By the middle of C19 it had, in common with many others in the county, become very dilapidated and could only accommodate 200 of the 1,000 then living in the parish. A decision was taken with the approval of the Church Building Committee for Dorset, to demolish the old building and rebuild a much larger church with a seating capacity of 400.

The Diocesan Architect, T.H.Wyatt, rebuilt using green sand stone with dressings of Bath stone in the Decorated (or Middle Pointed) style at a projected cost of £3,000. £2,000 was donated by the Marquis of Westminster, who owned most of Shaftesbury and the rest was found from other notables. The foundation stone was laid on 28th May 1866.

By any standard, this is an impressive church and on entering the eye is naturally drawn towards the the large and rather beautiful east window. Below stands the 7 foot altar decorated with five panels of angel musicians, copies of those in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Studley Royal in the Fountains Abbey estate, and painted during the 1900s. The relatively simple pulpit also has five panels. Note especially the beautifully executed carved capitals on the aisle pillars. The south aisle contains the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where the architect used the east window from the earlier church. Originally it had plain glass, but was installed here with stained glass.

The important two manual organ is by Norman and Beard of 1908. It was refurbished in 2008.

The font is Norman. It was originally in the church of St. Rumbold in Cann on the Salisbury road until it was deconsecrated.

There is a really excellent church guide.

This is an obviously much loved church that is well worth a visit.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Shaftesbury - St. Peter

Church imageShaftesbury

St. Peter

Shaftesbury is a very ancient settlement and it was here that King Alfred is reputed to have founded a nunnery for his daughter as its first abbess, but there is older evidence still of earthen walls suggesting there was shelter for people 2000 years ago. Edward the Martyr's bones (978) were preserved in the nunnery, which made it one of the foremost pilgrim destinations in Europe and, as a consequence, it became the richest Benedictine nunnery in the country. By the time Sir Frederick Treves wrote his excellent book about Dorset at the start of the twentieth century he described St Peter's church thus...."Not least the headlong of these lanes is Gold Hill. It is a cobbled way, slow to climb, at the summit of which are the not unpicturesque Town Hall, the crumbling church of St. Peter and the Sun & Moon Inn." The building was obviously in a parlous state and was allowed to deteriorate still further so that by the Second World War, the south aisle was used as a grain store leading finally to it being declared redundant in 1971. Strenuous restoration efforts were made by the Friends of St. Peter's and by 1977 it was rededicated, making it the first church in the country to become a full-time parish church after being redundant. So this wonderful building still stands next to the Town Hall in the High Street and is certainly not obviously crumbling any more! 

At one time Shaftesbury had eleven churches servicing the pilgrims, but St Peter's is now the only medieval example remaining (its first recorded incumbent was John Scip 1305) and it appears to be in excellent condition. The entrance is through the tower, which is the earliest part of the building. Aligned with the High Street outside there is a narrow north aisle, which terminates in a Lady chapel, while the south aisle, widened by the Victorians, clings perilously to the top of Gold Hill and probably accounts for the generous buttressing of the tower. Above both these aisles springs a C15 clerestory that allows light to flood into the nave below a beautiful paneled oak-beamed roof. The nave with its C15 arches either side leads to no chancel as such yet the simple 1631 altar placed in front of the illuminated C18 panels on the east wall creates a delightful focus. The pews have been removed in favour of modern chairs and there is a generous and impressive organ. The font is C14 (Perpendicular)

This is a very interesting church, which is well worth visiting.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©