This church must rank among the most important in Dorset. You have tantalising glimpses of the building as it is approached, but it is only when entering the churchyard that the beauty of whole suite becomes obvious. Adjacent to the church stands the impressive chantry house of circa 1500, which was almost certainly built for a chantry priest. There is now no sign of the chantry chapel, but his duties would have included saying daily masses for the souls of departed patrons: the living having probably been endowed in perpetuity. Slightly to the south, stands the elegant remains of a preaching cross, modified in 1924 to serve as a memorial.
Most impressive of all is the delightfully slender 14c limestone spire, surmounted by a copper weathercock from 1698. It was reputedly rebuilt in the early years of the 20c and is one of only three ancient spires in the county. (The others are Iwerne Minster and Winterbourne Steepleton) The south porch, through which the building is entered, is also 14c and attached to the wall is a painted early 19c notice asking the congregation to remove their "...pattens and clogs before entering the church"! The rest of the building is essentially 15c.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©
Once inside, you are immediately confronted by, perhaps, the best screen in Dorset that divides the chancel from the nave. This really superb wooden structure of six light divisions features fan vaulting and rich foliated decoration along the top. On the north side, the stairs are still in place, which led to the top of the screen where once the Rood would have stood. This usually took the form of effigies of the Cross in the centre with the Virgin Mary on one side and St John the Baptist on the other. The rather heavy pulpit is Dutch c 1600 and the wooden lectern is constructed from Jacobean panels, perhaps from a clerk's reading desk. The pew ends are very interesting with various decorations of, for example, a deer, birds and a representation of the 'flight from Egypt' and some from the 19c bearing the arms of Rev. William Turner, who was the incumbent. However the most fascinating shows the figure of a man holding a cup, which recent research suggests depicts St John who was challenged by an unbeliever to demonstrate his faith. The test was for him to take a poison and survive after two others had been shown to have died from it. After praying, the saint took the poison and did indeed survive.
Rev. William Henry Turner was the incumbent for forty years during the 19c. He undertook a fairly major restoration without wrecking the building, which sadly so often happened when his less sensitive contemporaries elected to 'improve' their ancient buildings. His works included painting the chancel ceiling, lengthening the nave and installing plaster rib-vaulting and building the polygonal western vestry. In 1853, he had a recumbent effigy of himself with his hands crossed over a Bible superbly executed in stone by W. Theed. This was somewhat ghoulishly stored in the vicarage until his death, aged 89, in 1875. It now lies rather serenely in the north chapel. The arch above the entrance to the chapel is itself a memorial of 1633 to Ann Gerard whose family were lords of the manor.