Alton Pancras

Alton Pancras -   St. Pancras


All that is left of the original church of St Pancras is the 15th century tower and part of a Norman archway, the church was almost totally rebuilt in the 19th century when it was in a state of near collapse. The nave is by G R Crickmay (1875). The roof is of a scissor beam construction and is supported by corbels of local Ham stone. The floor tiles were made at Poole pottery. There are contrasting styles of stained glass in the windows. Two windows designed by Leonard Evetts (1909-1997). The St Francis window contains many birds as the person commemorated was a great lover of birds. The four main tracery lights of this window use flowers to illustrate the seasons of the year. A bull from the Saunders coat of arms is in the apex of the window. The remarkable face of Nehemiah is from a window in memory of Capt Arthur Saunders designed and signed by H Wilkinson c1915.




The trust thanks Richard Noble for the drone photography




St. Martin

Broadmayne is a village dominated by the busy road, however the church standing back and slightly above is a haven of tranquillity.

The rather rare south tower, which was started in 13c, but not finished until 15c, is the only really old part of the structure.  The rest was rebuilt by John Hicks of Dorchester in 1865 – 6.  Perhaps the most notable items in this church are the sculpted corbels.  These take the form of angels and although very Victorian and somewhat wan for today’s taste do certainly express piety.  These are by Richard Boulton, whose work is to be found in several Dorset churches of this period.  An obviously very gifted artist, he was sufficiently recognised to have his work featured in the Great Exhibition and incorporated in buildings as far apart as Winchester Cathedral and the Courts of Justice in Bombay.







Buckland Newton


Buckland Newton

The Holy Rood


The church rests on the edge of the village near an early C19 manor house.  The building is unique in Dorset because it is the only church to be completely rendered externally.

The nave is essentially C15 and very light and airy, but the chancel, originally C13, was 'improved' several times by the Victorians and the final result is gloomy, despite triple lancet windows and some marble shafting.  The reredos in the sanctuary is brilliantly coloured and by a Mr. Tolhurst of Mowbrays 1927.  Two squints and an aperture high up on the left side, which once led to a rood screen, makes the chancel arch particularly interesting.  There is a C15 font and an intriguing Elizabethan alms box, heavily carved from a single piece of oak.

Very early in the C21 a bequest was received, which funded the building of a superb gallery against the west wall and the installation of a superb new organ.

Above the splendid south porch, with its vaulted ceiling, is a priest's room where once, before the days of vicarages, visiting monks would have been expected to spend the night.  Note, above the door, the small Norman seated Christ.

This is a most interesting church that generously repays a visit.

 The Trust gratefully acknowledges text by Robin Adeney  and drone photography by Richard Noble © 2018

Cerne Abbas

Cerne Abbas

St. Mary the Virgin

Cerne Abbas was once one of the most important towns in Dorset.  It owes its origins to the presence of the great abbey founded there in 987 by Ethelmar, Earl of Devon and Cornwall, but during the C19 the railways went elsewhere with the inevitable result that it withered commercially.

Nevertheless, the town is a most appealing place set in its own beautiful fold in the chalk hills and blessed with some exquisite half-timbered buildings, which nowadays attract tourists from all over the world.  All that remains of the great abbey, which was dissolved in 1539, is a gate house with a most impressive oriel window.  Slightly outside the settlement is the famous Cerne Giant cut into the chalk on the side of a hill.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


The church of St. Mary is almost entirely C15 and at first glance, the eye is naturally drawn to the elegant, if slightly dominating, tower. But take a longer look and the overall effect is breath-taking. Soon other features reach out to you, for example, the Madonna and child above the west door that miraculously escaped desecration by Cromwell's men and the generous battlement decoration of the porch. 

Inside, the building is flooded with light. Tall slender ham stone pillars reach up on both sides of the nave to support elegant arches that in turn support a clerestory above. Apart from the generous impression of space, perhaps the most interesting artefact is the stone screen that divides the nave from the chancel. Before 1870 a wall literally excluded the congregation from sight of the chancel. After that date the wall was reduced to form a base for the screen and the chancel arch, as seen today. The pulpit of 1640 is an excellent example of Jacobean craftmanship. The C15 font has a richly painted modern cover (1963) designed by Kenneth Wiltshire. 






Chaldon Herring




St Nicholas


This is an interesting and attractive church in a delightful little village.  The unusual name is probably derived from the old English 'Calvedon', which means "the hill where calves are pastured" and the C12 manorial family 'Harang' whose family crest includes herrings.  This family also gave their name to Herrison, Langton Herring and Winterborne Herringston.

Originally, there was also a church at Chaldon Boys, but its closeness persuaded the Bishop to amalgamate the two parishes under one Curate in 1446.  The exact C12 origins of the present building appear to be obscure, however it is certain that the north wall and tower belong to the C14, although the tower was not completed until the C15.  As usual, the Victorians could not resist a major rebuild and G.R.Crickmay of Weymouth was retained to design and oversee the work in 1878.  It is to his great credit that the alterations were done with such sensitivity that it was possible to incorporate the genuine medieval windows and arches in the final structure.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


The church has two fonts.  The plain cylindrical C12 font was turned up by the plough in a field in West Chaldon, near the site of a now lost church or chapel at Chaldon Boys (bois probably) and replaced in the church in 1897.  There is evidence of a hinge mounting that would have supported a lockable cover to deter the unauthorised use of Holy Water for sacrilegious purposes. The second font, although rather splendid, is clearly Victorian and presumably installed around the time of the restoration.  There are several examples in the county of ancient fonts being thrown-out by the Victorians, who felt their design was inappropriate (see Kimmeridge and Beaminster).

Note the attractive organ with pipes to the ground.  Also the wooden pulpit with a curved stone stairway to it and a truly magnificent central heating radiator.








Charminster takes its name from a combination of Celtic words. 'Cerne' and 'Char' have the same meaning, so Charminster simply means a church by the River Cerne. For a village church this must surely rate amongst the superlatives. It is magnificent and has origins in the 12th century, but all that remains today is the impressive nave with early pointed arches to the arcades and the round-headed chancel arch with nail-head decoration on the west side. The original chancel was demolished in C17 when the arch was partially blocked with an east window set in it. The present smaller structure was probably built in 1838 and is very restrained, being serenely simple and peaceful. By the late C19 the church was in a poor state and C.E. Ponting of Marlborough, who was the diocesan architect, was briefed to carry out a major restoration. This proved to be an inspired choice because he approached the work with great sensitivity. He would have liked a new, larger chancel to follow the footings of the original, but in the end it was left as it now is.




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



Above, are beautifully executed roof timbers and there are the remains of some C15 wall paintings.  These were discovered in 1890s and restored in 1969.   The pulpit is dated 1635. There is a sumptuous memorial to Grace Pole, a Trenchard daughter, who died in 1638, which was restored in 1970.  The organ, housed in the north aisle, was originally built in 1906 by Norman and Beard of Norwich for a convent in Kilburn. It was bought by the PCC in 1957 and completely rebuilt by W.G Voles of Bristol with a remote console controlling an electro-pneumatic action.

The western tower was erected early in the 16th century by Thomas Trenchard, a local landowner who lived at nearby Wolfeton House and entertained the Spanish royal family when they landed at Melcombe Regis in 1506.  It is perpendicular in style and very striking. The font under the tower is probably C12, but re-cut and shaped C15.

This is one of the most important and beautiful churches in Dorset, which is well worth a visit. There is an excellent and informative church guide.


Compton Valence

Compton Valence

St. Thomas of Canterbury

This is a very important country church, occupying an attractive site behind a mellow stone wall. Between 1839 and 1840 Benjamin Ferry, the distinguished Victorian architect, made a very genuine attempt to re-create a medieval church, complete with an apsidal chancel.  This was before Pugin and Scott, who are more usually associated with the style.  The embattled tower is 15c and has been most skillfully grafted into the 'new' structure to form a pleasing building.

Benjamin Ferry was responsible for at least ten other churches* in Dorset, including alterations to Christchurch Priory, and a number of private houses and public buildings.

(*The others are: Holy Trinity Dorchester: All Saints Dorchester: Little Bredy: Melplash: Osmington: Plush: Tarrant Hinton: Tincleton: Winterborne Whitechurch)




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



All Saints

This charming little church, which harmonizes perfectly with its tranquil village surroundings, is approached through an avenue of magnificent yew trees. It is constructed from a mixture of flint and stone. The interesting tower, however, is entirely of stone and was started in the early C14, but since the upper element is perpendicular, may have had to wait until later to be finished. (The perpendicular period ran from mid C14 to mid C16). The north porch protects a rebuilt Norman doorway, replete with characteristic zigzag mouldings.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Inside, the north aisle, with attractive paneled arches, is from C16. The stalls are made from Jacobean paneling and the pulpit is entirely from this period. The Victorians were busy and T H Wyatt (1872) is credited with the south aisle, although he reused existing medieval masonry. Perhaps the most striking item in the building is the huge monument to Field Marshall Sir John Michel, who died in 1886. His home was at Dewlish House, but during a colourful army career he had served in the Kaffir (South African) and Crimea Wars (1853-6), been shipwrecked on his way to China, defeated mutineers in Bombay and risen to the highest rank. (See his Wikipedia entry) His son, also in the army, appears to have been quite fearless and was awarded the VC.







Beer hackHolworth

St. Catherine by the Sea

This is a church made out of little more than a garden hut.  The vicar of Stroud Green, Dr. Linklater (1887 - 1915), used Holworth House for holidays.  His widow built the church after selling Holworth House in 1926.  This is a very simple, but holy place.  (See Dottery)








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 - St Catherine's Chapel

Milton Abbas, St Catherine's Chapel

This small chapel lies hidden in a wood on the hill immediately above and in line with the east end of Milton Abbey.  The chapel is set in a 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 Catherine's Chapel.

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 Abby 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.

A link to the local history group information is below


 The Trust gratefully acknowledges basis of text by Robin Adeney  and Drone Photography by Richard Noble ©DHCT 2018

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 ©

Nether Cerne

Church imageNether Cerne

All Saints (Redundant)

This must surely be one of the most attractive suites of buildings in Dorset, resting on the banks of the river Cerne and incorporating a medieval church and a 17/18c mellow stone manor house.  The parish was once part of the endowment of Cerne Abbey and was served by its Benedictine monks until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.  After that it was a 'perpetual curacy' served by various other parishes until services ceased in 1968.  It was finally declared redundant in 1971 and came to the Redundant Churches Fund in 1973.

The nave and chancel are one and together with the south chapel originate from the late 13c.  Along with many Dorset towers, this one was also built late in the 15c, although it differs from most in being adorned by angels rather than gargoyles. In 1876 the whole building was restored.  The Purbeck stone font is Norman and has a fluted and ribbed cauldron bowl.

In the floor there is a slab in memory of John Dammer who died in 1685.  He is thought to have been the great-grandfather of the first Lord Milton who was responsible for building the mansion house at Milton Abbey (see Milton Abbey).




The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. Mary the Virgin

The church was dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin in 1299, 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.

In 1961, repairs 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.

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

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.

Close to the north boundary of the churchyard there is a gravestone to the memory of Ann Winzer, - Nursing Heroine of Waterloo 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 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.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges basis of text by Robin Adeney and Image DHCT 2018 ©



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 imageStinsford

St. Michael

The church is essentially C13, although the tower is C14, the north arcade 1630 and the building was altered several times by the Victorians, who removed the musicians' gallery and box pews.  A barrel organ was then installed and the church band abolished, much to the disgust of the Hardy family, who had provided many of the musicians.  

The nave had a C16 barrel roof, which did not survive the Victorians, but the timbers remain.  The excellent chancel arch is worthy of close attention because of the rich deep mouldings and on the southern side a hagioscope and recess, which used to house a stairway to the rood screen.

The most informative church guide quotes Thomas Hardy, "If an organ be really required I should say, speaking for myself alone, that the old west gallery should be re-erected for it..."  These words proved to be remarkable because in 1996 a new gallery and organ were installed as a result of the generosity of Richard Purdy of Yale University, who endowed the church and churchyard in commemoration of Florence Hardy.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


St. Mary

The village of Stratton lies just to the side of the busy A37 Dorchester to Yeovil road.  A bypass leads the heavy traffic away from the village bequeathing a tranquil, if not always quiet, atmosphere. 

The original Norman church was constructed around 1140 and appears to have been long and narrow with a thatched or shingle roof. At some stage a disaster occurred (perhaps a fire?), which caused a new building to be erected during the 13c.  All that remains of this are the chancel arch (behind the organ), the porch, a squint (hagioscope) now blocked up and the font.  The Tower is 14c.

In 1891, there was a radical rebuild by Crickmay of Weymouth.  The author Thomas Hardy, who was also a trained architect, with others, opposed the scheme and won several important concessions, which included the resetting of some of the old windows and doors into the new structure.  As a result, fragments of old painted glass depicting the monogram of the Virgin Mary and the Tudor rose can still be seen.  There is a most important Tudor staircase with linen fold panels in the tower, which leads to the bell chamber.

Sydling St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

Sydling St. Nicholas is one of the prettiest villages in Dorset and was at one time owned by Sir Francis Walsingham, the minister to Queen Elizabeth I.  It has an interesting, essentially 15c church, worthy of the setting. 

The chancel was remodelled in 1750 and the 15c tower has an 18c top.  Inside there is a splendid wagon roof and some of the box pews survive.  Near the 18c screen under the tower are three ancient chests.  The simple round font is 12c.  During the renewal of the north aisle floor, some time before 1988, evidence was found of a medieval bell-casting pit within the church.

Note, the simple modern wood carving of Christ.  The porch contains an upper room, complete with a fireplace.  Many churches were so equipped to accommodate visiting priests before the days of vicarages.  Later these rooms were used for civic purposes.  (See Cirencester church, which until relatively recently housed the council offices.)


St. John the Evangelist

The hamlet of Tincleton lies in the flat open valley of the river Frome, surrounded by meadows.

This is a well executed Victorian church with an elegant double bellcote of 1849 by Benjamin Ferry.  Inside, there is an elaborate alabaster reredos of 1889 and a Norman font.

Note, Clyffe House of 1842 in a Tudor style, half a mile to the northeast, also designed by Ferry (for Charles Porcher).

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Toller Fratrum

St. Basil

This is a tiny chapel style building standing in its own graveyard beside a lovely 16c farm house.  The name 'fratrum' comes from the Latin for 'brother' and refers to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who owned the property in Medieval times; Toller refers to the river.

The church is ancient although it was largely re-built by the Victorians.  The nave and chancel are one. There is an interesting 12c font decorated with strange creatures and a fragment of a panel depicting Mary Magdalene washing Christ's feet.  The communion rail is 18c.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. John the Evangelist

Not very long ago the village street of Tolpuddle was the main road from Wimborne to Dorchester and daily carried a huge number of vehicles. However, since the arrival of the magnificent dual carriageway to the north, the road has returned to its original purpose and is now a relatively quiet byway.

The stone and flint church is mainly C12 and stands in a generous churchyard to the south of the road. It has a plain Norman south doorway and the lower parts of the somewhat slender tower are C13. The chancel is late C13, but was altered by T.H.Wyatt in 1855. The very impressive tie-beam roof of the nave is thought to be C14.

The village will for ever be associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs who lived here. In 1834, after a series of poor harvests, it was the reduction from the barely survivable wage of seven shillings a week to the starvation level of six shillings that propelled a group of Friendly Society labourers into forming the first trade union.  Not in itself an offense, but the thoroughly rattled landowners, led by James Frampton of Moreton House, saw to it that they were illegally convicted of a naval regulation forbidding secret oaths and had them transported to Australia .  As everyone knows, there was a public outcry and the Home Secretary was forced to issue a free pardon.  After returning, some of the men emigrated to Canada, but James Hammett returned to live in the village before dying in 1891. He is buried in the churchyard under a gravestone lettered by the eminent artist, Eric Gill.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Holy Trinity

The village of Warmwell is a quiet oasis of tranquility away from the major A352 road to the south. It is bisected by a B road that winds its way through this small settlement.

The ancient 700 year old church of Holy Trinity sits in its generous graveyard adjacent to a magnificent manor house, once occupied by John Sadler, a linguist and master of a Cambridge college and who was "much in esteem with Cromwell." He appears to have prospered and held several offices in the Commonwealth, but after the Restoration lost everything, finally dying at Warmwell.

Externally, the view of the building must be almost unique in that the chancel is considerably taller than the nave, suggesting some dramatic alterations during its lifetime. The nave is Early English (1200 - 1300), but was obviously restored about 1450 because the windows belong to the perpendicular period (1401 - 1500). The tower was added later at about 1600 by the simple expedient of erecting it against the west wall of the church. Two Cinquefoil windows can still be seen that would have once lit the western end of the church.

At the opposite end of the building a Victorian chancel of 1881 has been grafted on. It was designed by R.C.Bennett of Weymouth and physically constructed by the incumbent, the Rev. Edward Pickard-Cambridge assisted by his gardener, Charles Bushrod and two village masons.

The C13 octagonal font was fashioned from Purbeck marble. The plain pulpit is C18 and the lectern was presented in 1937.

Outside, there are 24 World War II graves of aircrew and other combatants, including one W.R.A.F. that had been stationed at nearby RAF Warmwell. The most striking thing about these graves is just how young these people were when they died for their country.

This is an obviously much loved church whose small congregation is struggling to maintain against ever mounting costs. It generously rewards a visit.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Lt.Col J.M. Barrington for the assistance received in the preparation of these notes.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

West Knighton

St. Peter

West Knighton is well away from a main road and despite being only about three miles from Dorchester and having some doubtful housing development nearby, the area around the little church remains tranquil and in keeping with it.

This small building is reached via some steps with an intriguing boot scraper built into the wall.  It has Norman origins and the chancel still contains their work in the form of the east window and the wall separating it from the nave.  The first church probably consisted of little more than a nave and chancel.  The present chancel arch is surprisingly small, making it quite difficult for some of the congregation to observe the ritual.

The church was rebuilt and enlarged in 13c when the first two stages of the tower were erected and the south transept added.  The final stage of the tower had to wait until 16c.  Marks on the tower bear witness to a much steeper roof prior to the present pitch, suggesting that it may have been thatched at one time.  The porch maybe 16c.

There is a most pleasing gallery across the west end of the nave.

The church has clearly been altered several times over the centuries, but the restoration of 1893 was particularly significant.   At the age of 53 Thomas Hardy, the novelist who had started his career as an architect, took charge of the work.  Although he had been articled to John Hicks of Dorchester, who had been responsible for more church work in the county than anyone else, the sometimes mindless tearing down of ancient buildings simply to make way for what was perceived to be improved design had appalled him.

Hardy approached the work with great care and he was responsible for replacing the gallery, new tracery in two windows in the north wall of the nave and a completely new window in the tower.  Whilst engaged in this work, he was also writing ‘Jude the Obscure’, whose hero is a stonemason.

There are excellent guides in the church.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

West Stafford

St. Andrew

This gem of a church is impossible to miss because it is absolutely in the middle of the little village.  As with so many, there was certainly an earlier building on the present site because 15c windows have been re-set in the nave and the tower belongs to the latter part of 16c.

However, it is essentially a Jacobean church of about 1640.  The plastered wagon roof, the superb screen between the nave and chancel and the pulpit replete with a painting of St. Paul and tester are exceptionally pleasing.  The Communion rail is late 17c and the most impressive chandelier above the nave is dated at 1712.  There is an 18c western gallery with a good coat of arms on the front. Alas, the Victorians simply could not resist 'improving' this lovely building in 1898 by constructing a chancel to a design by Ponting.

The church is closely associated with Thomas Hardy, Dorset's world famous novelist.  In 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' it is the setting for her marriage to Clare (see chapter 33) and the non-wedding of Christine Everard in 'A Changed Man and Other Tales - The Waiting Supper' Part II.

In 1893, Hardy designed the house built on Talbot's Mead for his brothers and sisters.  It was named 'Talbothays' at about the time the same name was chosen for the farm in 'Tess'.  The church was supported by Hardy's brothers and sisters.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


No dedication

A church has stood in this beautiful setting since King Athelstan (circa 966) made Whitcombe part of the endowment of Milton Abbey.  The village in medieval times would have been much larger than the present small, but most attractive, suite of buildings.

The nave is largely 12c and the chancel with its steps to a rood loft are 15c.  The tower is 16c.  There are important wall paintings dating from 1300 and the Purbeck marble font is from the same period.  The poet William Barnes, who was also a parson and had the living at nearby Came, took his first service here in 1847 and his last in 1885.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Winfrith Newburgh


St. Christopher

The church is found at the southern end of this attractive village.  The chancel dates originally from 1220, although the priest's door is also C13.  The tower is 14 or early C15.  Much work was done by the Victorians in 1852 and the font is from this period.

Outside there is a very attractive lych gate constructed in memory of those who fell in the First Great War.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Sarah White for permission to use her exterior photograph of the church

Winterborne Monkton

St. Simon and St. Jude

This charming little building rests on raised ground slightly apart from the hamlet it serves below the ramparts of Maiden Castle.

The church is essentially 13c, but the windows and tower are 16c and the northern doorway is Norman.

The celebrated Dorset poet, William Barnes', son was rector here 1866–1908.  His father occupied the next door parish.

The church is locked.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Winterbourne Steepleton

St. Michael and All Angels

This delightful little building, which succeeded a much earlier pre-Conquest building, rests at the bottom of a beautiful wooded valley at the entrance to the village it serves.

It is a most important church, because it is essentially Saxon, although most of the nave was rebuilt by the Normans.  The tower and porch are C14, but the spire had to wait until C17.  It is one of only three ancient spires in Dorset, but this one is the oldest. (The other two are Trent and Iwerne Minster.)

There is a gallery of 1708 that stretches across the west end that would once have supported the church band.  In 2004, Patrick Grove-White painted an exquisite Royal Coat of Arms as a thanksgiving for his recovery from illness, which is now hanging in front of the gallery.  Note the carved angelic figures in the chancel.  The pulpit is modern, but incorporates Jacobean panelling.  The font bowl is C12 supported on a C13 shaft of Purbeck marble.  There is evidence of hinges that once would have supported a lockable lid to deter the theft of holy water, sometimes used for sacrilegious activity.

Note the fragments of wall paintings on the north wall of the nave, however, by far the most important item in this church is the Saxon sculpture of a flying angel, secured to the north wall of the chancel.  Originally, it was almost certainly one of a pair, set either side of the rood in the original church.  A similar sculpture can be seen at Bradford-on-Avon. However, some say it lacks the energy of this one.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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