Abbotsbury Parish Church

AbbotsburyAbbotsbury St. Nicholas

The church of St Nicholas adjoins the scattered remains of the former Benedictine Abbey. The fabric of the building is mainly 15th century. The chancel retains its decorated plaster barrel ceiling (1638) and a classical style reredos with corinthian columns and pediment (1751)

Externally over the west tower doorway there is a carving of the Trinity.. As you enter through the decorated north porch there is an early 13th Century Purbeck marble effigy of an Abbot. An interesting selection of glass including a fragmented upper part of a figure of the Virgin with exquisite hands (15C) Also a Jacobean pulpit with tester with an interesting history. 

Text and Photographs by DHCT

Abbotsbury Hidden Chapel

AbbotsburyThe Hidden Chapel - St. Lukes

Pick a dry day and some good walking shoes to visit this exquisite fragment of a 13c Cistercian cell and you will be handsomely rewarded.  The chapel is only 32 x 18 ft., but beautifully sited in a wood above a small ravine.  The building is roofless and all that remains now is the west wall, three tombs, an altar constructed from the debris and an interesting crucifix, with Christ wearing a crown.  The tombs are of David and Olga Milne-Watson, who built Ashley Chase House, and a friend.

Notes - How to find the chapel

From Abbotsbury take the B3157 westwards for about 1½ miles, which leads up a steep hill.  Towards the top, there is a very minor road (you come upon it rather suddenly) to the right.  Take this for about ½ mile.  You will come to a fork in the road with a grass verge in the middle: leave your car here.  Take the left fork and follow the track for about a mile.  Wonderful scenery.  On the right there is a style leading into the wood, with a path beyond.  This leads directly to the ruin. 

Abbotsbury St Catherine's Chapel

St. Catherine's Chapel rests on a hill a short distance to the south-west of the village of Abbotsbury.  It is worth the effort to climb up to it because the views are spectacular.  Built in late 14c by the great abbey in the village and, although only 45 x 15 ft. internally, it is immensely strong with massive buttresses and thick walls, which support a stone tunnel-vaulted roof with eight transverse ribs.  A notice inside records the fact that once a year spinsters could pray to St. Catherine:

A husband, St. Catherine,
A rich one, St Catherine,
A nice one, St. Catherine,
And soon, St Catherine!



Holy Trinity

The hamlet of Bincombe lies in a fold to the east of a very sharp bend in the road from Dorchester to Weymouth.  This is seriously rural and the little church exudes peace and tranquillity.  There has been a building on the site for over 800 years although all that remains of that period are the blocked up north doorway and squint (hagioscope).  Note the rounded Norman chancel arch.

The south door is dated at 1779.  The Victorians extensively altered the chancel and raised the floor in 1862.  The furniture is of the same period.  The organ was originally in Broadwey church, but moved to Bincombe in 1901.

The Purbeck marble font is early (pre 12c) because careful inspection reveals the marks of fixings associated with a locked cover.  This was a requirement after 1236 to deter the theft of consecrated water for superstitious purposes.

The clock was installed as a thanksgiving after World War II.

In the churchyard lie two German-born soldiers of the York Hussars who were shot for desertion in 1801.  There was a large camp on Bincombe Down where the Grand Old Duke of York may have marched 10,000 men up and down the hill!


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Buckland Ripers

Buckland Ripers

St. Nicholas

The tiny church and hamlet are fitted into a fold in the downland.  This is delightfully rural Dorset.  The origins of the church are ancient with the first recorded patron, Peter de Mallory, in 1310. However, owing to a fire in 17c it had to be largely rebuilt in 1655.

As usual, the Victorians were busy, providing  a new roof, pews and a new window in the medieval chancel.  Note, the handsome lectern.






The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. Mary the Virgin

This delightful little church has possible origins in Celtic Christianity, but the present building dates from about 1260.  There is a gentle approach with clipped yews, which leaves one quite unprepared for the huge graveyard behind.

On entering through the porch of 1722, one's attention is immediately drawn towards the most attractive chancel beyond the arch.  A northern aisle was added by public subscription in 1834.  This appears to create an almost square body to the church and means that the occupants of the new aisle cannot see into the chancel.  There is a balcony across the entire west end, which accommodates both pews and organ.  There are two bells, housed in a C14 bellcote above the west wall, with an intriguing mechanism of levers and chains to ring them.  One bell, C13, is the second oldest in Dorset. (The oldest being in St. Michael and All Angels in the parish of Hanford near Child Okeford.)

Registers date from 1699 and churchwardens' accounts from 1729.  There is a well preserved stoup, an excellent Jacobean pulpit, a font dated at about 1150 and an interesting C15 grave slab (mounted on the north wall) engraved with the effigy of a man, possibly an early incumbent


 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Fleet - New Church

Fleet new church

Holy Trinity

The church stands back from the road behind rather impressive gates and is surrounded by mature trees, giving it a very rural and peaceful feel.  It was built in 1827-9, to a design by Strickland (his only recorded church in Dorset).  The building was erected because the old one, just a quarter of a mile nearer the sea, was largely demolished by a great storm in November 1824.

This is a simple 'Commissioners type' church with a moulded plaster roof and large windows, which allow plenty of natural light.  The similar but smaller roof in the chancel apse is particularly pleasing.

During WW II the whole area was occupied by American troops prior to the Normandy landings and consequently the church has very close links with the United States.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Fleet - Old Church

Fleet old Church

Old Church

The chancel is all that remains of the old church after a very violent storm wrecked it in 1824. Much of the village was destroyed and the sea even breached the Chesil Bank.  

This was a notorious area for smuggling during the C18 and was immortalised in the novel The Moonfleet by J M Falkner.  The 'new' church of Holy Trinity was built nearby on safer ground in 1827-9.








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Langton Herring

Beer hackLangton Herring

St. Peters

This charming little church stands quite prominently in the centre of the village next to the pub.  There has been a church here for a very long time and with absolute certainty since 1299 when the first rector was recorded.

As with so many churches, this one was 'improved' and enlarged by the Victorians in both 1827 and 1858 when the south aisle was added.  However, the little tower and some lancet windows were left undisturbed.  The font is C15. The chancel rails are C17 and the pulpit was made in 1787.  

The charming little three stop organ is by William Hill & Son and Norman & Beard of London.  The attractive case is new and half closing the cabinet doors gives a pianissimo effect for quieter occasions.

Note the large clock on the west wall.  Was this installed to discourage the preacher from over long sermons? Note also the Christian fish symbol, made of stones, which is let into the left side of the path approach to the main entrance in the tower.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageOsmington

St. Osmund

This is an attractive church with a long history and a first recorded vicar in 1302.  Sadly only parts of the pointed chancel arch and bits of the arcade shafting remain from the original, however the tower is 15c.  The rest is a Victorian restoration of 1846 by Benjamin Ferry, who was responsible for many churches in the county.

There is a rather glum roughly carved inscription in the small chancel that reads as follows:

"Man's life.
Man is a glas: life is
a water that's weakly
walled about: sinne bring
es death: death breakes
the glas: so runnes
the water out

Note the very fine lectern.  The font is square Purbeck stone decorated with four pointed arches on each side. The pulpit is Victorian.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageOwermoigne

St Michael

St Michael's is a church that benefits from an attractive village setting.  It is an ancient place, which was recorded as 'Ogre' in the Domesday Book.  The name gradually evolved into 'Oweres' and finally because of the association with  the Le Moigne, into 'Owermoigne'.   

Although the first recorded Rector was instituted in 1333, the present building is essentially the result of a Victorian restoration of 1883 to a design by Sidney Jackson of Weymouth and cost of £756.00.  A feature of the design is the square headed windows.  Almost all the wooden furniture and memorials were permanently removed from the building.  The 18c columnar font suffered a similar fate and was found filled with flowers in the rectory garden before being finally restored to its proper place in the church.  The 15c tower did escape the restoration and is known to have been used by 18c smugglers, who used it as a store.  It is more than possible that the Rector knew what was going on, but was kept 'sweet' by finding kegs of the finest brandy left on his doorstep from time to time! (See also Studland).

During the reign of King Richard II (1367-1400), Owermoigne came into the hands of the Sturton family as a result of a marriage between Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Moigne and Lord Charles Sturton.  Much later the Surtons fell out with the family of Hartgills, but there was much rejoicing at an apparent reconciliation which was sealed  in January 1557 when Lord Sturton invited Hartgill and his son to dinner.  Unfortunately, Sturton's motives were not as pure as the driven snow and during the dinner he had the two men clubbed and murdered by his staff who slit their throats.  He and his men dug a pit 15 feet deep in the cellar where the bodies were deposited.  Later, news of the crime reached the ears of authority and all were condemned to death by hanging at Salisbury.  His Lordship appealed to Queen Mary on the basis of being a Catholic and a nobleman, but the only concession she allowed was that he should be hanged by a halter of silk ..."in respect of his quality."  The sentence was carried out on 16th March and the estate came into the hands of the Crown.



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 Reforne

St. George

St. George's 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 or communion table, 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 Churches Conservation Trust and is often open during the summer. It is quite exceptional and very well worth a visit.



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

Weymouth - St Edmund

 St Edmund

This is an interesting and excellent example of a 1950s urban church set in a generous and beautifully maintained garden.  In 1950, the church authorities felt there should be a new parish established by combining parts of the parishes of St Pauls, Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Chickerell and Radipole, primarily to serve the Lanehouse estate area.  A vicar was appointed, but as there was no church, the congregation met in their homes before temporarily borrowing a canteen.  Eventually the M.O.D. gave them an ex-military hut.  However, serious planning and money raising began in 1951.  Much of this money was raised through the then pioneering idea of selling individual bricks. The architect instructed was Colin Crickmay R.I.B.A., whose firm of Crickmay and Sons has an impeccable pedigree in church design stretching back to the days of an association with the great John Hicks of Dorchester and Thomas Hardy.  It is not surprising then that this intriguing building was skillfully created despite a tiny budget of just £10,500, which restricted the congregation to 120, and stringent post war controls on the use of materials.  An excellent example of his ingenuity was the use of timber frames constructed in box-section as the main structural members, whereas more normally steel girders would have been employed.  St Edmunds became a parish in its own right on 28th February 1956.  It was the first church to be built in the Salisbury Diocese after World War II.

The site is adjacent to a busy road and, being much longer in the north/south axis, the building takes advantage of this by placing the sanctuary at the southern end rather than the more traditional east end. This arrangement also permitted any subsequent expansion of the nave towards the north without disturbing the sanctuary.  Furthermore, to the south, it allowed for the current extensive suite of church meeting rooms, kitchens, offices, lavatories and ultimately a generous church hall complete with a fully equipped stage.

The building is constructed of stone under a conventional tiled roof.  This otherwise quite simple design has been hugely enhanced by the addition of a bell tower.  This takes the form of tall pillar, capped by a tiled roof, which houses a single bell in a brick decorated aperture.  A 10 foot tall and very slender cross, made from teak, surmounts the whole and completes this very pleasing ensemble.

Inside, the area is flooded with light from the generous fenestration provided by clerestory windows and more in the north wall.  There is a simple pulpit on the eastern side and, on the other side, an intriguing sedilia and credence, that certainly cleverly borrows from earlier designs.  The choir stalls, arranged on either side of the organ, are at the back of the building.  The arrangement gives the congregation an intimate view of the altar and was a deliberate design decision.

The dedication to St Edmund of Canterbury is an interesting choice because he is one of the few English Saints and, most appropriately, a Saint of the Salisbury Diocese.  He was born towards the end of the 12th century and at an early age received a vision of the Christ Child beckoning him into a life of prayer and service.  After education near Oxford and in Paris, he returned to Oxford to found and build a hall, now thought to have occupied the same site as today's St. Edmund Hall.  In 1222, he became the Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral under Bishop Richard Poore.  (See Tarrant Crawford)  He eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury, but found the corruption of the English Court and the intrigue and oppression of the Papacy almost intolerable to reconcile with his determination to defend the liberties of his flock.  After only six years he made the only protest left open and exiled himself to the Abbey of Pontigny in France.  He died one month later on 16th November 1240.  To this day his remains still lie under the high altar.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Mr and Mrs De Havilland for the kind assistance given during the preparation of these notes.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

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