AlderholtThere was a church in Alderholt in medieval times. However it and its graveyard were destroyed by Cromwell's army in 1649, suggesting that the area was strongly Royalist during the Civil War.  So for 200 years the parish was without a church, until the present one was built in 1849.  The porch and chancel were added later. 

Read more: Alderholt

Canford Magna

Canford Magna

No known dedication

In the past, there have been some who have suggested that this church is not very beautiful, but 'beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder' and this commentator finds much of it most attractive. More importantly, it is hugely interesting, steeped in history and obviously very much loved by its congregation. The setting, despite its proximity to the famous school of the same name, is both peaceful and charming. 

This is the oldest building in the Borough of Poole, with a foundation reaching back to the late Saxon period, probably around 1050. That structure now forms the chancel. A nave was grafted on to it by the Normans, who also added the slightly oddly placed northern tower of 1180. It may have been erected to buttress the church from falling down. There are still some little Norman windows, although the lighting must have been considerably improved in C14 by the addition of further windows. The chancel arch, south chapel and aisle are also Norman. High in the north wall of the south aisle there are the remains of an excellent example of a Rood loft access stairway. 


In 1829 the nave was extended westward and it was into this extension that a gallery to carry a magnificent organ was installed in 1976. In 1846, Canford Manor was bought by Sir John Guest of Guest Keen and Nettlefold (G.K.N.), who during a period of frantic railway building, had made a fortune from creating most of the world's railway lines. In 1876 his son ,Ivor, retained the architect, David Brandon, to restore the church. He furnished the chancel with individually sized stalls for the benefit of the various members of his family. The chancel's east window depicts the four gospel evangelists and was erected in memory of Sir John Guest. On either side there is an exquisite, if somewhat glum, mosaic angel by Salviati, which were probably installed during the 1876-8 restoration.

There are some very good monuments to the Guest and Willett families, mainly C19 and 20. Of particular interest is the one that records the unfortunate and apparently untimely death of Montague (Monty) Guest at Sandringham, while he was attending the King's birthday party. The octagonal Purbeck marble font is Early English C13. 

The lack of a known dedication is worthy of comment in that it may actually have been St. Augustine because the 'east' end is not orientated directly to the east, but in the direction of the sun rising on St. Augustine's day.

Outside, near the south porch is a Scottish granite tomb dedicated to Sir Henry Austen Layard, who brought a frieze from Nineveh to Canford during C19. This frieze was subsequently sold by the school for £7.7 million.

This is an exceptional church, which is a real delight to visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



All Saints

All Saints is one of the most delightful little churches in Dorset and benefits from an elevated position where the views can be really magnificent.  It is a small whitewashed building under a tiled roof with the chancel and part of the nave reaching back to C13.  The rest is C18 and the curved tops to the south windows are typical.  There is a bellcote.

Inside is an entirely unspoiled C18 interior complete with box pews, a three-decker pulpit and musicians' gallery, which now houses the organ.  In the chancel there is a long bench on the south side, where once, the servants from the rectory would have sat and opposite, but raised up, is another, once  reserved for the Earl of Pembroke should he be minded to visit from Wilton.  The boxes in the nave were traditionally used by individual farms in the parish. The font is a good C18 example.

In 1974, the altar rails were presented by the Dorset Historic Churches Trust as a tribute to Sir Owen Morshead, the first Chairman of the Trust.

This is a really splendid little building, which deserves to be on any list of churches to visit while in Dorset.


 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



St. Michael and All Angels

Colehill is a leafy suburb of Wimborne and this church seems to harmonise rather well with its setting.  It was designed by W.D.Caröe and consecrated in 1895.  The architect was also responsible for a number of other churches in Dorset, most notably the east end of the Lady Chapel at Sherborne Abbey and a chapel in Gillingham Church, both in 1921.

This is a very interesting brick-built church with mock half-timbering and intriguing roof elevations and shapes.  The use of dormer windows in the nave roof hint at clerestory.

The church is normally locked.



The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Corfe Mullen

Corfe Mullen

St. Hubert

This beautiful little seven hundred year old church nestles on the south side of the busy A31 Dorchester - Wimborne road. 

Hutchings tells us in his 'History of Dorset' that it was a simple C13 two cell building consisting of a nave, chancel and C14 squat brown stone western tower. There is a delightful mellowness about it all and it is not surprising that Sir Frederick Treves, the eminent Victorian London surgeon and writer about all things Dorset, described it as "a church of warm colours, such as a painter in water colours loves". 

At some point a north chapel was added, perhaps C18, however the brick built south chapel is definitely recorded as having been built in 1841 during the incumbency of the Revd Plumtre, who was the first rector after the parish separated from Sturminster Marshall.

The church has a very pleasing, if unusual, interior created by the generous size of the north and south chapels, which give rise to a feeling of space and light in the crossing. There are mid C19 galleries above what was the south chapel and another supported on slim spiral cast-iron pillars over the west end, where the splendid organ is found. Above all are the sumptuous plastered wagon roofs adorned by numerous painted beams and bosses.

There is an octagonal C15 font of Purbeck marble and a pulpit in the entrance to the north chapel.

This is a delightful and obviously much loved little church, which hugely repays a visit.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©




St. Nicholas

Edmondsham is a delightful village and the church, which is reached through an opening in a long beech hedge and a lengthy drive, does not disappoint.  There is a C12 arcade of two bays, a chancel arch and flint and greensand tower of C14.  One suspects the Victorians were busy, but the references are coy on the subject.

This very nice estate church is associated with the nearby Elizabethan Edmondsham House.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Bradford AbbHampreston

All Saints

This fabulously interesting church, situated in a very rural setting, almost certainly has its roots as early as the Saxon period (600-1066).  However, it was not until 1261 that the first Rector was recorded.  As with so many churches, throughout the ages the building has been modified to suit the ebb and flow of parishioners and the changing religious requirements.

The nave, chancel and sanctuary are medieval 14c covered by a 17c wagon roof, now with the timbers exposed. The tower is also 14c, although the west window is of 1892 by Kempe.  The Purbeck stone font dates originally from 13c, but was probably re-cut in 15c.  The rest of the church belongs to a Victorian restoration of 1896, which was absolutely essential because the church had been allowed to become badly dilapidated.  Apart from reversing the decay and enlarging the building, the design by Romaine Walker & Tanner incorporated a new north aisle, organ chamber and porch.  The opportunity was taken to remove galleries on the south side and across the tower that had been installed in 1812.

In the sanctuary there is a delightful sedila with a list of rectors inside.  The oak communion table with turned legs is from the 17c.  The 15c east window  features Christ's Crucifixion.  In the chancel, notice the 12 stone corbels, which look more like gargoyles, but are supposed to remind one "..we wrestle not against the flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world.." (Ephesians 6 verse 12)  The stone pulpit is of 1872.  There is an excellent hatchment of 1803 with the arms of the Greathead family.  This would have hung outside the home of the deceased for some time before being brought into the church.

There is one of the best guides in the county available for this church.

 The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Hinton Martell

BH21 7HE

Bradford AbbHinton Martell


The present structure replaced a much earlier version, which by 1869 had reached '..a state of general decay..' so that it was universally resolved to take it down and build a bigger new church on the site.  The estimated cost was £1,640, a huge sum for a parish largely consisting of farm labourers and without a wealthy landlord to help.  A £200 loan was promised by Queen Anne's Bounty and advertisements taken in local newspapers appealing for subscriptions.  At some point around this time there was a fire and there is some doubt about the provenance of the tower, which maybe the original C15.  The money was raised and a new church built in 1870 to a design by G. R. Crickmay (the author Thomas Hardy was working for him at the time so there maybe some of his work here).  The quite excellent church guide by Canon Wm Bernard suggests that the architect was John Hills of Dorchester, but since there is no reference to him in Pevsner's Guide, it is probably a misprint for John Hicks, who practiced in Dorchester and died in 1869 after which his outstanding work was carried forward by Crickmay. Canon Barnard gave an exemplary service to the parish of 40 years, which must be something of a record in modern times.

The building has a splendid decorated wagon roof to the chancel and some superbly executed corbels by sculptors Boulton and Weaver.  The Purbeck stone font is C13.  This is a 'High Church' and there are some beautiful artefacts associated with this calling of Christianity.


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©



Beer hackHolt

St. James

A church here was repaired in 1493 so that the inhabitants would not have to walk to Wimborne for services, which they were finding trying in bad weather.  It was completely rebuilt in brick in 1836 to a design by John Tulloch, who was responsible for two or three other churches in the county.  T.H.Wyatt was responsible for the chancel of 1875, which hugely improves the otherwise rather plain interior.  The pulpit is early 17c and was brought from Wimborne Minster in 1858.







The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Beer hackHorton

St. Wolfrida

In AD. 961, a Benedictine abbey was founded at Horton.  It had a chequered history and was from time to time damaged and plundered.  Nevertheless it survived in various forms until the Dissolution of the Monasteries when it was surrendered to Sherborne Abbey on 18th March 1539 and the Priory church became the Parish church.  The rare dedication is to Wolfrida, who was the first abbess.

By 1720, the building had been allowed to decay to a ruinous state and in 1722 it was almost entirely rebuilt.  Externally, the most impressive feature is the tower with its pointed roof and heavy cornice that has a very strong resonance with the eminent C18 architect, Sir John Vanburgh (1664-1726).  These features are so similar to his designs for the unfinished Eastbury Manor House at Tarrant Gunville that one wonders if he had, in fact, designed them or perhaps someone in his employ.

Inside, the 'L' shaped layout is slightly strange, making it impossible for some of the congregation to see the altar.  There is a splendid plaster and gilded C18 reredos, with a Dove in the centre symbolising the Holy Spirit.  The four cherubs are said to have been modelled on the vicar's four children, who died in infancy.  There are two excellent effigies, thought to be C14, of a cross-legged knight and his wife.  The organ is impressive.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Kingston Lacy

Beer hackKingston Lacy

St. Stephen


Perhaps the most striking feature inside the building is the quality of the woodwork, constructed from oak grown on the Kingston Lacy Estate.  In particular, the roof is an exceptional example of quiet perfection and worth a visit on its own.  However, also beautifully executed are the pews, each end exquisitely carved with a Bankes' family fleur-de-lys, and the splendid choir stalls.  The glittering tiled reredos is by Carters of Poole, who used 'battered brass' to form the golden wings of the angels and mother-of-pearl for their halos.  On either side, it is flanked by Sanctus angels engraved directly into the stone.  Above, the east window is sumptuous. 

The rich colours and artistry used by Horace Wilkinson to convey Christ on the Cross with a serpent below, are inspirational.  The left hand panel depicts Ralph Bankes sitting on Christ's lap with his sisters, Viola and Daphne, looking on.  Mrs Bankes is reputed to have been devoted to her rather sickly son, but not to her two daughters. To the right, further panels of Mary and Martha, the Good Shepherd and the Calming of the Storm.  The south transept windows have the theme of childhood.  The surprisingly small organ by the Positive Organ Co., costing £175, was accorded its own loft above the generous vestry.  Immediately below the organ and attached to the wooden panelling is a simple, but moving record of the sixteen men who did not return from the First World War; which was unveiled on 2nd April 1921.

The eight Bankes' family pews are at the back of the church, where presumably they could keep an eye on their tenants and employees in front!  Standing over the pew, is a copy of the Wimborne Minster astronomical clock and above and behind, the west window features the historical family armorials with a fleur de lys and the various bride's arms. Before the building of this church, the window was installed in Wimborne Minster. The pew is served by its own private door on the north side from where a path leads directly to a lane where the family could be conveyed by carriage to and from the great house.  The habit of always leaving during the last hymn, further insulated the family from any risk of contact with the congregation.

Until the building of this church, the people of Cowgrove and Pamphill had to go to Wimborne Minster for services.  However, the new church was within the parish of Wimborne Minster and not a parish in its own right.  This had to wait until 1922, when as a result of Mrs Bankes' efforts and her endowment of £6,000, the benefice of St Stephen's was finally established with its own vicar.  The beautiful grass enclosure in which the church rests remains unconsecrated and consequently has never been used for burial.  The stone cross in front of the church is a memorial to Walter Bankes, Mrs Bankes' husband and benefactor.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust wishes gratefully to record its sincere thanks to Mrs. Jane Butler for the assistance received in the preparation of these notes.








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Kington Magna

Beer hackKington Magna

All Saints

The church sits on the edge of an escarpment in a commanding position, overlooking farmland.  In 1861-62, a new church, designed by Charles Turner, was grafted on to the C15 tower.  The final result is pleasing and the east window to the chancel with reticulated tracery works well.  Moreover, the glass by Shrigley & Hunt (1914) in the east end of the south aisle is said to be particularly good.








The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Church imageShapwick

St Bartholomew

This must be one of the oldest settlements in Dorset, because archaeological items, such as pottery and a polished axe, have been found in the neighbourhood, which belong to the Neolithic Age or about 4,200 years BC.  The Iron Age fort of Badbury Rings is just 1½ miles to the north.  When the Romans arrived, they built a road between Dorchester and Old Sarum and the present village high street closely follows its route.  A few yards to the south-east of the church, it forded the river.

The village cross, opposite the pub, is probably Saxon in origin and survived until 1880 when it was destroyed in a brawl.  The stump remained until 1920, when what was left was converted into the war memorial.  Before churches became common in almost every village, wandering friars would preach to a gathering of people.  When a popular spot was established a wooden cross was planted in the ground and in due course these were replaced by more permanent structures made of stone and often equipped with steps so that the preacher could be heard over the heads of the gathering.  There are numerous examples in Dorset.

This most attractive and tranquil church dates from the late 11c and early 12c, but all that remains are the two arches in the north wall and the north porch doorway.  The tower is an excellent example of 14c construction.  Along with many churches in the county, towards the end of the 19c, the building was in such a ruinous state that it was in a real danger of collapse and major restoration was required.  In 1880, the vicar, Rev. and Hon. A.G.Douglas, promoted the project and it was completed largely through the help of the villagers, who gave their services after work.  The late Norman Purbeck hexagonal marble font, originally in the centre of the church, was moved to its present position under the tower during the restoration.  The magnificent iron cover, described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as 'exuberant' dates from this period.  The floor of the chancel and sanctuary were raised to avoid flooding and the decorative Minterne tiles were given by the Bishop of Ely.  The east window and reredos are by Clayton and Bell and given by Augusta Bankes.

The Rev. Douglass was the younger son of the 19th Earl of Morton and a cousin of the Bankes family of Kingston Lacy.  He left on his appointment as Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in 1883.

Before leaving, notice the recently restored table tomb in the church yard on the southern side of the path.  Very unusually, this has a stone top and ends, but the sides are constructed from brick.  It was built as a memorial to a Mr Baskett, who was a local surgeon, and for his wife and children.  The deceased were loaded into the tomb through the end.

There is an excellent guide for this fascinating church. 


The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Sturminster Marshall

St. Mary

Sturminster Marshall is a sprawling village and, like so many others near Bournemouth and Poole, it is growing quickly.  The church of St Mary lies on the northern edge of the settlement opposite thatched cottages and a popular pub, with the river Stour and the famous medieval bridge in the distance.  

The building looks ancient, and the tower wants you to think that it belongs to the 15c, like so many others in the county.  It is not quite right and the fact is that the tower belongs to 1801 and the rest to a rather over energetic restoration by Henry Woodyer of 1858.  Nevertheless, it is an impressive church standing on the ancient foundations of a much earlier building.

Inside, the work of the Victorians is more obvious.  As soon as you enter, one is struck by the ornate brilliantly white and gold chancel screen liberally decked out with pinnacles.  The barrel roof is impressive and there is some good quality woodwork in the choir.  The building is blessed with very high quality glass, typical of the period, that has stood the test time well.    Among some interesting memorials is one recording the millennium of Alfred the Great in memory of Queen Victoria with the words "I desire to live worthily all my days, that after death I might leave to my successors a memory of good work done".  Another is a 17c funeral helm, displayed high up on a wall.


St. Michael and All Angels

The architecture of the village of Verwood is generally rather uninspired, but this church built in 1893 and designed by Adie and Adie of Bradford-on-Avon is very interesting.  The original building has been hugely extended by grafting on north and south aisles under a lean-to roof that looks as though it really belongs.  Both structures extend west and join with a porch between them.  A very pleasing and clever solution to an extension for a growing congregation.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

West Parley

All Saints

West Parley takes its name from the Saxon for Pear Tree Field, so there was almost certainly a church on or near the present site during that period.  Two hundred years later the Normans rebuilt the church and placed a new stone basin on the old font. The Records for West Parley were among those of the Bristol Diocese destroyed in the fire that consumed most of Blandford in 1731.  The Bristol Riots of 1829 destroyed later records.

The oldest parts of the building are the 12c nave and chancel arch and the entrance doorway. The chancel was enlarged and the vestry erected in 1896 by the Rev. Chudleigh. A striking feature of the nave is the stunning two-decker Jacobean pulpit with its generous tester above, the pews are of 1841.Note the pew with a table, once reserved for the patron of the living The Prideaux-Brune of Plumber Manor (Sturminster Newton) and opposite the pew for the Rector's family and servants.

Outside, note the little wooden steeple added in 1792.  Under the east window, there is a glazed and barred recess which contains an urn, which tradition suggests once held the heart of the Lady of Lydlinch.  She was once the Lady of the Manor of West Parley who married a man from Lydlinch near Sturminster Newton where she was obliged to live for the rest of her life.  Despite this, she maintained her heart was always at West Parley during life and so wanted it to return there after death.  Her body is buried in Lydlinch churchyard.

The sundial to the right of the entrance path to the church is mounted on an ancient wooden post, which is the remains of a gallows that stood on Gibbet Firs, East Parley.  On the right hand side of the porch is a vertical stone where Crusaders are said to have sharpened their swords before leaving for the Holy Land

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

Wimborne - St. Johns

This a brick built urban church of 1876, originally designed by W.J.Fletcher of Wimborne who was also responsible for Stock Gaylard, the chancel of the Milton Abbas village church and a church in Broadstone.  This is a building that has been extensively added to over the years by its most enthusiastic evangelical congregation. 

The building is usually locked.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©

Wimborne Minster

Wimborne MWimborne Minster

St. Mary

If you approach Wimborne from almost any direction, one of the first things you see is this great Minster church, which by its very size dominates, but certainly does not intimidate, the centre of the town.  

A Minster church was a teaching church, in addition to being to being a monastic order.  Before there were theological colleges, those who wanted to train for the priesthood or to learn more about Christianity, went to a Minster church.  Hence York Minster, Beverley Minster, etc.

WIMBORNE MINSTER was founded as a nunnery in 705 by Cuthberga, (sister of a Saxon king – King Ina) and so it remained, although an effective missionary centre, until it was dissolved in the early 11th Century, when the enclosed order was replaced by a college of canons which survived until the Dissolution of colleges and chantries in the 16th Century. As a minster it served as a base for the evangelization of the surrounding area. A little of a second Saxon church survives in the North transept but the church was thoroughly rebuilt on the present large scale towards the end of the 12th Century, from which the nave, crossing and first bay of the chancel survive. The crossing is very fine, with its lantern tower, though the battlements are a clumsy 16th Century addition. Then follows the Eastern part of the chancel, 13th Century Early English work, including the very elegant East window of three lancets. The 14th Century contributed the transepts and finally the 15th Century accounts for the raising of the nave clerestory and high timbered roof and the well-proportioned West tower.

The church is one of the most interesting in the County - its many treasures include a chained library, the quirky tomb of Thomas Ettricke (who refused to be buried either in or out of the church, so his tomb chest reposes in the South wall of the chancel - he had the chest made in his lifetime but misjudged the date of his death, as appears from the obvious alteration), an astronomical clock with a quarter-jack on the tower, several fine and interesting tombs and a tablet to Gulliver, a well-known smuggler who was twice churchwarden!

By 713 a Benedictine Nunnery had become well established in which there were, at any one time, some 300 to 400 nuns in training.  This nunnery was situated in what is now Deans Court.  So, in 740 a group of nuns, led by St. Boniface and Sister Leoba, traveled to Bavaria and founded a Christian community at Ochsenfurt, and this community flourishes today.  In fact, it is now twinned with Wimborne Minster.

In 1318 King Edward II bestowed on the Minster, together with some 10 or 11 other churches, the title of “Royal Peculiar”, thus removing such churches from ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as well as ensuring the revenue went to the crown.  This practice was abolished in 1846, but the Minster still retains the title.

In 1562, Queen Elizabeth I vested the Minster with 12 governors to oversee its affairs and this is still the position today.

Over the arch at the entrance to the baptistry, there is a coat of arms.  This was originally that of King Charles I, but when Cromwell came to power, the Minster conveniently removed and “lost” it, despite the area being strongly royalist, and sat on the fence.  Accordingly, the Minster suffered little damage from Cromwell’s soldiers, apart from a few broken windows and the removal of gold ornaments, etc.

When Cromwell died, and King Charles II acceded to the throne, his coat of arms was displayed and is the one there today.

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust gratefully acknowledges the contribution made to these notes by Mr Patrick Moule and Mr. John Davis, the Head Guide of the Minster.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


Wimborne St. Giles

Wimborne St. Giles must be one of the most outstanding village churches of Dorset. The rather plain early Georgian exterior with a tower of 1732 adjacent to an attractive suite of almshouses offers no hint of the splendour inside. In 1908, the building suffered a catastrophic fire, as a consequence of soldering on the roof. The celebrated architect, Sir Ninian Comper (1864-1960) was retained by Lord Shaftesbury to undertake the restoration. The result is a riot of colour and magnificence, unmatched elsewhere in Dorset.

The nave is almost square and the adjustments to the original are rather unfairly described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in 'Buildings of England - Dorset' as "Comper at his most wilful!" The wooden pulpit and benches in the north nave were saved from the fire of 1908. The decorated roof is borne up on the outspread wings of the angelic hosts, symbolising the heavenly firmament. The altar is separated from the nave by a wooden rood screen, on which there are the figures of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and St. John. The Shaftesbury family pew is incorporated into the screen. The reredos has alabaster figures of Christ on the Cross, St. Giles, St. Anthony, St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Edward King and Martyr, St. Osmund, St. Aldhelm and St. Rumbold. The golden tester above is carved with the Holy Dove and Tongues of Fire, around which are written the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Ghostly Strength, Knowledge, True Godliness, Holy Fear.

Above and behind, is a full-width gallery with seating for the choir and ringers and dominated by the superb two-manual organ by Harrison and Harrison. The font is of 1732 and the magnificent cover, designed by Ninian Comper, was given by 9th Earl of Shaftesbury.

On the south side of the high altar is the charming memorial to robins who nested during the building works. "Here while the respond to the arcade of A.D. 1887 was building, a robin nested and again during the building of the new arcade after the fire of 1908". It was decided to embed the nest in the wall; this exposed the first nest in a bottle with a descriptive note. Now both are in the wall.

The most famous of all the Earls of Shaftesbury was undoubtedly the 7th (1801-85), who was responsible for improving the lot of working children through a number of reforming acts passed through Parliament. In addition, he was president of the YMCA, the Ragged School Union (renamed the Shaftesbury Society after his death) and was a founder of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. There is a memorial to him in the family pew, but the better-known one is the statue of Eros, which adorns Piccadilly Circus and whose arrow points towards Wimborne St. Giles. When he died "all England " is said to have wept for him. He was offered burial in Westminster Abbey, but had declined and is buried here.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©


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