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 ©