St. Marys is the largest of eight churches in the
Bride Valley, the others being at Shipton Gorge, Litton Cheney, Long
Bredy, Puncknowle, Swyre and Littlebredy. There is a daughter church at
Chilcombe, which has no known dedication. The team serving the eight
churches consists of Rector: The Revd Bob Thorn, Associate Minister: The Revd Jean Thorn, Associate Priest: The Revd Ryder Rogers, and Readers: Mike Read, James Webster and Yvonne Buckland. . The Parochial Church
Council of St. Marys meets on a number of occasions during the year.
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St. Mary's Church stands on slightly raised ground near
the centre of the village. It is a handsome, good sized building of
cruciform design with a central tower, which until last century was
adorned with pinnacles. Like most of the houses in the village, it is
built of local rubble stone (Inferior Oolite and Forest Marble), probably
from the quarries at Bothenhampton, and is for the most part roofed with
Delabole slates from Cornwall. Externally the church presents a pretty
uniform appearance, but it is worth a walk around to look at the head
stops and gargoyles, some of which are original, though a lot of repair
work has been carried out to both windows and mouldings. It is interesting
to note the round headed arches over the windows in the north wall of the
chancel. These are relieving arches to take the strain of the weight on
the square headed windows and could be contemporary with the wall, i.e.
early 16th century, but on the other hand the regular appearance of the
stones leads one to consider whether perhaps the top of this wall was
refaced in the 19th century.
Some memorial stones are built into the external wall of
the south aisle, and if you search long enough you will find the "false
teeth" there too.
The church yard was cleared and levelled about 1949,
leaving only the table tombs and one or two others.
On entering, one finds a place of light, for our church has
very little stained glass, and was fortunate that the inevitable Victorian restoration
was sympathetically carried out by E. S. Prior, and the windows are for the
most part glazed with "Prior's Glass". This is a place which has been
evolving through some nine centuries to become the building we know today.
It is probable that there has been a church on this site
from early times, and the rebuilding which has taken place through the
centuries is thought to be on 12th century foundations, though the nave
and chancel have in all probability both been lengthened. However, the
original cruciform plan is maintained, with noticeable misalignment of the
east end, a pattern which is considered by some to be symbolic of the
drooping head of Christ on the cross. This irregular plan could in fact,
represent the church known to have existed here at the time of the
Domesday Survey in 1086.
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Nothing visible remains of the 12th century church today
except the circular stem of the font, and the base, which is square
moulded with spur ornament. No major development took place until the 14th
century, but there is a recut and reset piscina in the chancel,and three
stone coffin lids, which have been dated 13th/14th century.
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In the 14th century then, the nave was rebuilt and
probably lengthened, as previously mentioned. The original square headed
windows remain, though they have been restored in the 20th Century. So
this wall, the oldest part of our church, has stood for 600 years.
Contemporary with the north wall is the elliptical
recess with decorated ogee head, and cusp points carved with lions' heads
and angels, now containing the pulpit. Its purpose remains obscure, but because of its siting at the foot of the Rood Screen it could well have been used during Lent for a portable (wooden) Easter Sepulchre.
From this period there also remain a few decorated
encaustic tiles under the eastern arch of the crossing.
||The octagonal bowl of the font belongs to the 14th century
too. It is decorated with alternate single and double trefoil and cinquefoil
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The early 15th century saw the rebuilding of the
transepts and crossing, incorporating a central tower 64 feet high (19.45 m). It is of two stages, with
external staircase and access to a rood loft. The transepts have diagonal
buttresses, and follow the plan of the original church. They were not
extended. Each has a large three-light pointed arched window, and their
original barrel vaulted roof with embattled wall plates resting on stone
corbelling, and divided into panels by moulded ribs with carved bosses at
Other features also remain in the transepts. A pillar
piscina with canopy in the north transept, indicative of there being an
altar here, while in the south transept only the canopy of a piscina
remains. There is also an image bracket in the north jamb of the chancel
arch (the statue of the Virgin and Child within are modern - 1950 - and
are carved by S. R. Cameron). Look up in the crossing and see that this
ceiling is supported on stone corbels carved with heads and demi angels.
Whether they are contemporary with the building of the tower, however, or
perhaps reused carvings from the earlier church, must remain debatable.
See also that the crossing itself is formed of four graceful panelled
arches, surely one of the most pleasing features of our church. These are
early examples of their kind, which remained fashionable in these parts
throughout the century. On the stonework of these arches are a considerable number of Mason's Marks, some of which are easily discernible.
Church interiors at this time were highly decorated and
colourful, before all such things were swept away by the Puritans, and on
the west face of the south western pier of the crossing arches a very
small and indistinct amount of original colour can just be seen.
The tower above has small diagonal buttresses above roof
level, and an embattled parapet, which was adorned with pinnacles until
they became unsafe and were removed in the 19th century. The staircase at
the south-west corner, formerly had an external door on the south side, is
square in section and is so positioned as to give access to the rood
loft through a door which still remains and can be clearly seen. Above is
the ringing chamber, and the belfry with a ring of 6 bells. (see later
At the same time as the aforesaid rebuilding, the nave
roof was also renewed, possibly at a higher level. This again is a typical
wagon roof, characteristic of the south-west. In this case, however, the
plaster panels of the barrel vault have been replaced with boarding.
While all this was going on the west doorway and window
were inserted (or renewed) and a north door and porch were built,
incorporating a holy water stoup, and niches for statues within the porch
and outside over the entrance. In the chancel can be seen 2 prayer desks
constructed from seven late 15th century carved wooden panels of foreign
provenance, together with some 17th century panelling. These carved panels
may have been part of a chest.
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In the 16th century another rebuilding took place; that
of the chancel. For the most part it stands on the original 12th century
foundations, though it was very probably lengthened, and can be seen to be
considerably out of alignment with the rest of the building. The windows
in the north wall are square headed, one with glazed spandrels and the
other blank. Between the windows is a doorway of the same period. The
south wall appears to have had only one window, which has been blocked,
although the recess remains. At the western end of the south wall near the
chancel arch there can be seen a small recess with a lintel which could
have been a hagioscope, giving sight of the altar from the south transept.
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The small single light window high up in the north wall
of the nave was probably inserted now, to give light to the rood screen.
Externally it is charmingly decorated with two star-like symbols.
During the years of the Civil War and the Commonwealth
very little church building or reconstruction took place. Certainly there
was none in our church, indeed, all had been rebuilt by then. Only two
items date from the 17th century. The timber battened north door, which
post-dates the restoration of Charles 11 by 21 years (the date 1681 can
just be discerned), and the communion rails which, though Jacobean in
design, have the date 1686 carved on them, along with the churchwarden's
initials TB ID CW.
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From the 18th century, however, we have five panels with
painted inscriptions, four of which originally formed a reredos, the fifth
being a charity record to Matthew Darby, dated 1784. The decalogue (2
panels), Lord's Prayer and Creed have since been found homes on the walls
in various parts of the church.
The tower clock, dating from 1788, was made by Hyasrth Hurdiles
of London and came from Christ's Hospital when the school moved from
London to Horsham in 1902. The clock was purchased by the rector of Burton
Bradstock with the thought that it would be a fitting memorial to the late
Queen, his outlay of £70 for transport and installation being
subsequently reimbursed by subscription, the proceeds of fund raising
events, and the sale of the original bell on which the hours had been
struck for over 100 years.
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(see also The
By the 19th century the church had evidently become
inadequate for the needs of the parish. The population had increased from
approximately 600 in 1801 to approximately 1,000 by 1831. In 1833,
therefore, a south aisle with pitched gable roof was built by Jesse
Cornick of Bridport, the south wall of the nave being supported by iron
columns. This was common practice as the cheap method of adding an aisle,
but not many remain now. Examples can, however, be seen at St. Mary's,
Chickerell, and St. Laurence, Farnham, near Blandford. The new aisle ended
west of the tower, which retained its external door. Also the west end
gallery was extended and another constructed in the north transept. This
provided a further 200 free sittings. The church would have been full of
box pews, and there was a three- decker pulpit.
In 1844 further rebuilding took place in the chancel. The east wall and window, and the south wall were reconstructed, and the ceiling was also renewed. The stone altar remained until 1910.
The royal coat of arms over the north door is painted on
wood and is of pre-1837 date, but brought up to date in the 19th century
by altering the initials to VR. Following the Restoration in 1660 it was
compulsory to display the royal arms.
Sixty years later, in 1897, as mentioned earlier, E.S.
Prior was called upon to carry out a general restoration. Prior was a
leading figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and he would have been
known in this district as he had, in 1885, married the daughter of the
vicar of Symondsbury. In the same year he designed and built Pier Terrace
at West Bay, and in the years 1887 - 1889, Bothenhampton church. He was a
co-founder of the Art Workers' Guild, and in 1912 was awarded the Slade
Professorship of Fine Art in Cambridge. Later he founded the Cambridge
School of Architecture.
The almost total reconstruction of the south aisle is a
most successful piece of architecture by Prior. The arcade replacing the
iron columns is a triumph, harmoniously blending the 14th century nave and
the 19th century aisle. Stone windows of simple design replace Jesse
Cornick's wooden ones, and a new timber roof completes the harmony. The
building works were carried out by W. H. Haywood of Burton Bradstock, and
H. Bartlett of Shipton Gorge.
The new aisle extended to join with the south transept,
enclosing the base of the tower. A door was therefore built in the outside
wall, and the tower staircase door resited on the east side, giving access
from the transept. The timbering above the new south door is of unusual
and attractive design, but easily missed in this dark passage.
At this time too, all the windows were reglazed. Those
in the south aisle, and two in the north wall of the chancel (which had
been blocked up but were now reopened), and possibly the east window, with
"Prior's Early Glass", a development of Prior's which emulated
the glass of the middle ages. The remainder were glazed in the style we
see in the north transept.
The church now became a very different place. All the
galleries and stairs were removed, and the pews, seats, three-decker
pulpit and most other fittings were replaced. The artistic panelled dado we have today dates from this time and was painted by members of
the parish under the direction of Mrs. Templar, the Rector's wife.
There was general restoration of the stonework, and the
plastered panels of the barrel vault roof were removed and replaced by
boarding. Though this must have been a major upheaval, when compared with
the works of previous centuries, it was only a minor development in the
life of our church, and only part of the ever-changing adaptation of a
building to suit the needs of the time.
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So, throughout the 20th century and into present times, adaptation continues. It did not
stand still after Prior. The stained glass window in the north wall of the nave
is by Christopher Whall and was installed in 1923. Christopher Whall was a contemporary
of E. S. Prior, and was the most influential of the Arts and Crafts Movement
stained glass artists. He is also the creator of the very splendid window in
one of the chapels in Dorchester cemetery.
At the same time as this, the north transept was
furnished to serve as a Lady Chapel.
Then much later, in 1967, a new vestry was built on the
south side of the chancel, communicating with the south transept by a new
1997 saw the construction, in English oak, of a screen
and door in the south aisle of the church.
This was the last structural development, though of course
sundry restoration and repair work has taken place this century. Traceries to
the windows have been repaired, and much glass in the south transept window
was renewed. Prior's glass in the east window has also been taken out and replaced
with the window we see today. Also the floor of the sanctuary and chancel was
repaired, using Ancaster stone.
Delabole slates now replace the lead roof covering of
the nave and transepts, following treatment for death-watch beetle.
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The ORGAN is a two manual pipe organ with
pedals, electric blower, and mechanical (tracker) action, made by Bate and
Son. It was purchased from the church at Uplyme in 1938, and cleaned and
restored in 1997.
The PULPIT, which now occupies the elliptical
recess in the wall of the nave, dates from 1935.
The SEAGULL LECTERN dates from 1969. It was designed by Dr Eric Ennion, and carved by Walter Radcliffe Raymond, of Raymond Bros. Yeovil.
The PAINTING of the Virgin and Child with St.
John, St. Francis, and Mary Magdalene, was given in 1969.
The CARPET on the floor of the crossing was made
by ladies of the parish in 1981. There is a photograph and information
relating to this in the south transept.
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Of the considerable number of monuments and memorial
tablets the major ones of historical interest mentioned in the RCHM are:-
||Major John Ironsyde 1694, and
Katherine wife of John Ironsyde 1705
|Elizabeth, wife of John Best 1747.
||Gilbert Ironsyde 1678
|Nave - north wall:
||Rear Admiral Ingram 1826, Sarah (King) his wife 1810
||Wall of south aisle -
||John Beere 1631
|Mary his wife 1612
||William Beere 1694.
|S. W. of south aisle:
||Samuel Beere 1705
|N. W. of nave:
||William Smith1706, and Dorothy his wife 1695
|Cup and cover, and paten 1573
||Made by Laurence Stratford, Dorchester
||Presented by Rear Admiral Ingram in 1824
|Chalice and paten (modern)
||Given by Canon Dittmer on his retirement in 1964
*Some of these items may be seen in the Cathedral
Treasury at Salisbury
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The registers begin in 1614.
The name Burton Bradstock derives from two sources.
Brideton, the town on the Bride, gives us Burton, and the Bradstock part
is a reminder that at one time the Rectory and some lands were in the
possession of Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire.
After the Conquest the Manor was given by the Crown (
Henry 1 ) to St. Stephen's Abbey in Caen. The Rectory had already been
given by William 1 to St. Wandrille's Abbey in Normandy, and other lands
belonged to Bradenstoke Priory. Frampton Priory near Dorchester (of which
there is no trace now) was a cell of St. Stephen's Abbey and sooner or
later, by exchange or purchase, this Priory was in possession of most of
these aforementioned titles.
During the Wars with France (1337 - 1453 ) and the
suppression of alien priories all the property at different times
eventually passed to St. Stephen's College, Westminster, founded by Edward
The Manor and Rectory reverted to the Crown at the
dissolution of the Colleges during the reign of Edward IV.
Subsequently Elizabeth 1 granted the title to Sir
Christopher Hatton. Twenty years later it passed to Sir Thomas Freke, from
whom it came to the Pitt- Rivers family. Now, as part of the Bride Valley
Team Ministry, the right to appoint the Team Rector is held by the
Salisbury Diocesan Board of Patronage.
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St Mary's has six bells.
Our two heaviest bells are the oldest and were cast in
1615 and 1616 by the Purdue family at Closworth, which is a small village
just into Somerset and not very far from Yeovil. Though repairs were
carried out in 1928 and again in 1994 these two bells are still very much
as they were originally cast, and have been rung for worship, and on
occasions of rejoicing and sorrow, for the best part of 400 years. They
weigh 8 cwt. and 10 cwt. respectively, measure approx 3 ft. across the
mouth of the bow, and stand about the same high.
The 4th was also made by the Purdues, in 1651, but in a
subsequent overhaul it was found to be untunable and had to be recast.
The next to be added was the 2nd, but not until over a
hundred years later, in 1762. By then the Closworth foundry was being
worked by James Smith, whose name appears on the bell, and Thomas
Roskelly. This bell also had to be recast in 1928.
The 3rd was made in 1800 by another famous bell founding
family, the Bilbies of Cullompton.
And the final addition was made in 1928 when the treble
was cast by Mears & Stainbank, now known as The Whitechapel Bell
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||The Ten Commandments
||Opening in a wall to allow sight of the main altar from places
from which it could not otherwise be seen (sometimes called a squint)
||Embrasure with a drain, for washing communion vessels
||Panelled screen at the back of the altar
||Screen across church, usually at entrance to chancel, with
a gallery on top for a crucifix and figures St. Mary and St. John. (in the
case of Burton Bradstock the loft was fixed directly to the wall between
the nave and the crossing)
||Triangular spaces between an arch and its containing rectangle
||Royal Commission on Historic Monuments - 1952
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N. wall - external ornamental boss
Text and Photographs © E. Jane Stubbs, Burton Bradstock - 1997 revised 2006 and 2012
From a booklet designed by Richard Dolman, Orpington, Kent.
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