The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Sturminster Marshall

Ken Ayres takes his camera to a village that is a mixture of ancient and modern

1.    Sturminster Marshall has the thatch one would expect in an ancient village but also more than its fair share of modern buildings – even an industrial estate. Even so, Pevsner’s comment that ‘the rest of the village is half tatty and half cheaply re-built’ seems a little harsh.
2.    The church of St Mary the Virgin stands on the site of earlier Saxon buildings. The present building was originally 12th-century but was much altered in the 19th century; this was partly out of necessity since the tower fell down in 1802. The parish used to include Hamworthy, Lytchett Minster and Corfe Mullen.
3.    This funerary helmet in the church dates from the time of the Civil War and was found being used as a coal scuttle in a nearby cottage!
4.    The brass in the aisle of St Mary’s to Henry Helme, vicar here in the 16th century and, in the words of the inscription, a friend and father of the poor. The patronage of the living was originally held by a leper colony in France, reverted to the Crown during the Hundred Years’ War and was given to Eton College by Henry VI; a number of vicars have been former Eton ‘beaks’.
5.    There has been a maypole on the village green since perhaps as far back as 1101. The most recent version is surmounted by a weathervane in the shape of a water rat, which is the village’s emblem: the Stour runs nearby and just to the north-east of the village is White Mill Bridge. The first bridge over the Stour here was built in 1175, the oldest in Dorset.
6.    This line of thatched cottages fell derelict but was restored in the 1960s by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in memory of Thomas Hardy. They had to be restored again ten years later after a serious fire.
7.    The stone cross in the churchyard dates from the 15th century. Nearby is ‘Lampeland': land endowed by Richard Phelips of Charborough in 1560 to endow a lamp in the church.
8.    There is still an agricultural feel to the older part of Sturminster Marshall, with Church Farm close to St Mary’s. The ‘Marshall’ of the village name was William Marshall (1146-1219), the first Earl of Pembroke, who was one of the witnesses to Magna Carta.

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