Dorset OPC


Dorset OPC

St Peter's Church, Chetnole
© Dorset OPC 2011

Chetnole is a village and parish near the Roman road from Dorchester, two miles North of Evershot and 6 miles South-West of Sherborne. The name is thought to mean ‘Ceatta’s hilloc or hilltop’, from an Old English proper name and ‘cnoll’. A chapelry to the mother parish of Yetminster until 1984, Chetnole is not mentioned directly in the Domesday Book of 1086, but may have been included with Yetminster, although there is no convincing archaeological evidence of settlement at that time.

Since it served the local peasantry without a Lord of the Manor to embellish it, St Peter’s Chapel was rather plain and was not endowed with much treasure. Even so, the church commissioners sent by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries made off with the candlesticks and the bells. The barrel-vaulted nave is all that remains of the original 13th century building, which has been added to over the years, including a 15th century tower, a 17th century porch (replaced in 1865, when the west gallery that formerly housed the choir was also removed) and a 19th century chancel.

Of particular note are the gargoyles adorning the tower, which are said to be some of the best examples in England, and the corbels decorating both the interior and exterior of the building. The turret clock was made by Robert Adams of Sherborne in 1878 and was repaired in 2000 so that it once again strikes the hours. There are three bells in the belfry: two cast by London founder William Chamberlain c1500 with inscriptions referencing St. Augustine and St. Lawrence, and the third cast by John Warner & Sons of London in 1865.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there was frequent complaint of lack of services on the one hand and poor church attendance on the other, as well as having to go all the way to Yetminster two miles distant for burials – a costly exercise for the poor of the village. It was not until 1827 that the churchyard was finally consecrated. From 1847 the chapelry was also authorised to perform christenings, having acquired a font 1845. The first wedding was performed there in 1885 and the first confirmations in 1917.

From 1850 onwards the Chadwick family were generous patrons of the church and in large part it is they who sponsored the simple but tasteful renovations of the 1860s as well as the construction of the chancel. Being a military family it will come as no surprise that their country house, Nappers, was used as a military hospital during the First World War.

A small stream named the Wriggle, rising at Hilfield and flowing North to the River Yeo, which it joins near Bradford Abbas, flows through the village. Formerly named Deansbrook, ‘Wriggle’ seems more appropriate, given the twists and turns it takes. Hutchins in his History of Dorset recounts a charming explanation for the name, though modern experts consider it to be inaccurate. Apparently local children discovered that when the stems of ‘stone lilies’ found at the bottom of the brook were placed in a saucer of vinegar they appeared to come to life, wriggling about and clustering together. The scientific explanation is that the vinegar engenders a chemical reaction in the limestone fossils and the liberation of carbonic acid gas sets them in motion, with gravity drawing them downwards. It is easy to imagine the delight of the children when they witnessed this phenomenon.

St Peter's Church, Chetnole
© Dorset OPC 2011

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Census 1841 Census [Ron Adams]
1851 Census [John Ridout]
1861 Census [Ron Adams]
1871 Census [Ron Adams]
1881 Census [Terry Smith]
1891 Census [Tony Higgins]
Parish Registers Baptisms
Burials 1827-1847 (PR) [Rachel Kent]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Names from the Protestation Returns 1641
Monumental Inscriptions Monumental Inscriptions

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1847-1982. Marriages 1885-2004. Burials 1827-1992
Registration District
(for the purpose of civil registration births, marriages, deaths & civil partnerships)
1 Jul 1837-31 Mar 1937: Sherborne
1 Apr 1937-31 Mar 1974: Sturminster
1 Apr 1974-17 Oct 2005: North Dorset





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