Dorset OPC

Gussage St Andrew

Dorset OPC

Gussage St Andrew Church
© Kim Parker 2011

Gussage St Andrew, formerly a little tithing, hamlet and manor 6 miles West by North from Cranborne and two miles South-West of Sixpenny Handley, now essentially consists of a couple of farms and a few outlying cottages. The word ‘Gussage’ has been formed from two Saxon words, ‘gyse’ for ‘water breaking forth’ and ‘sic’ for ‘watercourse’, and refers to the gushing stream that rises here and eventually flows into the River Allen. ‘St Andrew’ comes from the dedication of the 12th-century chapel, the building itself being all that remains of a convent belonging to Shaftesbury Abbey that once existed on this site. The stone edifice replaced an earlier wooden chapel built by King Alfred that, like his cakes, was unfortunately burnt to a crisp.

Since at least 1291, Gussage St Andrew has been a chapelry of Sixpenny Handley, although both were at one time incorporated into the parish of Iwerne Minster. The chapelry also served the inhabitants of the neighbouring tithing of Gussage Minchington, now known simply as Minchington, from the Saxon word ‘myncheon’ for nun, no doubt in reference to its ownership by Shaftesbury Abbey. In the area surrounding Gussage St Andrew and Minchington, Celtic burial mounds have been discovered, as well as many Roman artefacts, including a hoard of silver coins and the remains of Roman Villas on Oak Hill.

The exterior of the chapel is unimpressive and one could be forgiven for mistaking it for an outbuilding of Chapel Farm, situated as it is on a slight elevation at the end of the 18th century farmhouse’s back- garden. Although services are still celebrated here, the chapel is kept locked when not in use, for inside is one of Dorset’s little known treasures: 13th century wall-paintings of the Passion featuring the Betrayal of Christ, the Scourging, the Crucifixion, the Deposition and the Suicide of Judas. Being too crude for Victorian tastes, the mural had been plastered over in the 19th century and was only rediscovered in the 1950s, then painstakingly restored over several years by Eve Baker. The chapel also contains a 12th century Norman nave and 13th century chancel, as well as a ‘weeping dais’ supporting a font, which seems to be positioned over a spring. This may be another example of placing a Christian building on a sacred pagan site, as springs and marshy ground were thought to be supernatural threshold locations by Iron Age Britons.

Chapel Farm, Gussage St Andrew
© Kim Parker 2011

The post of Online Parish Clerk (OPC) is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the OPC Project Co-ordinator
Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census (ED18 for Sixpenny Handley)
Parish Registers Baptisms 1751-1920 [PR/BT] [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1751-1753 [BT] [Kim Parker]
Burials 1775-1819 [PR/BT] [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records St Andrews Chapel
Passion Cycle: Gussage St. Andrew, Dorset
Monumental Inscriptions  
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1785-1992.





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