Dorset OPC

Gussage St Michael

Dorset OPC

Gussage St Michael Church
© Kim Parker 2010

Gussage St Michael lies in a vale on Cranborne Chase, 10 miles North-East of Blandford Forum and 14 miles South-West of Salisbury (Wiltshire). According to Dorset place-name expert, A. D. Mills, the word ‘Gussage’ has been formed from two Saxon words, ‘gyse’ for ‘water breaking forth’ and ‘sic’ for ‘watercourse’. A pamphlet in the church gives a slightly different interpretation, giving the origin of ‘Gussage’ as the Anglo-Saxon word ‘gwysych’, meaning a bourne, that is, a watercourse that dries up for part of the year. Both explanations refer to the gushing stream that rises at Gussage St Andrew, flowing through the village to eventually join the River Allen. It is the dedication of the church that gives the parish the second part of its name, although it was formerly known as ‘Gussage Dinant’, in honour of Alain de Dinant and his descendents who held it until the reign of Edward I, and often appears in old documents as ‘Middle Gussage’ in reference to its location between the other two Dorset villages with the word ‘Gussage’ in their name.

The parish is steeped in ancient history. Ackling Dyke, an old Roman road, forms the boundary between Gussage St Michael and Gussage All Saints, while the mysterious Dorset Cursus, extending for 10 km with two raised banks at either side and presumed to have been used for ceremonial purposes, begins on Gussage Hill. Cashmoor, a hamlet within the parish, also excites interest for its ancient remains. There are traces of seven ditches crossing the road from here to Tarrant Hinton, supposed by archaeologists to be evidence of an almighty battle fought by the ancient Britons, all knowledge of which is now lost to the memory of man. The outlying hamlet of Sudden or Sutton once belonged to the parish, but was eventually transferred to Edmondsham with which it is contiguous.

Unusual markings on the 12th century font in the church, which include Marian monograms combined with a daisy or sun wheel to promote good luck and ward off evil, may point to a local sun-worshipping tradition having been co-opted by Christianity when it first arrived at Gussage St Michael. The allusion seems to be to “the woman clothed with the sun” mentioned in the book of Revelation and which many scholars have interpreted to refer to the Virgin Mary. It is certainly true that the site of the present church has been used for worship for over 1,000 years.

Built amidst the ruins of a Saxon church, the oldest part of the present church of St Michael and All Saints is the embattled tower, whose base is 12th century with later additions in the 14th and 15th centuries. It contains a number of bells, some of which are dated as early as 1350. Two bells, cast in the year James I came to the throne, bear inscriptions ‘Feare God” on one and ‘Hope well’ on the other. The nave is 13th century with late Norman pillars and arches, although the clerestory was added in the 1400s when the roof was raised and the North porch was built. Cruciform carvings on the uprights of the North door are believed to be Crusader symbols. The chancel was completely rebuilt by G. E. Street in 1857 and embellished in subsequent years by the addition of a stained glass window, a reredos (1870) and a screen (1919). In 1896 a small 13th century chapel was converted into a vestry. Despite these more recent renovations, the overall impression is of a pleasant old country church.

Gussage St Michael Church
© Kim Parker 2010

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Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Ron Adams]
1861 Census
[Alan Bartlett]
1881 Census
[Ralph Woolfrey]
Parish Registers* Baptisms 1654-1812 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1654-1837 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1654-1812 [Kim Parker]
Bishops Transcripts
Note*: Parish Register Baptisms and Burials from 1813 have not yet been deposited at the Dorset History Centre. There are many gaps. These records are not on Ancestry, the IGI or transcribed at the DHC.
Baptisms 1813-1880 [Kim Parker]
Burials 1813-1880 [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Gussage St Michael Clergy [Kim Parker]
Monumental Inscriptions St Michael & All Saints Monumental Inscriptions Index [Jan Hibberd]
Click on the thumbnail map on the left to view a larger map showing the parish location

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
[Ref PE-GUM]
Christenings 1653/4-1692, 1711-1812.
Marriages 1654-1682, 1711-1995.
Burials 1654-1656, 1663-1680, 1711-1811.
Registration District
(for the purpose of civil registration births, marriages, deaths & civil partnerships)
1 Jul 1837-31 Mar 1937: Wimborne (originally Wimborne & Cranborne)
1 Apr 1937-30 Jun 1956: Blandford
1 Jul 1956-31 Mar 1997: Poole
1 Apr 1997-16 Oct 2005: East Dorset





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