Dorset OPC



Dorset OPC

Hermitage, St Mary's Church
© Kim Parker, Dorset OPC 2016

Hermitage is a small village and civil parish situated in the Blackmore Vale under the scarp of the Dorset Downs, 6 miles (9.7km) South of Sherborne and 4 miles (km) North-West of Cerne Abbas. In former times this was a heavily wooded area and a popular hunting venue for royalty - part of what was known as Blackmoor Regis. The Forest of Hartleigh, which stood within the confines of the present parish, was famed up to at least the thirteenth century for its massive trees, supplying timbers for the repair of the Abbey buildings at both Cerne and Sherborne.

In the thirteenth century King Edward I gifted a clearing to Augustinian monks, a grant that King Edward II confirmed and augmented, making it perpetual. The monks established a hermitage here, hence the name of the parish, but they abandoned the site in the 14th or 15th century. Lady’s Well, which they used, still remains though and can be found on the edge of woodland a short distance from the village. The use of springs in the area for healing purposes is a likely origin for the name ‘Remedy’, now applied to the summit of the hill behind Lady’s Well.

Their Priory stood on land occupied by the house adjacent to the church, known as Church Farm. The present church, dedicated to St Mary, consists of chancel, nave and south porch and is built on a 14th century plan. The walls are of local rubble with freestone dressings and the roofs are covered with stone and slates. There is a single bell, dating from 1795, hanging in the small stone bell-turret above the West wall, its oaken bell-wheel skilfully re-made in 1990. The gargoyle just below it is probably medieval.

There have been two major refurbishments, the first in the 17th century. At that time, a tower at the West end of the church included a room in which the curate could live. A small room over the present porch held the bell and was also used as a woodstore for the curate’s fire. The whole church was again re-built in 1800 when the chancel’s barrel roof was installed. Despite all of this remodelling, some ancient features have been retained, including the North door arch to the left of the chancel and two much-worn family memorial tablets on the chancel floor, one to Henry & Elizabeth Collyer dated 1654 and bearing the unusual heraldic emblem of three bats, and the other to Jone Strowde dated 1600.

Hermitage Village Green and Church
© Kim Parker, Dorset OPC 2016

“Arise, arise, ye subterranean winds!” According to John Marius Wilson’s 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales, that’s precisely what happened here in 1585. A large spot of ground was said to have been removed by the force of a subterranean wind and carried a considerable distance, retaining trees and hedges on it entire, and leaving a great hollow where it had been. Whether this is true or not, nobody knows, but no doubt it was a popular tale at the annual fair held at Hermitage every August 26th. More recently, Hermitage has been prized for its tranquility. During the second World War, being one of the least turbulent spots in the country, Bournemouth Art Gallery chose Hermitage as the place to store its treasures and the church was adorned with many of its valuable paintings.

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Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Mari Viertel]
1851 Census
1861 Census
1871 Census
1881 Census [Jon Baker]
1891 Census [Jon Baker]
1901 Census [Keith Searson]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1733-1860 [Rachel Kent]
Marriages 1605-1714, 1717-1860 [Rachel Kent]
Burials 1721-1970 [Rachel Kent]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records  
Monumental Inscriptions St Mary's Monumental Inscription index [Jan Hibbed]

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1712-1747, 1760-2000. Marriages 1713-1741, 1763-1837. Burials 1712-1747, 1760-1991.




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