Dorset OPC

Monkton Wyld

Dorset OPC

Monkton Wyld St Andrew's Church
© Kim Parker 2010

Evocatively named Monkton Wyld lies less than 3 miles due North of Lyme Regis as the crow flies, but over 5 miles by the steep, winding roads that climb from sea level up into the lush hills and woodland on the border between Dorset and Devon. ‘Monkton’ means ‘of the monks’, a reference to past ownership of land here by Forde Abbey. ‘Wyld’, which seems to allude to the landscape, is in reality derived from the Old English ‘wil’ for ‘a wile, or a trick’ - probably ‘a snare, or a trap’ in this case as the woodlands here would have been ideal for poaching – with the final ‘d’ added sometime in the reign of Mary Tudor. The arrival in August 2010 of a postcard from South Africa after 53 years in transit could be seen as a metaphor for Monkton Wyld being of another era. It feels like a secret place, remote and hidden

Anciently a manor, and now a set of farms, there has never been a village here, but at a time when the rich and powerful could have a parish created at their pleasure and pack a church with their staff and tenants, Monkton Wyld had the great good fortune to benefit from the patronage of Mrs Dodson. Elizabeth Dodson (née Burdon, c1798-1883) was the wealthy widow of Charles Philip Dodson Esq. of Stainly Hall, Yorkshire. Perhaps the untimely death of her husband and all but one of her children made her pious, for she channelled her energies into having a chapelry carved out of Wotton Fitzpaine and Uplyme (Devon) and built the church, rectory, school and schoolmaster’s house almost entirely at her own expense.

Richard Cromwell Carpenter (1812-1855), an adept of the Gothic Revival style and a member of the Cambridge Movement, was commissioned to build both the church and the rectory. His was an age of dogmatism. At the same time that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was dismissing all Art from the time of Raphael onwards as ‘corrupted’ and advocating a return to the purity of Quattrocento principles, the Cambridge Movement labelled church architecture prior to 1300 as ‘primitive’ and that after 1348 as ‘decadent’, claiming that only the decorated Gothic style prevailing between those two dates was suited to the worship of God. Their theories became known as ‘Ecclesiology’. Carpenter’s church at Monkton Wyld, dedicated to St Andrew, is a perfect example of an ecclesiological church, emphasising as it does the beauty of holiness, a proper reverence for the saints and religious symbolism.

Begun in 1848, the church was consecrated in 1850, although the spire was not completed until 1856, so that Cromwell never saw his finished work. An oak lych-gate opens onto a yew-lined path ascending to the church, entered on the South side through a dainty wooden porch with tracery in oak. Built of flint and blue lias mortar with dressings of Caen stone, the church consists of a chancel in almost equal proportion to the nave, which is separated from side aisles by three-bay arcades, with a central tower culminating in a 120 foot high Northamptonshire broach steeple made of chert stone dressed with Caen stone, supported interiorly upon well proportioned gothic arches. The windows have flowing tracery, and there is stained glass by G.E. Cook and Powells of London. In a fitting tribute to the foundress, Elizabeth Dodson, there is an exquisite carved oak pulpit on a base of Mansfield stone and Devon marble, depicting saints Cecilia, Elizabeth of Hungary, Andrew and Mary Magdalene.

Monkton Wyld Churchwarden's Garden
© Kim Parker 2010

Mrs Dodson’s daughter, Frances, happened to be married to a clergyman, Rev. Robert Sparke Hutchings, and it was he she had invested as the first incumbent of Monkton Wyld. Fifteen years later Hutchings was succeeded by the curiously named Lester Lester, a man who, as the Dorset legend goes, was left a legacy on condition that he changed his name to Lester, and not knowing which of his names this referred to, changed both to be sure to qualify. It is to the third incumbent, Rev. John Brook Maher Camm, and his wife, Caroline Arden, that we owe the further embellishment of the chancel, including the decorated rood screen, the brass altar rails and the oaken traceried choir stalls

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 1861 Census [Sue Reynolds]
1871 Census [Jacqui Bowen]
1881 Census [Sue Reynolds]
1891 Census [Sue Reynolds]
1901 Census [Sue Reynolds]
Parish Registers Marriages 1851-1921 [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Monkton Wyld Rectors [Kim Parker]
Monkton Wyld Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
Monumental Inscriptions Memorial Inscriptions at Monkton Wyld Church [Brian Webber]
Maps Map showing outline of Parish Boundaries in 1851
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
(formerly part of Whitechurch Canonicorum & Uplyme, Devon)
Marriages 1851-1983. Banns 1852-1981,





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