Dorset OPC



Dorset OPC

St Nicholas & St Magnus Church, Moreton
Photographs of Moreton St Nicholas & St Magnus Church above and below courtesy of Alison Preston ©2010

Moreton is a village eight miles East of Dorchester, situated on the River Frome, beside Southern England’s longest ford in what Thomas Hardy described as the “vale of the great dairies”. The name Moreton is a common Old English term meaning “farmstead in moorland or marshy ground”. The Frampton family have been Lords of the Manor here since at least the 14th century. In 1832 James Frampton gained notoriety when, as High Sherriff of Dorset, he arrested the Tolpuddle Martyrs and resurrected a disused marine statute against association to have them transported to Australia. Having witnessed the indiscriminate bloodbath of the 1789 French Revolution first-hand as a youthful pimpernel rescuing aristocrats, Frampton overreacted to incidents of barn burning and machine breaking in 1830s Dorset. Most of the Martyrs eventually returned to England and both their descendants and those of the Framptons are still to be found in the area today. The village had a population of 270 in 2001, compared to 294 in 1841 and 355 in 1901.

Within sight of the Frampton family’s 1774 mansion is the Georgian Gothic church of St. Nicholas & St. Magnus, built in 1776 on the site of its medieval predecessor. In 1940, a stray German bomb demolished the apse and smashed every window. Once rebuilt, Sir Laurence Whistler was commissioned to create engraved glass windows, initially just for the apse. However, over the next several decades, Sir Laurence, and later his son Simon, would gradually install Whistler engravings in all the windows. The result is a light and airy effect, giving the impression that the inside of the church is in complete harmony with the natural environment outside. It is thought this is the only church in the world where all the windows are engraved.

The graveyard is a short walk away to the south of the church. Entrance is through an unusual lych-gate with a sky-blue pediment supported by four white Ionic columns, formerly part of the kitchen gardens of Moreton House. Perhaps the most visited grave is that of Thomas Edward Lawrence, popularly known as “Lawrence of Arabia” for the extraordinary work he did building the Arab nations during the First World War. He lies under a cypress tree in a grave marked by a simple stone carved by Eric Kennington.

To escape the gilded cage of celebrity, T. E. Lawrence had enlisted as a private in the tank corps, based at nearby Bovington Camp. As a retreat in his spare time, he rented and later bought Clouds Hill Cottage near Moreton from his cousins, the Framptons. An avid motorcyclist, he died on 19th May 1935, six days after swerving to avoid two delivery boys on bicycles. The great and good of the country, including Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, came to Moreton for his funeral. On his coffin was inscribed, “To T.E.L., who should sleep among kings”. A more elaborate memorial, consisting of an effigy of Lawrence in Arab dress reclining on a camel saddle, can be found in St. Martins, Wareham - a church he loved.

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Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Lynda Small]
1881 Census [Raph Woolfrey]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1817-1879 (PRs) [Sandi Hartnell] - selected years only
Baptisms 1731-1880 (BTs) [David Edmonds]
Marriages 1731-1846 (BTs) [David Edmonds]
Burials 1731-1880 (BTs) [David Edmonds]
Postal Directories  
Photographs Photographs of Moreton Church including Grave of TE Lawrence
Monumental Inscriptions Moreton Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
Other Records Moreton Rifle Club yearly winners [Pat Ashdown]
List of Rectors of Moreton [Kim Parker]
Index of PCC Wills for Moreton
[Kim Parker]
1807 Poll Book
[Kim Parker]
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1565-1981. Marriages 1565-1994. Burials 1565-1993. Banns 1754-1960


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