Dorset OPC


(Extra Parochial)

Dorset OPC

Whitcombe Church (Dedication unknown)
© Kim Parker 2010

The tiny village of Whitcombe, lies alongside the main A352 to the South-East of Dorchester, nestled between the parishes of West Knighton and Broadmayne to the East, West Stafford to the North and Winterbourne Came to the West. Recorded in a 10th century Saxon charter as well as in the 11th century Domesday Book as ‘Widecome’, the name means ‘wide valley’ in Old English. Lower Palaeolithic handaxes found in the area and an Iron Age burial of a male with a long slashing sword at his side, the so-called ‘Whitcombe Warrior’, testify to settlement here from the earliest times. Whitcombe was donated to Abbey Milton by King Athelstan in 966 and remained extra-parochial from then on. Whitcombe maintained its own registers, although sadly they were destroyed in a fire in the 18th century, so that all records prior to 1762 have been lost.

Whitcombe consists of a rather narrow strip of land running southwards from the charming Norman chapel and what remains of the village to the Manor House and the famous race-horse stables. At the dissolution of the monasteries it became the property of the Crown. The rectory and chapel were granted to Sir John Tregonwell through whose family it descended until it came into the Bankes family who eventually sold it to the Damer family from Ireland, later the Earls of Dorchester. Earthworks to the East of the churchyard are a reminder that the village was once much larger than the present seven or eight 18th century thatched cottages and the 19th century farmhouse.

The dedication of the now redundant Norman chapel peeping through its own coppice of well foliaged trees has been lost. It stands on the site of a much older church, and fragments of two Saxon crosses can be found in the interior. Surrounded by a limestone wall carefully built around a prehistoric standing stone, the chapel has a 16th century tower completed in 1596, a 15th century chancel with steps that formerly lead up to a rood loft and a 12th century nave partly rebuilt in the 18th century. Inside, there is a fine 13th century Purbeck marble font and impressive medieval wall paintings on the East wall, one of St. Christopher carrying Christ and another of early 14th century arcading. The pulpit has been left exactly as it was on the morning in 1885 when the Reverend William Barnes of Winterbourne Came gave his last sermon. This was especially poignant as he had also given his first sermon at Whitcombe in 1847. Celebrated for his poetry in the Dorset dialect, Barnes also had a tremendous sense of humour. He nicknamed one of the Whitcombe parish clerks ‘the Archbishop of York’, so fond was he of declaiming, “Now you got to mind I: I be the second man in the church I be”. Barnes died in 1886 and the chapel has been restored in his memory.

© Kim Parker 2010

The post of Online Extra Parochial Clerk (OPC) for Whitcombe is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the coordinator

Census 1841 Census  [Ron Adams]
1851 Census  [Ron Adams] 
1861 Census  [Ron Adams] 
1871 Census  [Jennifer Dando] 
1881 Census  [Jennifer Dando] 
1891 Census  [Ron Adams] 
1901 Census  [Keith Searson]
Church Registers Baptisms 1731-1780 [BT] 1774-1850 [PR] [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1733-1870 [BT/PR] [Kim Parker]
Burials 1731-1780 [BT] 1774-1837 [PR] [Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Whitcombe PCC Wills index [Kim Parker]
Whitcombe 12th Century Font
Weymouth Local & Family History site
Photographs Whitcombe Pictures
Monumental Inscriptions Whitcombe Monumental Inscriptions
Maps Map showing Parish Boundary
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1762-1967. Marriages 1780-1962. Burials 1774-1968. Banns 1860-1977





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