Dorset OPC


Dorset OPC

St Mary, St Cuthberga & All Saints Church, Witchampton
© Kim Parker 2011

Witchampton nestles between woodlands and water meadows on the East-facing slopes of the Allen River valley, 5 miles North-North-West of Wimborne Minster. With its quaint timber-framed and thatched cottages resplendent in summer with honeysuckle, roses and jasmine, the village of Witchampton has been described as one of the most beautiful in the country. Until the mid 20th century every house in the village was in the ownership of the Crichel Estate, which helped to preserve its special character. Remains of a Roman villa near the hamlet of East Hemsworth (also known as Lower Hemelsworth) and traces of a Roman vineyard in the field adjoining the church attest to Witchampton’s ancient history. Indeed, the very name ‘Witchampton’ refers to the village’s Roman past, since the old English words ‘wic’ ‘haeme’ and ‘tun’ roughly translate to ‘farm of the dwellers on the site of a Romano-British settlement’.

At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1085, Witchampton had two grist or flour mills “one where the river entereth the village on land belonging to Queen Matilda (wife of William the Conqueror) and the other on the land belonging to Hubert”. These mills continued to exist in one form or another until the 20th century. Shortly after the Norman Conquest the Clare family, Earls of Gloucester & Hertford, became its lords paramount. Inferior lords down the centuries included the Matravers family of Lytchett Matravers and the Fitz-Alans, Earls of Arundel. Eventually Witchampton passed to Sir Richard, an Arundel by his father and a Matravers by his mother. He was a knight who had continually distinguished himself throughout the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, serving in the latter’s retinue at Agincourt. By the 1600s Witchampton was vested in the Cole family to whom there are poignant memorials in the church. Afterwards the village passed by way of sale or inheritance to the Deans of Hampshire, the Pearce family of Weymouth, the Napier family and finally in the 19th century to the Sturt family.

The Parish Church is dedicated to St Mary, St Cuthberga & All Saints. St Cuthberga was a Saxon princess. Dressed as an abbess holding a crosier in one hand and a model of Wimborne Minster, of which she was the founder, in the other, her statue stands over the beautiful Arts & Crafts style Lych-gate. Having undergone a rebuild from 1832-40 by an unknown architect, all that remains of the old church is the bowl of the 13th century font and the 15th century tower, which has four gargoyles, including one playing the bagpipes. At one time the font was in a field being used as a cattle trough, but it was rescued and replaced in the church. An Elizabethan silver chalice and paten given by Elizabeth Scobel, mother of John Cole’s wife Johanna, is still in use. In the churchyard there is a circular mounting block that has no doubt delighted generations of children, being ideal for climbing and jumping off.

“Opposite the church” wrote Dorset Historian Rev. John Hutchins, “ is the manor-house, an ancient fabric of brick; in a window of which is, ‘Pray for the Soule of William Rolle’; and in several others above stairs and below are these arms: Argent, a fret or, Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel.” Hutchins was referring to Abbey House, dating from c1500, which is considered to be the earliest example of the use of brickwork in Dorset. He continued, “near it is a very large old barn, supposed by the inhabitants to have been a chapel, and called by them the Abbey Barn.” Later Witchampton had a Methodist Church in Crichel Lane, built around 1890 of red brick and featuring pointed arch windows, buttresses and buff brick dressings.

Witchampton Lychgate and village
© Kim Parker 2011

The new Online Parish Clerk (OPC) for Witchampton is Bel Hounstout
Please place the words 'OPC Witchampton' as your subject for e-mails (click on Bel's name above to generate a pre-addressed email)

Census 1841 Census [Julie Browning]
1851 Census
[Johanna Miller]
1861 Census [Johanna Miller]
1871 Census
[Johanna Miller]
1891 Census
[Johanna Miller]
1901 Census
[Johanna Miller]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1661-1720 1722-1742 1749-1769 [Ros Taylor]
Baptisms [contd] 1770-1782 1788-1811 1813-1891
[Ros Taylor]
Marriages 1663-1810 1813-1838 1838-1859
[Ros Taylor]
Marriages [contd] 1860-1870 1871-1879 1880-1899
[Ros Taylor]
Marriages [contd] 1900-1909 1910-1920 1920-1921
Burials 1656-1730 1730-1774 1774-1782 1790-1812 [RosTaylor]
Burials [contd] 1828-1849 1849-1900 1900-1908
[Ros Taylor]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Register of Electors 1918 [Ros Taylor]
Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
Extract from Hutchins History of Dorset, includes some register entries [Dorinda Miles]
Rectors of St Mary, St Cuthberga & All Saints Church [Kim Parker]
Photographs Manswood Cottage [Johanna Miller]
Old views of Witchampton Village
[Ros Taylor]
Modern views of Church & Village
[Kim Parker]
Church and Memorial Stones
[Jan Hibberd]
Monumental Inscriptions Church Memorials [Kim Parker]
Methodist Church Monumental Inscriptions index
[Jan Hibberd]
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1656-1988. Marriages 1656-1985. Burials 1656-1908. Banns 1754-1980





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