Dorset OPC


Dorset OPC

Woolland St Mary's Church
© Kim Parker 2010

Woolland is a small village and parish on the slopes of Bulbarrow Hill overlooking extensive meadowland, 7 miles West of Blandford and barely 1 mile South-west of Ibberton. According to A.D. Mills, the expert on Dorset place-names, the earliest mention of Woolland is in an 833 copy of an earlier Anglo-Saxon charter where it is referred to as ‘Wennland’. In the 1086 Domesday Book, it appeared as the manor of ‘Winlande’ - closer to the Old English words ‘wynn’ and ‘land’ for ‘pasture or meadow land’ from which the name is derived. Having reached a peak population of 155 in 1891, including the tiny hamlet of Chitcomb, the population had halved less than a hundred years later and Chitcomb was no longer a hamlet, just a farm. Even though the village has always been on a rather small scale, there was once a school here opposite the church (now a private residence) and even a Methodist chapel, while at Chitcomb there was an Anabaptist meeting house from 1723

Until the dissolution of the monasteries, Woolland was held by Milton Abbey, of which it was a chapelry. In 1539 Henry VIII granted the manor to William Thornhull of Stalbridge. According to the historian Leland, this was one of England’s most ancient families: from the time of William the Conqueror ‘and long afore, Thornhulls of Thornhull were in estimation in Blakemore’. When the Thornhull family alienated their property at Stalbridge, Woolland became their principal seat. In the 16th century they built a house in the form of a reversed L near the western end of the church. Later, part of the house was pulled down and converted to a farmhouse, until 1854 when it became the Rectory. By then the Thornhulls were long gone, having sold the manor to John Gannet of Blandford Forum in 1731. It was his son-in-law, John Feaver, who built the new manor house at the eastern end of the church, which was demolished in 1965, the present building on that site being a refurbishment and extension of the stables of the original 1772 house. It was the last home of renowned sculptress Dame Elizabeth Fink, who bought it in 1973 and lived there for 20 years

There have been four churches in Woolland on or near the present site, the approximate dates being 1310, 1547, 1743 and 1856. The last was entirely financed by Montague Williams who had purchased Woolland Manor in 1852. Designed by Gilbert Scott in the early decorated style, it consists of nave, hexagonal apsidal chancel and south aisle. Building materials from the 1743 church were recycled and faced with stone from Hazelbury Bryan, with the quoins and dressings being of either Bath or Ham stone. The stained glass windows in the chancel are unusual in that they are in sepia tones, suffusing the chapel with a soft, rosy light. There is an attractive window in the south aisle displaying the arms of Williams, Scott of Lytchett Minster, Harang, Delalynde, Argenton and Rashleigh, with the crest of Williams in the quatrefoil above. Next to this window is a fine brass memorial of 1616 to Mary Argenton née Thornhull, depicting her kneeling in prayer in the fashions of the day. Elsewhere in the church, carvings depict the leaves of every type of tree found in Woolland, and to the right of the east window is a replica of the nest of a robin that the workmen left undisturbed while they were building the church

In the churchyard, as well as some fine examples of 17th century table tombs, there is a large yew tree that is as old as Christianity itself. In the 1872 edition of Hutchins’ History and Antiquities of Dorset, the tree had a circumference of 23 feet or 7 metres. When measured again in July 2005, the circumference was found to have grown to 32 feet or 9.75 metres. Unfortunately, the registers have not been as well preserved and the earlier registers dating from 1547 mentioned by Hutchins have since been lost.

2000 Year Old Yew Tree
© Kim Parker 2010

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 1841 Census [Andy Jackson]
1851 Census
[Jennifer Dando]
1861 Census
[Jean Trevett]
1871 Census
[Jean Trevett]
1911 Census
[Godfrey Symes]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1727-1812 [Kim Parker]
Marriages 1731-1840
[Kim Parker]
Burials 1728-1812
[Kim Parker]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Woolland Parish Rectors [Kim Parker]
Index of Wills of Woolland Residents
[Kim Parker]
Monumental Inscriptions Monumental Inscriptions
Woolland Roll of Honour [Kim Parker]
Memorials inside Woolland Church
[Kim Parker]

Records held at the Dorset History Centre
[Ref PE-WOL]
Christenings 1726-1998. Marriages 1731-1982. Burials 1728-1996. Banns 1823-1996
Registration District
(for the purpose of civil registration births, marriages, deaths & civil partnerships)
1 Jul 1837-31 Mar 1974: Sturminster
1 Apr 1974-17 Oct 2005: North Dorset

Woolland St Mary's Church
© Kim Parker 2010

Woolland Family Crest Window
© Kim Parker 2010

Woolland Rectory
© Kim Parker 2010



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