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Glanvilles Wootton

The Parish Church of St. Mary’s – Glanville’s Wootton

Elsewhere we have looked at the history of Glanville’s Wootton, a parish in “the Vale of the Little Dairies” as Hardy called the Blackmore Vale. Today the tradition of dairy farming continues in the parish, carried on at Round Chimneys Farm by Mr Rich. I went to see the Church, which is to the east of the village and approached by the narrow Church Farm Lane. You can park opposite the church in an area provided; I was greeted from an adjacent paddock by a friendly and inquisitive mare and her foal.

St. Mary’s is surrounded by a well kept churchyard in an attractive setting bounded by stone walls. Built from course rubble with ashlar dressings and roofed with stone slates, the south chapel, the oldest part of this house of God, has walls of knapped flint with Ham Hill ashlar dressings and bonded courses.

Entered through the 15th century south porch St. Mary’s comprises a west tower, nave, chancel and south chapel. The short west tower is 14th century and embattled having two stages outside and three storeys inside with a lancet window in each side of the upper storey. The belfry is home to six bells. The nave is 15th century; subsidence of the north wall due to it having been built over a line of ancient coffins resulted in it being re-built under the supervision of G. R. Crickmay in 1875-1876. The Norman font is of Purbeck marble.

It seems the only part of the chancel not re-built during the restoration by Crickmay is the very large hagioscope or squint. There are two modern clergy stalls by Robert Thompson of Kilbury, York, known as the “Mouseman,” because all the work produced by this firm of craftsmen is decorated with a carved mouse.

The gem of this place is the Chantry south chapel of 1344, separated from the nave by a wide spanning arch. It is a well preserved example of 14th century architecture about which the experts say “it has not greatly altered from its original form.” This was endowed by Sybil de Glanvyll so a priest would say Mass for the departed every day for ever. The beautiful stained glass east window is pointed with three lights with tracery. The chapel has two bays and two windows in the south wall, each are of three lights with tracery. All the chapel windows are 14th century. In the south east corner of the chapel is a piscina (there is another in the chancel) and directly under the windows in the south wall are two tomb recesses; the one to the east with an effigy of a man clad in a military style cloak. The chapel is furnished with high Victorian benches.

Inside St. Mary’s are monuments to Rev. Humphrey Evans (1813); Thomas Mew (1672) rector; members of the Williams and Henley families; John Every (1679) and his mother Anne (Williams) Hurding (1670; James Dale (1833); John and Elizabeth Leigh (1752 and 1783). There are floor slabs in the chancel of Margaret Allen (1662) and Nicholas Rickard, rector, (1707.) In the tower of John Pine (1643) and Ursula Pine (1639).

The church registers date from 1546. Available at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester are the registers of baptisms 1549-1886; marriages 1546-1997; banns 1754-1908 and burials 1578-2000.

You will find a selection of photographs of St. Mary’s in the photo gallery.

The First Churchills of Round Chimneys

Whenever the name Churchill is mentioned people naturally think of Sir Winston of the Second World War, twice Prime Minister, and associate his family with Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. After all, this was the seat of the Churchills as the Dukes of Marlborough in the 18th century. And, true enough, it was here in 1874 that the soldier statesman Sir Winston of the 20th century was born.

Less well known (if at all) is the perhaps not-so-surprising fact that the great man’s earliest documented ancestor was another Sir Winston, though one who never lived outside of the 17th century.

But this earlier Winston Churchill was no Oxfordian; nor was he a Londoner or a native of the home counties. In fact he was of true Dorset origin, first seeing the light of day in a remote farmhouse situated in the mid north-west parish of Glanvilles Wootton, called Round Chimneys. The three evenly spaced small chimneys which give the farm its name appear in an relatively early photograph, along the apex of a roof sloping much further down at the rear than at the front, but the house also has an economy of windows and smooth-rendered walls giving it the appearance of an American-style farmhouse that would not look out of place in the Allegheny foothills of Pennsylvania.

In 1620 however, when the earlier Winston Churchill was born here, the farmhouse would likely have looked quite different. Although there appear to be no records of who his parents were, they evidently brought young Winston up in the Royalist tradition of a Cavalier. He became a Member of Parliament as well as holding a position in the Royal household known as the Board of Green Cloth. As a Royalist he fought on the side of Charles 1 in the Civil War, but following the defeat of Charles he had to forfeit his estates. As a member of the Board of Green Cloth Churchill may have had a hand in formulating resolutions such as the one passed in June 1681 that cherry tarts should be issued to the Maids of Honour instead of gooseberry tarts, as cherries were cheaper. Later he also joined the only recently formed Royal Society.

It was noted that Winston was a surprisingly superstitious man. Harking on the fact that he happened to be born and baptised on a Friday, he went through life believing it to be his lucky day. So much so evidently, that he saw to it that he married and was even knighted on Friday too, though it is not recorded whether, as he believed he would, he died on that day.

As a loyal and respected member of the Royal household Churchill received a knighthood at some time, either from Charles 1 or 11. In 1648 his daughter Arabella was born, followed in 1650 by the arrival of a son, John, then another son, Charles, after John. It was John Churchill who grew up to be the first Duke of Marlborough and who somewhat eclipsed the obscure and lesser-known standing of his father. But like Winston, John Churchill (or “Corporal John” as he came
to be known) became a Royalist soldier whose advancement was spurred on by his sister Arabella when she became mistress to the Duke of York, later James 11.

When the first Winston did die in 1688 at the age of 68, it was not before he had left a written legacy in the form of a history of the English kings titled Divi Britannici.

John Churchill, who as we have seen was also born at Round Chimneys, was brought up as an Anglican and educated at St Paul’s School in London, where the masters failed to inspire him with any tastes in literature, though he was handsome, with attractive manners. In 1678 he married Sarah Jennings, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Anne, and was raised to the peerage in 1682. He once saved the life of the Duke of Monmouth at Maastricht, though this would later prove to have been a futile and undeserved intervention. For by 1685 Churchill was second in commandof the King’s troops dispatched to suppress Monmouth’s western rebellion, and so was largely responsible for the Duke’s capture and execution. It was as if Churchill had saved a life only to take it later.

Before becoming the founder of the Marlboroughs John Churchill became 1st Baron of Sandridge. Under this title and at the head of 5000 men he defected to William, Prince of Orange in 1688, once James 11’s Catholicism had become notorious and at odds with Churchill’s Anglicanism. After campaigning in the Netherlands and Ireland, in 1701 Churchill was made 1st Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne and sent by her as Commander-in-Chief of the Anglo-Dutch alliance to fight in the War of Spanish Succession, which brought Gibraltar under British colonial dependency.

Between 1702 and 1711 Churchill was primarily engaged in fighting the French, where his fame reached a climax in the campaign of Ramillies. He drove the French from occupation of Spanish Gelderland, but Churchill’s crowning glory came when he fought and won the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

The outcome of these campaigns made this Dorset soldier-farmer’s son largely responsible for altering the course of European history by thwarting France’s attempts to join forces with the Bavarians. For these actions a grateful King and country rewarded John Churchill with the gift of the estate of Woodstock Manor in Oxfordshire. Here Churchill built the great palace that upon its consecration has honoured and perpetuated the place name of his crowning military triumph in its own.

Of the Duke, it was said that he never lost a battle or failed a siege. His domestic life however, somewhat tainted the success of his military career. He had to suffer intrigues perpetrated by his wealthy wife who was keeper of the Privy Purse for Queen Anne, as well as becoming her confidant. In 1711 his standing with the Whigs, upon whom he depended, was fatally undermined when, making an ill-judged demand that he should hold a Captain-Generalship for life, he gave his enemies a chance to topple him. Churchill was recalled and politically savaged in Parliament.

Rather than have to face the hostility of his compatriots, the Duke made a quiet retirement abroad. He was made Captain-General by George 1, though he was never considered trustworthy again, and after some years in declining health he died from a stroke in 1722.

Churchill’s eldest daughter was Lady Anne, who married Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland in 1700. Their son, also called Charles, became the 3rd Duke of Marlborough and 5th Earl of Sunderland upon the death of Lady Anne’s sister, who was Duchess of Marlborough in her own right after Anne and Charles had pre-deceased her.

So Round Chimneys Farm played a direct role as the setting for the roots of two of the country’s leading aristocratic families. However, the farm is not the only Dorset connection with the Churchill’s. Canford House, for instance, was once the home of Lady Wimborne, wife of Ivor Guest but formerly Cornelia Spencer Churchill, sister of the high Tory statesman Lord Randolph Churchill. By his American wife Jennie Jerome, Randolph was the father of the latter Sir Winston, who was therefore Cornelia Wimborne’s nephew. Furthermore, Sir Winston’s own son Randolph married Pamela Digby, heiress of the Digby’s of Minterne House.

The wheel comes full circle when we learn that after the Reformation Winchester College granted Minterne House, originally the Manor of Cerne Abbey, to none other than the first Sir Winston Churchill. He in turn left it to his younger son, General Charles Churchill, who also owned a town house in Dorchester which later burnt down in a fire in which his widow perished.

Note: We have received an email from a descendant of the Winston family informing us that the parents of The First Winston Churchill (1620-88) were John Churchill and Sarah Winston, daughter of Sir Henry Winston of Standish in Gloucestershire. Sir Winston received the ‘Winston’ from his mother’s maiden name to keep it in the family. Sir Henry Winston’s line goes back to the Winstons of Tre- Wyn, Pandy, Monmouthshire, Wales who were knights and later gentry.

Glanvilles Wootton – St. Mary’s Church

The Parish Church of St Mary stands in a spacious tidy churchyard surrounded by a stone wall.

The Parish Church of St Mary stands in a spacious tidy churchyard surrounded by a stone wall.

Glanvilles Wootton – St. Mary’s Church – Chapel Window

The south windows of the chapel are 14th century.

The south windows of the chapel are 14th century.

Glanvilles Wootton – St. Mary’s Church – Chancel Monument

This monument reset in the south wall of the chancel to Thomas Mew, 1672, rector. It is a plain stone slab with bold Roman lettering.

This monument reset in the south wall of the chancel to Thomas Mew, 1672, rector. It is a plain stone slab with bold Roman lettering.

Glanvilles Wootton – St Mary’s Church – Chapel Window

This pointed east window of the chapel is of three lights with curvillinear tracery.

This pointed east window of the chapel is of three lights with curvillinear tracery.

Glanvilles Wootton – St. Mary’s Church – Piscina

This piscina is in the south-east corner of the chapel. There is another in the chancel.

This piscina is in the south-east corner of the chapel. There is another in the chancel.

Glanvilles Wootton – St Mary’s Church – Tomb

In a tomb recess in the chapel is this effigy of a man clad in a long military style surcoat, tippet and hood. Feet spurred and resting on a dog or a lion. At left side a dagger and a sword slung from belt buckled over hips. Late 13th century but the face has been restored at some later date.

In a tomb recess in the chapel is this effigy of a man clad in a long military style surcoat, tippet and hood. Feet spurred and resting on a dog or a lion. At left side a dagger and a sword slung from belt buckled over hips. Late 13th century but the face has been restored at some later date.

The Parish of Glanvilles Wootton

Formerly known as Wootton Glanville, the name of this small village community in north-central Dorset preferentially became Glanvilles Wootton in conjunction with boundary changes that took place in 1985. A former parochial division of Cerne, the parish now comes under the North Dorset Local Authority, and commonly shares boundaries with the parishes of Buckland Newton, Pulham, Holwell, Holnest and Minterne.

Wootton is situated on the B3146, approximately 12 miles north of Dorchester and 7 miles south east of Sherborne in the Cerne valley area, where the rich clay pastureland of the Blackmore Vale grades south-eastwards into the chalk downland of the Dorset Heights.

The earliest visible relic of human occupation of any magnitude within the parish is Dungeon Hill, an Iron Age fort and later Roman camp lying south east of the village.A Bronze Age Celt (axe or palstave) has been unearthed on Newland Common and also a very long iron spur as well as some Spanish and monastic coins, though prehistoric burials may be present.

Before the Norman Conquest Wootton was a possession of the Abbot of Middletun,then having 16 acres of meadow and four of pasture, but at Domesday it was held by William de Braiose. The earliest Lords of the Manor were the Mauger family.

Before the time of Henry 111, Henry de Glanvyll held two virgates of land as a free tenant of the Abbot. The name of Wootton appears to derive from the“Wideton(e)” of Domeday, meaning a woody place, whilst “Glanville” is the modern form of de Glanvyll or Glanvill, the name of the manorial family who held the parish in the 14th century.

The nave and chancel of the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin were re-ordered in 1876 by G.R.Crickmay with assistance from Thomas Hardy. During this restoration it was found that subsidence of the north wall of the nave was due to it having been built over a line of ancient coffins.

Today the parish has an area of 1,705 acres (690 hectares), but in 1865 its area was 1,665 acres (674 ha). It is sub-divided into the two tythings of Wootton and Newland; a number of hamlets or farmsteads lie within its borders as possible former manors of the mother church. These include Newlands, Osehill Green and – most famously – Round Chimneys, the farmhouse of which became the later home of the first Winston Churchill and the birthplace of his son, John, first Duke of Marlborough.

The area’s soil is noted for being very favourable for growing timber, and many of the hedges have been thickly planted with oak and elm. Near Wootton Manor house there is also a fine grove of tall mature elms. By the time of the historian John Hutchins in the 18th century the village had a dispersed settlement pattern with cottages and houses occupied mainly by farmers and labourers. Only a few cottages remained as leasehold. The main agricultural activity of the parish has traditionally been sheep and dairying on rich pastureland divided into several dairy farms. In the 19th century the villagers were sending butter produced from milk to market in London via Sherborne.

Other notable early buildings are the Elizabethan manor houses of Wootton and Round Chimneys. The latter underwent a period of dereliction, but has more recently been restored in a more truncated form. Most homes in the village today are either recent or 19th century; there is a farm with a barn and a cottage with a half-hatch door called “The Smithy”, both dating from 1874.

Wootton formerly possessed two public houses: The New Inn and The Pure Drop Inn, but both of these ceased trading and have since been converted into private residences. The Post Office also has been closed and is now a private cottage. There is however a small public hall still in use near the centre of the village.

As originally planned, the laying of the Yeovil – Dorchester branch railway line was to have passed through the village, but a local landowner forcefully persuaded the planners to lay the line five miles to the west. He did however,plant several Douglas Firs in his wood.

Glanvilles Wootton and in particular the Churchill’s manor house, Round Chimneys, is of significance as it later became the home of James Charles Dale and his son Charles William Dale, noted entomologists who recorded the history and insect life of the parish. In addition James Charles Dale was the first to describe the Lulworth Skipper butterly from a specimen captured at Durdle Door in 1832.

The village is also thehome of former Country Life magazine columnist David Edelsten, author of Dorset Diaries, and landscape architect Amanda Patton, who beat 3,500 other competitors to first prize in a National Horticultural Society garden photography competition.

Changes were made to this article on 12th April 2013 Ed.