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Dorset Parish

St. Mary’s Church – Sturminster Newton

A marble plaque under the east window in the chancel informs us that the work of rebuilding this place of worship commenced in 1825. Hutchins suggests St. Mary’s was completely rebuilt and records the completion in 1827 – surely an exaggeration. This is a large church and it would have been a remarkable achievement to have completely rebuilt it in two years. However, there is no doubt major rebuilding and additions to the design of William Evans were made in the early 19th century, the cost borne by the Revd T.H. Lane Fox. It is worth noting St. Mary’s had previously been rebuilt and restored by Abbot Selwood of Glastonbury three centuries earlier.

It appears William Evans added to an existing perpendicular building comprising a west tower, the aisle walls, arcades, and the nave with its wagon roof. Evans extended the north and south aisles to wrap around the 15th century tower, which he heightened and restored giving the tower new parapets and pinnacles. Above the tower’s west doorway is an original two light window. During the 1827 works a four light window was installed in the east wall of the second stage of the tower, now inside the nave. The north and south walls of the tower each have a small window and there is a window in the west wall similar to that in the lower stage. In each side of the third stage is a 15th century belfry window but the one in the east wall is masked by the heightened nave roof and the other three by the 1827 clock-faces. There are six bells: two dated to the early 17th century, while the others were new or recast in 1827. On the south wall of the tower is a square stone dial with Roman numerals, possibly 18th century.

The nave has north and south arcades of four bays with two-centred arches, parts of these are 14th century and restored in the 19th century but the eastern most arches appear to be 19th century. Above the arcades are clerestorey windows; those over the east bay opening into the north and south transepts are of 1827 but the others are medieval. The roof of the nave is late 15th or early 16th century.

The north aisle is partly original but the whole of the west end is of 1827. The two north windows each with three lights are 15th century and in the west wall a similar window but from 1827. The stained glass in the north east window is by Webb and was installed in 1911. The south aisle is uniform in size to the north but contains the main entrance from the south porch and a small doorway at the west end of the south wall. The two windows in the south wall are similar to those in the north aisle and of the 15th century; the west window is of 1827. The stained glass in the south east aisle window is by Harry Charles of Dublin (1889-1831) and was installed in 1921.

The chancel has a two-centred window of five lights in the east wall and the north and south walls have arcades of two bays opening to the vestry in the north and the south chapel. Above each arch is a clerestorey window. The north vestry and south chapel each have east windows of three lights and the north and south walls each have two similar windows. The stained glass in the south window in the chapel is by M. Lowndes and I.L. Gloag and dates from 1901.  The north and south transcepts each contain windows similar to the east window in the chancel and in the west walls are three-light windows. The window in the west wall of the north transept is by Gibbs and is dated 1865.

Inside the church are a number of monuments and floor slabs. In the north vestry on the south wall a monument to Hamnet Ward 1705 and on the west wall a stone tablet to Rebecca Stephens 1723. In the north transcept on the east wall a white marble tablet to Elizabeth and Susan Marsh 1839 and there are monuments to Charles Salkeld 1776; Selena Salkeld 1756; Thomas and Selena Dashwood 1817 and 1828; Joseph Bird and other members of that family; John Sweet 1756; Jane Ward 1709 and others.