Sydling St. Nicholas

Pages 230-236

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1952.

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In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)XXI, S.E. (b)XXX, N.E. (c)XXX, S.E. (d)XXXI, N.W. (e)XXXI, S.W.)

Sydling St. Nicholas is a parish and village 2 m. W. of Cerne Abbas. The church and the early village settlements are the principal monuments.


c(1) Parish Church of St. Nicholas stands to the S.W. of the village. The walls are of local rubble and flint and the dressings are of local and Ham Hill stone; the roofs are covered with slates and lead. The West Tower was built about the middle of the 15the century and, soon after, the Nave and North Porch were rebuilt. About 1500 the S. arcade was built and the South Aisle added. About the middle of the 18th century the Chancel was rebuilt by Sir William Smith. The church was restored in the 19th century.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (21¾ ft. by 17 ft.) was rebuilt about 1750 perhaps on earlier foundations. The 15th-century chancel-arch appears to incorporate many 13th-century voussoirs recut; it is moulded and two-centred and springs from moulded and shafted responds with moulded capitals and bases; to the S. is a square-headed squint.

The Nave (53¼ ft. by 22¼ ft.) has an embattled parapet to the N. wall, continued round the porch; the buttresses are finished with the shafts of pinnacles which were either not erected or have been destroyed; in the wall are four late 15th-century windows, each of three pointed lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label; the late 15th-century N. doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred head. The S. arcade is of c. 1500 and of four bays with two-centred moulded arches springing from moulded and shafted piers with moulded capitals and bases, the responds have attached half-piers; the arcade leans heavily to the S.; E. of the arcade is a doorway to the former rood-loft; it has chamfered jambs and triangular head.

The South Aisle (10¼ ft. wide) is of c. 1500 but has two heavy buttresses added probably in the 17th century and incorporating reused quatre-foiled panels, and to the 18th century belongs the slightly embattled brick parapet and the pinnacles; there has evidently been a subsidence in the S. aisle and the S.E. angle appears to be still in movement. In the E. wall is a window similar to those in the nave. In the S. wall are four similar windows; the S. doorway has moulded jambs and four-centred arch with a label.

The West Tower (13¾ ft. square) is of mid 15th-century date and of three stages with a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet with gargoyles, 18th-century pinnacles and panelled pedestals at the top of the buttresses. The tower-arch is two-centred and moulded and springs from moulded and shafted responds with moulded and foliated capitals and moulded bases. The W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred head over which the top member of the plinth is carried as a label; the arch has carved paterae; the W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label. The second stage has, in the W. wall, a small square-headed light. The bell-chamber has in the E., N. and W. walls a window of two trefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a label; the window in the S. wall has been blocked.

Sydling St Nicholas, The Parish Church of St. Nicholas

The North Porch is of late 15th-century date and has an outer archway with moulded jambs, two-centred arch and label with returned stops. The embattled parapet has the panelled bases for pinnacles and large gargoyles at the angles; on the middle merlon is a 17th-century carved mitre brought from elsewhere. In the N.E. angle is a fireplace with a segmental-pointed head.

The Roof of the nave is of c. 1500 and of trussed-rafter type, ceiled on the soffit and divided into panels by moulded ribs with foliage-bosses at the intersections. The late 15th-century roof of the porch is of two bays with moulded principal, ridge and purlins and foliage bosses at the intersections with the ridge. The ground-stage of the tower has 15th-century moulded ceiling-beams with foliage-stops.

Fittings—Bells: five; 3rd by William Warre, 1611; 4th same founder, 1613; 5th by W. Purdue, 16th-century, with a series of letters in pairs. Bracket: In S. aisle—on S. wall, moulded shelf, c. 1500. Chair: with twisted front legs and side-posts to back, carved front rail and cresting, cane seat and back, late 17th-century. Chests: In nave—(a) plain, of hutch-type, with strap-hinges and three locks, probably mediæval; (b) with panelled front, enriched framing and panelled ends, mid 17th-century. In S. aisle—(c) with shaped feet, panelled front and sides, late 17th-century. Clock: In second stage of tower—works, weights, etc., in iron frame, with initials and date, T. & C.E. 1593, repaired 1925. Door: In turret-staircase to tower—with ribs forming vertical panels and strap-hinges, 15th or 16th-century. Fonts: crudely cut circular bowl with moulded band of vertical reeding and moulded lower edge, polygonal stem and chamfered base, possibly 12th-century. Loose in nave—plain octagonal bowl, late mediæval. Glass: In S. aisle—in third window, 18th-century shield-of-arms and fragments. In tower—in W. window, panel with woman and child, two male heads, two fragments with a cherub and a man, two shields-of-arms, etc., 16th to 18th-century. Hatchments: In nave—N. of chancel-arch, shield-of-arms of Smith and Curtis quarterly with a quartered scutcheon of Marriott (?), Pearson and Bosworth, 19th-century; S. of chancel-arch, shield of quartered arms of Smith, Curtis, Marriott (?), Pearson and Bosworth, impaling Pinney quartering Pretor, 19th-century. In S. aisle— on S. wall, one badly torn. Monuments and Floor-slab. Monuments: In chancel—on E. wall, (1) to Elizabeth Smith, 1812, white marble wall-monument by T. King of Bath with draped female figure holding a lamp in the right hand and a broken cross in the left and, above, a dove carrying an inscribed scroll. On N. wall (Plate 115), (2) to nine children of Sir John and Lady Smith who died in infancy and to George Roxburgh Smith, their grandson, 1805, black and white marble wall-monument with an elliptical shaped inscription-tablet surmounted by an urn on pyramidal stand; the monument is by Lancashire and Son of Bath; (3) to Elizabeth, widow of Robert Curtis, 1793, black and white marble wall-monument by Lancashire and Son with elliptical-shaped inscription-tablet surmounted by a draped urn on a square pedestal on which is a lozenge-of-arms; (4) to Sir William Smith, 1752, his wife, 1745, and daughter, Susannah, 1742, grey and white marble wall-monument with skull and crossbones, pediment and urn and, above, a cartouche containing a painted shield-of-arms much faded; (5) to Henry Smith, 1768, wall-tablet of white marble carved with gathered drapery hanging from a canopy supported by two cherubs, with three cherubs' heads below and a cartouche containing arms above; (6) to Rev. Henry Curtis Smith, rector of Tarrant Rawston, 1834, white marble wall-tablet by Reeves and Son of Bath; (7) to Mary, widow of Henry Smith, 1797, and her children, white marble wall-tablet of elliptical shape with cornice and urn and a lozenge-of-arms below. On S. wall, (8) to Elizabeth, Lady Smith, daughter of Robert Curtis, 1796, and Sir John Smith, 1807, wall-monument (Plate 134) of black and white marble in two stages each containing a figure subject in high relief, the lower of a man wearing a toga with arm outstretched reclining against an inscribed scroll, the upper of a kneeling woman leaning on a pedestal in an attitude of mourning, all supported on the top member of a second inscription tablet, above is a medallion with arms and also a shield-of-arms; (9) to Dame Elizabeth Ann, wife of Sir John Wildbore Smith, 1847, and later inscription to the husband, white and veined marble wall-monument by Marshall, Sculptor etc., of Blandford, consisting of an open book resting on a Bible and leaning against a pyramidal slab with a cross, on the apron below is an achievement-of-arms within a frame of palm leaves. In nave—on E. wall, (10) to Rev. George Feaver, 1837, his wife Anna Maria, 1822, and three sons, white marble and slate wall-monument by Reynolds of Yeovil; on N. wall, (11) to Timothy Stoodly, vicar, 1724, stone wall-monument with Latin inscription in frame of scrolls, flowers and cherubs' heads and with an urn at the top. In S. aisle—on N. wall, (12) to Henry Devenish, 1801, his widow Martha, 1849, and son William, 1853, white marble sarcophagusshaped wall-monument by Raggett; on S. wall, (13) to Catherine Martine, 1704–5, and Hubert and Barbara Husey, her parents, stone scrolled tablet (Plate 20) with cherub-heads, urn and cartouche. In churchyard —N. of chancel, (14) late 15th-century table-tomb with quatre-foiled panels enclosing paterae on sides and W. end, later slab at E. end with inscription to Richard Hardy, 1720; (15) to Robert Hardey, 1709, and Christabel [his wife], 1707, table-tomb; (16) to Joane, daughter of Robert Hardey, 1712, table-tomb; E. of S. aisle, (17) to Francis Keddle or Kiddle, 1667, and Edith his wife, 1655, table-tomb; S. of tower, (18) to Francis Devenish, 1706, and Sarah his wife, 1709, table-tomb; (19) to Matthew Devenish, 1712, table-tomb; (20) to Sarah, wife of John Rogers, early 18th-century, headstone; (21) to Robert Rogers, 1709, Ann his wife, 1708, and others later, table-tomb. Floor-slab: In S. aisle—to Joseph Bartlett, 1702. Niche: In N. porch—above N. doorway, plain square-headed recess; above outer archway, recess with moulded jambs, square head and brattishing, 15th-century. Panelling: In nave—incorporated in pews, mid 17th-century panels with enrichments and carved frieze. Plate: includes an Elizabethan cup with band of engraving round the bowl (Plate 28). Royal Arms: In nave—over chancel arch, painted on canvas in moulded frame, with initials G.R., for George III or IV. Scratchings: On S. arcade of nave—various masons' marks. Screen: Under tower-arch, with fielded panels to lower part, balusters above and dentilled cornice, 18th-century. Seating: In nave —benches made up of mid 17th-century panelling painted over. In S. aisle—seven 18th-century box-pews with moulded panels.

d(2) Congregational Chapel stands at the N. end of the village, 730 yards N.N.E. of the church. The walls are built of coursed flints with stone bonding courses. It is dated 1834. The main S. front has been cement-rendered, it has a pointed doorway, two pointed windows and a shaped gable with moulded kneelers; the N. gable is plain with flat copings.


e(3) Wayside Cross, at cross-roads, 200 yards N.E. of the church, is of late mediæval date. It consists of an octagonal base and the lower part of an octagonal shaft.

c(4) Barn at Court Farm, 50 yards S.E. of the church, is of flint rubble with two-stage stone buttresses and a thatched roof. According to Hutchins a beam in the barn bore or bears the initials and date L.V.W. 1590 for Lady Ursula Walsingham. The barn has been shortened at the E. end. It is now of nine and a half bays with oak posts forming aisles and tie and collar-beam trusses with curved braces.

e(5) The Vicarage, 180 yards N.E. of the church, is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of coursed flint and ashlar and the roofs are slate-covered. It was built in 1640 and above the W. doorway is a stone with this date and the initials R.T., V. (for Ralph Taylor, Vicar); it was restored in 1778. The house retains some of its original stone-mullioned windows with labels. In the garden is a stone carved with a figure bound to a post and with part of a figure shooting an arrow at him; it is perhaps the martyrdom of St. Edmund (the top of the head, and presumably the crown, is missing) and may be of 14th-century date.

c(6) Court House, 30 yards N. of the church, is of two storeys with cellars under the N. wing. The walls are for the most part covered with stucco, some are of brick and clunch. There was a house here in the 16th century and some clunch walling in the S. wing of the present building may be part of it. Hutchins records that it was bought by the Smiths in 1718. Towards the end of the third quarter of the 18th century Sir John Smith and Elizabeth (Curtis) his wife considerably altered and enlarged the house; an engraving in Hutchins shows a plain classical E. front with urns on the parapet. At the beginning of the 19th century further changes were made, the E. front was completely altered and the present projecting centre portion either added or remodelled in revived Gothic style and the other windows altered to match. The house was again restored in 1864–8.

Tithe Barn at Sydling St. Nicholas

The E. front contains the main entrance-door under a squat embattled tower with diagonal-buttresses and pinnacles and over the first floor window a roundel carved with the arms of Smith with a scutcheon of Curtis; adjoining the tower on the S. is a short range in similar style; to N. and S. some distance back are the gabled ends of the N. and S. wings. The windows have square heads and labels with square return stops and contain sashes. The N. front has towards the W. end a three-sided bay of two storeys with canted sides and a modern dentil eaves-cornice. In the S. front of the N. wing is a stone cut with the initials and date S.I.E. 1771. The S. wing retains some squared clunch in the N. wall, for the rest it has been entirely modernised externally.

The Outbuildings include stables to the S.W. with stuccoed walls and slate-covered roofs, with a shield-of-arms as on the house and the crest of a sitting grey-hound over the doors, and a square building, of brick with tiled roofs, in which is a stone cut with the initials and date S.I.E. 1773.

e(7) House, adjoining (5) on the N., has been refronted in bands of flint and ashlar, probably in 1733, which date with the initials I. and I.K. appears above the doorway; the latter has a square head and the windows are of two and three lights.

e(8) East House, on the W. side of the road, 210 yards N.E. of the church, is of two storeys with basements and attics; the walls are of brick and the roofs are covered with stone slates. It was built in the second half of the 18th century. The house is square on plan with pyramidal roof and central chimney-stack, there is a flat string at first floor level and a brick dentil eaves-cornice. The main E. front is symmetrically designed; the central doorway has a semicircular fan-light, side pilasters and cornice and over it is a Venetianwindow with keystone; the other windows have flat gauged brick lintels with keystones and are fitted with twin sashes; the basement windows are of 17th-century type with stone mullions. The N. front has dummy windows and the S. is partly concealed by a later addition.

Monuments (9–18)

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys; the walls are of rubble and the roofs are thatched or covered with modern materials. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams and original fireplaces.

e(9) Cottage, two tenements, 40 yards N. of (7), has been much altered.

d(10) Cottage, on the W. side of the road 140 yards N. of (9), was built c. 1700.

d(11) Cottage, on the E. side of the road and stream 110 yards E. of (10), is partly faced with bands of flint and ashlar.

d(12) Cottage, 15 yards S. of (11), was built early in the 18th century.

e(13) Cottage, on the E. side of the road 225 yards N.E. of the church and opposite (9), was built c. 1700. It retains an original muntin and plank partition.

e(14) Cottage, two tenements, on the N. side of East Street 120 yards E. of (13), has a stone with the initials and date R.D. and P.K. 1671.

e(15) City Farm, house 30 yards S. of (14), retains some original stone-mullioned windows on the W. side and N. end. Inside the building are some moulded ceiling-beams.

e(16) Cottage, on the E. side of the stream 380 yards S.E. of the church.

b(17) Cottage, on the E. side of the road at Up Sydling nearly 1¼ m. N. of the church, has been largely rebuilt in the 18th century. Inside the building are two original muntin and plank partitions.

b(18) Barn, at Forder's Farm 300 yards N.W. of (17), is of one storey timber-framed and with two rows of posts forming aisles. The roof is of queen-post type.


d(19) Earthworks, S. and S.W. of New Barn nearly 1 m. N.N.E. of the church, consist of a series of low banks and scarps forming irregular fields or enclosures with hollow-ways leading towards the middle of the site on the N. and W. and a third running across the S. end of the works. The site is at the bottom of the valley and its period is uncertain.

d(20) Earthworks, on Croft's Down at the S.W. end of the ridge between the 600 and 700 ft. contours, consist of a series of irregular banks and scarps forming cultivations of the Celtic type, with two well-defined hollow-ways running to the S.W. and S.; the latter however stops against a modern field-boundary. To the N.E. of the nucleus of the earthwork are faint traces of what may have been a ringwork with surrounding bank of 36 ft. internal diam.

d(21) Earthworks, on Buckland Down along the 700 ft. contour and over 1¼ m. N.E. of the church, consist of banks forming parts of fields or enclosures of the usual Celtic type and with a well-defined hollowway running through them from E. to W. Some of the banks are of some size, up to 15 ft. wide and 2 ft. high. An elliptical platform near the S.E. end of the site may represent a dwelling.

d(22) Earthworks, on Hog Hill to the S. of (21), consist of three lengths of isolated banks, one on the parish boundary and two between the 600 and 700 ft. contours. The two latter have remains of ditches but both may be part of the same field-system as (21).

Settlement on Shearplace Hill in the Parish of Sydling St Nicholas

e(23) Village Settlement, on Shearplace Hill, between the 600 and 700 ft. contour and ¾ m. S.E. of the church, has a nucleus consisting of an E-shaped arrangement of banks which may represent a two-roomed structure with a forecourt. It is approached by a hollow-way from the W. and there is a second way 35 yards to the N. of the supposed structure and there are various other banks representing fields or enclosures as shown on the plan. About 220 yards S. of the supposed structure is a mound, probably a barrow, about 14 yards in diam. and 3 ft. high and about 10 yards to the E. of it is a second mound, probably also a barrow, 7 yards in diam. and 1 ft. high; to the N.E. of the lastmentioned mound are three shallow pit-hollows. Other more indeterminate marks of settlement are visible in the same area. In the next field to the N. of the site is a well-defined hollow-way.

c(24) Earthworks, in a small field on South Field Hill 1 m. S.S.W. of the church, consist of a bank and ditch, mounds and hollows. The ditch extends for about 130 yards and has remains of a bank on its N. side. Another ditch or hollow-way crosses the S.E. angle of the field. Along the S. boundary of the field are (a) part of a circular bank of 48 ft. diam.; (b) an oval mound about 42 ft. by 30 ft. and 2 ft. high; (c) a mound with the appearance of a bowl barrow 24 ft. in diam. and 1¾ ft. high with traces of a ditch; (d) a third mound 23 ft. in diam. and 1¼ ft. high partly destroyed by the W. boundary of the field. Further W. are two circular depressions, probably pit-hollows, and traces of others.

b(25) Earthworks, on the ridge of Loscombe Hill and Folly Hill (about 700 ft. above O.D.) N.W. of the church, consist of a series of banks and ditches of which a semi-circular work adjoining the road on the N. seems to be the nucleus. This work consists of two parallel banks each about 8 to 10 ft. wide and 1½ ft. high and partly destroyed in many places. The work probably formed an oval enclosure of which the part S. of the road has been destroyed; its greatest diameter is about 200 yards. About 150 yards to the W. is a linear work probably forming a hollow-way between two banks; it extends for about 290 yards and has been much destroyed. Nearly 200 ft. further W. is a cross-ridge work consisting of a bank with a ditch to the W.; a small length across a field about 200 ft. to the N. may be a further section of the same work. Running W. nearly at right-angles to this work is a further bank with a ditch on its N. side. A short length of ditch with traces of a bank on both sides runs N. and S. about 150 yards N.E. of the oval work. Between it and the oval work is a shallow depression about 33 ft. in diam. with a surrounding bank.

b(26) Enclosure, on Cross Hill 1½ m. N.N.W. of the church, is rectangular, 30 yards by 11 yards, and is formed by a bank with a gap in the S. side (for plan, see preface, p. xxxiv). The N. bank of the enclosure is continued along the hillside as a scarp.

b(27) Bowl Barrows, on Cross Hill, are three in number of which (a) is immediately N. of (26); it is 48 ft. in diam. and 6 ft. high. (b) 100 yards E.N.E. of (a) is 57 ft. in diam. and 3 ft. high. (c) 20 yards E. of (b) is 39 ft. in diam. and 1 ft. high.

b(28) Bowl Barrows, on East Hill over 2 m. N.N.W. of the church, are four in number. The southernmost (a), within the 700 ft. contour, is 27 ft. in diam. and 2 ft high. (b), 50 yards N.W. of (a), is 33 ft. in diam. and 2½ ft. high. (c), 50 yards N.N.W. of (b), is 27 ft. in diam. and 1½ ft. high. (d), 200 yards N.W. of (c), is 30 ft. in diam. and 3 ft. high.

d(29) Mound, probably a barrow, on the S. side of Ellston Hill over 1½ m. N.N.E. of the church, is of elongated shape, 57 ft. by 42 ft., and 3 ft. high.

d(30) Bowl Barrow, on Cowdown Hill ¾ m. E.N.E. of the church, is 45 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high.

b(31) Bowl Barrow, on Loscombe Hill immediately E. of the eastern ditch of (25), is 37 ft. in diam. and 1¼ ft. high, with traces of a ditch.

b(32) Bowl Barrow, on North Field Hill 1 m. N.N.W. of the church, is 42 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high. There are also remains of Celtic field-systems in the vicinity.

a(33) Barrow, probably a bowl barrow, in the N.W. corner of the parish close to the boundary, is 45 ft. in diam. and 1½ ft. high.

a(34) Barrow, probably the remains of a bowl barrow, 160 yards N.E. of (33), is 39 ft. in diam. and 4 ft. high; it has been mutilated and disturbed.

a, b and c(35) Celtic Field-Systems have left remains in various places in the N. and W. half of the parish, particularly on East Hill, Row Hill, Wardon Hill, Combe Hill, Break Heart Hill, Peak End Hill, Ayles's Hill and South Field Hill.

d(36) Lynchets, 400 yards E. of the village, form two systems at right angles to one another. They form terraces on a W. and N.W. slope.

d(37) Lynchets, 200 to 300 yards E. of Up Sydling, form terraces on a S.W. slope.