Pages 249-251

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. XI, N.E.)

Thornford is a parish and village 3 m. S.W. of Sherborne. The church is the principal monument.


(1) Villa, in the N.W. corner of the parish, was excavated in 1876. The results were described by Prof. J. Buckman (Dorset Nat. Hist. & Ant. F.C. I, p. 41) as those of a dwelling of the second class. Discoveries of tesserae, pottery, etc., during field-drainage operations, led to the excavations which revealed the remains of four rooms, each of which had a pavement of a different pattern, and corridors. "These floors and walls, having been cleared out, exposed the outline of four rooms besides passages with broken bits of work showing a somewhat extensive range of buildings." "In two of the passages were rude pavements made of slabs of various sizes." The "floors were of very simple construction, consisting of tesserae of about an inch and a half square, which were made from the white lias, obtained probably from Sparkford, and broken potsherds." "These which were of grey stone and red brick were arranged in simple patterns. The involved fret was a little more complicated, but there was only a little of this and all four pavements . . . were made of the two simple substances named." On the floors were found considerable quantities of painted wall-plaster with bands and spots, also many stone roofing tiles. The pottery included fragments of Samian, amphorae, mortaria, etc. Three unidentifiable coins were found.


(2) Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene stands at the N. end of the village. The walls are of rubble with ashlar and dressings of Ham Hill stone; the roofs are covered with stone slates and lead. The Chancel and West Tower were built in the 14th century. About the middle of the 15th century the Nave was rebuilt together with the E. and S. walls of the chancel; towards the end of the same century a N. chapel was added. A N. vestry was added in the 16th century. The church was restored in 1866 when the North Aisle was added, incorporating the former N. chapel, the North Vestry rebuilt, the S. wall of the nave refaced or rebuilt and the South Porch added or rebuilt.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (18½ ft. by 14 ft.) has a 15th-century E. window of three cinque-foiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label with head-stops. In the N. wall is a 16th-century arch, two-centred and moulded; the soffit is divided into two panels by a central rib which finishes on the E. respond on a four-centred head flush with the wall; further E. is a window, perhaps of the 14th century but with two cinque-foiled heads and vertical tracery of the 15th century in the two-centred main head. In the S. wall are two 15th-century windows similar to the E. window but of two lights only; one of the head-stops has a horned head-dress; the blocked 15th-century doorway has chamfered jambs and four-centred head. The chancel-arch is modern.

The North Vestry is modern but the N. window incorporates a square 15th-century window-head of two cinque-foiled ogee lights.

The Nave (38½ ft. by 17 ft.) has a modern N. arcade of four bays. In the S. wall are two 15th-century windows similar to the S. windows in the chancel but the inner reveals are shafted and have foliage-capitals; the S. doorway is modern.

The North Aisle (11¾ ft. wide) is modern except for the 15th-century E. bay which formed part of the former N. chapel. The E. window is of three trefoiled ogee lights and vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals; it is blocked except for the tracery. The easternmost window in the N. wall is also of the 15th century and is of two cinque-foiled lights and tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label.

The West Tower (9 ft. by 9¾ ft.) is of the 14th century and of three stages with an embattled parapet and gargoyles. The two-centred tower-arch is of two moulded orders, the outer continuous and the inner springing from moulded corbels carved with men's faces; the arch has been mutilated for a former gallery. The W. window is of three trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a two-centred head; in the external sill is part of the square head of a doorway, now destroyed. The second stage has, in the S. wall, a window of one cinque-foiled light. The bell-chamber has, in each wall, a window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the lights have pierced stone slabs, one on the S. bearing the date 1634.

The Roof of the ground-stage of the tower incorporates seven 15th-century bosses, one with foliage and the rest with shields-of-arms of (a) Sherborne Abbey with initials in black-letter, (b) Caraunt, (c) Horsey, (d) quarterly of nine pieces sable and argent four crows sable, (e) sable three bars wavy argent, (f) azure a cheveron gules between three covered cups or, mostly repainted.

Fittings—Bells: six; 4th by Thomas Knight, 1708; 5th by William Warre, 1593; 6th by William Knight, 1722. Brass: In chancel—on N. wall, to Robert Ringe, rector, 1622, inscription only. Chairs: In chancel—with turned front legs, shaped arms, panelled back and scrolled cresting with the initials E.P., 17th-century. In N. aisle—two, with turned front legs, panelled back and cresting, 17th-century. Chests: In vestry—small, of hutch-type with mouldings planted on, 18th-century. In nave—plain, with moulded edge to lid, 18th-century. In N. aisle—plain with panelled ends and ornamental scutcheon-plate, 18th-century. Communion Table: In N. aisle—with turned legs and carved top-rail, 17th-century. Consecration Crosses: fourteen formy crosses in circles placed as follows— external, one on the E., N. and S. walls of the chancel, one on the N. and S. walls of the tower and three on the W. wall; internal, one on the N. and S. walls of the chancel, two on the S. wall of the nave, one on the N. wall of the porch and one on the S. wall of the tower. Fonts: In tower—(1) octagonal bowl, with paterae in quatre-foiled panels moulded under edge, octagonal stem and moulded base, 15th-century; (2) broken circular bowl with moulded necking, probably 13th-century. Glass: In chancel—in S.E. window, a leopard's head, initials M. and Ihs. in situ, also fragments with head of a nimbed priest, bird, sparrow with a harrow (said to be rebus of Dr. Sparrow, vicar of Sherborne c. 1419), the Digby crest, parts of figures of priests, foliage and crowns, 15th-century and later. Monuments and Floor-slab. Monuments: In W. tower— on N. wall, (1) to Rev. John Sampson, 1810, Elizabeth, his wife, 1817, and three children, wall-tablet in Gothic frame. In churchyard—S.E. of chancel, (2) to John, son of John and Joan Ryall, 1698, table-tomb; S. of nave, (3) table-tomb, name defaced, probably 17th-century; (4) to Sara Masters, 1675, headstone; W. of churchyard, (5) to Ruth Stooke (?), 1689, headstone. Floor-slab: In tower—to Mary, wife of John Hankins, 1702–3, also to George, 1711–2, and John, 1712, their sons, and others later. Niches: In N. aisle—in E. wall, two shallow niches with former canopies cut back, 15th-century. Paintings: In vestry—on E. wall, seated figure of David with a harp painted on wood, with churchwardens' names and the date 1785. Panelling: In chancel—on E. wall and returning on side walls, dado-panelling probably from former pulpit made up with modern work, upper panels enriched, reeded lower panels and two enriched rails, 17th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—recess with pointed head and octagonal drain, probably 14th-century. In vestry—stone shelf with hollowed drain, mediæval. In nave—in sill of S.E. window, quatre-foiled drain, 15th-century. Plate: includes a cup and cover-paten, the former with the date 1689. Royal Arms: In W. tower—on S. wall, painted on wood, with churchwardens' names, 1814– 1837. Screen (Plate 34): Under chancel-arch—of stone and of five bays including doorway, each of two cinque-foiled lights with moulded cornice and a chamfered sill to the side bays, doorway with four-centred head, 15th-century, reset. Seating: In vestry and N. aisle—two coffin-stools with turned legs, 17th-century. Sundials: On sills of two S. windows of chancel, scratch-dials with E. jamb of window acting as gnomon. Miscellanea: In nave—stone fragments from a tomb of c. 1600 including three finials and a capping supporting the remains of a crest. In vestry—two panels with trefoiled heads, 15th-century.


Monuments (3–14)

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.

(3) Old Mill House, ¼ m. N. of the church, is modern but incorporates the original doorway with a two-centred head, two fireplaces, timber-work, etc.

(4) Glebe Cottage, on the E. side of the road 100 yards S. of the church, has been much altered.

(5) Cottage, 200 yards S. of the church, was built early in the 18th century.

(6) Range of three cottages on the W. side of the road 310 yards S. of the church. The northernmost cottage contains an original fireplace with moulded jambs and flat triangular head.

(7) Cross House, on the E. side of the road 400 yards S. of the church.

(8) Thornford Cottage, 70 yards N.N.E. of (7), retains its original doorway with a segmental head and moulded label; there are also some original stone-mullioned windows, those in the lower range with labels. A panel on the front with the initials and date I.M. 1785 may apply to a repair. Inside the building are some original fireplaces, two with four-centred heads.

(9) Cottage, two tenements, 25 yards N.N.E. of (8), was built probably early in the 18th century.

(10) Middle Farm, house on the S.E. side of the road 250 yards S.S.E. of the church, retains its original stonemullioned windows with labels on the N.W. front; the doorway has a segmental head and a door with strap-hinges.

(11) Green Hill Farm, house 50 yards N.E. of (10), has been much altered.

(12) Pyt House, N.E. of (11), retains the original stone-mullioned windows on the W. front; the upper ones have labels and the lower ones have a continuous string-course above them, stepped over the doorway which has a segmental head.

(13) Cottage, two tenements, 50 yards N.E. of (12), was built early in the 18th century.

(14) Pitman's Leaze, house, 1¼ m. N.E. of the church, was built early in the 18th century.