Whitchurch Canonicorum

Pages 260-265

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)XXVIII, S.W. (b)XXVIII, S.E. (c)XXXVII, N.W. (d)XXXVII, N.E.)

Whitchurch Canonicorum is a large parish 5 m. N.E. of Lyme Regis. The church and Coney's Castle Camp are the principal monuments.


d(1) Parish Church Of St. Candida (Or St. Wite) And Holy Cross (Plates 83, 207, 209) stands in the village. The walls are of local rubble with ashlar and dressings of the same material; the roofs are covered with slates and lead. There was a church here in the 9th century but the earliest parts of the existing building are the three middle bays of the S. arcade of the Nave and the corresponding part of the South Aisle which date from late in the 12th century. Early in the 13th century the Chancel, North and South Transepts, the E. part of the N. arcade of the nave and the corresponding part of the North Aisle were built; the N. transept seems to have had eastern chapels, now destroyed, and there is evidence of an early vestry on the site of the present one; very shortly after these major alterations the nave and aisles were extended one bay to the W. The West Tower was added early in the 15th century and about the same time the South Porch was built, the parapet of the S. aisle added, and the eastern arches of the arcades rebuilt. The western arches of the arcades seem to have been again rebuilt in 1738 and at some uncertain date the N. wall of the chancel was rebuilt. The South Vestry was rebuilt in 1822 and a gallery under the tower was removed in 1832; in the restoration of 1847–8 the E. wall of the chancel was rebuilt, the clearstorey windows inserted and the N. aisle rebuilt and widened; there were minor restorations in 1887–8, 1899 and 1926.

The church is of considerable architectural interest and the shrine, monuments, pulpit and font are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (35½ ft. by 19¼ ft.) has a modern E. wall and window incorporating external angle-shafts with late 12th-century carved heads at the top. In the N. wall is a 13th-century lancet-window with moulded splays, internal label and head-stops; there was probably a second window, further E., destroyed by the Jefferey monument. In the S. wall are two 13th-century lancet-windows with moulded reveals and splays and labels with head-stops; partly below the western window is a blocked 13th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, trefoiled head and label; further W. is a blocked doorway of c. 1300 to the vestry; it has double-chamfered jambs and two-centred arch with a label. The early 13th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of two orders on the W. and three on the E.; the inner order is chamfered and the others moulded, with a label on the W. face; the jambs are shafted and have moulded and foliated capitals (Plate 4) and moulded bases; over the S. haunch of the arch, on the W. face, is a blocked early 16th-century doorway, to the former rood-loft, with chamfered jambs and four-centred head. On the gable is a small bell-cote.

Whitchurch Canonicorum, the Parish Church of St.Candida and Holy Cross

The Nave (63¾ ft. by 18 ft.) has in the N. and S. walls of the E. bay a 15th-century arch with moulded jambs, two-centred head and the reveals and soffit panelled with two bands of trefoil-headed panelling; the middle part of the N. arcade (Plate 83) is of early 13th-century date and of four bays with two-centred arches of two moulded orders with a label on the inner face; the outer S. order of the third arch has elaborate cheveron-ornament; the piers are circular with four attached shafts, having foliated capitals (Plate 5) and moulded bases; the second pier has subsidiary attached shafts; the E. respond has an attached shaft with moulded base and foliated capital, the abacus of which is carried round the S. side of the respond; the W. respond has triple shafts one of which is free and of Purbeck marble, with a foliated capital and moulded base; the westernmost bay of the arcade is of rather later date in the 13th century; it is two-centred and of two chamfered orders with a label on the inner face; the E. respond is of similar section and has a moulded impost; the W. respond has three attached shafts with simply moulded capitals and bases; it was probably rebuilt with the tower. The middle part of the S. arcade is mainly of late 12th-century date and of three bays; the E. arch however is of early 13th-century date, two-centred and of two orders, the inner chamfered and the outer moulded, with a label on each face; the other two arches are of late 12th-century date and of two chamfered orders on the N. with a label and of one order on the S.; the middle arch is round and the other two-centred; the late 12th-century piers are cylindrical with moulded bases and varying capitals; the eastern is octagonal with enriched grooving and the western is square with water-leaves (Plate 5); the 13th-century E. respond has a moulded impost and a tapering corbel under the inner order; the W. respond has a moulded corbel carrying the inner order; the westernmost bay of the arcade is similar to the corresponding bay on the N. The clearstorey has modern windows, four on the N. and three on the S. side.

The North Transept (13 ft. by 17½ ft.) has a corbel-table on the E. and W. sides; in the E. wall is an early 13th-century arcade of two bays with two-centred arches of two orders, the inner chamfered and the outer moulded; they spring from responds with two, and a central pier with three, detached shafts, all with foliated capitals (Plate 5) and moulded bands and bases; the arcade has a thin wall at the back containing a 13th-century lancet-window in the N. bay and an early 14th-century two-light window in the S. bay; the latter is of two trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a label. In the N. wall is a 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with tracery in a two-centred head and moulded reveals; below it is a recess, containing the shrine, with shafted responds similar to those of the arcade in the E. wall; above the capitals the wall seems to have been rebuilt when the window was inserted. In the W. wall is a 13th-century lancet-window and further S. a 13th-century arch, two-centred and of two chamfered orders, the outer continued down the responds and the inner springing from shaft-corbels with unusual foliated capitals and foliated ends.

The South Transept (13 ft. by 22¼ ft.) is of 13th-century origin but the S. wall may have been rebuilt. In the E. wall is a 13th-century doorway with chamfered jambs and trefoiled head. In the S. wall is a modern window. In the W. wall are two early 13th-century lancet-windows with shafted splays, moulded external reveals, rear-arches and labels; further N. is a 13th-century arch, two-centred and of two moulded orders with a label; the responds are chamfered and have each a tapering corbel supporting the inner order of the arch.

The North Aisle (9½ ft. wide) was rebuilt in 1847–8 and the windows are modern. The partly restored 14th-century N. doorway has jambs and ogee arch of two chamfered orders. Set in the N. wall opposite the W. bay of the arcade is a stone inscribed "These arches were rebuilt by Henrey Pitfield, Mason 1738".

The South Aisle (6¼ ft. wide) has an early 15th-century embattled parapet. In the S. wall are three windows, all modern except the rear arch and splays of the easternmost; the late 12th-century S. doorway has a round arch of two orders, the inner chamfered and continuous and the outer moulded and enriched with dog-tooth ornament; the moulded label has carved stops and a beak-head at the apex; the outer order springs from attached shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases; across the aisle opposite the second column of the arcade is a half-arch to support the S. wall of the nave which leans outwards. On the external face of the S. wall is set a stone with a mediæval carving of a two-handled jar or ewer.

The West Tower (14¾ ft. square) is of early 15th-century date (except the tower-arch) and of three stages (Plate 209), ashlar-faced and finished with a moulded plinth, embattled parapet, pinnacles and gargoyles. The later 15th-century tower-arch is moulded and two-centred and the responds have attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the reveals of the responds and the soffit of the arch have two bands of trefoil-headed panels. In the N. wall externally is a trefoil-headed panel with a carved bill-hook. The W. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with foliage in one spandrel and a quatrefoil and leaves in the other; flanking the doorway are pinnacled buttresses and above the head is a band of quatrefoils enclosing blank shields; the much restored W. window is of three cinque-foiled and transomed lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label; flanking it are two niches with tabernacled canopies with vaulted soffits and sidebuttresses; there is a similar niche in the S. wall. The second stage has, in the N. and S. walls, a square-headed window with moulded reveals. The bell-chamber has, in each wall, a window of two cinque-foiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label; E. of the N. window is a stone carved with a bill-hook; in the S. wall are two stones carved respectively with an axe and ship and an axe and bill-hook.

The South Porch was built early in the 15th century and has an embattled parapet and gargoyles. The outer archway has moulded and shafted jambs and moulded two-centred head.

The Roof of the chancel of trussed-rafter type in six bays has foliated bosses, two with shields containing the date 1848 and the arms of Palmer; the fourteen shields on the N. and S. wall-plates contain emblems of the Passion. The roof of the nave is of 14th or 15th-century date and of trussed-rafter type with moulded ribs forming ten bays of four panels each; the intersections have bosses carved with foliage, heads, shields of St. George and Tudor roses on the E. bay. The roofs of the transepts are of similar character but the ribs and bosses have been renewed, one boss is dated 1849. The lean-to roof of the N. aisle in six bays has a number of bosses, four containing shields-of-arms and one dated 1849.

Fittings—Altar: Loose in S. transept—Purbeck marble slab with five incised crosses. Bells: eight; 5th perhaps by John Lott, 1641; 6th and 7th by R. Purdue, 1603; 8th by Thomas Purdue, 1669. Brass and Indent. Brass: See Monument (2). Indent: In S. aisle—fragment with cross under canopy and marginal inscription in separate capitals to [Thomas] de Lud[a] and [Al]ianore his wife, c. 1320, rest of slab at Askerswell (q.v., and illustration, p. 12). Font (Plate 13): tapering circular bowl of curved section with interlacing arcading on reeded shafts, band of axe-work diaper at top and cable moulding at base, Purbeck marble stem and base, late 12th-century, recut. Glass: In chancel—in S.W. window, two panels of fragments including foliage, a censing angel and the initials IHS and M., mostly 15th-century. In N. transept—in S.E. and N. windows, fragments, 15th-century and later. Hatchment: In S. transept, on E. wall, lozenge-of-arms of Floyer impaling Gould, late 18th-century. Helmet: In chancel—over Jefferey monument, close-helmet (Plate 18) with comb and vizor, early 17th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In chancel—against N. wall, (1) of Sir John Jefferey, 1611, altar-tomb (Plate 212), effigy and recess of soft limestone, altar-tomb with panelled front of two bays with pilasters, panels (Plate 9) and pilasters carved with pendants, strapwork, cornucopiae etc.; effigy in enriched plate armour under arched recess with enriched back and arch and carved angels in spandrels, Corinthian flanking-columns supporting a continuous enriched entablature with figures of Faith and Charity and an achievement-of-arms on the cresting; (2) to John Wadham, 1584–5, Captain of Sandesfote and Recorder of Lyme Regis, stone monument consisting of a base of two quatre-foiled bays enclosing blank shields, two recesses above, each with a double arch with a central pendant, panels above with a brass inscription in one and the indent of a shield in the other, pediment with four circles in the tympanum, monument reset. In N. transept—in recess in N. wall, (3) shrine (Plate 210) of St. Wite, consisting of a plain stone chest with a chamfered base and three pointed oval openings in the lower part of the S. front, Purbeck marble slab with hollow-chamfered edge, 13th-century; shrine opened in 1900 and found to contain a lead box containing bones and inscribed "Hic req[u]iesc[i]t reliq[u]ie S[an]c[t]e Wite". Traces of painted decoration on the S. side of the tomb-chest recorded in 1870 consisted of an illegible inscription in a label flanked by two cable-twist roundels each containing a shield charged with a crosslet. In S. transept—on E. wall, (4) to Elizabeth, second wife of William Floyer, 1666–7, painted framed wooden tablet with achievement-of-arms. In churchyard—S. of nave, (5) to Frediswide, wife of John Every, 1665, table-tomb; (6) to John Every, 1616, table-tomb; (7) to John Every, 17th-century, table-tomb; (8) to . . . Salter, 1672, and others, table-tomb. Floor-slabs: In chancel —(1) to John Henley, 1682–3, with achievement-of-arms; (2) to Immelle Brode (?), 1494; (3) to [George] Jeffery, 1621–2, with shield-of-arms; (4) to Catharine Henley, 1732–3, with architectural decoration and lozenge-of-arms; (5) to Rev. Francis Goforth, 1839, and Susannah his wife; (6) to Rev. William Hunt, 1720, and Lucretia his wife, 1743–4, with architectural decoration. Plate: includes a cup of 1570 with band of engraved ornament, a cover-paten of the same period with repousse ornament, a cup of 1662 (Plate 29) with baluster-stem and with the inscribed date 1678, now at Marshwood, a stand-paten of 1750 and two flagons of 1825. Pulpit (Plate 27): of oak, octagonal with enriched styles and rails and two ranges of enriched arched panels, moulded cornice, enriched bookrest, restored ribbed trumpet-stem on central post with moulded capping and base, early 17th-century. Scratchings: On E. jamb of S. doorway, four scratched crosses. Stalls: modern but incorporating carved frieze of running foliage and eleven early 16th-century French panels with carved enrichments including tracery, fleurs-de-lis, royal arms of France, crowned head and the ragged staves and flint-striker of Burgundy (Plate 33). Miscellanea: On shrine, stone cross probably gable-cross; incorporated in churchyard-wall, various architectural fragments. In S. aisle— built into S. wall internally, stone with two round enriched panels, possibly pre-Conquest.

a(2) Church of St. John the Baptist, at Fishpond Bottom 25/8 m. N.W. of (1), is a chapel of ease to the parish church. The walls are of rubble and flint, cement-rendered, with freestone dressings and the roofs are slate-covered. It was built early in the 19th century. On plan it is rectangular (42½ ft. by 15 ft.) with a N. porch; there is an open bell-cote on the apex of the W. wall. The windows have lancet lights and the door-heads are two-centred. Fittings include an undated bell, and a font with octagonal moulded bowl, stem and base of early 16th-century date with some modern recutting.

d(3) Congregational Chapel, at Morcombe Green nearly 7/8 m. S.S.E. of the parish church, is a plain rectangular building with cement-rendered walls. It was built in 1834. The N. and S. walls have pointed windows with wood frames.


d(4) School, ¼ m. W.S.W. of the parish church, has walls of rubble with brick dressings and roofs covered with slates. It is a rectangular building with a tablet inscribed "National School 1840"; there are two modern porches.

c(5) Higher Abbotts Wootton Farm, house about 1 m. W.N.W. of the parish church, is of two storeys; the walls are of stone and the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 15th century and has a modern addition on the W. (for plan see preface, p. xxxix). The S. front retains an original doorway with chamfered jambs and four-centred arch and further W. an original window of four trefoiled lights with moulded jambs and label; the mullions and transom have been removed. Inside the building, the kitchen has original moulded ceiling-beams and plates. On the first floor are two rooms with hollow-chamfered ceiling-beams and there are two original panelled partitions. The roof is of four bays and of collar-beam type with curved braces under the collars.

Monuments (6–17)

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

d(6) Cothay's Farm, house 200 yards S.E. of the parish church, was built in the 16th century, but has been much altered. The N. chimney-stack has an original moulded base to the former shafts. Inside the building is an original stone fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with a knife and an axe carved in the spandrels.

d(7) Cottage, on the S. side of the road 400 yards W.S.W. of the parish church, has an original muntin and plank partition.

d(8) Cross Farm, house 130 yards S.S.W. of (7).

d(9) Cottage, 70 yards S.W. of (8), was built c. 1700.

d(10) Birdhays Farm, house 650 yards S.W. of the parish church.

d(11) Lower Cockwell Farm, house 650 yards S. of the parish church, retains an original panelled partition; in it is a doorway with a shouldered head.

d(12) Morcombe Cottage, on the S.W. side of the crossroads at Morcombelake.

d(13) Cottage, on the E. side of the road at Ryall ¾ m. S.E. of the parish church, was built c. 1700.

b(14) Oselhay Farm, house over ¾ m. N.N.E. of the parish church, has a slate-covered roof; it retains an original stone window of five lights with a label.

b(15) Mandeville Stoke Farm, house 150 yards N. of (14), has a slate-covered roof.

c(16) Outbuilding at Lower Abbott's Wootton Farm, forming the S. part of the E. range, was built c. 1700. It has a slate roof.

c(17) Becklands Farm, house ½ m. W. of the parish church, retains some muntin and plank partitions; the spiral staircase has an original central newel.

Coney's Castle, in the parish of Whitchurch Canonicorum


Group of Barrows in the Parish of Whitchurch Canonicorum

a(18) Coney's Castle, hill-fort 2 m. N.W. of the parish church, occupies the S. end of a ridge (702 ft. above O.D.). The work is of irregular plan and consists of a large and small enclosure divided from each other by a ditch with inner and outer ramparts. The whole site is protected by an encircling ditch with inner and outer ramparts, except along the west side where the precipitous natural slope and an inner rampart rendered the ditch and outer defence unnecessary. Actually very little of the inner scarp of the inner rampart remains in the larger enclosure. This is due to its partial destruction by later hedge-banks. A slight bank set back and leaving a wide berm between it and the top of the main scarp at the S.E. corner of this enclosure possibly represents a previous hedge-bank. A modern road has been constructed right through the camp and has destroyed the entrance which was apparently at the N. end, or possibly there were entrances at both ends. The smaller enclosure appears to have been an addition. A modern gravel-pit has destroyed part of the outer defences at the N. end and at the present time a quarry is still being worked in the N. half of the larger enclosure. The outer rampart on the E. has also been disturbed by a hedge-bank along its top.

d(19) Barrows, on Hardown Hill ¾ m. S.E. of the church, are nine in number:—(a) a disc barrow consisting of a mound 28 ft. in diam. and about 1 ft. high with a slight encircling bank and ditch, the former 57 ft. in diam. Symmetrically disposed around it are four barrows averaging 1½ ft. high, (b) to the N.E. and 28 ft. in diam., (c) to the S.E. and 32 ft. in diam., (d) to the S.W. and 30 ft. in diam. and (e) to the N.W. and 28 ft. in diam. About 50 yards to the E. of (a) is a bowl barrow (f) 39 ft. in diam. and 2½ ft. high, (g) 12 yards to the S.E. is 22½ ft. in diam. and 2 ft. high, (h and i) are to the N. and lined with (f) at about 17 yards interval; (h) is a bowl barrow 31 ft. in diam. and 3 ft. high and (i) also a bowl barrow 49 ft. in diam. and 2½ ft. high.

In 1916 one of these barrows was excavated and found to contain a pagan Saxon burial. The objects found included an umbo, axe-heads, spear-heads and a hammer-headed brooch, all now on loan to the Dorset County Museum. (Proc. Dorset Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc., LIII, 247–250.)