Bradford Abbas

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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'Bradford Abbas', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West, (London, 1952) pp. 30-34. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. XI, N.E.)

Bradford Abbas is a small parish 3½ m. S.W. of Sherborne. The church is the principal monument.


(1) Kilns etc., found before 1878 in a 50-acre field, said to be on the N. side of East Hill to the E. of Bradford Abbas and reported on by Prof. J. Buckman. Finds of tesserae etc., led, on further investigation, to the discovery of stone-paved floors with a series of two or three flask-shaped kilns built of local stone with a covering of flat slabs; others were found in the angles of rough foundations, making five in all. The accompanying finds included stone roofing-slates, querns of local oölite, Cornish granite and Andernach lava, bracelets of Kimmeridge shale and black and red coarse pottery. (Dorset Nat. Hist. and Ant. F.C. ii, p. 53.) Some of the finds were given to the Corinium Museum, Cirencester, but cannot now be identified.

Bradford Abbas, the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin


(2) Parish Church of St. Mary (Plates 81, 82, 83) stands in the village. The walls are of local rubble with ashlar and dressings of Ham Hill stone; the roofs are covered with stone slates and lead. The Chancel may date from the 12th century, but the thickness of the walls and the absence of buttresses is the only evidence of this; two of its windows may date from the 14th century. About the middle of the 15th century the Nave was rebuilt and no doubt lengthened, the South Chapel and South Porch were added and the two E. bays of the North Aisle and arcade were built; shortly after the aisle and arcade were continued to the W. and the West Tower was added. The South Vestry was added late in the 15th century and the arch between it and the chancel inserted. The stone wall above the screen was removed and the chancel-arch inserted in 1858; the roofs were restored in 1890 and the tower in 1906; the Organ Chamber was added in 1911.

The church is of considerable architectural interest and among the fittings the seating, font, pulpit and churchyard-cross are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (23 ft. by 16½ ft.) has a 14th-century E. window of two trefoiled lights with vertical tracery, partly restored jambs and two-centred head; the tracery is an 18th or early 19th-century restoration. In the N. wall is a 15th-century window of two cinque-foiled ogee lights in a square head with a label and head-stops of a bishop and a king; further W. is a modern archway. In the S. wall is a window with late 14th-century jambs and splays and modern mullion and head with a label and returned stops; further W. is a two-centred 15th-century arch, moulded and springing from moulded and shafted responds; the E. reveal and the soffit have two rows of cinquefoil-headed panels; in the W. respond is a doorway with a four-centred head, communicating by a flat-roofed wall-passage with a doorway in the S. chapel, with moulded jambs and two-centred head. The chancel-arch is modern.

The Organ Chamber is modern, but reset in the E. wall is a 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights in a square head with a moulded label and returned stops.

The South Vestry (12½ ft. by 11¼ ft.) is of the 15th century, ashlar-faced and finished with an embattled parapet; it has an octagonal stair-turret at the S.E. angle and a shallow porch on the S. side. The E. window is of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals; the internal reveals are corbelled back at the sill-level for a former altar. In the S. wall is a similar window, but without ogee heads to the lights; the doorway to the stair-turret and the inner doorway of the porch have moulded jambs and four-centred heads; the porch has an outer doorway with moulded and shafted jambs and moulded four-centred arch with panels of foliage in the spandrels; the porch has a high-pitched gabled roof covered with weathered stone slabs and having a string-course at the base and a carved beast on the ridge; in the face of the gable is a shallow niche with a bracket carved with foliage and a shield, side-standards with pinnacles and a three-sided canopy with crocketted gables and ribbed soffit; the porch has a flat stone ceiling with a quatre-foiled panel enclosing a shield, a leaf and a rose. In the N.W. angle of the vestry is an opening to the passage to the chancel.

The Nave (54½ ft. by 18 ft.) has a N. arcade of two dates in the second half of the 15th century; it is of five bays with moulded two-centred arches, springing from hollow-chamfered piers each with four attached shafts having moulded capitals and bases; the responds have attached half-piers. In the S. wall is a 15th-century arcade of two bays of similar detail to the E. part of the N. arcade; to the E. of it is a passage and steps to the former rood-loft; it has a doorway, on the S. face, with rebated jambs and three-centred head. The 15th-century S. doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch; further W. is a 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled lights with restored vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals.

The North Aisle (10 ft. wide) is of two dates in the second half of the 15th century; it is finished with an embattled parapet and gargoyles. In the E. wall is a window uniform with the S. window of the nave. In the N. wall are five windows, the two easternmost uniform with that in the E. wall; the third window is of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with quatre-foiled tracery in a four-centred head with moulded reveals; the two westernmost windows are of three cinque-foiled ogee lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals; below the middle window is a blocked doorway, with the outer face cut away. In the W. wall is a window, uniform with that in the E. wall, but with modern mullions.

The South Chapel (22½ ft. by 11 ft.) is of mid 15th-century date with an embattled parapet continued along the walls of the porch and nave. In the E. wall is a window opening into the vestry; it is of four cinque-foiled ogee lights with tracery in a square head with moulded reveals. In the S. wall are three windows, the easternmost of late 14th-century date reset and of two trefoiled ogee lights in a two-centred head with moulded reveals; the other two windows are uniform with the S. window in the nave.

The South Porch is of the same date and character as the S. chapel. The outer archway is similar in detail to the S. arcade of the nave, but on a smaller scale; above it is a niche with a carved bracket and a partly defaced crocketed canopy; the low-pitched gable is embattled.

The West Tower (12 ft. by 11¼ ft.) is of mid 15th-century date and of three stages (Plate 81) and four storeys with octagonal angle-turrets, a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet; this has pinnacles at three angles and an octagonal N.E. turret carried up above the parapet and finished with an embattled parapet with a crocketed pinnacle on each merlon and a larger pinnacle above the central newel. The tower-arch is two-centred and moulded and springs from moulded and shafted responds with foliated caps to the shafts; the reveals and soffit have one row of trefoil-headed panels. The W. doorway forms a shallow porch in the thickness of the wall; the inner doorway has moulded jambs and two-centred arch; the outer doorway has moulded jambs and septfoiled two-centred arch in an ogee head with side-shafts, crockets and finial; the spandrels of the cusps and head are carved with foliage; the porch has a pointed vault and a recessed seat on each side; flanking the doorway are pairs of niches with side-shafts and two-sided crocketed canopies; the W. window is of four cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label; flanking it are large niches with moulded brackets, side-shafts and three-sided crocketed canopies, vaulting and pyramidal cappings finished with finials; flanking the head of the window are similar niches, but with no pyramidal capping. The second stage has, in the N. wall, a window of one trefoiled light in a square head. On the face of the W. wall are three large niches (Plate 10) generally similar to the lower ones flanking the W. window and with foliated brackets; two contain seated statues apparently of lay persons, one holding a book; flanking each niche are panels with trefoiled ogee crocketed heads and enclosing shields, paterae and a banner. The bell-chamber has in each wall a pair of windows, each of two trefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label; the lights of the N., S. and W. windows are filled with elaborately pierced stone slabs.

The Roof of the Nave is of the 15th century considerably restored; it is of rather low pitch and of six bays with moulded principals, purlins, brattished plates and moulded stone cornices; each bay is divided into thirty-two panels, with foliated bosses; at the base of the principals are carved angels holding shields or scrolls; some of the figures have been renewed and all have been repainted; the shields bear the following repainted arms: N. side, (a) modern coat of Kerr, Marquis of Lothian; (b to d) modern coats of Clayton, Bridge and Horsey; (e) Courtenay impaling Hungerford; (f) modern; S. side, (a) See of Salisbury, modern; (b) See of Winchester, modern; (c) Abbey of Sherborne, also a figure of St. Michael and the Dragon. Three of the figures are now in the N. aisle, having been replaced by modern work; one of these, replaced by (f), bears the arms of Browning impaling Ledred. Some of the timbers retain their original painted decoration in bands and the fourth bay has nineteen panels painted with red and white roses alternately. The 15th-century pent-roof of the N. aisle is of nine bays with moulded principals, purlins and subsidiary rafters; the three western bays have foliage bosses at the intersections and small figures holding shields at the base of the principals. The Vestry has a 16th or 17th-century roof with chamfered timbers. The 15th-century pent-roof (Plate 26) of the S. chapel is of four bays and is generally similar to that of the N. aisle; there are large foliage bosses at the intersections and at the base of the principals are angels holding shields with repainted devices: the initials I.S. (perhaps for John Saunder, Abbot of Sherborne 1459–75), cross of St. George and a merchant's mark; seven panels in the E. bay are painted with square panels of arms in a broad nebuly border; the arms are St. George (three times), argent a fesse gules, argent a griffin gules (perhaps for Malmesbury Abbey), a quartered coat and a panel made up of three boards with the arms of (a) Montagu, (b) Ulster quartering Mortimer and impaling France and England quarterly for Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, but reversed, and (c) St. George. The 15th-century ceiling of the ground stage of the tower has moulded beams and foliagebosses at the junction of the main beams and the wall-plates.

Fittings—Bells: recast; bell-frame old. Chair: In chancel—with turned front-legs, shaped arms, carved and panelled back with cresting, largely modern but incorporating 17th-century material. Chests: In tower—(1) rectangular dug-out with three hasps, ends rebated for former supports, replaced by modern legs, three internal grooves for partitions, probably mediæval. In vestry—(2) with panelled front, enriched styles and rails, 17th-century. ChurchyardCross (Plate 12): octagonal tapering shaft with weathered figures on E. and W. faces, of the Virgin and Child and a man, on brackets with trefoiled canopies, dowel-holes on N. and S. faces, with remains of canopy on S. face; octagonal base with angle-piers, moulded edge and quatre-foiled panels in four main faces, enclosing shields, patera and angel with scroll; two high-stepped plinths with moulded edges, late 15th-century. Doors: In turret-staircase in vestry—of boards with strap-hinges, 15th-century. In S. doorway—of two leaves with hollow-chamfered ribs and nail-studded battens, 15th-century, iron fittings, 17th-century. In turret-staircase of tower—panelled, with strap-hinges, 17th-century. Font (Plate 85): octagonal bowl with moulded cornice carved with running foliage and band of quatrefoils enclosing paterae or shields below, panelled concave underside and stem with trefoil-headed panel in each face; diagonal angles of bowl brought forward and supported on free-standing piers with trefoil-headed panels below and trefoil-headed niches containing figures of St. John the Baptist and three bishops or abbots, moulded base, 15th-century. Glass: In chancel—in E. window, small 15th-century head of Christ and two panels of 17th-century German or Swiss heraldic glass; in S. window, suns in splendour, rose, crowns and part of head of a saint, 15th-century. In S. window of vestry—two shields with chalice and wafer and Trinity symbol, rose and various fragments including chalice, crowns, flowers, foliage, etc., 15th-century, partly in situ. In N. aisle— in fifth window, two rosettes etc. early 16th-century. Locker: In chancel—in S. wall, rectangular recess with rebated reveals, probably 14th-century. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: In chancel—on N. wall, (1) to Michael Harvey, 1711–12, white and veined marble wall-monument with Doric side-pilasters, entablature, lamps and achievement-of-arms; on S. wall, (2) a similar monument (Plate 69) to Agnes, wife of Michael Harvey, 1716–7. In S. chapel—on S. wall, (3) to Robert George Grant, 1835, white marble wall-monument; on W. wall, (4) to Frances Mary Grant, 1840, black and white marble sarcophagus-shaped wall-monument. In tower—on S. wall, (5) to Rev. William Preston 1742, wall-slab. In churchyard—S. of porch, (6) to Henry ..uson, 1728, table-tomb incorporating slab and quatre-foiled panelling from 15th-century tomb; S.W. of nave, (7) to Thomas Punfold, 1597, and John Punfold, later, table-tomb; S.W. of tower, (8) with date 1631, table-tomb; and N.W. of tower, (9) 17th-century table-tomb, with later inscription. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Susanna (Underwood), wife of Michael Harvey, 1663, with lozenge-of-arms; (2) to William Harvey, 1685, with achievement-of-arms; (3) to Margaret, wife of William Harvey, 1704, with lozenge-of-arms. In W. tower—(4) to Abigail, daughter of William Acourt, 1698, and to John her brother, 1699. Niches: In responds of tower-arch— two, with trefoiled ogee and crocketed heads and moulded brackets, 15th-century. Piscinae: In chancel —in sill of S. window, square octofoiled drain in projection, 14th-century. In vestry—in S. wall, recess with trefoiled head and octagonal drain, 15th-century. In S. chapel—in sill of middle window, rounded drain, partly cut back, 15th-century. In N. aisle—in E. respond of arcade, recess with trefoiled head, no drain, 15th-century. Plate: includes a late 16th-century cup, inscribed W.B., R.D. 1683, a stand-paten given by Annis Somers, 1646, and a cup, a paten, two flagons and two alms-dishes given to Clifton Maybank parish church, now demolished, in 1733. Pulpit: of oak, hexagonal, of three stages with enriched cornice and rails, lowest stage with plain panels, middle stage with carved arched panels and top stage with conventional carved panels and console-brackets, on middle panel date and initials, 1632 P.G., R.M., side on S.E. made up with work from elsewhere. Sounding-board, with enriched panels and entablature, made up as table in vestry. Screen (Plate 34): Under chancel-arch—of stone with moulded cornice returned down at sides, doorway with septfoiled head and trefoiled spandrels, side-bays each of four cinque-foiled lights with cusped spandrels, 15th-century. Seating (Plates 32, 33): In nave—twenty-seven bench-ends and two pewbacks, ends with moulded edges, rectangular tops and panels carved with tracery, foliage, vine-plant, hop-plant, oak-tree with birds and pig; pew-backs with linen-fold panels and trefoils or quatrefoils; three bench-ends with traceried panels and foliage incorporated in pews in S. chapel; in N.E. corner of nave— parson's pew made up of two bench-ends as before with griffin and figure, probably of St. Paul, with sword and book, and two ends with ogee tops, poppy-heads and panels carved with elaborate vine and ivy-foliage, elbow rests and back posts carved with beasts and an owl; late 15th or early 16th-century. In tower— two coffin-stools with turned legs, 17th-century. Sundials: On S.W. buttress of porch—two scratch-dials. Weather-vane (Plate 54): On tower—metal cock, probably 18th-century. Miscellanea: In W. tower—on N. wall, tablet commemorating foundation of Charity School, 1781. In churchyard—S. of chancel, traceried head of 15th-century window. On S.E. buttress of porch—carved hand raised in blessing, mediæval.


(3) Bridge (Plate 37) over the river Yeo, 350 yards S.E. of the church, is an ashlar-faced structure of two spans with cut-waters to the middle pier. The arches are four-centred and chamfered. The bridge is mentioned by Leland, but the existing structure dates probably from later in the 16th century.

Monuments (4–16)

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.

(4) Bradford Abbas Mill, 170 yards S.S.W. of the church; the upper floor was partly rebuilt in brick early in the 18th century. The interior has exposed timber-framing.

(5) Rose and Crown Inn, on the N. side of the road 50 yards E. of the church, has been much altered. It retains an original doorway at the back, with a four-centred head. Another doorway, in front, retains its original moulded jambs.

(6) Tudor Cottage, on the S. side of the road 40 yards E. of (5), has on the N.E. gable a stone with the initials and date R.L. 1641.

(7) Five Bells Cottage, 50 yards E. of (6), retains its original windows on the N. front of four and three lights with moulded oak frames; the doorway has a moulded frame and four-centred head and is hung with a battened and nail-studded door with panels. Inside the building is an original moulded beam and the staircase has a newel with an ornamental finial.

(8) Cottage, on the W. side of the road 120 yards N.N.E. of the church.

(9) Cottage, on the W. side of the road 240 yards N.E. of the church, retains its original wood-framed three-light windows on the upper floor.

(10) Cottage, three tenements, on the W. side of the road 280 yards N.E. of the church, was built early in the 16th century, but was largely rebuilt in the 18th century. It retains two small lights with pointed heads both blocked. Inside the building are some original moulded ceiling-beams.

(11) Cottage, 60 yards N. of (10), retains some original stone-mullioned windows, those to the lower floor with labels.

(12) Cottage, 150 yards N. of (11).

(13) Cottage, three tenements, immediately N. of (12).

(14) Cottage, three tenements, on the E. side of the road 20 yards N.E. of (13), retains three original windows with moulded oak frames and mullions. A stone tablet bears the initials and date M.W. 1696.

(15) Cottage, three tenements, on the E. side of the road 30 yards N.E. of (10), retains some original windows with moulded oak frames and mullions. Inside the building is an original muntin and plank partition.

(16) Cottage, three tenements, on the E. side of the road, opposite (9), has a three-light window on the upper floor, W. front, with moulded jambs and mullions.