Pages 374-376

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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43 WHITCOMBE (7188)

(O.S. 6 ins. aSY 68 NE, bSY 78 NW)

Whitcombe is a small parish of some 750 acres on the Dorchester-Wareham road 2 miles S.E. of Dorchester. The parish is 2½ miles long and varies in width from 1 mile at the N.E. to less than 400 yds. at the S.W. Except for a small area of Reading and Bagshot Beds in the E. the whole parish lies on Chalk. The only settlement, now comprising the church, Whitcombe Farm and a few cottages but formerly more extensive, lies in an open valley in the N. part of the parish. The land rises gradually to the S.W. and near the S. boundary, at a height of 470 ft., is Culliford Tree Barrow, one of a linear group of round barrows, from which came a richly furnished burial of the Early Bronze Age Wessex Culture. This barrow was later the meeting place of the hundred courts of Culliford Tree Hundred. A relief of a horseman and building remains recently found on Whitcombe Hill may indicate a rural shrine in the Roman period.


b(1) The Parish Church (Plate 3), dedication unknown, is built of squared Portland rubble with dressings of Portland ashlar and some Ham Hill stone, and the roofs are covered with tiles and stone slates. The Nave was built in the 12th century possibly incorporating some pre-Conquest masonry at the W. end but was partly refaced in the late 15th century, the date of the Chancel and South Porch; the West Tower was added or rebuilt in the 16th century. The S. side of the nave was partly reconstructed in the 18th century.

The church retains fragments of two pre-Conquest cross-shafts and traces of wall-paintings.

The Parish Church, Whitcombe

Architectural Description—The Chancel (17½ ft. by 13 ft.) has a chamfered plinth on the N. and S. sides; in the E. wall, which has been refaced, is a reset and restored late 13th-century window of three graduated lancet lights under a two-centred label with beast-head stops; in the N. wall are a late 15th-century window with two trefoiled lights in a square head and a triangular rear arch and, to the W., a blocked doorway of similar date with a four-centred chamfered lintel at the rear; the S. wall has a window similar to that in the N. wall but with a chamfered segmental rear arch.

The Nave (39 ft. by about 12 ft.) is not structurally divided from the chancel; at the E. end of the N. wall are the remains of a narrow semicircular rood-stair of the 15th century retaining the W. jamb and part of the four-centred head of its entrance; immediately W. is a 14th-century window with two uncusped lights in a square head with a chamfered segmental-pointed rear arch; in the centre of the wall is a blocked 12th-century doorway with a plain semicircular head at front and back and moulded imposts externally; W. of the N. doorway is a length of rougher rubble walling incorporating part of a relieving arch; the wall has a chamfered external plinth except to the portion last described. The S. wall E. of the S. porch was rebuilt or refaced in the 18th century and contains a timber window of this date; the plinth is modern. The 12th-century S. doorway is similar to that on the N. but a lower arch has been built below the original rear arch. W. of the porch the walling is thicker and may incorporate earlier work; it has a chamfered plinth and incorporates a 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights, similar to that in the S. wall of the chancel.

The West Tower (10 ft. square), of the 16th century, is of three storeys divided externally into two stages. It has a moulded plinth and embattled parapet, two two-stage diagonal buttresses to the N.W. and S.W. angles rising to half the height of the tower and a similar angle buttress at the E. end of the N. side. The stages are divided by a moulded and weathered string-course and finished with a moulded string beneath the parapet. On the S. side is a three-sided projection for the tower vice. The tower arch is four-centred with rounded angles to the responds; in the S. wall the vice doorway has a four-centred head, and in the W. wall of the lower stage is a window of three uncusped lights and plain tracery under a four-centred head. In the N. wall below the string-course is a single-light window with chamfered jambs and a flat head to light the first floor. The upper stage has in each wall a square-headed window of two lights with pierced stone louvres with quatrefoil decoration, one of which on the S. side has the date 1596 and initials M.A. The South Porch (6 ft. by 5¾ ft.) has an outer doorway with a two-centred arched head and continuous chamfered jambs.

The Roof of the chancel is modern. The nave has a plain plaster ceiling with canted sides; the roof was originally of a lower pitch, the lowest weathering stones for the earlier roof remaining on the E. side of the tower. The tower roof is flat and supported by a chamfered beam with curved and moulded braces below.

Fittings—Bells: two; both by John Wallis, 1st inscribed HOPE WELL IW 1610, 2nd LOVE GOD IW 1610. Bell-frame: early 17th-century framing remains against N. and S. walls, with curved braces supporting central posts. Communion Table: with turned and moulded legs, moulded enriched rails inscribed 'The Giueft of A.M. Wedo: D:S:E.H: 1637' surmounted by modern marble slab. Cross: in churchyard S.W. of porch, lower part of rectangular shaft with stop-chamfered angles, set in plain square base, 15th-century. Door: in S. doorway, of three vertical boards and four moulded rails, with two decorated strap hinges, 17th-century. Font: of Purbeck marble, octagonal bowl, each face with two two-centred arched panels; stem circular, with four detached circular shafts of later date, on octagonal base; early 13th-century. Glass: in tracery lights of N. window of chancel, two late 15th-century quarries in situ with rayed sun and double rose; in S. window of chancel, quarry inscribed ID 1807. Inscriptions and Scratchings: on lead covering of tower roof, including dates 1647, 1681, and THOMAS FENER 1776 inside the outline of a foot. Monument: in churchyard S. of tower, to Melchisedeck Gillet, 1680, table-tomb with shaped ends, rectangular side panels, one carved, and moulded capping. Paintings: on N. wall of nave— E. of door, (1) St. Christopher, nimbed and bearded, in red robe, skirt held in left hand and ragged staff in right, with the Child seated on his left shoulder wearing green robe and carrying orb, and in background mermaid with comb and glass, 15th-century; to W., traces of black-letter inscription, mediaeval; W. of doorway, (2) arcading of seven bays with trefoiled and crocketed triangular heads in yellow ochre and red outline divided by shafts and caps in red enclosing faint traces of figure painting, early 14th-century, with some fragments of later black-letter inscription; in central niche a painted Consecration Cross in yellow with red background and border. Plate: includes cup, date mark 1572 and maker's initials H W, cover-paten similarly marked and dated 1573, and stand-paten inscribed 'Mrs. Lora Pitt widow to the Church of Witcomb in Dorsetshire 1739' with date marks for 1738 and maker's initials D W. Seating: in chancel, against N. wall, stone wall bench with chamfered seat; in porch, two benches similar to the foregoing. Miscellanea: two fragments of cross shafts (Plate 6), now inside N. doorway of chancel, 2 ft. 1 in and 1 ft. 9 ins. high respectively, by 8 ins. by 1 ft. 3 ins., carved on one face and side with panels of interlace within rectangular borders, those on the face with one end concave, 10th-century.

The Churchyard is partly surrounded by an 18th-century brick boundary wall with rounded brick capping.


b(2) Whitcombe Farm, house (200 yds. S.E.), of two storeys and attics, has walls of rubble with brick dressings and a tiled roof with a verge of stone slates; it was largely rebuilt in the early 19th century.

N.E. of the house is a late 17th-century Barn (plan, Pt. 1, p. lxvi) with rubble walls and a thatched roof with hipped ends; it has an original porch at the N.E. end of the N.W. side and a later porch with brick dressings further S.W.; the S.E. wall is supported by five brick buttresses and has two doorways corresponding to the two porches opposite; the roof is supported by plain collared trusses. On the S.E. side of the barn is an enclosed farmyard with other buildings of contemporary date but much rebuilt.

A second Barn, 120 yds. N.W. of the house, is of similar date and construction to the foregoing, except that the roof is half-hipped and a single porch projects from the centre of the S.E. side facing a partly enclosed yard. Brick buttresses have been added to both sides and the narrow ventilating loops have been blocked.

b(3) Cottages (100 yds. S.E.), three pairs and one single cottage, each of one storey with dormered attics, have walls of rubble and cob, partly rendered, and roofs of thatch; they are of the late 17th or early 18th century.

Earthworks, Etc.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

b(4) Settlement Remains (717882) of Whitcombe village, of which by the late 18th century only the church, the farm and a few cottages remained, cover 14 acres E. and N.E. of the existing buildings. (R.A.F. V.A.P. CPE/UK 1934: 3082; T. Weld, Estate Map (after 1790), in D.C.R.O.; Hutchins II, 518; Fägersten, 162; C. A. F. Meekings, Dorset Hearth Tax Assessments (1951), esp. Appx. VII.)

Other Earthworks and Allied Monuments

(5) Long Barrow, p. 432

(6–24) Round Barrows, p. 457

(25) Enclosure, p. 504

(26) Roman Remains, Burials and Stone Relief, p. 619

Ancient Field Group (9), p. 627