An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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'Shillingstone', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 3, Central, (London, 1970) pp. 238-242. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 ins. ST 81 SW, ST 80 NW)

The parish covers 2,272 acres of land beside the R. Stour, which forms the N.E. boundary. In the S. of the parish the N.-facing Chalk escarpment of Shillingstone Hill rises to over 700 ft. above sea-level; northwards from the foot of the hill the land undulates gently, between 300 ft. and 150 ft. above sea-level, on Greensand, Gault and Kimmeridge Clay. The village stands in the N. half of the parish and is a springline settlement at the junction of the Greensand and the Gault. In Domesday Book the settlement is probably represented by Alford, held by Schelin (Vol. I, f. 83). A moat (23) at the N. end of the parish probably represents a secondary settlement which may always have had enclosed fields; it is of the 14th century or earlier. The most important monument is the parish church, dating from early in the 12th century.


(1) The Parish Church of The Holy Rood stands near the N. end of the village on a hill overlooking the Stour valley. The walls are of flint, rubble, banded flint and rubble, and ashlar; the roofs are covered with modern tiles. The Chancel and the Nave date from early in the 12th century; the chancel arch is of the 14th century; the West Tower was built late in the 15th century and the South Porch is of the 16th century. The church was restored in 1858. The North Aisle and North Chapel were added in 1888 and further alterations were made in 1902 (Faculty petitions, 1888, 1902, in Salisbury Diocesan Archives).

The church is of interest for its surviving 12th-century walls and windows, from which it appears that the original building consisted of a small rectangular nave and a slightly narrower chancel.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (21 ft. by 15 ft.) has walls of flint interspersed with blocks of Greensand. At the base is a chamfered stone plinth and one course of squared rubble. At the centre of the E. wall is a small buttress of one stage with a weathered top; above it is a three-light E. window, inserted in 1902. The N.E. corner has been entirely rebuilt and has modern quoins but the S.E. corner retains original quoins of heavy Greensand blocks. The N. wall is pierced by a modern archway to the N. chapel; high up, immediately E. of the archway, is a round-headed loop with deep internal splays and a semicircular rear arch; although of 12th-century form, the loop is entirely composed of modern masonry. The S. wall, constructed of rubble and flint, appears to be of 12th-century origin but the two two-light windows with two-centred heads are of 1902. Between the windows, traces of a former S. doorway are seen externally in the masonry, notably in the plinth; inside, a low recess may also indicate the former opening. The 14th-century chancel arch is depressed two-centred and of two chamfered orders; on the E. side the outer chamfer continues on the S. respond and ends in a run-out stop; on the W. side the orders are of ovolo section and die at the springing into plain responds.

Shillingstone, the Parish Church of The Holy Rood

The Nave (43 ft. by 21 ft.) has a N. arcade of three two-centred arches built in 1888; reset in the spandrels of the arches are three 12th-century loops. Near the E. end is a small 15th-century window with a trefoil ogee head and continuous jambs; it is presumably an opening from a former rood-loft vice, reset, but the 'staircase with long lancet windows' described by Hutchins in this connection (III, 447) has now gone. The most easterly of the reset 12th-century loops is blocked; the other two are open and have narrow round-headed lights with ashlar jambs, and deeply splayed reveals running back to round-headed rear arches. The S. wall is of flint and rubble, the flints being laid obliquely to produce a faint effect of herring-bone coursing. At the E. end is a 19th-century two-stage buttress; adjacent is a large 15th-century square-headed casement-moulded window of three cinquefoil-headed lights. Further W., near the E. side of the porch, is a round-headed 12th-century light, as before described, with restored stonework externally but retaining the original splayed rear arch, jambs and sill. The S. doorway is of the 16th century and has a chamfered two-centred head and continuous jambs; above, in the S. face of the wall, are the reset voussoirs of a semicircular arch, probably the original door-head; below it is a segmental fragment of stone, roughly carved with lozenges, perhaps from the original tympanum; also reset below the semicircular arch voussoirs is a stone mask carved in low relief, mediaeval but of uncertain date. The rear-arch is of the 12th century; it is round-headed, with plain ashlar voussoirs and continuous responds. To the W. of the porch, the S. wall contains a square-headed three-light 15th-century window, as on the E. The 19th-century N. aisle has, reset in the N. wall, a similar three-light window, without casement mouldings; it also is of the 15th century.

The West Tower (11 ft. square) is of Greensand ashlar and has two main stages, with a moulded plinth, weathered and hollow-chamfered string-courses, and an embattled parapet with a moulded coping. The moulded bases of four corner pinnacles rise above the coping but the pinnacles have gone; corner standards below the coping continue down to the parapet string-course and rest on grotesque gargoyles. Diagonal buttresses of five weathered stages stand at the N.W. and S.W. corners; a square-set buttress at the N.E. corner is partly incorporated in the W. wall of the N. aisle; at the S.E. corner is a rectangular vice turret. The W. side of the vice turret is partly splayed, the splay being supported near the base on a carved corbel (cf. Child Okeford (1)). The tower arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders which die into plain responds at the springing; beside it, to the S., is the vice doorway, with a rough square head. The W. doorway has a moulded four-centred head and continuous jambs, under a square, moulded label with shield stops and sunk spandrels. Above, the W. window is of three trefoil-headed lights, each lobe sub-cusped, under vertical tracery in a two-centred head; the narrow, moulded label has no stops. In the upper stage, each face of the tower has a belfry window of two trefoil-headed lights under a central quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a moulded label and square stops. Below the belfry windows, on the N. and S. sides, are square-headed loops; the W. side has a clock. The South Porch (9½ ft. by 7 ft.) has walls of banded flint and rubble, heightened in coursed rubble. The S. archway has a two-centred head of two chamfered orders, with continuous jambs and runout stops. In each side wall is a small square-headed loop.

Fittings—Bells: six; 5th inscribed 'Anno 1736, W. Knight, B.F., Thomas Melmouth, Thomas Ford, C.W.', 6th inscribed 'Thomas Melmouth, Thomas Ford, anno 1736, C.W., W.K., B.F.' others recast. Chest: In vestry, with fielded panels and beaded stiles and rails, 18th century. Churchyard Cross: 11 paces S. of chancel, stepped cross-base, probably 15th century; shaft and cross-head missing. Coffin and Coffin-lids: In W. tower, (1) tapering coffin lid of Purbeck marble with hollow-chamfered and grooved border, top surface with crude incised representation of man flanked by sun and moon, foot of slab and much of top surface missing; slab, 14th century, carving perhaps later; (2) Purbeck coffin with shaped recess for head, sides and foot broken, 14th century; (3) fragment of stone coffin-lid with hollow-chamfered margin and floriate cross, 14th century; (4) similar fragment with double hollow-chamfered margin and floriate cross, 14th century. Font: of Purbeck marble with square basin, hollow-chamfered below, with round-headed panels on vertical sides, resting on large central drum with four attached angle shafts and continuous moulded base; early 13th century. Graffiti: In porch, on wall-bench, outlines of hands and feet with initials and dates 1759, 1772.

Monuments: In N. chapel, on N. wall, (1) of Eliza Acton, 1817, marble wall-tablet with Latin inscription, surmounted by relief of kneeling woman, by Chantrey of London. In N. aisle, on N. wall, (2) of Richard West, D.D., rector, 1690, slate wall-tablet in moulded stone surround with apron with skulls, drapery and book, scrolled cheek-pieces, entablature, and finial in form of lamps flanking shield-of-arms of West impaling Bettesworth, crest, a griffin's head. In churchyard, 4 paces S.E. of porch, (3) of Mary Biles, 1727, headstone with scrolled top. Plate: includes silver cup and cover-paten by Lawrence Stratford, paten inscribed '1574'; also silver paten with date-mark of 1715; also pewter dish inscribed 'Thos. Barter, Jno. Ford church-wardens 1814'. Pulpit: of oak, octagonal with four sides in three heights; lowest height reeded, main height, much restored, with enriched bolection-moulded panels, top height with arabesque carving surmounted by enriched cornice; 17th-century woodwork on modern stone plinth. Sundial: On S. face of vice turret, stone plate with scroll decoration and incised numerals under moulded string; late 17th century. Weather-vanes: On each pinnacle-base of tower, with iron standard and pennant. Miscellanea: In tower, fragment of stone, shaped and chamfered, perhaps a shaft-base; also fragment of Purbeck marble altar slab with consecration cross, mediaeval.


(2) Cross Base (82451132), 160 yds. S. of the church, is of ashlar, with a square stepped base in which the lower step has a fascia recessed between a chamfered plinth and a chamfered nosing; the upper step is plain (Plate 50). Above the upper step is a chamfered square plinth on which rests an octagonal shaft-pedestal, with broach stops to bring the octagon to a square above the plinth. Between the broach stops the four cardinal faces of the pedestal were originally carved, but the decoration has almost entirely perished. The present shaft and cross-head are modern, but the steps, plinth and pedestal are of the 15th century.

(3) Toll House (84740978), 1¾ m. S.E. of the church, is two-storied and has brick walls and slated roofs; it dates from early in the 19th century. A three-sided S.W. bay faces the road, with a doorway in the middle wall and windows in the canted side walls. A window-sill contains apertures for coins.

(4) Cottage (82951075), ½ m. S.E. of the church, is two-storied and has walls partly of timber-framework and partly of rubble and cob; the roofs are thatched. At one time the cottage comprised three tenements but they are now united as a single dwelling. The original building, at the centre of the range, is of the late 16th century; the S.W. tenement is of the early 18th century and the N.E. tenement is of c. 1860. The S.E. front has been modernised but the N.W. elevation displays part of the original timber-frame construction; above a low flint plinth it has large squared oak members, pegged together, in two storeys. The S.W. extension retains a two-light casement window with ovolo-moulded wooden jambs, mullion and head. Inside, in the N.E. part of the original building, is a room with a chamfered beam and exposed joists, and an open fireplace with a chamfered wooden bressummer with run-out stops. An oven beside the fireplace protrudes from the N.W. external wall-face. The original roof is of two bays; The central truss has a heavy oak collar, tenoned and pegged to the principals. A framed truss at the S.W. of the original roof, formerly external, suggests that the original gable was half-hipped.

(5) Cottage (82821086), 200 yds. N.W. of the foregoing, is two-storied, with rubble walls and a thatched roof; it was built probably at the end of the 17th or early in the 18th century. The two main ground-floor rooms have stop-chamfered beams, and one room has an open fireplace with a cambered and chamfered bressummer.

(6) Cottage (82751087), 100 yds. W. of the foregoing, is two-storied, with brick and flint walls and a thatched roof. It is probably of late 17th-century origin but the S.E. front was refaced in brickwork late in the 18th century, and additions to the N.E. and S.W. were made in the 19th century. Inside, the N.E. room of the original range has a ceiling with two intersecting chamfered beams and chamfered wall-plates. The end of one beam rests on a chamfered post with splayed stops.

(7) Cottage (82631100), 200 yds. N.W. of the foregoing (Plate 59), is single-storied with dormer-windowed attics and has timber-framed walls, partly brick-faced, and thatched roofs with jointed-cruck trusses. The cottage was built early in the 16th century, probably as a three-room dwelling with a single fireplace at the S.E. end. The central chimney appears to be of the 17th century and it is probable that the dormer-windowed attic was formed at the same time; previously there may have been an open hearth. In the first half of the 19th century the S.E. end wall and the S.W. front were cased in brickwork. The gabled and half-hipped N.W. end wall has exposed timber-frame construction but it seems to have been largely rebuilt in the 19th century, when brick nogging was inserted; of the original structure, part of the sill-plate, three vertical studs, a tie-beam, jointed-cruck principals, an upper tie-beam, and two struts survive; the lower tie-beam and the studs have evidently been reset about 1 ft. higher than originally, witness the altered position of the peg-holes in the crucks. Centrally, between the tie-beams, the outline of a blocked three-light casement window is discernible; this shows that although the rest of the building was originally single-storied the N.W. bay probably had a solar. The N.E. front has been rebuilt near the E. corner, but the rest of the wall retains original timber framework. Above a low rubble plinth is a 5-inch sill-plate to which are tenoned and pegged a row of vertical studs; these support a chamfered eaves plate, and intermediate rails at about half-height. Many of the members retain original tally-marks in Roman numerals. The original doorway survives, and peg-holes in its 8-inch jambs show that it formerly had a shaped head, but this has now gone.

Inside, the S.E. room has an open fireplace against the gable wall, with a cambered and chamfered bressummer. The middle room has an open fireplace with rubble sides and back; the plank-and-muntin partition on the N.W. has muntins stop-chamfered at the foot and mitred to chamfers on the top rail; the ceiling has two chamfered beams. The attic contains part of a 17th-century ogee-moulded plank-and-muntin partition. Several jointed-cruck trusses are exposed, some of them with original tally-marks.

(8) Cottage (82581103), 480 yds. S. of the church, is two-storied and has walls of timber-framing and brick, and a thatched roof. It was built late in the 16th century but it was extended to the S.E. and much altered about the middle of the 18th century. The original frame construction, with wattle-and-daub nogging, is exposed in the N.W. end wall. A doorway in the S.W. wall has a chamfered four-centred wooden head pegged to the jambs; it is no longer in situ. Inside, the building has been extensively altered and few original features are seen. A ground-floor room has two parallel chamfered beams and chamfered wall-plates.

(9) Cottage (82501124), 250 yds. S. of the church, is two-storied and has walls of coursed rubble and flint, partly rendered, and a thatched roof; it is probably of 17th-century origin, with later alterations. The rendered W. front is symmetrical and of three bays, with a central doorway flanked by three-light sashed windows on the ground floor, and three casement windows above. Internally, one room has an exposed chamfered beam and wall-plates. A ventilator to a central store room, made with small turned balusters, is perhaps of the 18th century.

(10) Cottage (82391130), 200 yds. S.W. of the church, is of one storey with attics and has walls of rubble and brick, and a thatched roof. The main part is of the 17th century and there is an 18th-century extension to the S.W.

(11) Cottage (82071277), 1,500 yds. N. of the church, is of two storeys with attics, and has walls of rubble and brick, and a tiled roof. The cottage probably originated in the 17th century as a single-storied dwelling, and it was heightened to two storeys in the late 18th or early 19th century. The E. and W. walls are built of squared rubble on the ground floor and of brick above.

Monuments (12–22)

Unless described otherwise, the following monuments are of the 18th century and two-storied, with walls of mixed rubble, flint and brick, and with thatched roofs.

(12) The Rectory (82581134), has brick walls and tiled roofs and although much altered in 1890 retains a late 18th-century E. front with sashed windows in seven symmetrical bays. The three middle bays are in a segmental bow.

(13) House (82601128), 50 yds. S. of the foregoing, has brick walls and a symmetrical N.W. front of three bays with a central doorway and casement windows. Adjacent on the N.E. is an earlier wing, perhaps originally an independent cottage; it may be of 17th-century origin.

(14) Cottage (82471125), 220 yds. S. of the church, is probably of the early 18th century. At the centre of the roof rises a large brick chimney-stack with panelled sides, dentilled at the top, and capped by three oversailing courses. Inside, all old features are concealed except one chamfered ceiling beam.

(15) Cottage (82521117), 300 yds. S. of the church, has a rendered N.W. front of four bays. The ground-floor openings are modern but on the first floor are three original three-light casement windows and one of two-lights.

(16) Cottage (82601098), 30 yds. S.W. of (7), has a slated roof and has been almost entirely refaced externally and is much modernised internally; nevertheless it appears to be of the early 18th century and possibly of the 17th. The N. wall is partly of banded brick and flint. There are two open fireplaces, now blocked. The original building probably comprised two rooms flanking a through-passage.

(17) House (82781085), has brick walls and slated roofs. The N.E. front is symmetrical and of five bays, with a central doorway and uniform casement windows.

(18) Cottage (82801083), has a N. front of two bays with a central doorway. The interior has been modernised but the plan has a central through-passage with a room on each side.

(19) Cottage (82831085), has a symmetrical S. front of three bays. The plan comprises a central through-passage with a room on each side. The E. room has a chamfered ceiling beam.

(20) Cottage (82861083), has a S.W. front of brick in three symmetrical bays, with a central doorway flanked by three-light casement windows, and two corresponding windows on the first floor; a third opening, over the doorway, is blocked. One room has a lightly chamfered beam.

(21) Cottages (83141063), two adjacent, now converted into one, have walls of flint and brick, partly rendered, and are roofed partly with tiles and partly with slate; both cottages are of the 18th century but the W. cottage appears to be slightly later than the other. Inside, the E. fireplace, now modernised, formerly had a chamfered and heavily cambered wooden bressummer with splayed stops.

(22) Range of three cottages (82991027), ¾ m. S.E. of the church, has rendered walls. The S. cottage has a large open fireplace with a cambered and stop-chamfered bressummer.

Monuments of the first half of the 19th century include the following: Almshouses (82461124), of which only part of a wall with a window and a doorway survive, stand 230 yds. S. of the church; the wall is of rubble and ashlar and the openings have chamfered and hollow-chamfered surrounds, and labels with returned stops; a stone slab is inscribed 'Built by G. G. & W. M. 1842'. Culvert (82381203) at the approach to Hayward Bridge is of rubble and ashlar. Cottage (82441129) has a single brick above the doorway, inscribed 'I. W. 1809'. New Barn (83291010) has brick walls, with buttresses of two stages with ashlar weathering.

Mediaeval and Later Earthworks

(23) Moat, Class A 1(a), (fn. 1) (821122) lies on a river terrace on the W. side of the R. Stour, immediately W. of Bere Marsh Farm. The history of the site is unknown. A few documents refer to the Manor of Bere (Hutchins III, 446–7; Fägersten, 105), none of them earlier than 1384, and the moat is probably the site of the Manor House. The island is almost square, with sides about 55 yds. long, and is completely surrounded by ditches 40 ft. wide and 2 ft. to 3 ft. deep, in part water-filled. Outer banks occur on the N., W. and S. sides, 18 ft. to 23 ft. wide and 1½ ft. high. The bank on the N. is immediately adjacent to the ditch, but to W. and S. spaces 12 ft. to 18 ft. wide intervene between ditch and bank. The interior of the island is flat and no trace of building is seen.

A rectangular area, 30 ft. W. of the moat, is orientated N.–S. and measures 45 ft. by 30 ft.; on the S., W. and E. it is enclosed by banks 10 ft. wide and 2 ft. high but it is open to the N. (R.A.F. CPE/UK 1974: 4172–3).

(24) Cultivation Remains. Nothing is known of the open fields of the parish, but from the reversed-S curves of the existing field boundaries it appears that they lay S. and E. of the village, where there also are traces of ridge-and-furrow. Extensive remains of ridge-and-furrow formerly overlay 'Celtic' fields on Shillingstone Hill (840097), beyond the permanent open fields (see Group (58), p. 340).

Roman and Prehistoric

(25) Settlement, Romano-British (832093), lies among 'Celtic' fields (Group (58)) at just over 600 ft. above O.D. on the almost flat summit of Shillingstone Hill. The site has been flattened by ploughing and by a track which crosses it, and recent cultivation has completed the process. The precise limits are no longer determinable although it appears never to have been enclosed. Coarse Romano-British pottery and a few fragments of samian ware have been recovered. Long mounds, alleged to be 'pillow mounds' (83270933–83280932), were almost certainly the remains of a fragmentary bank and ditch associated with the settlement; these also are now destroyed.

Pits on Bonsley Common (near 821091), some of which were excavated by C. Warne, were probably storage pits associated with a settlement. They were about 4 ft. deep, in some cases floored with flints, and contained pottery and bones (Hutchins III, 447). The area is now planted with conifers.

(26) Cross-dyke (82700990–82790985), extending from N.W. to S.E., lies at just over 600 ft. above O.D., across the narrow, steeply sloping spine of a spur which juts N.E. from Shillingstone Hill. The dyke is concave to the slope, with the ditch on the S.W. or uphill side. Its length is not less than 50 yds. and it may have been as much as 100 yds.; the bank is at most 3 ft. high and 25 ft. across; the ditch has similar dimensions. The dyke is apparently integral with the pattern of adjacent 'Celtic' fields (Group (58)), although at the N.W. end it cuts into a 'Celtic' field lynchet and the bank possibly lies along the top of another lynchet. It may be the slight remains of the lynchet, rather than an almost flattened continuation of the bank, that runs from the apparent 'Celtic' field lynchet, thus giving the monument its length of 100 yds. It has been cut by tracks along the spur top.

'Celtic' Fields, see p. 340, Group (58).

Monuments (27–28), Round Barrows

Two round barrows lie W. of Bonsley Common, close to the parish boundary with Turnworth. Other barrows have been reported at 83280935 and 83290933 but these were almost certainly part of the Romano-British settlement (25).

(27) Bowl (81930886), on a gentle S.E. slope at over 700 ft. above O.D.; diam. 50 ft., ht. 6 ft.

(28) Bowl (81950889), 40 yds. S.W. of (27); diam. 35 ft., ht. 4 ft.


  • 1. See Cambridgeshire I, lxi–lxvi.