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WIMBORNE MINSTER AND CHRISTCHURCH PRIORY
A Short History of Their Foundation and Description of Their Buildings
THE REV. THOMAS PERKINS M.A., F.R.A.S. Rector of Turnworth, Dorset
With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author
London George Bell & Sons 1902 First Edition 1899 Second Edition, Revised, 1902
When writing the chapters of the present volume which treat of Wimborne Minster, the author consulted the last edition of Hutchins' "History of Dorset," which contains a considerable amount of somewhat ill-arranged information on the subject, verifying all the descriptions by actual examination of the building; similarly, when preparing the part of this volume dealing with Christchurch Priory, he made some use of "The Memorials of Christchurch Twynham," written originally by the Rev. Mackenzie Walcott, F.S.A., and revised after his death in 1880 by Mr B. Edmund Ferrey, F.S.A. He also consulted papers on the subject that have appeared from time to time in various periodicals and MSS. that were kindly placed at his disposal by the Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
He desires to express his thanks to the Vicars of the two churches for permission to thoroughly examine every part of the buildings, and to photograph them without let or hindrance; he also wishes to bear testimony to the readiness shown by the clerks and vergers in imparting local information and in facilitating his photographic work.
CHAPTER I.—History of the Building 3 Date of Foundation 5 The Norman Church 8, 9 Alterations in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries 10, 11 Alterations in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries 11, 12 Modern Restorations 14
CHAPTER II.—The Exterior 16 The Central Tower 16 The North Porch 22 The East Window 24 The Sundial 25 The South Porch 25 The Western Tower 26
CHAPTER III.—The Interior 29 The North Porch 29 The Aisles 29, 38 The Clerestory 33 The Central Tower 34 The Transepts 38 The East End, Choir and Presbytery 42 Sedilia and Piscina 44 The Beaufort and Courtenay Tombs and Brass of Aethelred 42, 47 The South Choir Aisle and Etricke Tomb 48 The North Choir Aisle and Uvedale Monument 50, 51 The Crypt, Vestry, and Library 52 Deans of Wimborne 59
CHAPTER IV.—St Margaret's Hospital 60 Dimensions of Wimborne Minster 64
CHAPTER I.—History of the Building 67 Foundation 68 The Norman Church 70 Alterations in the Thirteenth-Fifteenth Centuries 71 Modern Alterations 72
CHAPTER II.—The Exterior 76 The Western Tower 76 The North Porch 80 The North Aisle 80 The North Transept 82 The Choir, Presbytery, and Lady Chapel 84 The South Transept 88 The Nave 88 The Porter's Lodge, and Sites of the Domestic Buildings 89
CHAPTER III.—The Interior 92 The Nave 92-98 The Aisles 98 The Transepts 100 The Rood Screen 105 The Choir 106 The Choir Stalls 108-110 The Reredos 112 The Salisbury Chantry 116 The Draper Chantry 118 The Lady Chapel, and the "Miraculous Beam" 120 St Michael's Loft 126 The Shelley Monument 126
CHAPTER IV.—Deans, Priors, and Vicars of Christchurch 128 Stratford's Injunctions 129 Archbishop Arundel's Injunctions 130 The Norman Castle 131 The Norman House 132 Dimensions of Christchurch Priory 134
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Arms of Wimborne and Christchurch Title page Wimborne Minster from the North-East 2 Wimborne Minster in 1840 3 Wimborne Minster in 1707. (From a copperplate in the Library) 13 The Minster from the South-East before 1891 19 The North Transept before 1891 21 The East Window 23 The Western Tower 27 The Interior, looking East 30 Pier and Arch-Spring, South Arcade 31 Decorated Arch in the Nave 32 Clerestory Stage of the Central Tower 35 The Tower Arches 36 North Transept and Crossing 37 Thirteenth-Century Piscina, South Transept 39 Choir Stalls 40 West View from the Choir 41 The East Window 43 Sedilia 44 The Beaufort Tomb 45 Brass of Aethelred 46 The Etricke Tomb 49 Ancient Chest 50 The Uvedale Monument 51 Entrance to Crypt 53 The Library 54 The Crypt 55 The Font 56 The Clock in the West Tower 57 St Margaret's Hospital 61
Christchurch Priory from the Bridge 66 Christchurch Priory from the North-East 77 Tower Door 78 The North Porch 79 The North Door 81 The North Transept in 1810 83 The North Transept 85 South Aisle of Nave 87 The Nave in 1834 93 The Nave 95 North Arcade of the Nave 96 From the North Triforium 97 Bay of the Triforium, South Side 98 South Aisle of the Nave 99 The Montacute Chantry 101 North Aisle of the Nave 103 The Crypt 105 The Rood Screen 107 Stall Seats (3) 108 Choir Stalls 109 Miserere on Stall Seat (circa 1300) 110 The Choir 111 The Reredos 113 The Salisbury Chantry 115 Interior of the Salisbury Chantry 117 The Draper Chantry 119 Piscina in the Draper Chantry 120 The Sacristy 121 The Miraculous Beam 122 Tomb of Thomas, Lord West 123 The Lady Chapel 124 St Michael's Loft 125 The Shelley Monument 127 Remains of the Norman House 133
PLANS 136, 137
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
Of the churches connected with the religious houses which once existed in the county of Dorset, three only remain to the present day. Of some of the rest we have ruins, others have entirely disappeared. But the town of Sherborne, once the bishop-stool of the sainted Aldhelm, who overlooked a vast diocese comprising a great portion of the West Saxon kingdom, has its Abbey now used as its Parish Church. The great Abbey of Milton, founded by AEthelstan, has handed down to us its choir and transepts—rebuilt in the fourteenth century, after the former church had been destroyed by fire—and this, though private property, is still used for occasional services; and the minster church at Wimborne has became the church of the parish of Wimborne Minster.
The town has been by many supposed to stand on the site of the Roman Vindogladia, though this station has by others been identified with Gussage Cowdown, or the circular encampment of Badbury Rings, about three miles to the north-west of Wimborne Minster. Be this as it may, the district was occupied by the Roman conquerors of our island; and Roman pottery and other remains have been found in the neighbourhood, including a small portion of pavement beneath the floor of the minster church.
The derivation of the name Wimborne, or Winborne as we find it sometimes written, has been much disputed; but as we find the same word appearing as the name of several other places which lie on the course of the same stream, now generally called the Allen, though sometimes the Wim, it is highly probable that the name is derived from that of the river. Compound names for villages are very common in Dorset—the first word being the name of the river on which the village stands, the second being added to distinguish one village from another. Thus we find along the Tarrant, villages known as Tarrant Gunville, Tarrant Hinton, Tarrant Launceston, Tarrant Monkton, etc.; and along the Winterborne we find Winterborne Houghton, Winterborne Stickland, Winterborne Clenstone, etc.; and in like manner we meet with Monkton up Wimborne, Wimborne Saint Giles, and Wimborne Minster along the course of the Allen. The characteristic name of Winterborne for a brook that is such in winter only, but is a dried-up bed in a hot summer is borne by two streams in Dorset, each giving its name to a string of villages. May not the word Wimborne or Winborne be a contraction for this same word Winterborne, the "burn" of the rainy winter months, applied to the little stream of the Allen, though it cannot now be said to be dry in summer?
The small town of Wimborne Minster stands not far from the junction of the Allen with the slow-running Dorset Stour, in the midst of pleasant fertile meadow-land, from which here and there some low hills rise. Its chief glory has been, and probably always will be, its splendid church, with its central Norman and its Western Perpendicular towers, its Norman and Decorated nave, its Early English choir, and its numerous tombs and monuments of those whose names are recorded in the history of the country.
The exact year of the foundation of the original religious house is differently given in various ancient documents: the dates vary from 705 A.D. to 723 A.D. At this time, Ine was king of the West Saxons; and one of his sisters, Cudburh—or Cuthberga, as her name appears in its Latinised form—was espoused or married to Egfred, or, as he is often called, Osric, the Northumbrian king, but the marriage was never consummated, and the lady as soon as possible separated from him and retired to the convent at Barking, and afterwards founded the convent at Wimborne. Some say that she objected to the intemperate habits of her espoused as soon as she met him; others, that having previously vowed herself to heaven, she persuaded him to release her from the engagement to him, which had been arranged without her wishes being consulted. Her sister Quinberga is stated to have been associated with her in the foundation of the religious house, and both were buried within its precincts, and both were afterwards canonised; Saint Cuthberga was commemorated on August 31st "as a virgin but not a martyr." A special service appointed for the day is to be found in a Missal kept in the Library of the Cathedral Church at Salisbury, in which the following prayer occurs:—
"Deus qui eximie castitatis privilegio famulam tuam Cuthbergam multipliciter decorasti, da nobis famulis tuis ejus promerente intercessione utriusque vitae prosperitatem. Ut sicut ejus festivitas nobiscum agitur in terris, ita per ejus interventum nostri memoria apud te semper habeatur in coelis, per Dominum etc."
There is reason to believe that the earliest date given above for the foundation (705 A.D.) is the most probable one, as Regner in his tracts mentions a letter bearing this date written by Saint Aldhelm, and taken from the register of Malmesbury, in which he includes in a list of congregations to which he grants liberty of election the monastery at Wimborne, presided over by the sister of the king. There is also some evidence for the existence of a community of monks at Wimborne, as well as of nuns. But of these original religious houses not a trace remains: the very position of St Cuthberga's Church is uncertain; we cannot be sure that the present building occupies the same site; the last resting-places of the two royal foundresses are not even pointed out by tradition. Probably the buildings were destroyed, the nuns slain or driven out, when the raiding Danes overran Wessex in the ninth century.
The next historical event that we meet with in connection with Wimborne is the burial of King AEthelred, the brother and immediate predecessor on the throne of the great West Saxon king AElfred. As there is doubt about the year of the foundation by Cuthberga, so again there is a conflict of testimony as to the date, place, and manner of the death of AEthelred—the inscription on the brass (about which more will be said when we come to describe the interior of the minster) not agreeing with the usually accepted date for the accession of AElfred, 871; but as the brass is itself many centuries later than the burial of the king whose likeness it professes to bear, its authority may well be questioned. Anyhow, AEthelred died either of wounds received in some battle with the Danes, in some spot which different archaeologists have placed in Surrey, Oxford, Berkshire, or Wilts, or worn out by his long and arduous exertions while struggling with the heathen invaders; and his body—this alone is certain—was brought to Wimborne for burial. It has been conjectured that AElfred, after he had defeated the Danes and established himself firmly on the throne of Wessex, would naturally rebuild the ruined abbey. He founded, as we know, an abbey at Shaftesbury; he is recorded to have built at Winchester and London; he had undoubtedly a taste for architecture, and he was a devout son of Mother Church, so that it is by no means improbable that he would erect a church over the grave of his brother: but no record of such building remains, and there is no trace of any pre-Norman work in the existing minster.
The original church and conventual buildings having been swept away by the Danes, whether AElfred restored it or not is uncertain, but it is certain that a house of secular canons was established at Wimborne by a king of the name of Eadward; but again there is some uncertainty as to whether this king was the one who is sometimes called the Eadward the Elder, sometimes Eadward the Unconquered, son and successor of AElfred, or Eadward the Confessor. Anyhow, it became a collegiate church and a royal free chapel, and as such it is mentioned in Domesday Book, and it is noticed as a Deanery in the charters of Henry III. Leland, writing in the reign of Henry VIII., says, "It is but of late time that a dean and prebendaries were inducted into it." The deanery was in the gift of the Crown, and we have a full list of the deans from 1224 up to 1547, when it was dissolved. The ecclesiastical establishment consisted of a dean, four prebendaries, three vicars, four deacons, and five singing men. It will not be needful to give any detailed account of these, as most of them, though in many cases they held other more dignified posts, either together with the deanery or after resigning it, are not men who have made their mark in English history. A few only will here be mentioned, who on account of some circumstances connected with the fabric, or for other reasons, are more noteworthy.
 It is noteworthy that they all held some other preferment during the time that they held the office of dean.
Thomas de Bembre, 1350-1361, founded a chantry and an altar in the north part of the north transept, which was added at this time.
Reginald Pole, so well known in the history of the reigns of Henry VIII. and Queen Mary, was Dean of Wimborne from 1517 till 1537. It is remarkable that he was only seventeen years of age at the time of his appointment.
He was succeeded by Nicholas Wilson, who held the office of dean until the dissolution of the deanery in 1547. To him a curious letter still existing was addressed in 1538 by certain leading men of the parish, though nothing appears to have been done in consequence of it. These worthy men complain of the dilapidated state of the church, the want of funds to carry out needed repairs, and suggest the taking from the church "seynt Cuthborow's hed," and "the sylv' y^t ys about the same hed," which they claim as belonging to the parish on the ground that it was made by the charity of the parishioners in times past. "Our chyrche," they say, "ys in gret ruyn and decay and our toure ys foundered and lyke to fall and ther ys no money left in õ chyrche box and by reason of great infyrmyty and deth ther hath byn thys yere in oure parysh no chyrche aele, the whych hath hyndred õ chyrch of xx^ti nobles and above, and well it is knowen y^t we have no land but onely the charity of good people, wherfor nyed constraynyth us to sell the sylv' y^t is about the same hed. Besechynge yo^r mastership to sertefy us by y^r tre wher we may sell the said sylv' to repayr õ chyrche."
 In an inventory made in the reign of Henry VIII. we find mentioned an image of St Cuthberga, with a ring of gold, and two little crosses of gold, with a book and staff in her hand. The head of the image of silver with a crown on it of silver and gilt. On her apron a St James shell with a buckle of silver and gilt.
The names of many of the other ecclesiastics connected with the church are known: among these, we need only mention William Lorynge canon, who in the time of Richard II. caused the great bell called the Cuthborow bell to be made; and Simon Beneson, sacrist, who left land, which is called Bell Acre, towards the maintenance and repair of the bells.
Among other benefactors of the church was Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII., so well known at Cambridge under the name of Lady Margaret, the foundress of Christ's and St John's Colleges. She founded at Wimborne the original seminary connected with the minster, which afterwards became by a charter of Elizabeth the Grammar School of the town, and presented splendid vestments to the church. July 9th was until the Reformation kept at the minster as a festival to her memory, with a special office and High Mass.
When the deanery was abolished, Wimborne Minster became a Royal Peculiar, under the administration of three priest-vicars elected by the Corporation. These served each for a week in turn. The Corporation had the power of appointing one of the three vicars—who was known as the "Official"—to hold courts and grant licences. The court was held in the western part of the north aisle, the Official presiding, seated at a desk, the two other vicars sitting one on each side of him, while at a long table sat the churchwardens, sidesmen, the vestry clerks, and the apparitors.
The arrangement by which the vicars served the church each in turn continued in force until 1876. At that time one of the three vicars retired on a pension; another removed to the chapelry of Holt, three miles from Wimborne (which had previously been served in turn by the vicars of Wimborne), a parsonage having been built for his accommodation; and the third became sole vicar of the minster church and the parish attached to it.
* * * * *
For the history of the fabric we have to trust almost entirely to the architectural features of the church itself, as documentary evidence is unusually scanty.
Nothing of earlier date than the twelfth century can be seen in Wimborne Minster, but we know pretty accurately, the extent and form of the Norman Church; for, during the course of restoration undertaken in the present century, the foundations of some parts of this church were discovered beneath the floor of the existing building, and other pieces of Norman work formerly concealed, and now again concealed beneath plaster, were laid bare. There is one interesting feature about the church worthy of notice—namely, that the builders who succeeded one another at the various periods of its history did not, as a rule, destroy the work of their predecessors to such an extent as we frequently find to have been the case with the builders of other churches: possibly this may have been due to the fact that at no time was Wimborne Minster a rich foundation. There was no saintly shrine, there were no wonder-working relics to attract pilgrims and gather the offerings of the faithful and enrich the church in the way in which the shrine of Saint Cuthbert enriched Durham, that of the murdered archbishop enriched Canterbury, and that of the murdered king enriched Gloucester. But, whatever the reason may have been, we can but be thankful that the mediaeval builders destroyed so little at Wimborne; while we regret that modern restorers have not been as scrupulous in preserving the work which they found existing, but have in some instances endeavoured to put the church back again into the state in which they imagined the fourteenth-century builders left it.
We may regard the arches and lower stages of the central tower as the oldest part now remaining in its original condition. No doubt the Norman choir was the first to be built, as we find that it was almost the universal custom to begin churches at the eastern end, and gradually to extend the building westward, as funds and time allowed. Here, however, as in many other cases, the small Norman choir eastward of the central tower in course of time was considered too small, and the eastern termination had to be demolished to admit of the desired extension to the east. Norman choirs, as a rule, had an apsidal termination to the east, and it was not till Early English times that square east ends, which were characteristic of the English church in pre-Norman times, prevailed again over the Norman custom; and it is worthy of notice that this rectangular termination towards the east end remains a marked characteristic of the thirteenth-century work in England, Continental church-builders having retained the apsidal termination till the Renaissance. The side walls of the Norman choir extended two bays to the east of the central tower, and the nave four bays westward of the same. The transepts were shorter than at present, and the side aisles of the nave narrower. There appear to have been two side chapels to the choir, extending as far as the first bay eastward; beyond this to the east were two Norman windows on each side: these windows, parts of which remain, cut off by the Early English arches, were round-headed, and richly ornamented with chevron mouldings. They were uncovered at the time of the restoration, but are now again hidden by plaster. At the south end of the south transept a low building seems to have existed: the walls of this were raised when the south transept was lengthened in the fourteenth century. The Norman masonry may be seen under the south window of the transept, and a Norman string course runs round the sides and ends of the present transept. The aisles of the nave were not only narrower, but were also lower, than those now existing. It is also probable that these aisles did not originally extend as far westward as the nave. The windows of the Norman clerestory, which may still be seen from the interior, though all similar in design, are not alike in workmanship. The one over the narrow eastern bay on either side differs from those over the three bays farther to the west. Moreover, a continuous foundation has been discovered underneath the three western arches of the Norman nave. Possibly there was at one time a solid wall in this position, intended, however, from the first only to be temporary, and this was removed when the aisles, still in Norman times, were lengthened. The tower itself was not all built at the same time; the upper stages are ornamented with an arcading of intersecting arches indicating a somewhat later date.
In the thirteenth century the east end of the choir seems to have been removed and the presbytery added: its date is pretty clearly determined by the east window, in which we notice some signs of the approaching change from the Early English simple lancet into the plate tracery of the Decorated period. Rickman gives its approximate date as 1220. During the fourteenth century the nave aisles were widened and extended farther west, and at the same time two bays were added to the nave itself. The Norman chapels on either side of the choir were lengthened into aisles, not, however, extending as far to the east as the thirteenth-century presbytery; arches were cut in the Norman choir walls to give access to these new aisles. The transepts were lengthened, the south one by raising the walls of the Norman chapel mentioned above, which, it has been conjectured, was used as the Lady Chapel, the north transept by the addition of Bembre's chantry.
During the fifteenth century the western tower was built 1448-1464, and probably at the same time the walls of the nave were raised; and the roofs of the nave aisles, which had been much lower than now, so as not to block up the Norman clerestory windows, were raised on the sides joining the nave walls above the heads of these windows, and a new clerestory was formed in the raised wall. This contains five windows on each side, each window being placed over one of the piers of the nave arcading.
During the Early English period, probably by John de Berwick, who was dean from 1286-1312, a spire was added to the central tower. This was for long in an unsafe condition, and at length, in 1600, it fell. The following is the description given by Coker, a contemporary writer: "Having discoursed this longe of this church, I will not overpasse a strange accident which in our dayes happened unto it, viz. Anno Domini 1600 (the choire beeing then full of people at tenne of clock service, allsoe the streets by reason of the markett), a sudden mist ariseing, all the spire steeple, being of a very great height, was strangely cast downe, the stones battered all the lead and brake much timber of the roofe of the church, yet without anie hurt to the people; which ruin is sithence commendablie repaired with the church revenues, for sacriledge hath not yet swept awaye all, being assisted by Sir John Hannam, a neighbour gentleman, who if I mistake not enjoyeth revenues of the church, and hath done commendablie to convert part of it to its former use." Other accounts mention a tempest at the time of the fall. It is not unlikely that the tower was weakened by the alterations in the fourteenth century, when wider arches were cut in the west walls of the transepts, in consequence of the widening of the nave aisles. The fall of the spire, which fell towards the east, demolished the clerestory windows of the choir on the south side, and their place was supplied by a long, low Tudor window oblong in shape and quite plain. The windows, however, on both sides have been entirely altered, and those now existing in the clerestory are small lancets of modern date.
The spire was not rebuilt, but the heavy looking battlement and solid pinnacles which still remain, and detract considerably from the beauty of the tower, were added as a finish to it in the year 1608. It is curious that the churchwardens' books, in which many entries occur detailing repairs and other work connected with the spire, make no mention of its fall.
The western tower was also a source of trouble. It was built, as has been already mentioned, during the latter half of the fifteenth century, the glazing of the windows being completed in 1464; but as early as 1548 it was thought necessary to brick up the west doorway, and notices of unsoundness of the tower occur frequently in the church books. In 1664 we find the following entry made:—"Paid in beere to the Ringers for a peale to trye if the Tower shooke L0 1s 0d." As we read this entry, we cannot help wondering if the large amount of beer which a shilling would purchase in those days was given to the ringers so as to give them a fictitious courage and blind their eyes to the possible danger of bringing the tower down upon their heads. In 1739 the Perpendicular window in the western face of the tower was taken out and a smaller oval one put in its place, with a view to the strengthening of the wall by additional stonework. The modern restorer, however, has again put a window of Perpendicular character in place of the oval window inserted in the last century, using to aid him in his design, sundry fragments of the original tracery found embedded in the walls.
Before the nineteenth-century restorations, the pulpit, probably late sixteenth-century work, stood in the nave against the middle pillar on the north side, and the nave and choir were separated by a screen of three arches on which stood the organ. The central arch had doors. On either side of the choir were a set of canopied stalls: these canopies were removed in 1855 to make the chancel aisles available for a congregation. As the canopies interfered with both sight and sound, the floor of the choir was lowered to only three steps above the nave, and the stalls reduced to four on each side, with a view to make room for restoring the Norman steps indicated by traces on the wall under the floor, which led up to the high altar of the Norman church. The arrangement of steps was then three from the nave to the choir, four from the choir to the next level to the east, and seven from this to the presbytery, and one more to the altar platform. In 1866 further changes were made: the stalls were increased to the present number to provide sufficient accommodation for the choir, the additions being made out of old woodwork. The level of the floors was also rearranged; five steps now lead up from the nave to the choir, seven to the presbytery and one more to the altar platform, the altar itself being raised yet another step.
During the restoration carried on from 1855 to 1857, great changes besides those already mentioned were made in the interior: the whitewash and plaster were removed from the walls, a west gallery was taken down, the nave re-seated, the organ transferred from its position upon the screen to the south transept, and much mischief was done from an archaeological standpoint, a thing which seems almost inseparable from any nineteenth-century restoration.
An examination of the masonry shows clearly that all the exterior walls east of the transepts save the east wall of the presbytery, which is somewhat out of the vertical, the top hanging forward, have been if not entirely rebuilt at anyrate completely refaced, and this work was no doubt done at the restoration at the middle of the nineteenth century. The doorway in the middle of the north choir aisle is entirely modern; the doorway which formally occupied this place was provided with a small porch.
How far this rebuilding and refacing were rendered necessary by the condition of the walls at that time it is now impossible to say. The fact that the walls of the nave aisles were not similarly treated may have been due to want of funds, or it may be that the architects employed found them in a better condition than the walls of the choir aisles, and so preserved them, though they considered the latter beyond the possibility of preservation without the extensive renewing that evidently took place.
The room containing the chained library was at the same time refitted. New shelves and rods were provided, but the old chains were used again.
The restoration of 1855-1857 did not extend to the transept; but these were taken in hand in 1891, with the usual result—namely, the destruction of some existing features, such as the seventeenth-century tracery of the north window, to make room for a nineteenth-century window in Decorated style, which, however, differs altogether from any window in the minster; the walls were raised about two feet and a roof of higher pitch put upon them, which necessitated alterations in the gables. A sundial which stood at the summit of the south gable was taken down, and this in 1894 was erected on a pillar built in the churchyard, a short distance from the south wall of the western tower. The transept previous to the restoration with the sun-dial on its gable is shown in the illustration on p. 19.
 This tracery is shown in the illustration on p. 21. The original foliation seems to have been cut away, and the intermediate mullions extended to the points of the two lights. This may have been done with a view to economy in reglazing the window. The modern window is shown on page 37.
A small chamber to contain the hydraulic apparatus for the organ has recently been added to the east side of the south transept.
Wimborne Minster does not occupy a commanding position—it stands on level ground, its two towers are not lofty, the western only reaching the height of 95 feet and the central 84 feet—but it has the advantage of having an extensive churchyard both on the south side and also on the north, so that from either side a good general view of the building may be obtained. A street running from the east end of the church towards the north gives the spectator the advantage of a still more distant standpoint, from which the towers, transepts, choir, and porch group themselves into one harmonious whole, the long line of iron railings bounding the churchyard being the only drawback. The first impression is that there is something wrong with the central tower; the plain heavy battlement, with its four enormous corner pinnacles, seems to overweight the tower, and as each side of the parapet is longer than the side of the tower below, the feeling of top-heaviness is increased. The central tower has no buttresses, but the western has an octagonal buttress at each corner, and these decrease in cross section at each of four string courses; so that this tower seems to taper, and by contrast makes the central tower seem to bulge out at the top more than it really does.
But Wimborne Minster does not stand alone in giving at first sight a feeling that something is wanting to perfect beauty. In nearly every old building which has gradually grown up, been altered and enlarged by various generations, as need arose, each generation working in its own style, and often with little regard to what already existed, incongruities are sure to be discernible. But what is lost in unity of design increases the interest in the building, historically and architecturally regarded. And it is worthy of notice that at Wimborne, more than at many places, the enlargers of the church have contented themselves with adding to the building without removing the work of their predecessors more than was absolutely necessary. A very cursory glance at the exterior of the building as one walks round it is sufficient to show that the church as it stands offers to the student of architecture examples of every style that has prevailed in this country from the twelfth century onward, and he will especially rejoice at seeing so much fourteenth-century work. He will, as he passes along the narrow footway beneath the east end of the choir, regret that more space is not available here to get a good view of the most interesting Early English window. If a small tree were felled, and the wall of a garden or yard on the side of the footpath opposite to the church pulled down, so as to throw open the east end of the choir, it would be a great improvement. But this regret can be endured, as, though the window cannot be well seen, it is there, and by changing one's position a pretty accurate idea of its interesting features can be formed; but far keener is the regret that any lover of antiquity must feel when he notices, as he examines the church more closely, how busy the nineteenth-century restorer has been, how he has raised walls, altered the pitch of roofs, and inserted modern imitations of thirteenth and fourteenth century work, removing features which existed at the beginning of this century to make room for his own work; how he has banished much of the old woodwork in the interior, altered the position of still more, and generally been far less conservative of the work of former generations than the mediaeval enlargers of the minster were. However, his work is now done—nave, towers, and choir were thoroughly restored about fifty years ago, and the transepts in 1891. No further work is contemplated at present. In fact, there seems nothing more that could well be done.
The church is built partly of a warm brown sandstone, partly of stone of a pale yellow or drab colour, the two kinds being in many places mixed so as to give the walls a chequered appearance. This may be noticed both outside and inside the building. In some of the walls the stones are used irregularly, in others they are carefully squared. The red stone is to be met with in the neighbourhood: some of that used for raising the transept walls in 1891 was obtained from a bridge in the town that was being rebuilt; and from marks on some of those stones it appeared that before being in the bridge they had been used in some ecclesiastical building, so that they have now returned to their original use. There is little ornament to be seen outside, save on the upper stage of the tower; in fact, the whole building excepting the arches of the nave and the tower may be described as severely plain in character. The college was never wealthy, hence probably it could not employ a number of carvers; then again it was not a monastic establishment, so that there were no monks to occupy their time in the embellishment of the building, carving, as monks often did, their quaint fancies on bosses and capitals. We miss the crockets and finials, the ball-flower, and other ornaments that we meet with in so many fourteenth-century buildings; but the very simplicity of the work gives the church a dignity that is often wanting in more highly ornamented structures. The small number of the buttresses in the body of the church is noteworthy; save at the angles there are only five—namely, two on each nave aisle, and one on the north choir aisle. At each of the eastern corners of the choir aisles the buttresses are set diagonally, as also are those on the northern corners of the north porch. There is a buttress on each of the side walls of the north porch, and two set at right angles to each other at each of the two corners of the north transept, and also at the south-west corner of the south transept; beneath the east window of the choir there is a small one. The buttresses at the corner of the choir project but slightly. The central tower has none, but the west tower has an octagonal buttress at each corner. The central tower attracts notice first. From the outside at the angles a small portion of the plain wall of the triforium stage may be seen, against which the roofs of the choir and transepts abut; the nave roof, however, hides all of this stage at the western face: above this face is a band of red-brown sandstone, and above this the clerestory stage. In each face are two round-headed windows with a pointed blank arch between them. There are six slender shafts to support the outer order of moulding over the two windows and the blank arch, and two of a similar character to support the inner ring of moulding over each window. At each corner of the tower up to the top of this stage runs a slender banded shaft. This stage is finished by a string course, above which the tower walls recede slightly, the walls of the upper or belfry storey being a little thinner than those below. This stage, perfectly plain within, is the most richly-ornamented part of the tower outside: it is the latest Norman work to be found in the minster, and probably may be dated late in the twelfth century. An arcading of intersecting round-headed arches runs all round this storey. Seven pointed arches are thus formed in each face; between these arches stand slender pillars with well carved capitals which show a great variety of design. Five of the seven arches on each face were originally open, save possibly for louvre-boards placed to keep out the rain; now all but the central one on each face are walled up, and the centre one is glazed. This filling up was not all done at the same time, as the varying character of the stone shows. The work was no doubt begun in order to strengthen the walls when the spire was added, and was continued from time to time as the necessity for further strengthening arose. Above the stage was a bold corbel table, and this is the upper limit of the Norman work. There can be little doubt that the Norman builder, here as elsewhere, finished his tower with a low pyramidal roof with overhanging eaves to shoot off the rain. This covering may have been of lead, but possibly of stone tiles or wooden shingles. About a century later this Norman roof was removed to make place for a loftier roof or spire. Of its character and material and height we know nothing—there is no description of it; and though the minster is represented on an old seal with one spire-crowned tower, yet the representation of the rest of the church is so conventional that it cannot be regarded as an authentic record of the actual appearance of the steeple. It is curious that, as it stood for about three hundred years and fell only in the later years of Elizabeth's reign, no drawing remains to show us what this spire was like. But it passed away, doing some damage to the building in its fall, and that is the only record it has left behind; but we can well picture to ourselves how much importance must have been added to the minster by this spire, which must have been a conspicuous object for many miles round. The present heavy, ugly battlemented parapet spoils the general effect of the tower; and though we are adverse to the sweeping away of any features of an old building, even when the features are inharmonious and even ugly—because this is, as it were, tearing a page of stone from the book of the history of the building—yet we must confess we could have regarded the loss of the seventeenth-century parapet and pinnacles with much less regret than other features which the restorer has tampered with.
The North Porch, which was evidently always intended to be, as it is to this day, the chief entrance into the church, consists of two bays marked externally by buttresses on each side: the inner order of moulding to the arch giving access to this porch springs from two shafts of Purbeck marble; the outer orders are carried up from the base without any capitals or imposts. The height of the crown of the inner arch above the capitals from which it springs is somewhat less than half the width at the bottom, and the radius of the curvature of the arches is greater than the width. Over the arch is a square-headed two-light window, lighting the room over the entrance. The roof differs from all the other roofs of the church since it is covered with stone tiles, while the others are covered with lead. There are buttresses set diagonally at the two northern angles of the porch.
Between the porch and the transept are three two-light Decorated windows. The tracery of all these is alike, but differs from that of the two windows to the west of the porch. The most picturesque feature of the north transept is the turret containing the staircase by which access is obtained to the tower. This, before the church was enlarged in the fourteenth century, formed the north-west angle of the Norman transept: projecting towards the north, its base is rectangular. This rectangular portion rises nearly to the level of the tops of the aisle windows, above this level the turret is circular, and rising above the transept roof is capped by a low conical roof of stone tiles. Two string courses run round it, one at the bottom of the circular part, and one a little higher up. This turret was once known as the "Ivy Tower," from the ivy that grew on it, but this was all removed at the time when the transept was altered in 1891. At that time the side walls were raised about two feet, and the roof was raised to the original pitch of the Norman transept, and at the same time the tracery of the north window, which was of a very plain and clumsy character, seventeenth-century work, was removed and the existing tracery inserted. Much picturesqueness has been sacrificed to make these changes. The portion of this transept to the north of the turret was added about the middle of the fourteenth century to form the chantry founded by Bembre, who was dean from 1350-1361. This part contains, besides the large window, two smaller two-light windows, which look out respectively to the east and west. The tracery in these is almost entirely modern. Beyond the transept is the wall of the north choir aisle. This stands farther to the north than the wall of the nave aisle; in fact, it is in a line with the original north end of the Norman transept. In this wall, close to the transept, is a small round-headed doorway. And, farther to the east, is another larger pointed doorway between the second and third windows of the choir aisle, counting from the transept eastward. This doorway is enclosed by a triangular moulding very plain in character, but none of it is original. The three windows are each of two lights. The tracery of these three is alike, but differs from that of the windows in the nave aisle. The east window of the north aisle is of five lights. The enclosing arch is not very pointed—much less so than in the narrower windows of the aisles—and each light runs up through the head of the window. These and the corresponding south choir aisle windows are late Decorated work.
Unfortunately the churchyard does not extend to the east of the church. A narrow footway, bounded to the east by cottages and garden walls, renders it impossible to photograph the east window of the choir. This is a most interesting one; and has been figured in most books on architecture. It consists externally of three lancets enclosed in a peculiar way by weather moulding; this rises separately over the head of each lancet, and between the windows runs in a horizontal line and is continued to the square corner buttresses. Within this moulding, and over the heads of each lancet, there is an opening pierced: the central one is a quatrefoil, while the other two have six points. These openings are a very early example of plate tracery, which was fully developed in the Early Decorated style. This window belongs to the Early English period, and may be dated about 1220. There will be occasion to refer to this window again when speaking of the interior of the church. The south choir aisle has a five-light east window closely corresponding to the window of the north aisle, and on the south two three-light windows. In these, as in the east aisle windows, the lights are carried up through the heads. There is no doorway giving access to this aisle from the outside.
The angle between the choir aisle and south transept is filled up with the vestry and the library above it. The south wall of this projects beyond the wall of the south transept. This vestry is of Decorated date, possibly rather later than the other Decorated work in the minster. The upper storey forms the library. Its walls are finished at the top by a plain parapet which conceals the flat roof. At the south-western angle is an octagonal turret staircase, capped by a pyramidal roof rising from within a battlemented parapet, and terminating in a carved finial. This is of Perpendicular character. From the sharpness of the stone at the coigns it would seem that very extensive restoration, if not absolute rebuilding, of the walls was carried on in this part of the church. The south transept is rather shorter than that on the north side; but, unlike it, all the walls up to the level of the window are of Norman date. The string courses on the western side are worthy of close attention. One which runs under the south window is continued round the Perpendicular buttresses at the south-west angle, and then again joins the original course on the western face and runs to within a few feet of the nave aisle, where it abruptly terminates. Above this for several feet the walls have the same character as below; then the character changes, and this change probably marks the junction of the Norman with the Decorated work, which was added when the Norman chapel, which occupied the lower part of what is now the south end of the transept, was incorporated in the transept. Vertically above the termination of the string course just mentioned, but at a considerably higher level, another string course abruptly begins and runs along the wall, until it passes within the roof of the nave aisle. The south end of this shows the length to which the original Norman transept extended before the walls of the chapel to the south were carried up in the fourteenth century to form the addition to the transept. In the southern wall of this new transept was placed a large five-light decorated window. In this, as in several of the other Decorated windows already described, the lights run up to the enclosing arch above. The tracery of this window, as it now exists, dates back only to the time when the church was restored in the middle of the nineteenth century. Up to 1891 the side walls were about two feet lower than at present, and the gable more obtuse. At the summit of the old gable stood a block of masonry carrying a sundial; this, when the transept was altered, was removed, the new gable being finished with a cross. A pillar was built in the churchyard to the south of the western tower in 1894, and on it the block from the transept bearing the sundial was placed. This sundial has two dates on it—1696 and 1752, marking, no doubt, the year of its original erection and of some subsequent repair. It is noteworthy that the figures used in these two dates differ in character,—the eighteenth-century carver who incised the later date not thinking it incumbent on him to make his figures match those of his predecessor. The three aisle windows between the south transept and the south porch are two-light Decorated windows with tracery, some of it original, corresponding to that of those on the opposite side in the north aisle.
The South Porch is small, and the side walls do not project far from the aisle. Above the arch is a carving of a lamb much weathered, and on the gable stands a fragment of a cross. The gates beneath the outer arch are kept locked save on Sundays, as are frequently the gates in the railings surrounding the churchyard to the south of the minster, which is divided from the churchyard on the north side by the church itself and by railings at the east and west ends of it. To the west of the porch are two more two-light windows, corresponding in character with the windows opposite in the north aisle. The clerestory windows of the nave are of Perpendicular date, fifteenth-century work, and have not any beauty. Each has three foliated lights under a round-headed moulding. Above each of these three there are two lights, all enclosed within a rectangular label. The nave roof is higher than the choir roof. Its aisles have lean-to roofs, whereas the choir aisles are wider and have gable roofs: hence the clerestory windows of the choir, modern lancets, are not visible from the outside.
The Western Tower is of four stages, with octagonal buttresses at each corner, decreasing in cross section at each course. Of these the north-eastern one contains the stairs leading to the top of the tower, the others are solid. These are crowned with sharp pyramidal turrets. In the lowest stage on the western face is a doorway which for some time was stopped up to strengthen the tower, but which was opened again at the general restoration. Above this is the west window of six lights, Perpendicular in character but of nineteenth-century date. The third stage—the ringing room within is lighted by four small windows: that in the west wall is a quatrefoil, those on the north and south have single lights foliated at the head; the original one in the east wall was covered when the nave roof was raised, and a plain opening was made in the wall farther to the south. Above this is the belfry, with two pairs of two-light windows on each face: these are divided by transoms, and the arches at the tops are four centred. These windows are, of course, not glazed, but are furnished with louvre-boards. The tower is finished with a battlemented parapet. Just outside the easternmost window on the north face, and below the transom, stands a figure now dressed in a coat of painted lead, representing a soldier in the uniform of the early part of the nineteenth century. He holds a hammer in each hand, with which he strikes the quarters on two bells beside him. He is known by the name of the "Jackman" or "Quarter Jack." There are no windows at the west ends of the nave aisles; but, as on the south side so on the north, there are between the tower and the porch two two-light Decorated windows in the wall of the aisle.
The level of the churchyards, as in the case with most old burying-grounds, is considerably above the level of the floor of the church. Hence steps have to be descended on entering the porches, and again in passing from the porches into the church. On the south side some levelling of the ground has been done, and the upright head-stones have been laid flat, but the altar tombs have been allowed to remain as they were. There are few trees in the churchyard to impede the view of the building; those there are, are as yet small, and serve only to pleasantly break the bareness of the ground without hiding the architectural features of the building.
The North Porch, which no doubt from the days of its erection in the fourteenth century has formed the chief entrance into the church, is opposite to the westernmost Norman bay of the nave arcading. The porch itself is vaulted in two bays, the vaulting springing from slender shafts of Purbeck marble which rest on the stone seats on either side of the porch. The bosses in which the ribs meet are carved with foliage. Over the porch is a small room to which no staircase now leads; one which formerly led to it was removed in the seventeenth century. This room is lighted by a small two-light Decorated window facing north.
The two Aisles are of the same length as the nave, and are divided from it by an arcading on either side, each containing six pointed arches. The easternmost arches consist of two plain orders, and are much narrower than the rest. These arches spring on the east side from brackets on the western face of the tower piers: the bracket on the north side is plain, that on the south side is ornamented with a kind of scale carving. These bays were probably of the same date as the tower, and it is not unlikely that the arches were at first like those of the tower, of the usual round-headed form. If they were altered when the remainder of the nave was built, the wall above was not removed. The piers which support the western side of these arches consist each of a semi-cylindrical pillar set against a rectangular pier, on the other side of which another semi-cylindrical shaft is set to support the next arch; the next two pillars on each side are cylindrical, perfectly plain in the shafts with very simple bases and capitals. The latter may be seen in the illustrations, the former are concealed by the pews. It will be noticed as a peculiar feature that a little piece of the outer moulding, facing the nave, of the first large arch on the south side is differently carved from all the rest: first, counting from the bottom upwards, are three eight-leaved flowers—these are succeeded by three four-leaved flowers, all on a chamfered edge; above this the moulding is not chamfered, and the outer face is decorated with shallow zig-zag carving. The second member of the moulding consists of chevron work somewhat irregularly carved, the projecting tooth-like points not being all of the same size; in the centre is a roll moulding, from each side of which chevron ornamentation projects, the points directed outward perpendicular to the plane of the arch. These pillars and arches are noteworthy in that the piers are of considerable size, and above them are pointed arches. This would indicate a rather late date in the Norman period for this portion of the church; probably it was built at some time during the last quarter of the twelfth century. With the third wide bay the twelfth-century church terminated, the two arches to the west of these being characterised by ornamentation of the Decorated period. At this time, as has been already explained (p. 10), the aisles were widened and the inner edges of the roofs raised above the clerestory windows of the Norman church. Four such windows, round-headed, each placed over the point of an arch, may be seen on either side of the nave; but the eastern one on each side differs from the other three in being of heavier character and rougher workmanship. The external mouldings of these can be well seen from the aisles: towards the nave they are splayed and plain. The wall above the fourteenth-century arches does not contain any windows on the same level as those of the old Norman clerestory; but above them, stretching all along each side of the nave, may be seen the windows of the present clerestory. These are Perpendicular in style, and are five in number on each side, each window being placed over one of the piers of the nave arcading. These windows are square-headed, and have at the bottom three lights, each light being sub-divided into two at the top. It is believed that this clerestory was formed when the walls were raised, at the same time as the western tower was erected—namely, at the end of the fifteenth century. But to return to the Decorated arches at the west end of the nave. The pier at the eastern side of the easternmost of these consists of the semi-cylindrical respond of Norman date, a piece of masonry which was part of the west wall of the Norman church; and then on the western side of this an added semi-cylinder, on the capitals of which may be seen the ball-flower ornament. The pier on either side, between the two fourteenth-century arches, is octagonal, with a very plain capital (one of these is shown in the illustration on page 57); the arches themselves are also plain, consisting of two members with chamfered edges. The half pillars at the western side of the western arch have been imbedded in the octagonal buttresses of the west tower, which project into the church.
The height of the nave roof appears to have been altered on several occasions. There may be seen from the interior of the nave, on the west wall of the lantern tower, two lines running from the level of the tops of the Norman clerestory windows: these make an angle of about forty-five degrees with the horizontal, and, no doubt, are traces of the weather mouldings marking the position of the exterior of the roof of the nave in Norman times. Probably the roof visible from the interior was flat and formed of wood, and ran across in the line of the string course above the tower arch, at a level slightly above the heads of the clerestory windows. A round-headed opening above this string course probably gave admission to the space between the outer and inner roofs. At a somewhat higher level, we have a slight trace which probably marks the junction of the fifteenth-century roof with the tower. This roof was of oak and very plain—at the restoration the pitch of the roof was raised and carried up to such an extent as to cut off the bases of the clerestory windows of the lantern tower; the inner roof itself is of pitch-pine, with hammer-beams of the character which finds such favour with nineteenth-century architects.
The Central Tower, the oldest and probably most interesting part of the church, consists of four stages, of which the three lower ones are open to the church. The lowest of these was undoubtedly part of the original Norman church; the second or triforium was soon added. Above this comes the clerestory, the pointed arch between the round-headed windows indicating a somewhat later date; and above this there is a chamber perfectly plain within, and not open to the church below. The outside of this is decorated with an arcading of intersecting arches, which indicates a somewhat later date. These intersecting arches form seven pointed arches on each side—five of these were originally open to allow the sound of the bells, which were formerly hung in the tower, to pass out; but to add strength to the walls all but the middle ones on the east face were at various periods walled up. At one time the tower was surmounted by a spire, possibly of wood covered with lead; this is supposed to have been erected by John de Berwick, who was dean of the minster from 1286 to 1312. The squinches which supported this spire may still be seen in the upper stage just described. Descending from this stage by a spiral staircase in the north-west angle, we find ourselves in the clerestory already mentioned. In each face there are two round-headed windows widely splayed on the interior, with shafts in the jambs; between each pair of windows is a pointed arch, in each angle of the tower is a slender shaft encircled by three bands at about equidistant intervals: a passage cut in the thickness of the wall runs round this stage. Again descending, we reach the triforium level. Each of the walls of this stage has two pointed sustaining arches built into the wall to support the weight of the superincumbent masonry; each of these encloses four semi-circular headed arches with shafts of Purbeck marble. The capitals of these are rudely carved, and between the relieving pointed arches are carved heads, that on the north side being the most noteworthy. The passage behind the arches is very narrow, the total thickness of the walls being only 4 feet 6 inches. At the centre of each face are the openings which formerly led into the spaces between the roofs and ceilings of the nave, transepts, and choir of the Norman church. That on the north side now leads into a stone gallery, erected in 1891 in the place of a dilapidated wooden structure, which runs first westward to the angle between the tower and north transept, then along the west face of the transept until it reaches a door leading into the stair turret, which may be seen from the exterior. At the bottom of this is a door opening into the transept. This stair turret projects slightly into the transept. The lowest stage of the tower consists of four arches and four massive piers. The arches have two plain orders. The piers have double shafts supporting the central order, and single shafts supporting the outer orders. The four arches are not of the same width, those on the east and west being wider than those on the north and south. In order to get the arches to spring from the same level and also to reach the same height at their heads, the wider arches are of the shape known as "depressed," while the narrower ones are of the "horse-shoe" type. The choir being somewhat narrower than the nave, the walls on each side take the place of the shaft which would have supported the outer order of the eastern arch. The capitals and bases of these arches are very plain, in fact nowhere in this church can the elaborately-carved capitals so often met with in late Norman work be found. This central tower was undoubtedly gradually raised stage by stage, as the character of the architecture indicates: probably during each interval the part already finished was capped by a pyramidal roof.
The Nave Aisles were widened in the fourteenth century, the Norman walls being removed and their roofs raised; a single stone of the weather moulding, which may be seen on the west face of the north transept, shows the height and slope of the roof of the Norman aisle. The windows of the aisles on either side are two-light Decorated windows; the three on either side to the east of the north and south porches are of the same character, while the two on each side to the west of the porches are also alike but differ in their tracery from those to the east. The south porch is much smaller than the north, and is very plain; it is composed of two solid walls projecting six feet from the wall of the aisle.
The Transepts, as has been described in the preceding chapter, were lengthened in the fourteenth century—the southern one by the incorporation of some low Norman building, thought by some to have been the Lady Chapel, the walls of which were raised; the northern one by the addition of Bembre's chantry. This has caused the north transept to be somewhat longer than the south. The original Norman transepts seem to have been of the same length on either side. Bembre, who died in 1361, is supposed to have been buried here. A stone slab lay until 1857 in the centre of the pavement,—on it was a representation of a full-length figure of a man dressed in a robe like a surplice; but when the pavement was renewed this stone was allowed to remain exposed to sun and rain in the churchyard until the surface was weathered to such an extent that it is now impossible to make out with any certainty what is upon it. But the description given by Hutchins of the arms on the shields which were sculptured on it does not agree with the Bembre arms, so that it could hardly have been the tombstone of this Dean who founded the chantry. The window at the end of the north transept is modern restoration work. Before 1891 the tracery was of a very plain character, as may be seen from the illustration (page 21). It is supposed that damage was done to this window at the time when the tower fell, and that the plain tracery was inserted after that event. During the restoration in 1891, the old plaster was removed from the walls, and in doing this a Norman altar recess was discovered in the east wall of this transept; the southern end of this had been cut away when the choir aisle was widened in the fourteenth century. In this recess traces of fresco may be seen. A piscina stands to the north of this altar recess, and is of Decorated character.
The South Transept has a five-light Decorated window at its southern end, with modern tracery in imitation of the old, each light running up through the head of the window. A very fine Early English piscina, with the characteristic dog-tooth moulding, stands in the south wall. An altar occupying a position similar to the one in the north transept used to stand in this transept also, but the pointed arch over the recess shows that it was of later date.
The most elaborate part of the church is that which lies to the east of the central tower. The great height to which the altar is raised above the level of the nave gives it a very impressive appearance from the west end; and, again, the view looking westward from the altar level is much enhanced by the height from which it is seen.
The East End is purely English work, and this shows that in the thirteenth century the church was extended about 30 feet towards the east. The junction of the Early English with the Norman wall is marked by a cluster of slender shafts rising from the ground. The alterations which were made in the Norman walls at the time of this eastward extension have been already described (p. 11).
It now only remains to describe the Choir and Presbytery as they stand at the present time. Immediately to the east of the tower on either side are two pointed arches of two plain orders rising on their western sides from plain brackets in the tower piers, and supported on the east by engaged shafts with roughly-carved Norman capitals. Next to these come the Early English inserted arches, pierced as already described through the Norman wall and cutting away the lower part of two previously existing Norman windows on each side. The arches are of three plain orders, with chamfered edges, resting on clustered shafts; beyond these the new thirteenth-century work begins. Beyond the clustered shafts mentioned above, which mark the commencement of the Early English work, is a lofty arch on either side opening into the choir aisles; over each of them is a pair of small lancet windows widely splayed inside. Between the piers of these arches a wall is carried, its top being about midway between their bases and capitals. On the southern wall stands the Beaufort tomb, on the northern the Courtenay tomb; and below this the walls are pierced with arches, beneath which are flights of nine steps leading on to the crypt beneath the presbytery. It is not improbable that after the eastern extension the altar stood at the east end of the Norman part of the choir, and that under these two Early English arches was the ambulatory or processional passage which is so often found to the east of the high altar. Beyond the ends of the choir aisles on either side of the presbytery is a lancet window. The east window is worthy of the closest observation. Its exterior appearance has been already described (p. 24). Within, it consists of three openings widely splayed; the thin stone over the central lancet, beneath the surrounding moulding, is pierced with a quatrefoil opening; over the two side lancets the corresponding openings have six foliations; between the three lights and outside the outer ones, flush with the wall, are clusters of shafts of Purbeck marble, from which spring mouldings enclosing the lights in a most peculiar fashion: these follow the curves of the tops of the lancets, but before meeting they are returned in the form of cusps, and then are carried round the upper foliated openings. The upper part of each of these mouldings forms about three-quarters of the circumference of a circle. The characteristic Early English dog-tooth ornament is carved round the moulding of the central light, those round the other lights are not thus decorated. The whole group is surrounded by a label following the curves of moulding, with carved heads at its terminations and points of junction. The six cusps of the moulding are ornamented by bosses of carved foliage.
To the south side of the presbytery, between the south window and the Beaufort tomb, the triple Sedilia and the Piscina are situated: each of these is covered by a canopy of fourteenth-century work. These were extensively repaired at the time of the restoration. The Beaufort altar tomb is the finest monument in the church. On it are two recumbent figures carved in alabaster, and although there is no inscription it is certain that they represent John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and his wife Margaret. John Beaufort was son of another John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, who was brother of the celebrated Cardinal Beaufort, and son of John of Gaunt by his mistress Catherine Swynford, a family afterwards legitimatised by Parliament. This second John Beaufort distinguished himself in the French wars of Henry IV., who in 1443 gave him a step in the peerage, creating him Duke of Somerset. His wife Margaret was, when he married her, widow of Oliver St John, and it is thought that after the death of her second husband in 1444 she married again. This John and Margaret, Duke and Duchess of Somerset, are famous on account of their daughter the Lady Margaret, so well-known for her educational endowments and for the fact that after her marriage with Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, she became the mother of that Henry Tudor who overthrew Richard III. at Bosworth, and was crowned King as Henry VII. Here on this altar tomb their effigies remain in a wonderful state of preservation, their right hands clasped together, angels at their heads, his feet resting on a dog, hers on an antelope. He is completely clad in armour, the face and right hand only bare—the gauntleted left hand holds the right hand gauntlet, which he has taken off that he may hold the lady's hand. She is clad in a long close-fitting garment. Each of the two wears around the neck a collar marked with the letters SS. At the apex of the arch above their tomb hangs his tourney helm.
Under the corresponding arch on the opposite side is a similar tomb, but without any effigy. The fragment of an inscription tells us that it is the tomb of one who was once the wife of Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, and mother of Edward Courtenay. She was Gertrude, daughter of William Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Her husband was beheaded in 1538, together with the aged Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, whose chantry may be seen in the Priory at Christchurch, though she was laid to rest in what Macaulay describes as the saddest burying-ground in England, the cemetery of St Peter's, in the Tower. Gertrude, Lady Courtenay, was herself attainted at the time of her husband's execution, but was afterwards pardoned and died in 1557. The tomb was opened in the last century from idle curiosity, and some one attempted to raise the body to a sitting posture, with the result that the skeleton fell to pieces. The tomb was also damaged by this foolish opening.
Three small carved figures at the bottom of the hood moulding of the arches over these monuments deserve attention. The one on the west side of the southern arch represents Moses with the tables of the law. Probably there was another such figure at the eastern end of the same moulding, but this would have been cut away when the sedilia were inserted. The opposite arch has a figure on each side.
Just at the east end of the Courtenay tomb is a slab of Purbeck marble, reputed to have once covered the grave of AEthelred. In it is inserted a fifteenth-century brass, with a rectangular plate of copper bearing an inscription, represented in the illustration (p. 46). A brass plate with a similar inscription, though the date on it is given as 872, was found in the library. Possibly the original brass and inscription were taken up in the time of the civil wars and hidden for safety, and the inscription having been lost, the copper plate now on the tomb was made when the brass was replaced, and the original plate was afterwards found and was placed for safety in what is now the library. Copper nails were used to fasten the brass to the floor, which perhaps serves to show that the engraved copper plate was made at the time when the brass was replaced on the slab. A little piece of the left-hand bottom corner has been broken off, and the top of the sceptre is missing. There are no rails before the altar, but their place is supplied by three oak benches covered with white linen cloths (these may be seen in the illustration on p. 43). The use of the "houseling linen" dates back to very early times. The word "housel" for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper has gone out of use, though most of us are familiar with the line
"Unhouseled, unanointed, unanelled,"
in which the ghost of Hamlet's father describes the circumstances of his death. The word "unhouseled" in this means that he died without receiving the sacred elements before his death.
The benches are a relic of Puritan times: there is an entry dated 1656 in the churchwardens' accounts respecting the payment of L1 "for making and setting up the benches about ye communion table in the quire." These were at first used as seats, on which the communicants sat to receive the bread and wine. In after times their use was modified. These benches, ten in number, were placed on the steps leading up to the altar, and it was customary for the clerk on "Sacrament Sundays" to go to the lectern after morning prayer, and, in a loud voice, give notice thus: "All ye who are prepared to receive the Holy Communion draw near." Those who wished to communicate then went into the chancel and sat on these benches or in the choir stalls, waiting their turns, and kneeling on mats until the clergy brought them the bread and wine. Up to 1852 there was a rail on the top step, at the entrance of the presbytery, on which the houseling linen hung. The rail, which was of no great antiquity, was removed at that date, and three of the oak benches were retained to supply its place; these are now used as an ordinary communion rail, but are always covered with the "fair white cloths."
The South Choir Aisle, known as the Trinity Aisle, has at its east end a five-light window, each light of which runs up through the head; the south wall is pierced by two three-light windows of similar character. The wall opposite in the western bay, against which the organ now stands, is blank, as on the outside of this the vestry stands with the library above it. At the east end of this aisle was the chantry founded by the Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, whose father and mother lie in the tomb already described beneath the nearest arch on the north side of this aisle. The altar of this chantry, as well as all the other altars in the church, numbering ten in all, have been swept away, no doubt at the time of the Reformation. But recently the east end of this aisle has been fitted up with a communion table for use at early services.
In this aisle is to be seen, under the second window from the east, the marble or slate painted sarcophagus known as the Etricke tomb. Anthony Etricke of Holt Lodge, Recorder of Poole, was the magistrate who committed for trial the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth, who, after his flight from Sedgemoor, was captured in the north of Dorset near Critchell. It is said that in his old age he became very eccentric, and desired to be buried neither in the church nor out of it, neither above ground nor under; and to carry out his wish he got permission to cut a niche in the church wall, partly below the level of the ground outside, and then firmly fixed in it the slate receptacle which is now to be seen. Into this he ordered that his coffin should be put when he died. Moreover, he had a presentiment that he should die in 1691, and so placed that date upon the side of the sarcophagus. He, however, lived twelve years longer than he expected, so that when his death really occurred the date had to be altered to 1703. The two dates, the later written over the earlier, are still to be seen. On the outside of the sarcophagus are painted the arms of his family. The whole is kept in good repair, for so determined was the good man that his memory should be kept alive, and his last resting-place well cared for, that he gave to the church in perpetuity the sum of 20s. per annum, to be expended in keeping the niche and coffin in good order. When the church was restored in 1857 the outer coffin was opened, and it was found that the inner one had decayed, but that the dust and bones were still to be seen, these were placed in a new chest and once more deposited in the outer coffin.
In this aisle is also to be seen an ancient chest, not formed as chests usually are, of wooden planks or slabs fastened together, but hewn out of a solid trunk of oak. The chest is over 6 feet long, but the cavity inside is not more than 22 inches in length, 9 inches in width, and 6 inches in depth, hence it will be seen how thick and massive the walls are. Originally it may have contained some small relics, and probably is much older than the present minster itself. It was afterwards used as a safe for deeds. In 1735 some deeds were taken from it bearing the date 1200.
Formerly, there stood on this aisle the tomb of John de Berwick, dean of the college, who died in 1312. At his tomb once a year the parishioners met to receive the accounts of the outgoing churchwardens and to elect new ones. The altar tomb was removed about 1790, the slab at the top of it being let into the floor.
The North Choir Aisle is a foot narrower than the corresponding south aisle: it has three windows each with two lights instead of two of three lights. This is known as St George's aisle. In the east wall is a piscina of Perpendicular date. Two doors lead into this aisle—one at the corner, where the walls of the aisle and transept meet, and one between the two easternmost windows. The principal objects in this aisle are two bulky chests, one containing the title-deeds of some charity lands in the parish of Corfe Castle. This is fastened by six locks, each of different pattern,—each trustee of the charity has a key, of his own special lock,—so that the chest can only be opened by the consent of the whole body. The other chest contains the parochial accounts; this once had six locks, but now has only two.
In the south-eastern corner of this aisle lies a mutilated effigy of a mail-clad knight with crossed legs. This is said to have been removed to the minster from another church when it was destroyed. Whom it represents is uncertain, but traditionally it is known as the Fitz Piers monument.
In this aisle is the monument of Sir Edmund Uvedale, who died in 1606. The monument was erected by his widow in "dolefull duety." It is in the Renaissance style, and was carved by an Italian sculptor. The old knight is represented clad in a complete suit of plate armour, though without a helmet. He lies on his right side, his head is raised a little from his right hand, on which it has been resting, as though he were just awaking from his long sleep, his left hand holds his gauntlet. Above the tomb hangs an iron helmet, such as was worn in Elizabethan times, and which very probably was once worn by Sir Edmund himself.
Between the eastern ends of the choir aisles, and beneath the eastern end of the presbytery, is the Crypt. This is a vaulted chamber, the vaulting being supported on two pairs of pillars, thus forming three aisles, as it were, running east and west, each containing three bays. The western bay is of somewhat later date than the central and eastern; the wall against which the westernmost of the pillars once stood was removed, but the piers were allowed to remain, backed up by a new piece of masonry built against them to support the new vaulting. The crypt is lighted by four windows, equal-sided spherical triangles in shape; two look out eastward, one northward beyond the chancel arch, one, correspondingly placed, to the southward. The centre of the east end is a blank wall. Against this the altar stood—a niche, probably a piscina, still may be seen. On each side of the place where the altar stood there are two openings into the choir aisles. The exteriors of these are of the same form and size as the crypt windows, but they are deeply splayed inside, and probably were used as hagioscopes or squints, to allow those kneeling in the choir aisles to see the priest celebrating mass at the crypt altar.
The Vestry stands in the south-east angle between the transept and choir aisle; it is a vaulted building dating from the fourteenth century, and is lighted by two windows, one looking to the east, the other to the south. A small door at the south-west corner opens upon the staircase leading to the Library—a chamber situated above the vestry. The collection consists chiefly of books left to the minster by will of the Rev. William Stone, Principal of New Inn Hall, Oxford, a native of Wimborne. They were brought from Oxford in 1686, under the care of the Rev. Richard Lloyd, at that time Master of the Grammar School at Wimborne. The books are chiefly works on divinity; some additions were subsequently and at various times made to the original collection. The books were attached to the shelves for safety's sake by iron chains, the upper end carrying rings which slid on rods fastened to the shelf above, the other end to the edge of the binding of the books. Hence the volumes had to be placed on the shelves with their backs to the walls. The room in which the books were placed was formerly known as the Treasury; it was refitted in 1857, but the old chains are still used. It would occupy too much space were any attempt made to give a list of the books. The oldest volume is a manuscript of 1343, "Regimen Animarum," written on vellum, and containing a few illuminated initials. A "Breeches," Black-Letter Bible, dated 1595, is another book worth mentioning; also a volume of Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World. A hole was burnt through 104 of its pages. It is said that Matthew Prior, the poet, was reading it by candle light and fell asleep, and when he woke was much distressed to find that the snuff from his candle had done the mischief. He did his best to repair the damage, by placing a tiny piece of paper over the hole in each page, and inserting the missing letters with pen and ink. The book has since been rebound, leaves taken from another copy having been bound in between the damaged pages.
The lower part of the west tower is used as a baptistery; this is separated from the nave by a screen, formed of fragments of the old rood screen. In the centre stands the octagonal late Norman Font, supported by eight slender shafts of Purbeck marble, and a modern spirally-carved central pillar of white stone, through which runs the drain to carry off the water.
In the inner southern wall of this tower, rather low down, is fixed a curious old Clock made by Peter Lightfoot, a Glastonbury monk, in the early part of the fourteenth century. The earth is represented by a globe in the centre, the sun by a disc which travels round it once in twenty-four hours, showing the time of day; the moon by a globe so fastened to a blue disc that it revolves once during a lunar month; half of this is painted black, the other half is gilt, and the age of the moon is indicated by the amount of the gilded portion visible—when the moon is full the whole of the gilt hemisphere is shown, when new the whole of the black. This clock still goes, the works being in a room in the tower above. It requires winding once a day. The same clock also causes the Jack outside the tower to strike the quarters.
In the Belfry is a peal of eight bells. The tenor weighs about 36 cwts., the treble 7 cwts.
The tenor bears this inscription:
MR WILHEMUS LORINGE ME PRIMO FECIT, IN HONOREM STAE CUTBERGAE. RENOVABAR SUMPTU PAROCHALI PER AB, ANNO DOMINI 1629.
The seventh bell is dated 1798.
The sixth bell 1600, and is thus inscribed: "SOUND OUT THE BELLS, IN GOD REGOYCE."
The fifth 1698, "PRAISE THE LORD."
The fourth 1686, "PULSATA ROSAMUNDI MARIA VOCATA. SMV."
The third was originally the smallest bell of the peal, and bears the Latin hexameter: "SUM MINIMA HIC CAMPANA, AT INEST, SUA GRATIA PARVIS," and the words, "THIS BELL WAS ADDED TO YE FIVE IN 1686, Samuel Knight." The two smaller bells are of recent date.
The Lectern bears date 1623. The stone pulpit is modern (1868). The old wooden pulpit, whose place it has taken, has been removed to the church at Holt.
The earliest mention of an Organ is in 1405, but the earliest authentic record is of one set up by John Vaucks, Organ Master, in 1533. A memorandum in the churchwardens' accounts speak of him setting up a pair of organs on the rood loft. In the year 1643, we have records of the sale of organ-pipes and old tin. After the Restoration in 1664, we have a record of the purchase of a new organ for L180. This was repaired, enlarged, and rebuilt at various times, and at the restoration, when the rood screen was unfortunately destroyed, the organ was placed in the south choir aisle.
All the lower windows are now filled with painted glass; all of which, with the exception of a few fragments, is nineteenth-century work.
DEANS OF WIMBORNE
Martin Pattislee or Pattishull appointed 1224 Ralph Brito " 1229 John Mansell " 1247 John de Kirkby " 1265 John de Berwick " 1286 Stephen de Mawley " 1312 Richard de Clare " 1312 Richard de Swinnerton " 1334 Richard de Merimouth " 1338 Richard de Kingston " 1342 Thomas de Clopton " 1349 Reginald de Bryan " 1349 Thomas de Bembre (founder of the chantry) " 1350 Henry de Buckingham " 1361 Richard de Beverley " 1367 John de Carp " 1398 Roger Tortington " 1408 Peter de Altebello " 1412 Walter Medford " 1416 Gilbert Kymer " 1427 Walter Herte " 1467 Hugh Oldham " 1485 Thomas Rowthel " 1508 Henry Hornby " 1509 Reginald Pole " 1517 Nicholas Wilson " 1537
COLLEGE DISSOLVED " 1547
ST MARGARET'S HOSPITAL
About a quarter of a mile to the north-west of Wimborne stands the chapel of St Margaret's Hospital. The date of the foundation of this hospital is uncertain; tradition has it that it was founded by John of Gaunt, son of Edward III., but this is without doubt wrong, as documents—the character of which seem to indicate an early thirteenth-century date—have been found, from which it appears that this hospital existed at that time, and was set apart for the relief and support of poor persons afflicted with leprosy. This disease was at one time so common in England that a great number of lazar-houses were erected in the country, and many were well endowed; but when, after a time, the disease became less violent, many abuses crept in, persons not really suffering from the disease pretended to be lepers in order to get pecuniary benefits, and hence in many cases the leper hospitals were suppressed, or converted to other purposes. At the present day we find in many places, as here at Wimborne, that they are used as almshouses.
This hospital, however, was not one of the well-endowed. It appears from a deed, dated in the sixteenth year of Henry VIII., that the hospital was chiefly maintained, not by endowments, but by the gifts of the charitable who were willing to contribute to its support; and to encourage the benevolent to give, the deed recites that "Pope Innocent IV, in the year 1245, by an indulgans or bulle did assoyl them of all syns forgotten, and offences done against fader and moder, and all swerynges neglygently made. This indulgans, grantyd of Petyr and Powle, and of the said pope, was to hold good for 51 yeres and 260 days, provided they repeated a certain specified number of Paternosters and Ave Marias daily." The date of this indulgence proves the antiquity of the hospital, as it shows that it was in existence before the middle of the thirteenth century. A chantry was also founded in the chapel here by John Redcoddes of one priest to say masses for his soul. To this chantry, according to a deed dated in the sixteenth year of Henry VI., many tenements in Wimborne belonged. In later times the Rev. William Stone, who has been mentioned before as the founder of the Minster Library, by his will left his lands and tenements in the parish of Wimborne Minster to be applied to the benefit of almsmen only who should live in St Margaret's Hospital.
There is a further endowment, but how it came to this hospital has not been discovered. The advowson and tithes of the Rectory of Poole were, in the reign of James I., granted to the Mayor and Corporation of Poole for forty years, on the corporation undertaking to find a curate to discharge the duties lately discharged by the vicar, and to pay a rent to the crown of L12, 16s. per annum. In the reign of Charles I., the advowson and tithes were granted to two men, Thomas Ashton and Henry Harryman, and their heirs for ever, on the same conditions; but they are now again held by the Corporation, who pay out of the revenues—to St Margaret's hospital L9, 16s.; to the churchwardens of Wimborne Minster, for the maintenance of the Etricke tomb, L1; and to the fellows of Queen's College, Oxford, to be spent in wine and tobacco on November 5th, yearly L2.
The Redcotte chantry possessed sundry vestments, the gift of Margaret Rempstone, in the thirty-fifth year of Henry VI., and plate, an inventory of which exists. This plate, on the dissolution of chantries, was given by the parishioners to the king, Edward VI. The hospital or almshouses stands on the high road from Wimborne to Blandford; the chapel joins one of the tenements occupied by the almsmen. These tenements are nine in number; three are inhabited by married couples, three by men, and three by women. Some of these cottages are of half timber, and thatched, others of modern brick. The chapel, at which there is now a service every Thursday afternoon, conducted by one of the minster clergy, is a plain building, which has been recently refitted, but remains, as far as windows and walls are concerned, in its original state. There are three doors in the north wall; the heads are pointed, and it is noteworthy that in the central door, that generally used for access to the chapel, the two sides of the arch are of different curvatures, so that the point of the arch is nearer to the right-hand side. The edge of the wall is chamfered round the doorways. The east window has a semicircular head, and plain wooden tracery dividing it into two lancet-headed lights with an opening above them. There is a window in both the south and north walls, near the east end, each of two lights; the south window is widely splayed inside; the head of each light has one cusp on each side. The head of each light of the north window has two cusps on each side. Farther to the west, on the south side, is a single narrow lancet, widely splayed, and still farther to the west is a semicircular opening with wooden tracery. The general character of the masonry would indicate that local workmen were employed in building this chapel, and that little was spent in ornamenting it at the time of the erection. There are, however, some traces of frescoes on the inside of the walls, both geometrical patterns and figures. The pointed doorways and the lancet window on the south side would indicate the thirteenth century as the date of the original building, and this agrees with the documentary evidence mentioned above for the foundation of the hospital. The roof is an open one of massive wooden rafters, with the beams running across at the level of the wall plates.
DIMENSIONS OF WIMBORNE MINSTER
Extreme length, exterior, E. to W. 198 feet Extreme width, exterior, N. to S. 102 " Length of Nave, interior 67 " Width of Nave, interior 23 " Height of Walls 40 " Length of Nave Aisles, interior 70 " Width of Nave Aisles, interior 13 " Length of North Transept, interior 42 " Width of North Transept, interior 18 " Height of Walls, interior 30 " Length of South Transept, interior 33 " Width of South Transept, interior 18 " Height of Walls 30 " Length of Choir, interior 32 " Width of Choir, interior 21 " Height of Choir Walls 28 " Length of Presbytery 30 " Width of Presbytery 21 " Length of North Choir Aisle 53 " Width of North Choir Aisle 21 " Length of South Choir Aisle 53 " Width of South Choir Aisle 20 " Length of Side of Central Tower (square), interior 31 " Height of Central Tower 84 " Length of Side of Western Tower (square), exterior 31 " Height of Western Tower 95 " Length of North Porch, N. and S., interior 15 " Width of North Porch, E. and W., interior 14 " Length of South Porch, N. and E., interior 6 " Width of South Porch, E. and W., interior 7 " Length of Vestry, N. and S., interior 15 " Width of Vestry, E. and W., interior 14 " Length of Baptistery, E. to W., interior 18 " Width of Baptistery, N. to S., interior 19 "
AREA 10,725 sq. feet.
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
On the promontory washed on the one side by the slow stream of the Dorset Stour, and on the other by the no less sluggish flow of the Wiltshire Avon, not far from the place where they mingle their waters before making their way amid mudflats and sandbanks into the English Channel, stands, and has stood for more than eight hundred years, the stately Priory Church which gives the name of Christchurch to a small town in the county of Hants. The massive walls of its Norman nave, its fifteenth-century tower, and its great length—for, from the east wall of its Lady Chapel to the west wall of its tower, it measures no less than 311 feet—make it a conspicuous object from the Channel, especially after sundown, when its form, rising above the low shore of Christchurch Bay, is silhouetted against the sky. It is one of the finest churches below cathedral rank that is to be found in England. It is a perfect mine of wealth to the student of architecture, containing examples of every style from its early, possibly Saxon, crypt to the Renaissance of its chantries. Here we may see the solid grandeur of Norman masonry in the nave, with its massive arcading and richly-wrought triforium; the graceful beauty of the Early English in its north porch and in the windows of the north aisle of the nave; the more fully developed Decorated in the windows of the south aisle of the same; and Perpendicular in the tower and Lady Chapel.
The crypts beneath the north transept and the presbytery may have belonged to the original church, but of that which is visible above ground the oldest part was due to Flambard, of whom more hereafter. When the first church was founded we cannot tell. Here, as in many other places, the origin is lost in the haze of antiquity and legend. Here, as at many other places, we find the original builders choosing one site, and the stones that they had laid during the day being removed by night by unseen, and therefore angelic, hands to another. It was on the heights of St Catharine, about a mile and a half away from the present site, that the human builders strove to raise their church. It may be that this hill, still marked by the ramparts of an ancient encampment, was not holy ground on account of its former occupation by heathens, though in after time, a chapel, built in the early part of the fourteenth century, existed there; but, anyhow, not on this hill, but on the flat lands of Saxon Tweoxneham, a name which passed into the forms of Thuinam and Twynham, that the great Priory Church was destined to stand. But not even when the human builders began to erect the church on the miraculously chosen ground did supernatural interposition cease. A stranger workman came and laboured at the building: never was he seen to eat as the other workmen did, never did he come with his fellows to receive his wages. Once, when a beam had been cut too short for the place it was to occupy, he lengthened it by drawing it out with his hand; and when the day for consecration came, and the other workmen gathered together to see their work hallowed by due ceremonial, this stranger workman was nowhere to be seen. The ecclesiastics came to the conclusion that this was none other than the carpenter's son of Nazareth, and the church which had in part been builded by the hands of the Christ Himself in later days became known as Christchurch.
But, if we disregard these legends, we do not at once find ourselves on sure and certain ground. The foundation has been attributed to AEthelstan, but this is hardly likely, as, in a charter dated 939, he gives one of the weirs on the Avon at Twynham to the Abbey Church of Middleton, now Milton Abbey in North Dorset, which he would be hardly likely to do if he had founded, or were thinking of founding, a religious house at Twynham; and as he died in 940, not much time was left for any foundation after this grant. Again, we find King Eadred granting land and fishing near Twineham to Dunstan. However, in the time of the Confessor, mention is made of the canons of Holy Trinity possessing lands in Thuinam. It must be remembered that it had been intended, according to the legend, to dedicate the church to the Holy Trinity, and no doubt this was done, although it was afterwards identified especially with the second Person.