This article came from Chronicle published October 1980. Page: 2-3


Meetings Reviewed

Author: R.J.Clynick


The last of the winter meetings held in Yeovil Library on 11th April, was an address by Mr Machin of Bristol University on Vernacular Architecture in North Dorset. Members will recall the ‘walk-about’ in Yetminster when Mr Machin acted as guide around the many 17th century houses. Some of these were included in a well-illustrated discussion, which also traced the development of rural homesteads of the 15th to 18th centuries, from the small ‘hall, parlour and byre’ type, to the more elaborate and dignified dwellings we see today. The many stages of addition and modification in the transition were clearly demonstrated by slides showing ground plansa also shown were statistical maps indicating the distribution of the various types in different areas of Dorset. The speaker was thanked on behalf of the society by the Rev.G.Robinson.

Those members who gathered under the shadow of Robert Blake’s statue on the Cornhill, Bridgwater, at 1030 on Saturday morning, 26th April, were met by Madge Langdon and Freda Richardson of Bridgwater and District Archaeological Society and conducted on an informative tour of the ancient town, which in former days had been an important port possessing a castle of considerable size. Nothing remains of the latter but the watergate which members were able to see, but there are a number of elegant dwellings, particularly in King Street which was used as a backdrop for the filming of Fielding’s Tom Jones a few years ago. In the afternoon those interested in industrial archaeology were taken to see the latest developments, in the town – an altogether enjoyable day’s excursion.

On Friday 23rd May the evening excursion to Mudford was a well-attended one, members being greeted at the church by the incumbent, the Rev Douglas White; a description of the church and its history was given by our Secretary, Bill Chapman, and was followed by some remarks by Mr White who produced for our inspection the church registers and plate. Thanks to the Vicar were expressed by our Chairman, Miss I.Rendell. Members then followed the Secretary through lanes deeply rutted – though fortunately dry, to the site of the deserted village where house platforms, the outline of sunken streets, and village ponds were clearly visible,

The first of the all-day excursions took place on 7th June, when a relatively small party of members paid a visit to the historic city of Guildford in Surrey. Met by a member of the local Historical Society at the Museum, close to the Norman Castle, we were addressed by our guide and conducted through the castle arch, climbing up to the ramparts where he gave us a ‘potted history’ of the city. Guildford has always been small, though it prospered because of the fulling mills associated with the wool trade which flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. Conveniently situated on routes between London and the south coast on the one hand, and on the Pilgrim’s Way running west to east towards Canterbury, it became a place of coaching inns, some of which remain today as stylish ‘pub’ or hotels, though the coming of the railways diminished their importance. Following this potted history we were taken on a short tour of the town centre, visiting the Town Hall with its famous clock overhanging the High Street, the Angel coaching inn, and the town bridge. The afternoon was left for members to explore at will, reassembling at the Museum at 5.30. The coach, after a false trail, then took us to the modern Cathedral, -though we were disappointed in not being able to tour the inside owing to a practice taking place when we arrived. The weather for the outing, on the whole, had been kind, it was a long day, but apart from the disappointment of those unable to visit the cathedral, it was a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

Four South Dorset churches were the subject of a Saturday afternoon excursion led by our secretary, Bill Chapman, on 12th July. A cavalcade of cars wound a tortuous way through narrow and winding roads in fairly close formation! After assembling at Beaminster our route took us to Stoke Abbott, on to Netherbury, then Symordsbury, and ending at Whitchurch Canonicorum.

At each place Bill gave us a brief account of the most important features of the church – no two being alike in style – The principal feature of the 12th century church of St Mary the Virgin at Stoke Abbott, is a font of sophisticated design, having bowl and stem in one. The Norman chancel was probably lengthened in the 13th century and the 17th century pulpit is sparsely decorated. In the churchyard there is a group of very elaborately decorated headstones belonging to one family.

Netherbury church is also dedicated to the Virgin, it possesses a high Perpendicular tower with a still higher stair turret. Of 14c origin the church was refashioned in the 15th and underwent Victorian restoration. It has a 13c piscina and a square font, of Purbeck marble of the previous century, while the handsome pulpit dates from the 17th century and the fine screen is modern.

The first Rector of St John the Baptist church, Symondsbury, was appointed in 1375. Mainly 14c, the building is cruciform with a central tower, the nave being extended and a porch added in the 15th century. The tower being narrower than the crossing, it is partly supported by heavy corbelling. Principal furnishings are a simple-in-design Georgian pulpit, and a Georgian Communion rail which encloses the altar rectangularly.

Whitchurch Canonicorum celebrates 900 years of Christian witness – there was previously a Saxon church on this site, but nothing visible remains of it. The building, is Early English being one of the most impressive of Dorset’s parish churches. Notable feature is the complete stone shrine of St Wite, with three openings in the front into which were placed votive offerings and pleas from those seeking cures of various ailments, this was described by our Secretary in the last issue of ‘Chronicle’.

It would, indeed, be a meticulous visitor who could memorise all the details gathered during this tour of four Dorset churches – the fact is that they are all worthy of a second visit. ‘Bill’ was warmly thanked by Miss Rendell for the research and care he had taken in making this a so well-worthwhile visit.

For a variety of reasons the Sherborne Walkabout, on Saturday 9th August, attracted a somewhat below average attendance. Meeting outside Sherborne Abbey in mid-morning Mr J.H.Gibb, recently master at Sherborne School, took members on a guided tour of the Abbey Church and School, being conducted over parts of the latter which are not normally seen by the public – including the two libraries and parts of the monastic buildings incorporated into the school premises. Mr Gibb was warmly thanked for this enjoyable experience by our Chairman. In the afternoon the 14th century almshouse, adjoining the Abbey Close, was visited by a somewhat depleted party, following which one of the finest small, museums in the country, Sherborne Museum, was toured, and finally the party made its way to the old castle of Sherborne, home of Sir Walter Raleigh before the building of the ‘great house’ on the other side of the lake. Altogether this was a most enjoyable and instructive day, despite sultry weather and ‘wear and tear’ on poor old feet!

The Society’s series of summer excursions ended with visits to two historical sites on successive Saturdays – one local, the other a little more distant. The first was to Halstock on 30 August to make what has become an annual visit to view the progress made on the excavation of the extensive Roman settlement, which has been carried on under Mr R.N.Lucas’s direction since 1971. This year’s work was presented in a detailed description given by Mr Lucas on the site. The layout is a complicated one ranging over a very large area, and, according to Mr Lucas, there still remains a good deal to be opened up. The settlement was the scene of an important villa occupied by a person of some distinction, containing among other features, a large barn, a magnificent bath suite, corn driers, covered drains, and a very large water tank. Mr Lucas was thanked by Mr Hayward for his exposition and valuable contribution to our own local history.

Secondly, on 6th September a small group gathered at Westonzoyland, first for a brief visit to the church conducted by Miss I Rendell and then on to the actual scene of the Battle of Sedgemoor, where we were addressed by the President of Sedgemoor Protection Society, Mr E.A.Roberts who gave us a detailed account of the Battle. This was a very enjoyable afternoon, the weather being kind and the outing a leisurely one.

Hits: 40