MAPPOWDER CHURCH - ST PETER AND ST PAUL

A view of the East End and North side of the church




The East End and South Side



St Peter and St Paul, Mappowder

Churchwardens are:-

Gill Wilkinson 01258 817486
Pauline Batstone 01258 472583


A History of Village and Church

There was a known settlement in Mappowder (named after the Anglo-Saxon word for a Maple tree) in 1086, the time of the Doomsday Book. It was declared as part of the Royal Forest and subject to forest law, with a royal hunting lodge built on the site of what in the 1500s became Mappowder Court, the home of the Coker family until 1610, when they abandoned it to live in Oxford. They continued to own land in the parish until 1745. The estate was then sold to Hon John Spencer, the family later to become the Earls Spencer ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The estate and village was bought by the Wingfield Digby family of Sherborne in 1863, who refurbished the church in 1868 - 1869. They sold the estate to Mr Arthur Hugh Clough at the beginning of the First World War, and it was farmed by his nephew John Fisher until 1947 although some of the estate was sold in the depression the mid-1930s. The tenant farmers bought their farms, and tenants their houses in the village around this time, other farms were taken on by Dorset County Council. Place Farm, built from the ruins of Mappowder Court, and Saunders Farm were bought by the Copley family but have both since changed hands several times,

Much of the Perpendicular building of the Church of St Peter & St Paul dates from the late 15th or early 16th century but incorporated into the fabric are many earlier fittings indicating that the original church was a much earlier foundation. Two corbel heads and the font of Purbeck marble date from the 12th century, the reset window is from 14th.

Purbeck stone font.




The chancel was enlarged in 1868-69 by the Wingfield Digbys and the tower extended, together with new roofs in tile, stone-slates and lead.

The Caen stone effigy representing an armoured knight is set into a recess to the right of the Lady Altar with 12th century carved corbel stones to right and left. Tradition has it the figure was a boy who accompanied his father on a Crusade and died in the Holy Land, alternatively it is thought to be a casket encasing the heart of a dead Crusader. The Coker memorials in the Vestry are crested with Saracens' heads, supposedly indicative of a family that went on the Crusades.

However at the site of the old Mappowder Court are negro headed pillars and the Coker's family fortune was based on the slave trade out of Bristol.



The Green man, complete with foliage sprouting from his nostrils, carved on a capital by the lectern, is a reminder how the old beliefs clung on in the countryside.


The Scratch, Mass or Style dial on the southern wall of the church is probably Norman in origin. Cut in the age before clocks by the sexton, it enabled him to know when to summon the worshippers to attend services, especially Mass. A style was put in the hole to act as a primitive gnomon, casting shadows on the incised lines.




An ugly old gargoyle waterspout on the tower serves a utilitarian as well as decorative purpose . . .


Just before the millennium the church received an anonymous donation of £50,000 to refurbish the 1735 ring of 5 bells that had been cast in Closworth. The opportunity was taken to increase the ring to 6, allowing the changes to increase from 20 to 200, even more fortuitously the new bell exactly filled a gap in the tonal range. The new bell was cast by Whitechapel foundry and the five original bells were at the same time fine tuned on their lathes. They had previously been rung as cast but were nevertheless surprisingly true. The bells had been hung from a wooden frame, which bore the hallmarks of having been built by Sherborne estate yard and shook the whole tower when anyone attempted to ring them. Nicholsons of Bridport installed a state of the art metal frame in 1999, handling all the bell work with Griffon of Bere Regis undertaking the building work, giving Mappowder one of the best peals in the county.

Whilst mentioning the tower, up until recently the church held a bequest of fifty guineas that had been given in the 14th century by a Lady Ethelreda who, with her train, had been benighted in the marsh lands that for centuries surrounded Mappowder in wet weather. Stoke/Mappowder Lane still has a sign warning of flooding and the Hazelbury Bryan - Ansty road is called Marsh Lane. Fortunately for her and her retinue someone lit a lantern in the church tower which guided the party to the safety of the village. In her gratitude she made the bequest with the proviso that a light be lit in the tower every night from then on. Twenty-five years ago the diocese decided that all these miscellaneous bequests should be handed over to Salisbury and, as we were feeling a little guilty at not having fulfilled the terms of the bequest in recent years, we agreed. If only this fifty guineas had been shrewdly invested from 1300 onwards Mappowder would be well financed.





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