Page 14, 21st May 1937

21st May 1937
Page 14
Page 14, 21st May 1937 — A PILGRIM IN DORSET Abbotsbury's Ancient Stones

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Organisations: Parish Church
Locations: Bridport, Abhotsbury


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A PILGRIM IN DORSET Abbotsbury's Ancient Stones


The ancient village of Abhotsbury in Dorset has sufficient to attract the visitor, we will say, from Weymouth, to merit a full day's excursion; and, be the weather fine, the nine mile run by motor-car or char-a-bane makes an enjoyable jaunt for the holiday-maker.

Tradition has it that the name, derived from " Abodesbyry," was given to the town

by St. Peter himself. But it is more probable that it was called after the magnificent Abbey founded in 1026 by Orcus, the friend of King Canute and steward of the Royal Palace, for Benedictine monks, and in honour of God and Saint Peter.

In this connection Dugdale's Monastieon Anglican:1m tells us that Orcus founded a pious brotherhood here whereby it was 2nacted by Statute that on the death of a member each of the brethren should contribute a penny for the repose of the sou! of the deceased brother.

The Parish Church

The ancient and picturesquely weatherbeaten parish church, with the monastic ruins of the Abbey of St. Peter scattered about, lends to the scene an archaic aspect. Al the doorway of the church may be seen the stone lid of a sarcophagus, with the figure of a nun carved on it. There is also an old stone coffin let into the churchyard wall; but the history of these relics is not known. On the west face of the tower is an interesting representation of the Trinity, which is thought to have belonged to the Abbey; also, an old man is portrayed, seated in a chair with a dove at his right hand and a crucifix on his knees.

The bones of the founder. Orcus, and those of his wife, Tholo, were removed from the monastery to the parish church in 1750, and there reinterred on the original site of the grave. A fine example of Jacobean carving is the pulpit, which still

preserves its sounding-hoard. This pulpit is pierced in two places by musket balls, which are supposed to have been aimed at the preacher (who, however, escaped) by Cromwell's soldiers. But, according to Dr. Maton in his Observations on the Western Counties, they are more likely to have. been fired in Sir Anthony Ashley's attack on the Royalists in 1654. The brass candelabrum in the nave is over two hundred years old.

St. Catherine's Chapel

St. 'Catherine's Chapel, now merely a shell, standing on an eminence well exposed to the elements, was probably erected in the reign of Edward IV. The carved bosses of its vaulted roof bear evidence of

the once elaborate decorations of its interior. On each side of the building (as shown in the illustration), owing to its exposed position, there arc strong buttresses rising above the parapet which surrounds the roof and terminates in square Lops, and the lower parts of the parapets are pierced with arched apertures for draining off the water from the roof. There is a porch at one end' which is sup

ported by low buttresses. The internal dimensions are: length, 45 ft.; breadth, 14 ft. 9 in.; walls, 4 ft. 3 in. thick. The building was repaired in 1742 by a Mrs. Horner, a great benefactress to the town. A small passage is said to have formerly existed between the Abbey and Si. Catherine's church.

The Abbey Farm

The Abbey Farm, adjoining the churchyard. contains all that is left of the once splendid monastery, and consists of a large barn, a stable conjectured to have been a dormitory, a porch which belonged to the conventual church, the principal entrance, and two buildings probably used for domestic purposes. Much of the early history of the Abbey was contained in the Old Register, which was consumed in the disastrous fire occasioned by the lighting in the Civil War.

The building at the south-east corner of the church which formed part of the abbey, was converted into a shop, but an old stoup can be seen in the corner. At the further end is a cell in which the last abbot is said to have been starVed to death. The large building near the ancient fishpond of the monks is the old Tithe Barn, formerly used for storing wheat produced on a wide adjacent area. The roof was composed originally of flat stones, hut these have now given place to thatch, Abbotsbury Castle is merely an earthwork, which may be seen above the village on the Bridport road, and on the further side is a residence of the Ilchester family. which house also is known as Abbotshury Castle. The building was destroyed by fire in 1912, but has since been rebuilt.

Abbotsbury is known also for its famous Swannery, which still flourishes, though the swans are now much depleted in numbers. Of interest, too, are the beautiful subtropical gardens, and the Wild-duck Decoy near by.

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