Gillingham stands on the northern edge of the Blackmore Vale and was once the centre of a Royal Forrest, replete with a palace. It is an ancient place that can trace its origins beyond the Romano-British period. Rather surprisingly it remained a relatively small rural town until the arrival of the railway in 1859, which prompted the creation of a number of industries, including a successful brickworks
A Saxon church, dedicated to St. Mary, was well established at the time of the Conqueror and was a huge parish with a circumference of forty-one miles. The first recorded vicar was William Clyve de Motcombe who arrived in 1331 and it is known that a chantry chapel was established at about the same time. Jack Skelton-Wallace in his excellent book, 'A Selection of Parish Churches' suggests that the church was probably built between 1320 and 1330. However, what is certain is that in 1838, the tower was moved 20 feet in order to enlarge the nave for the growing population, although the chancel was left untouched and is therefore C14. The original pillars with their ball-flower decoration remain between the chancel and the north chapel. In 1908 the tower was extended upwards and given a battlemented top by the Diocesan Architect, C.E. Ponting. At the same time, the west door was remodeled.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©
- Next >>