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Like the Romans, once the Normans had conquered England they built monumental religious edifices. The Parish church of St Martin (above) sits in the centre of Martinstown village. The original building was 12th century, but was refashioned in the perpendicular style when the tower was added in the 15th century and finally ‘restored’ in 1905. Inside there is a square Norman font (c1125) of Purbeck marble. A Chantry was founded here in 1367, probably in the north aisle where the Lady Chapel is now sited. There are the remains of a Jacobean pulpit, cut down from its original three decks, and a very rare George II hatchment (died 1760). The 18th century bells were sold to defray debts, but after a hundred years of silence, chimes rang out again in 1947 when five new bells were hung in memory of the war dead. Since the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Manor has been held by only nine families: fitz Grip, de Lincoln, fitz Pain, Maltravers, Stafford, Howard, Napier, Sturt (later Allington) and Duke. The latter family auctioned off much of the land in 1912. Lordship of the Manor of Winterborne St Martin is still a registered title, however on a couple of occasions unscrupulous solicitors have concocted scams to sell the title of ‘the Barony of Winterbourne St Martin’, which does not exist.

In 1268 Henry II granted a charter to Winterborne St Martin, allowing it to hold an annual fair within five days of the feast of St Martin. For many centuries there was also a weekly market here for farmers to buy and sell animals and other produce. A circular sheep-washing pool just up the road from the village pub still exists, but these days it is used only for the annual duck race.

steepleton2St Michael’s,
Winterbourne Steepleton

The church, originally Saxon, was rebuilt in the 12th century, with the tower and porch being added to the original structure in the 14th century. The church is one of only three in the County to have a spire, and is the oldest of the three. There is a West Gallery, originally built to accommodate the Church Band.

abbas colour

St Mary’s,
Winterbourne Abbas

The church dates from Norman times, and the tower, which houses three bells, from the 15th and 16th centuries. The chancel has a Royal coat-of-arms of Charles II, and dates from 1250. There is a Jacobean gallery bearing the date 1701, and the church had its own band. The living was formerly owned by Lincoln College, Oxford.


St Thomas à Becket,
Compton Valence
Compton Valence is a very small village, consisting of 27 households, of which 30% are owner occupied, the remainder being farm cottages which are let. The village is known for its snowdrops, which provide a wonderful display each February, attracting many visitors, many of whom take the opportunity to visit the church.In 1838 the church was rebuilt, except for the Fifteenth century tower with its weather-worn gargoyle. The nave was lengthened, the north aisle added and the re-constructed chancel given an apse-shaped end wall. The materials used included local stone, Ham Hill stone, some Portland stone and Bath stone for the Pulpit. The nave roof and benches are of English Oak. The altar, a block of Caen stone was replaced in 1871 by the present wooden communion table.

St. Martin's Story

St Martin lived from about A.D. 315 to A.D. 397. You cannot miss him in France or England. He is pictured by a famous incident in his life.

Riding outside the gates of Amiens on a very cold winter's day, this young Roman Cavalry Officer from Hungary 'met' a poor man all naked to whom no one gave any alms. St Martin drew out his sword, cut his cloak into two and gave half to the poor man. He dreamt that night that he saw Christ in Heaven wearing the half of the cloak which he had given to the beggar and Christ said to the Angels "Martin yet new in faith has covered me with this venture".

St Martin became Bishop of Tours and as an evangeliser of rural Gaul and the father of monasticism in France was a figure of great importance. He was one of the first holy men who was not a martyr to be publicly venerated as a saint and his influence was felt from Ireland to Africa and the East. In England many churches were dedicated in his honour. November 11th is usually kept as his feast day.

Martin's mantle, his little cape or 'capella' was preserved by the Frankish Kings as a sacred relic and was looked after by the 'chaplains' or 'Keepers' of the cape. The Capella has given us two of our modern words - Chapelle in French and Chapel in English.

For the full story of Saint Martin, click here

Thanks to Gerald Duke for this information


The damaged ceiling has been repaired, thanks to grants from the Dorset Historic Churches Trust and Erskine Muton Trust.

The repair work was done by DJ Chutter Ltd and is virtually indistinguishable from the original, so well has it been done. The building is back in use and the previous pattern of services has resumed, ie Holy Communion at 1100 on the 2nd Sunday of the month.

Ellie Sturrock - Churchwarden

...more history of St. Martins church

church in snow small
This church is found in a place where the countryside is rich in the turf-covered tombs of an immemorial ancestry. In these great mounds lie men who fell before the legions of the Emperor Claudius and, far back beyond Caesar, the craftsmen of the Stone Age. There are 118 barrows of almost every type here and they are older than any written history of England.

For 800 years men, women and children have received the Sacraments and worshipped in this village church. The original church was built early in the 12th Century in the Norman style of architecture and it is possible that an earlier Saxon church existed on the site. Three hundred years later much of it was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style, and in 1905 the Church was 'restored'.

Thanks again to Gerald Duke for the information.