Chapter 5:

THE CHURCH - St Mary the Virgin, Piddlehinton

Picture painted by Mary Hardy of exterior of church.

Picture painted by Mary Hardy of exterior of church.

The tower contains a peal of 6 bells. The first and fifth bells, dated 1683 and 1633 respectively, are the oldest and were cast by Thomas Purdue. The second bell is dated 1721 and was cast by W. Knight. The third and fourth bells have Latin inscriptions and were recast in 1947. The sixth bell, the treble, was added as a memorial to Commander Charles Swayne, Royal Navy, in 1950.

 Interior of the Church with old oil lamps.

Interior of the Church with old oil lamps.

In recent years, local families have contributed much to the furnishings of the church. In 1925 the font was railed off and carpeted around to commemorate the baptism of the daughter of Commander and Mrs Churchill of Muston Manor, Juliet Susan Harriet, the first in the family at Piddlehinton for over 200 years. In 1927, they donated the communion table, panelling and stalls in the chancel in memory of their son. The nave choir stalls are in memory of Gwladys and John Belgrave of West Lodge, who worshipped here from 1917 to 1955. The pulpit was given in memory of Walter Lovelace in 1927, and the church gates in 1950, in memory of Mrs Walter Lovelace. During 1938, electric lighting was installed and dedicated during September of that year.

Rectors of Piddlehinton
William Goldwyn, Rector 1550-1562.
Goldynge Brass

One of the oldest memorials in the church commemorates "Master Wyllyam Goldynge 1562" listed as William Goldwyn, rector from 1550-1562. This rare brass is a 'palimpsest' - a brass which has an inscription on both sides. A replica of the reverse is mounted beside it and shows an earlier memorial with the likeness of an abbot or prior.

Thomas Browne - Rector 1590-1617.

"Here lieth interred the body of Mr Thomas Browne, Clerke who lived parson of this place seaven and twentie yeares and being sixtie and seaven yeares old departed this lyfe the fourth day of October 1617."

brass rubbing depicting Thomas Browne

This brass engraving depicting Thomas Browne can be seen in the chancel. Thomas Browne as rector, defended the poor against the landlords, the Provost and Fellows of Eton College, who wanted the domain farmer, Edward Lowman, to enclose three large fields immediately around the village. A brave man indeed to disagree with the landlords who gave him his living, and unusual for a rector to consider the needs of the poor above the landlords and tenants.

The enclosure act for Piddlehinton was eventually passed in 1620 after Thomas Browne's death.

Thomas Clavering - Rector 1629-1665

Thomas Clavering's wife, Martha, died from the plague while ministering to the sick of the parish in 1664. On the north wall of the chancel, painted in wood and inscribed in Latin is a memorial to Thomas Clavering's wife.

The translation is underneath the memorial and is worth quoting:-

"John, first-born son of Thomas Clavering, sweet infant babe, taken away from his mother's bosom, was laid low on the 18th day of April, 1644, and with him is laid Martha, the most devoted mother of the said child and of nine children more. A wife most faithful to her husband, she was descended from the families of the Souths of Swallowcliff, in the county of Wilts, and of the Butlers in the county of Dorset. She was a cheerful housewife, a matron of spotless chastity, most prudent, calm and gracious. In beauty of bodily form and of mind she was lovely and loveable. In pressing forward every good work she was at once most ready in its pursuit, and likewise instigated others to follow it. In her piety she was neither ostentatious nor superficial, but in a most natural manner religious and inwardly devoted to her God. A lady of most engaging manners, combined with serious behaviour, she attached to herself all who knew her by loving and dutiful service. Whatsoever accident might befall, she manifested a quiet and unruffled spirit resigned to the will of her Heavenly Father. Worthy she was above all others to be held in perpetual remembrance and her example deserves to be followed as a pattern. The dearest, congenial and most deeply lamented spouse. While with a too ready and forward kindliness she was intent on caring diligently for the health of others, thinking alas too little of her own, she was seized by the malignant epidemic disease which she was busily engaged in tending . She cast herself resolutely upon the arms of the sweet Saviour Jesus, and on a night which was so sad a time for us, but for herself the Dawning of the Day, on May 22nd 1664, she fell asleep gently in the Lord in the course of her six and fortieth year. It was her husband's wish to ascribe to her memory this record of their unbroken harmony, and of her worth which cannot ever be sufficiently extolled, as a tribute which Truth and Love demand. In his bereavement he is forlorn, rendered inevitably a sorrowing mourner: like the night raven wakeful in the house, or as the sparrow left alone upon the housetop.

T.C. her husband. She has gone before. I shall follow. We shall live again. Nay! He who wrote the preceding lines has now already followed to the place whither he taught her to lead the way. Mr Thomas Clavering, the excellent Rector and Ornament of this Church, dying on the 29th of October, in the year of our Lord 1665, in the 66th year of his age. Thou knowest not at what hour: therefore watch."

Phillip Montague - Rector 1751-1782
Old photo of Rectory

This rectory was built in 1753 under the direction of Phillip Montague. It is thought a previous rectory stood to the east of this building. The rectory still stands in the village and is now a private home.

Canon Thomas Thellusson Carter - Rector 1838-1844
Photo of Canon Carter

Canon Carter made himself unpopular by decreeing the Piddlehinton Dole should be terminated. No one knows how long the Piddlehinton Dole had been going, but over the years successive rectors had paid ever increasing amounts out of their own pockets, possibly £9 or £10 per annum.

The Dole consisted of 1lb bread, a mince pie (large enough to be cut into four), and 1pint [0.5l] of ale, to be handed out to every parishioner be they man, woman or child, rich or poor, householder or tenant, on Christmastide 6th January.

Canon Carter considered in 1839, this was too costly and wasteful, so he preached a sermon to the congregation that he would discontinue the Dole and substitute it with blankets for the poor. This certainly was an unpopular decision particularly with the wealthier parishioners, who considered the Dole their right. Canon Carter was forced to appeal to the Provost and Fellows of Eton and he eventually won his case and brought in his Relief Fund.

His opponents were angry and withheld their tithes, smashed some windows in the chancel, which were Canon Carter's responsibility, and generally made his life most unpleasant. Eventually Canon Carter was forced to leave the village in 1844.

The East window of the chancel was installed in 1845 in memory of Canon Carter and depicts the Good Shepherd, St Peter and St Mary the Virgin.

The Dole was re-enacted in 1989 but not at the Rector's expense!

George Coke - Rector 1844-1863
Photo of George Coke

After the incidence of the Dole, Canon Carter exchanged parishes with Rev. George Coke of Clewer in Berkshire. Rev. Coke is remembered as the rector who started the school, which was opened in April 1861. In 1860, Eton College gave 36 perches of ground [0.22a or 0.09Ha] for the school to the minister and churchwardens.

Thomas Roper - Rector 1863-1889
Photo of Thomas Roper

Not only did Thomas Roper enlarge the church in 1867, but due to rising numbers in the population and larger families, he realised the school needed to be extended. Rev. Roper applied for such an extension in January 1881.

In the south wall of the chancel, one of the two windows is a memorial to Thomas Roper and his second wife Elizabeth.

John Edward Hawksley - Rector 1889-1908
Photo of Rev. J.E. Hawksley

Rev. Hawksley was a typically Victorian rector, who had extremely enthusiastic temperance tendencies.

Under the Church Building Acts 1890, a further 17 perches [0.1a or 0.04Ha] were given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England and their successors as an addition to the churchyard and burial ground. Also, during 1890, the school extension was finally completed.

William George Newman - Rector 1908-1938
Photo of Rev. W.G. Newman

William Newman, who was rector of Piddlehinton parish during the First World War, was a West Countryman who enjoyed rural life. He was known to be an excellent shot and never missed a rabbit.

John ("Jack") Chaloner Chute - Rector 1938-1957
Photo of Rev. J.C. Chute

John Chute was a graduate from Balliol College, Oxford, who was ordained as a priest and who then followed a career as a schoolmaster and eventually housemaster at Eton. On retiring from Eton, he requested and was given the living at Piddlehinton parish in 1938.

Jack Chute's Plan of Village

On arrival in Piddlehinton, in order to aid his memory, he drew a plan of the village.

John Chute, known as 'Jack', and his wife Mamie, were a gentle and popular couple who led full active roles in village life. They remained in the village until his final retirement in 1957.

Jack also kept a scrapbook which is now in the archives at Eton and some comments make interesting reading!

"Population of Piddlehinton in 1938 was 240 and decreasing."

"Church fete in 1943 cleared £60 and included rides on a Bren Gun carrier, soldiers from the Camp running the skittles and a maypole."

"War preparation Feb 1944 from his parish newsletter, 'I suppose our chief news is the mystery of the widening of our road. We wonder how this will affect us in the near future. It threatens to bring the great war machine closer to us and Hitler may very likely show more interest in the neighbourhood."


From 1536 until 1834, when the Poor Law Amendment Act changed the legal responsibility for the poor from parish to central government, the welfare of Piddlehinton's poor had been in the hands of the churchwardens, and from 1597 the overseers. The latter were appointed annually at Easter by two local JPs and had to be, in the words of the 1601 Act, "substantial householders". In such a poor community as Piddlehinton, it must have been difficult to find people willing to accept the unpaid and time-consuming job and people were probably bribed to take it on. Certainly in the 17th century, the only substantial householder was the tenant of the demesne farm who lived in the manor house. In 1620, of 48 householders, 16 were cottagers (another term for paupers). These cottagers were known as the 'First Poor' because they were totally destitute and claimed from the poor rate. It was not unusual in Dorset at this time to find one third of the population of a village to be paupers.

Until 1625, the demesne tenant was Edward Lowman who was involved in the enclosing of the Manor Farm. Then for almost 150 years, the demesne tenants were all Kellaways, the last of whom - Nicholas Kellaway - being the most benevolent. When he died in 1783 aged 60, his will contained a clause allowing for £20 to be invested, the interest on which was to be paid to six poor widows of the parish at Christmas each year. In fact £12. 6s. 6d. [£12.32p] only was paid by the executors on behalf of the charity, the effects being insufficient to pay the full amount. In 1923 the newly formed PCC took on the 'Kellaway Dole' and agreed to invest £13 in war loans with surplus savings being handed to PCC accounts. The last time the Kellaway Dole appears to have been paid was Christmas 1934 when it was given to 6 widows.

Just as farmers were not all wealthy, 'substantial householders' were not all farmers but followed other trades such as brewer, mercer (shopkeeper) or chapman (pedlar). The 18th century probate inventories for Piddlehinton show the brewers and chapman as being far wealthier than most farmers who were nearly all smallholders with 12-24 acres [4.8-9.6Ha] of land. Their labourers and servants were classed as the 'Second Poor' because they claimed occasional poor relief.

The 1601 Act empowered the overseers, or the Vestry as they became known, due to their monthly meetings being held in the vestry, to raise a compulsory weekly tax from those able to pay, including the rector. This was used not only to give the poor money to spend, but also to buy raw materials to give them work, to pay for medical help, to apprentice children and to build cottages for the homeless on waste ground. The Poorhouse in Piddlehinton in London Row was rebuilt in 1749.

It was not until 1743 that overseers were forced by law to keep proper accounts: the earliest for Piddlehinton are 1745. Much expenditure is shown for settlement investigations. Any person who was likely to be claiming poor relief had to have a certificate of settlement for that parish otherwise he or she could be removed to the last parish of legal settlement. However there had to be an examination first and the removals were paid by the complainant parish.

John White's removal was an extremely costly business; money which ought surely to have been put to better use. The average payment to paupers was about six shillings a month. In that year only eleven householders paid rates £4 7s. 6d. each, the other householders being too poor to pay, so there were many demands on the overseers. One interesting surname appears in the payments, that of Lowman. From being the substantial farmer in the manor during the 17th century, two Lowmans appear as paupers in the 18th, with none wealthy enough to pay the Poor Rate. In 1745 Joan Lowman was receiving 7s a month and in 1749 Elizabeth Lowman was lodged with one Farmer Paul of Buckland Newton, by arrangement with the overseers because she was homeless. Overseers used this arrangement rather than send the poor to the workhouse. The person lodging and employing the pauper had the first choice to buy that destitute person's effects. An entry in October 1749 shows:

Reserved for Elizabeth Loawman at farmer paules house ....

"1 fether bead, 1 beadstead, 1 bolester, 2 pillars, 3 blankits, 3 sheats, 1 puter dish, 1 skillet, 1 warming pan, 1 pair of tongs, 1 iron pot, a baseing ladle, 1 rug, 1 quilt for her use."

"Sold the residue of her goods to farm paul ...."

He made three separate payments to the overseers, in July, October and December totalling £4 2s. 4d. She must have been quite wealthy at one time.

The overseers dealt with the 'First Poor' of the village; casual charity was paid by the churchwardens to those passing through. There was a highly mobile population especially during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Churchwardens Accounts of this period show payments ranging from 2d to 2/- [1p to 10p] to seamen, fire victims, soldiers, cripples and licensed travellers. Seamen were often Dutch or redeemed from 'Turkish Slavery' - this meant having escaped from capture by a foreign ship - "Turkish" being applied to most foreign sailors.

The churchwardens had other duties to perform and must have been very busy men. They had to look after the fabric and furnishings of the church. An entry in 1700 shows a payment of £21 10s. 0d. [£21.50p] to the carpenters for making new seats. The Vestry had to settle seating disputes, some seats belonging to cottagers and newcomers to the villagers having to be allocated seats, men in one area of the church and women in another. A bill paid in 1730 amounted to £14 7s. 0d. [£14.35p] for a new clock. This was not the first clock for Piddlehinton church as most villages had a church clock by the end of the 16th century and there is reference to the clock 'used in former churchwardens times' in a 1606 entry. In 1697 a clock had been purchased from Ralph Cloud of Beaminster for £7 4s. 2d. [£7.21p] The turret clock bought in 1730 was made by Lawrence Boyce of Puddletown and can still be seen in the church today. It would have had a pendulum for two weights and it had to be wound every day, a responsibility of the clerk for which he was paid 2s [10p] a year. The clock's time keeping was checked by the sundial on the south wall of the church. The clock was still in use in the church in 1760.

Picture of the old clock