Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Wimborne / Winburnan: Dorset

Wimborne Minster (Minster Church of St. Cuthburga)

The Minster Church of St. Cuthberga, Wimborne Minster - from the north east (2008).
The RCHME say that, "as a monument of architectural and historical importance the minster church is surpassed, in Dorset, only by Sherborne."
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Cuthberga, sister of King Ina (Ine) of Wessex (688-726), founded a nunnery at Wimborne in or around the year 705. In around 1013, the nunnery was destroyed the Danes during one of their incursions into Wessex. In 1043, King Edward the Confessor created a college of secular canons.
Nothing of the collegiate buildings survive, but the medieval church itself remains, with nineteenth century restorations by Charles Barry (1840s), T.H. Wyatt (1850s) and J.L. Pearson (1891). Newman and Pevsner, however, do not think that the Minster can be called beautiful:
What is it that spoils it? The spotty brown and grey stone in the first place, the competition of crossing tower and w tower in the second, too similar in height, i.e. neither dominating, and too similar in bulk, and the uncouth top of the crossing tower in the third. Many other visitors to this church will disagree with this assessment. They may indeed consider that the minster church is not the equal of great buildings like the churches at Sherborne or Milton Abbey, but it fits its immediate context very well, and it looks good when viewed from outside of the town - e.g. from the bypass. Much of the fabric of the church is made up of heath stone and limestone - giving it its 'spotty' character - but the western tower is built of Greensand ashlar, probably brought from the area around Shaftesbury.
Remains of the Saxon church survive in the transepts and crossing. The church was extensively rebuilt and enlarged in the twelfth century For example, the upper parts of the crossing tower date from the twelfth century but is crowned by what the RCHME call "an embattled parapet and angle pinnacles, erected in 1608." The church was enlarged and partly rebuilt several times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In the fifteenth century, a spire was added to the crossing tower but this fell in 1600. The author of Coker's Survey of Dorsetshire (1732, but probably written a century before) recorded the spire's collapse in the following way :
Having thus discoursed thus longe of this Church, I will not overpasse a strange Accident, which in our Dayes happened unto it, viz. Anno Domini 1600, (the Choire beeing then full of People at tenne of Clock Service, allsoe the Streetes by reason of the Markett) a sudden Mist ariseing, all the Spire Steeple, beeing of a verie great Height, was strangely cast downe; the Stones battered all the Lead, and brake much of the Timber of the Roofe of the Church, yet without anie Hurte to the People ...Also In the fifteenth century a western tower was added to the minster church, presumably because the crossing tower was not strong enough to cope with the ringing of bells. This tower was also a source of trouble.

The Reverend Thomas Perkins reports.
... as early as 1548 it was thought necessary to brick up the west doorway, and notices of unsoundness of the tower occur frequently in the church books. In 1664 we find the following entry made: - "Paid in beere to the Ringers for a peale to trye if the Tower shooke £0 1s. 0d."
As we read this entry, we cannot help wondering if the large amount of beer which a shilling would purchase in those days was given to the ringers so as to give them a fictitious courage and blind their eyes to the possible danger of bringing the tower down upon their heads.The interior of the church is also very interesting. Amongst other things, it contains a Saxon (but the RCHME suggest 13th century) oak chest, a Norman font made of Purbeck Marble, a medieval astronomical clock, various memorials including effigies of John de Beaufort and his wife, and - perhaps most famous of all - a chained library. In the chancel there is a 14th or 15th century brass commemorating the Saxon King Ethelred, the elder brother of King Alfred the Great who was killed at the battle of Merton, and buried in the Minster here.

Further Reading
Barker, K., Early ecclesiastical settlement in Dorset: a note on the topography of Sherborne, Beaminster and Wimborne Minster. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, 102, 1982, pp. 107-112.

Betjeman, J., Sir John Betjeman's guide to English parish churches, revised and updated by Nigel Kerr. London: HarperCollins, 1993, p. 186.

Clegg, A.L., A history of Wimborne Minster and district. Bournemouth: Outspoken Press, 1960. Coulstock, P.H., The Collegiate Church of Wimborne Minster (Studies in the history of medieval religion, 5). Woodbridge: Boydell, 1993.

Dorset Historic Churches Trust, Dorset Churches. [Dorchester]: DHCT, 1988, p. 57.

Fleming, K. le, Wimborne Minster Archives. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, 56, 1945, pp. 46-64.

Fletcher, J.M.J., Some Saxon saints of Wimborne. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, 32, 1912, pp. 199-212.

Fletcher, J.M.J., Manuscript history of Wimborne Minster. Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, 21, 1935, pp. 54-56.

Fletcher, J.M.J., Lady Margaret and Wimborne Minster. Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, 21, 1935, pp. 221-222.

Fletcher, J.M.J., The churchwardens' accounts of Wimborne Minster. Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, 22, 1938, pp. 102-106.

Gallyon, M., The early church in Wessex and Mercia.

Lavenham: Terence Dalton, 1980, esp. pp. 39-42

Hope, M., Dorset. In: Humphrey, S.C., ed., Blue guide: churches and chapels of southern England. London: Black; New York: Norton, 1991, pp. 204-206.

Hutchins, J. The history and antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd ed., edited by W. Shipp and J.W. Hodson, Westminster: J.B. Nichols, 1861-1873.

James, J., Wimborne Minster: the history of a country town. Wimborne: Dovecote Press, 1982. Jenkins, S. England's thousand best churches. London: Allen Lane, the Penguin Press, 1999, p. 164.

Mee, A., ed., Dorset: Thomas Hardy's country. The King's England. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939, pp. 288-297.

Miller, A., The monasteries of Dorset. Bournemouth: Albemarle Books, 1999, pp. 196-210.

Newman, J. and Pevsner, N., The buildings of England: Dorset. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, pp. 461-466.

Perkins, T., Wimborne Minster and Christchurch Priory: a short history of their foundation and description of their buildings. (Bell's cathedral series). London: G. Bell & Sons, 1899. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol. 5, East Dorset. London: HMSO, 1975, pp. 78-85.

Map showing outline of Dorset and Wimborne in

Wimborne Minster (often referred to locally as Wimborne) is a market town in the East Dorset district of Dorset in South West England, and the name of the Church of England church in that town. The central town has a population of 6,418 (according to the 2001 Census) and is situated at the confluence of the River Stour and River Allen, five miles north of Poole.
The Mayor of Wimborne is currently Robin D. Cook, who has held the position since May 2008. The previous mayor of Wimborne was Anthony Oliver. The town and its administrative area is served by eleven councillors and one from the nearby ward of Cranfield. Wimborne is twinned with Valognes, France

Buildings and architecture
The architecture of Wimborne is regarded as one of the foremost collections of 15th, 16th and 17th century buildings in Dorset. Local planning has restricted the construction of new buildings in areas such as the Corn Market and the High Street, which has preserved almost all of the original buildings. The most interesting examples of English architecture include the centuries-old Wimborne Minster, the Town Hall, the Priest's House Museum and dozens of original 16th, 17th and 18th century fronted shops and pubs. The town is also home to the Tivoli Theatre, a 1930's art deco cinema and theatre.

Wimborne Minster Church
This is a Saxon Church, with Norman and Gothic architecture. It is famed for its unique chained library and the tombs of King Ethelred, the brother of Alfred the Great, as well as the tombs of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and his duchess, the maternal grandparents of King Henry VII of England.
Wimborne Model Town
The model town is one of the largest and most established model towns in England. It depicts Wimborne at the time it was made, in the 1950s. It is at 1/10 scale, so the model of the Minster is several feet high. The shop windows accurately show the goods the shops were selling at the time. The exhibition also includes a model railway based on Thomas the Tank Engine, which was opened by Christopher Awdry. Children are invited to complete a quiz sheet (there are several, graded by age).

Wimborne Minster was winner of the regional Britain in Bloom Awards and Silver Gilt medallist in the national competition. The town welcomes visitors each summer with a display of flowers in six large gardened areas of the town.
On weekends and national holidays, the town crier can be seen in the main square and around the Minster. The legacy and position of the town crier date back to the Civil War. The town has a large civil war re-enactment society, which performs every year.
The town has a well-established and large market. The market is held on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was previously located in the Town Centre but moved out several years ago to a site on the edge of town to accommodate its size.
Every two years in mid-August, the Park Initiative, an inter-church charity working on Leigh Park estate, holds a community event called "Alive in the Park" in the centre of the estate using a large marquee.

Folk Festival

The close around the Minster

Every summer in June the town holds the Wimborne Folk Festival. Founded in 1980, the annual event of Traditional Folk Dance and Song has become the focal point for the largest gathering of dance teams and musicians in the South of England.

The festival is considered by many to be the town's major event of the year and is highly regarded nationally as one of the largest events of its kind in the country. The festival involves Morris Dancing. The regional festival is attended by over 15,000 people across its weekend with parts of the town being closed to traffic.

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