The 16th Century


The Church in 1500

In about 1500 work was begun on the new west tower and the east end of the north aisle or Morton Chapel. Although at opposite ends of the building, these two items were connected, insofar as it is supposed that the original llth century north
transept had been heightened in the 13th or 14th centuries to form a tower, and that this tower would have been retained until replaced by a new one.

Early 16th Century Floor Plan

The work carried out on the north aisle and nave at the end of the previous century must have been completed several years before 1500 as there is a distinct difference in the style of the work. This is particularly noticeable in the north aisle and nave clerestory where the earlier 15th century windows have cinquefoil and trefoil headed lights, and the later windows of the Morton Chapel and the associated nave clerestory window have plain heads (Left & right photographs below respectively - click to enlarge).

Morton Chapel window & associated Nave Clerestory window

The old west wall of the nave seems to have been rebuilt, or at least thickened, as it now encroaches into the nave to partially obscure the springing of the older western arch of the north arcade. In this new or thickened wall a large arch with tracery panelled soffite and reveals was constructed, and at its apex an attempt seems to have been made to reach a compromise where the central axes of the tower and nave do not coincide. Apart from the adaptation of the west wall of the nave, the tower was treated as a simple addition. It is a splendid tower in three stages externally faced with chequered ashlar and flintwork, with battlemented and pinnacled top, and the brown ferruginous stone used in the upper stage gives the tower its distinctive appearance. The stair turret is on the north west corner and there are buttresses on each face near the angles which terminate as attached pinnacles in the upper stage. A pierced stone belfry window occurs on each face and there is a large window (below left) over the west door (below right) flanked by canopied niches which would have originally contained carved figures.

The West window & the West door (click to enlarge)

At the east end of the north aisle most of the old tower was taken down, leaving its south wall below the nave eaves level to form the new section of clerestory walling, and into which was inserted a new clerestory window. It matches the remaining late 15th century clerestory windows in size but not in detail, being constructed in early 16th century fashion with plain headed lights, as were the two new windows in the north and east walls of the Morton Chapel. At the same time a new stair turret was formed to gain access to the existing rood loft, previous access to which could have been by way of an upper chamber in the old tower. In the chapel there are two semi-octagonal stone brackets flanking the east window, and a further stone bracket decorated with a carved angel attached to the east reveal of the north window. The roof was a shallow double pitched roof continuous with that over the remainder of the north aisle, and when the whole aisle was later re-roofed in monopitch form, the old portion over this eastern bay was retained beneath it and still exists. In Cardinal Morton's will, proved in 1500, it was directed that a chantry chapel should be founded in Bere Regis church, with a priest to say Mass for the souls of his parents for twenty years.

The south porch is thought to have been added early in this century, but as it was almost entirely rebuilt in 1875, its date is difficult to determine. At least it seems to have been added after the widening of the south aisle as there are unbonded joints at its junction with the main wall.

Early in the 16th century the 14th century east window of the south aisle was replaced by a five light square headed window presumably to admit more light. It was again replaced in 1875 but may be seen in a pre-1875 photograph.

In his will of 1535 John Turberville directed that his body should be buried "in my own aisle before the image of Our Blessed Lady, in one of the tombs wherein Sir Richard and Sir Robert Turberville my ancestors hath been buried". In addition, he directed that the east window of the aisle should be rebuilt and reglazed. It is thought that the `Turberville window' (below left) was the result of this direction, and presumably also the canopied altar tomb memorial below it (below right).

The Turbeville window & the canopied Altar Tomb (click to enlarge)

Another apparently older altar tomb (See photograph below) occurs in the east wall of this aisle, but in both cases the identifying brasses have disappeared, leaving the rivet holes, as Thomas Hardy put it "like martin-holes in a sand cliff". One Turberville brass does however remain, that to Robert Turberville who died in 1559, although it is now fixed in a less vulnerable position on the wall near the floor slab to which it was formerly attached.

Altar Tomb (click to enlarge)

Two further canopied altar tombs formerly existed at the east end of the north aisle, but the brasses were already missing by about 1770 when Hutchins visited the church, and he considered them to have been memorials to the Willoughby family of Turnerspuddle. Sir William Willoughby, Nicholas Willoughby and Leonard Willoughby, between 1512 and about 1570, all ordered their bodies to be buried in this church. The remains of one of these canopied tombs are built into the north wall of the north aisle, consisting of the back with its housings for brasses, and the carved soffite of the canopy. A carved fragment now built into the wall in the porch could also have originally formed part of this tomb.

The Skerne canopied altar tomb (See below - click to enlarge) on the north wall of the chancel is similar in design to the others, but it is in white free-stone and in an almost perfect state of preservation. The brasses are all intact bearing the date 1596, and around the edges of the slab are mortises which originally held iron trefoil guards, one of which remains in a flattened condition. The Skerne family held land at Winterborne Kingston, and had descended from a branch of the Spanish kings of Castile and Leon. They were established at Winterborne Kingston at least by 1458 when Robert Skerne held the manor there, and John Skerne, whom this monument commemorates, seems to have been the last of his line, dying in 1593.

The Skerne Canopied Altar Tomb

Some 16th century bench ends still exist (See below - click to enlarge), and had been incorporated in the reading pew prior to 1875, but they now form panels in the backs of the front blocks of nave pews. They are beautifully carved with arabesques and tracery, and one depicts an eagle feeding its young, whilst another bears the date 1547 in Roman numerals-McccccxLVII. Some include carved initials, and another bears the inscription ION DAV WARDEN OF THYS CHARYS, the last word appearing to be a compromise between church and parish. Ion Dav was John Dau or Daw who occurs in the Bere Regis muster roll for 1542, and a namesake who was churchwarden here in 1656 was doubtless one of his descendants.

16th Century Pew Ends

More old carved woodwork remains in the form of linen-fold panels now incorporated into the lower section of the screen which forms the south side of the vestry. Below is an example of one of the beautifully carved Pew Ends.

Pew End Detail (click to enlarge)


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