Bere Regis Village Website

The History of St. John The Baptist Church (3)

19th Century South Aisle East window
The west gable was similarly rebuilt with a new window inserted and a very small window in the south wall at the west end was replaced. (See below - click to enlarge).
The whole of the south aisle roof was renewed, and the porch almost entirely rebuilt with new roof, side windows, entrance arch and angle buttresses.
Nave (click for larger image)
Mercifully the nave roof was not renewed, but it was care-fully repaired and repainted, it was claimed, in its original colours, but some of the decorative paintwork on the tie beams and wall plates appears to have a suspiciously Victorian character.
The east gable and south clerestory walls were largely rebuilt, re-using the old windows, and the south arcade columns and capitals were repaired with new stone inserts.


All the floors which had been mainly stone flagged, were taken up and renewed.
Those portions under the pews and to most of the north aisle were replaced with boards and joists, and the remainder were tiled with glazed tiles which were said to have been copies of tiles previously in the church and from Bindon Abbey.
During the course of the work it was discovered that the floors of the nave and south aisle had been raised, to the level of the north aisle and chancel (in 1830 it is believed) and these were reduced to their original level, exposing the bases of the south arcade columns.
It is not clear what type of heating system, if any, existed before this time, but in 1875, ducts were formed under the floor and a ducted hot air system installed.
A section of the Floor (click to enlarge)
Furniture and Fittings.

Almost all of the previous furnishings and fittings were taken out, including the west gallery, the box pews, pulpit and vicar's desk, and replaced by new.
Some of the more interesting portions were however retained as paneling and mounted on the north wall of the vestry and in the backs of pews.
The new pews, pulpit and organ screen were carved by Harry Hems of Exeter, in oak, and the ends of all the pews are carved, each with a different design, said to have been copies from various west country churches.
The old west gallery seems to have occupied the whole of the space under the tower and to have projected slightly into the nave, two repaired patches on either side of the tower arch marking its level.
The space under the gallery seems to have been used for storage, and the village fire engine among other things was kept there. Before 1875 the font, on a roughly hewn stone base, was situated in the north aisle, and it seems to have been removed temporarily into the south aisle before being moved to its present position.
There is a note in the parish register against a baptism entry for 15 April, 1875 - "last baptism in the North Aisle before removing into S.
Aisle now restored generally although the 1875 restoration regrettably caused the removal of several ancient features, others were discovered as a result.
These included the pre-reformation stone altar top, the hagioscopes, the original chancel arch or recess jamb and arch stone, a carved stone capital of about 1200 (Diagram below, A) and four stones now built into the north wall of the north aisle internally (Diagram below, B, C, D and E).
Also discovered were several fragments built into the main wall within the porch (Diagram below, J, K, L and M). J and K bear carved heraldic devices known as calvary crosses, thought to have been parts of stone coffin lids, and L is a stone cross very similar to D.
Objects (from top) J-M (click to enlarge)
Several of the Turberville floor tomb slabs in the south aisle were replaced in their original positions, but others from the south aisle and other parts of the church were reset in the floor under the tower around the font.
Some of these bear fragmentary inscriptions and housings for brasses now missing. In the chancel the positions of floor tombs were marked by dated and initialed tiles.
All the old timber doors were renewed, and the plain glass in all the windows was replaced by new stained glass.
Most of the windows depict scenes from the gospels, but the main west window (see below - click to enlarge) shows the life of St. John Baptist the patron saint.
Main West Window
The Turberville window in the south aisle contains the names and arms of the Turberville family, together with those of earlier and subsequent owners of the manor.
The Turberville Window & Window Detail (click to enlarge)
Much of the old plasterwork was renewed and in the process the painted consecration cross was discovered and preserved.
More painted wall plaster was discovered near the roof at the east end of the nave consisting of a text from Haggai (chapter 1, verse 4), very appropriate for the occasion: "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house to lie waste?"
In 1894, some twenty years after the restoration, it was found that the board and joist floors of the north aisle and under the pews in the nave were badly affected by dry rot.
This was beginning to affect the pews and the organ continually required propping in order to keep it reasonably upright.
The boards and joists were therefore removed and replaced with concrete finished with oak blocks, at a cost of £150.
The Organ (click to enlarge)
In 1905 the oak screen to the south side of the vestry was erected to `replace the present unsightly arrangement of curtains,' and took the form of a memorial to George Hibbs who had died in January 1903.
He had been an ardent church worker, being in the choir for 45 years, and a churchwarden from 1884 until his death.
He had also been the 'barrel-organist' when that instrument was in use.
The screen, which cost about £100, was designed and carved by Harry Hems and Son of Exeter, the firm who had carried out the woodwork in 1875.
Oak Vestry Screen (click to enlarge)
In 1906 the roofs of the south aisle and nave were found to be leaking in no less than ten different places, and the repair work was completed by June, 1907.
The building contractor was Mr. F. Stickland of Blandford, and the total cost, including expenses in connection with the appeal, was £133.
In 1907 a fund was started to provide an oak reredos behind the altar, and it was later decided that it should take the form of a memorial to Mr. Drax who had died in April of that year.
Reredos Detail (click to enlarge)
The work was carried out by Messrs. Parsons of Dewlish to the design of Mr. A. Troyte Griffith, an architect of Great Malvern, Worcestershire, and the completed reredos was dedicated on 18 April, 1909.
The Reredos & Altar (click to enlarge)
By the end of the 1914-18 war repair work had accumulated, and one of the most urgent tasks was the repair, tuning and rehanging of the bells, and renewal of the bell frame.
In addition a new treble bell was added, bringing the peal up from five to six, and when the old frame was removed, extensive repairs to the tower itself were found to be necessary.
The work, which cost £210 16s. 821 d., was completed by February 1920.
The enclosure of the vestry, started in 1905 by erecting the south screen, was completed by a screen on the east side. Harry Hems and Son of Exeter again carried out the work, which was finished just before Christmas, 1923.
Before 1925 the church was lit by chandelier type paraffin lamps and as these became worn out, it grew increasingly difficult to replace them with similar fittings.
It was therefore decided to completely renew the lighting, and an ambitious project of electric lighting was embarked upon seven or eight years in advance of mains electricity coming to the village.
The system was completed, and used for the first time at the evening service on Armistice Day, 1925.
The work was carried out by Messrs. Allen-Liversidge of London at a cost of between £500 and £550, and included the erection of an engine house (now used as a storage shed), 32 h.p. petrol driven Lister engine driving a 50 volt D.C. generator, lead sheathed wiring and Holophane glass light fittings.
When a mains supply later became available, this wiring intended for a 50 volt D.C. supply, then had to cope with 240 volt A.C. current, and continued to do so until 1962.

The old underfloor ducted air heating system (of which the ducts and gratings still remain) finally failed to function in November 1925 after exactly 50 years service.
A new central heating system was installed, and first used on 11 November, 1926. Although the boiler itself has been replaced several times since, the basic system of radiators and circulating pipes remains in use.
Mr. W. H. R. Blacking, an architect of Guildford designed the system, and the work was carried out by Messrs. Wippell Bros. and Row of Exeter.In 1931 the whole of the lead on the north aisle roof was relaid, and extensive repairs were carried out to the top of the tower.

This work entailed taking down and rebuilding the south parapet and repairing and repointing the remaining parapets and pinnacles. It was also during this year that the presence of death watch beetle in the nave roof was first suspected.Water had been penetrating the tower walls at various points, and in 1932 this was rectified by repairs and repointing at a cost of about £180.

At the same time the external walling of the south aisle was repaired and repointed.In 1934 the choir stalls in the chancel were extended eastwards, again by Messrs. Harry Hems and Son of Exeter, who had carried out most of the other church woodwork.
In 1936 supplementary choir stalls for ladies were added in the nave, in memory of the Rev. P. W. Taylor who had died in 1935.
The Choir Stalls (click to enlarge)
Just before the second world war, death watch beetle was found to have become firmly established in the nave roof, and it was extensively repaired and treated with a preservative.
In 1950 after several of the stone slates on the chancel roof had become displaced, the whole roof was stripped and the slates rehung, the work being carried out by A. E. Griffin and Son.

In 1956, the Vicarage was moved from what is now Summerods (photograph below), to No 28, West Street, otherwise known as 'The Retreat' (photograph below).
The Church garden party continued at Summerods until 1976. The statues over the door, at The Retreat, probably disappeared before the war.
Summerods circa 1900, The Retreat in 1925 & the Vicarage today (click each to enlarge)
By the end of 1962 the whole of the old electrical wiring had been removed and replaced by new copper sheathed cable, and new high level inconspicuous spot lights were installed.
The old wiring had become unsafe and rewiring afforded the opportunity to dispense with the old light fittings which were suspended on chains in front of the arcades.
The new lighting was dedicated by the Rev. R. C. Herring, the previous vicar, at a special service on 23 June, 1963.During the summer of 1963 an oil fired mechanism was fitted to the boiler, together with an electric circulating pump, thermostatic control and time switch, putting the church heating system on an automatic basis.
Later, however the new automatic mechanism was in danger of deteriorating as a result of water penetration through the boiler house roof and walls, and in addition the cast iron beams supporting the concrete roof had corroded badly and were unsafe.
In 1966 the roof was removed, the walls were lined and waterproofed and a new insulated timber roof was constructed.
At the same time the boiler was renewed, and the efficiency of the heating system improved by adjustments to the pipework in the boiler house. In September 1966 the choir stalls were removed from the chancel and re-erected at the east end of the nave, in order to accommodate a larger choir in one position.
The organ had long been in need of tuning, cleaning and repair, and early in 1967 it was completely dismantled for this purpose.
This afforded a long sought for opportunity to remove the organ from the Morton Chapel which it completely filled, and it was therefore re-assembled in a new position further west in the north aisle.
After a thorough inspection of the whole roof and other woodwork, including treatment where required, and a complete overhaul of all the parapets, lead flashings and gutters, the internal plasterwork was repaired where necessary in November and December 1969, and the whole of the interior white lime-washed.In 1971 the whole of the tower, except the lower part, was cleaned, repaired and re-pointed at a cost of over £2,000.
At the same time the pinnacles at the top of the stair turret were renewed and presented to the church by the Griffin family in memory of the late G. R. Griffin.
One of the old pinnacles had been missing for a great many years.Following removal of the organ in 1967, work on the restoration of the Morton Chapel proceeded as and when funds permitted, many items being donated as memorials.
The principal items consisted of the removal, restoration and refixing of the old 17th century pulpit and stall panelling formerly fixed to the north wall of the vestry, new steel radiator grill, new altar with locally made tapestry panels, stainless steel altar furnishings, carpet, chairs, kneelers and kneeling benches.
The work was completed in 1973.
Views of The Morton Chapel (click to enlarge)
In 1999 a concealed kitchen unit (with running water) was installed at the Western end of the southern Aisle.
In addition, the former electricty shed was converted into a disabled toilet & storeroom.Finally, as the century drew to a close, floodlighting was installed in time for the Millenium.

The 21st Century

As the Church enters its 10th Century it has remained an oasis of calm in a constantly evolving village.
The Church is fortunate indeed to have a consistently resourceful and caring group of people willing to to look after it.
The first big piece of work for the Church this century will be the installation of locally crafted Porch Gates, sometime in 2004.
You can see an artists impression of what they will look like below.
I hope you have enjoyed discovering the history of our Church.
Come back again soon, as these pages will be updated, as our Church is improved over the years.