Church
Scroll down to find out more
Click on Charmouth Home to return back.

The Model of the old Church before being rebuilt in 1836

An Engraving of the Church shortly after being rebuilt

The church as it may have appeared before being rebuilt. This building dated back to 1503 and would no doubt have been under the supervision of Abbot Thomas Chard of Forde Abbey.

An abstract from the Historian, Reginald Pavey`s notes on the Church:

I am recording only a few of the lesser known points of interest. It must have been depressing news when the village was told in 1835 by Charles Wallis of Dorchester, architect, that he had never seen so dilapidated or unsafe a building, and that it was necessary to build a new church. However the whole village worked with enormous energy to raise the money. The numbers of residents who subscribed, was 334 whose subscriptions came to £1221.The number of friends outside the parish was 375 whose donations came to £1130 making a total of £2351. Tobias Gear, Digory and William Gordge are the only donors whose descendants are still in the village. Sidney Grinter` s mother was a Gordge, Billy Gear is great grandson of Tobias. Mr. Giles collected £8.8.0 from three Oxford Colleges, one hundred and nineteen clergy gave most generously. The school children contributed 10 . 6d.'The largest sum was £100 the smallest 6d. The proceeds of two bazaars were £30 . 18 . 0. Collections at the laying of the foundation stone was £14 and at the opening £50 . 18 . 6. The total cost came to £3098. By grants and sale of old. material this sum was collected by 1837 with the exception of £10 . 9 * 0|r which was advanced by the Rector. Services during the building were held in the school and a great many people went to Lyme. The church was opened in 1836* We suppose that it was built on the same site as the former, but when the pavement in front of the sanctuary was removed in 1936, and the floor beneath the gallery on the north side taken up, no sign of foundations could be foundo

The old church had a gallery built over the north side of the nave - there being no north aisle — which was supported by pillars carved as angels. These were sold for umbrella stands, so Frank Coles, baker, told me. In very few churches built as late as 1836 will you find a minstrels gallery. We have one but the organ hides most of it. Who the minstrels were, I can find no record, or why the gallery was built unless it was to house the Psalmodic Barrel Organ which was purchased in September 1836. What a mistake it was that it was removed when John Bullen gave the organ in 1846. A similar barrel organ can be seen in Dorchester Museum. For some reason, according to Pulman's the church was not consecrated until 1861. The old church - St.Matthews -in 1836 was in Bristol Diocese, St.Andrews was in Salisbury Deocese. Amongst other parts of the church which ought never to have been lost was the screen. It must have been hanging about the village for years since it was only discovered by accident, in about 1912, by Mrs.H. Johnstone, who was living at the manor House, in a cottage garden propping up a clothes line. It was fitted over the Jacobean fireplace, where it has remained ever since.
Some of the tombs in the churchyard are worth studying. When Roberts, the Lyme historian visited Charmouth in 1830 he remarked upon a raised Tomb, much defaced, of Mrs, Margaret Stackey or Stuckey f the daughter of John Limbry. John Limbry was the last of that family to be mentioned in any record that I have. This tomb is on the west side of the path opposite the duel tomb and is possibly the oldest, The rector the Rev. S.E. Simms dug all round it and W.Mills and I did the same a few years ago but could not find either name or date.Another Tomb, which is placed with others against the wall off The Elms garage, is unusual. On it is inscribed - In Memory of Benin. late of David .Elizabeth Davey of this parish who was ship wracked on Board the Balona ,Private ship of War on the 5th Day of Sept 1779 aged years.
On the 1st. May 1835 John Davey died and was apparently buried in the same grave, as the same stone was used and reshaped, whereby partly destroying the previous lettering, John's name was cut on the reverse side. The registers give little or no information about the family or how and where Benjamin was "shipwracked". Before the stones were moved to their present position, there were two looking towards the "Coach and Horses s " namely that of Joseph Bradbeer and the other of George Holly, Both had been landlords of the The Coach and Horses", Bradbeer died in 1821 and never saw the present building so his stone was placed against the oast end of the church. George Holly however strongly disapproved of rebuilding the old inn and refused to live there. So his stone no longer faces the building he disliked but lies against the north wall. Another Tomb with a quaint-epitaph is that of John Banks Ellis, who died 14th June 1826 and was buried on the south side of the church. It reads :- He terminated an honourable life, spent in exercise of virtue, in the improvement of science and in pursuit of Truth. Our life hangs by a single thread Which soon is cut and we are dead. Then boast not reader of thy might Alive at noon and dead at night." The stone is placed against the wall .of the old Rectory. Who Mr. Ellis was or where he lived I do not know. I only add this as we have so few epitaphs.Have you noticed that the path beneath the Yew Arch does not lead straight to the porch? The old church was enclosed within a thorned hedge and fences with a large gate and a turnstile. In 1828 iron railings were made by the local blacksmith, Diment, costing £30.
These were replaced by a wall with two gates when the church was built in 1836, In the drawing of the church by Galpin you can see two paths, one leading to the porch from the gate by the "Coach and Horses" and the other to the Tower door from a gate higher up the Street. Some time must have elapsed before the congregation could enter by the Porch from the upper gate, but the duel tomb prevented a direct line. In 1866 the churchyard was widened by 16ft. a new wall was built, two Yew trees were planted to mark: the position of the former gate. The path from the lower gate to the porch was not altered and that is the reason why one has to go along the Rectory drive before coming to it. If you look at the boundary wall of the hotel you can see where the new wall was added. Before the widening could take place, much had to be done.
Opposite the Manor House in the eighteenth century were stables, which were no longer required by James Warden when he went to live at Langmore, and were bought by the Rev.Thomas Puddicombe of Wood Farm for £100. The stables were converted into a dwelling house and butcher's shop. They were subsequently bought by Joseph Bradbeer of the Inn and were left for her life to his widow. She in 1832 married William Watts who deserted her after nine years. Lydia Watts kept a small shop and sold sweets to the children on their way to school so William Holly told me, and by 1861 she was blind and very infirm and was receiving 2/6 relief from the parish. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners paid her £13 to procure a surrender in her old shop and premises and she died in 1865 ninety years of age. The shop was empty for five years, was a disfigurement to the village, and obstructed the view of the church it was then pulled down in 1866. Besides this old cottage the village Pound had to be moved. It stood near the cottage and John Hawkshaw, lord of the manor, gave permission to have it moved to the top of the village. At the same time probably, the Stocks which had been purchased in 1828 were done, away with. What happened to the Pillory mentioned by Roberts, I do not know.
As you enter the churchyard by the bottom gate, you will see on the right the tomb of John Hodges, which has lately been re-lettered. The Lectern in the church was given in his memory by his sons, Charles, the eldest, left the village £1000 in his will to purchase, the playing field, and £500 the interest of which to be given to the poor of Charmouth. This is the only Charity of which the rector and churchwardens are trustees. Charles died in 1932. A little nearer to the church is a flat stone denoting the, buriel place of John Ridges, who died in 1823 aged 6 years.His grand daughter, Mary Ridges Hyde married Colonel Albert Francois Target, an officer in Napoleon` s army in Warsaw, whose daughter was born in a wagon during the retreat from Moscow. His uncle was Guy Jean Baptiste Target, counsel for King Louis XII and Queen Marie Antoinette in the matter of the necklace scandal. Pie ended up under Napoleon as one of the draftsmen of the Code Napoleon, This makes the second link with the Queen's necklace that Charmouth has had. There is one more tomb of local interest. Opposite the east window is the grave of Digory Gordge„ There have been in the past many of that name in the village. The first one in the register was the son of Ralph and Anna Swaine., his son Digory was born in 1759. followed by his son Digory born in 1784. He married Martha Squire in 1806, and had a son Digory who died in 1831. There were five other children, one of whom had thirteen children. Yet today there is not a single Gordge in the village. Jane Squire Gordge, daughter of William, a tailor f 'married George Grinter in February 1893. Their sons, Sidney, Harry, Tom and Fred and Mrs, Harry Bowditch are the only representatives of the Gordge family. The Digory whose grave I referred to was Clerk of the parish for fifty six years. He started with a salary of three guineas a year. His other duties besides being clerk were constant 'attendants" at the church and cleaning the church. His name appears as witness at most marriages and there are dozens of papers in the Vestry signed by him, including a bill for tolling the bell for the death of the King and Duke of Kent in 1820, and in 1832 for the death and funeral of George IV, After twenty six years he wrote to the church-wardens asking for an increase in his salary as the number of in­habitants had increased, this was raised to eight guineas a year. He lived in a cottage at the top of Lyme Hill, on a plot of ground shared by his brothers William, Samuel and Urath. William and Digory sold their plots to Tobit Gear, which passed eventually to Jimmy, father of Billy Gear, garage owner, who sold it to E.A.Washer in 1944 and in 1960 it was purchased by Misses M.C.H.Crosbie and D.M.Beckhouse they called their house "Digory". Digory died in 186l aged 79. I have received in recent years interesting visits from members of the family who have left Charmouth and wish to trace their ancestors. The most interesting one was trying to connect with the Gordges of 'Shipton Gordge'but was unable to bridge the gap of about a hundred years in the seventeenth century. I have mention of over forty of the family who were either born or lived in the village*
The sanctuary carpet requires a special note. When the sanestuary was enlarged in 1936 under the advice of W.H.Randall Blacking F.B.I.A. he desired the church council to purchase a suitable carpet similar to one in Salisbury Cathedral. He did not take kindly to the idea of making one locally. The rector, Dr. and Mrs. Scott and I drove to Salisbury to see what he recommended. We met Mr. Blacking and Mr. Christopher Webb,, who was then designing the east window, in Blacking's studio. Fortunately Dr. Scott, had put one or two examples of his wool work in the car and when he produced them both Blacking and Webb were agreeably surprised at the quality of his work, and immediately agreed that Dr. and Mrs. Scott should undertake to design and superintend the making of a carpet. Colours for the wool were discussed to match the colours of the Reredos and east window, and altar frentals. The dedication of the new work by the bishop had been arranged for July 23rd which left Dr. Scott very little time to complete the work which was started on March 26th. and finished May 14th. taking 1490 hours and 51 minutes. The carpet was made in three pieces and a band of helpers was coached by Dr, and Mrs Scott how to set about the work. Every morning the three pieces were got ready for them and they were to work in a straight line from opposite sides. Thus six people could work at the same time on three different tables, Mrs. Barber lent an upstair room in her garage for the work. The Scotts took the work back every evening to their house "Thistlegate", and set it ready for the next day. Also they themselves completed a whole panel which served as a pattern. It is still possible to recognise their work as it is so evenly executed. As far as I can remember the time recorded does not include, the time and work actually put in by the Scotts.
On 2nd September 1944 Prudence F.Liddon Tosetti was born, and christened in Charmouth church on 15th October the same year. She was the great great grand daughter of Captain Matthew Liddon, grandson of James Warden and niece of Harry Liddon R.A.F. killed in action on 5th May 1943 whose name is on our War Memorial.
Francis Bickley has given a good account in his book "Where ' Dorset meets Devon" of John Audain, rector from 1783 to 1827. During the time of his absence from the parish and when William Glover was rector. 1822 to 1835 curates in charge were appointed. I have records of three. Firstly Brian Combe, son of William Combe the former rector. He appears to have been a man of some considerable means. In many deeds of houses he advanced money to the owners through mortgages. He supported and championed certain villagers when they removed stones and seaweed from the beach, causing James Warden to bring an action for trespass against him in 1789, which Warden won. He owned "Streets Tenement" and other property. In December 1955 during the trouble in Cyprus I noticed in the newspaper that Colonel Brian Combe, R.E. had successfully overcome a famous Cypriot terrorist. The combination of the Christian name with Combe was so interesting that I wrote to his mother asking if by any chance he was descended from our curate-in-charge. She very kindly answered that this was not the case and that I was mistaken.

Secondly there is a memorial on the wall of the north aisle to Thomas Hodges,. and Mrs. Hodges. Their son died when he was and a rather gruesome tablet to him is on the south wall of the sanctuary. The following story was told me by Mrs Drogo Montagu when she lived at Bellair. "Mrs. Hodges used to buy brandy from smugglers then infesting the. coast. The excise officer lived at the bottom of the village. He wrote to Mr. Hodges that he was coming-down for a few days as he had work to do down here. Mrs. Hodges got very anxious thinking he had heard of the brandy, but she knew well,and trusted, the excise officer` s house-keeper. So she consulted her and she suggested that the incriminating bottles should "be put in a cupboard in the officer`s own house, as the last place he would suspect. This was agreed to and Mrs Hodges brought down the bottles hidden in the vast muff fashionable at the time. This was related to Mrs Montagu by the grandson of Mrs Hodges whose mother at one time owned "Berne Farm in the Whitechurch Canonicorum Lane"
Thirdly, concerning Thomas Snow, Carola Oman wrote in "Ayot Rectory. a family memoir 1780-1858. "Mrs. Mary Brown, when she was staying in Lyme, heard of a striking new preacher at Oharmouth. They took a fly to Char mouth and found that rumour had not exaggerated. Mr. Snow was the finest preacher they had heard. He had been a seceder but had returned to the church purified, a burning and shining light. They set off at ten every Sunday morning, remained for the after­noon service and returned for five o'clock dinner. But presently even the road to Charmouth was threatened. Mrs. Snow, after calling on them mentioned that she thought she would go home by the Axminster-Road because, she had remarked a crack in the cliff road. The next morning a butcher and cart fell in a chasm of forty feet." Note" This road between Lyme and Charmouth was finished in June 1825. On 14th January in the following year it began to subside at the west end twenty feet and at the eastern eight feet. It was quickly repaired and lasted for ninety years. The Rev 0 Thomas Snow was curate in charge from 1827 till 1832 when William Glover was rector. He contributed £21 towards the building fund for the new church and Miss Snow - possibly his daughter collected £4. He also gave £1 towards the Clock fund. I do not know where he lived.