St Mary Magdalene church, Batcombe, outside


St Mary Magdalene church, Batcombe, inside

The Parish

The parish of Batcombe is situated in a beautiful green valley at the southern tip of the Blackmore Vale. From the chalk down above, extensive views can be enjoyed.

The population reached its zenith when, in 1857, it totalled 227; the Electoral Roll lists 57 names in 2003.

Among the many places of interest in the area are the Friary of St Francis at Hilfield, and the ‘Cross in Hand’, an ancient stone column beside the road on Batcombe Down, mentioned by Thomas Hardy in ‘Tess of the d’Urbevilles’.

In spring and early summer, the ridge above the village has a magnificent display of cowslips, followed by many varieties of orchid, and an incredible abundance of wild flowers. It is classified a site of special scientific interest.

The Church


Dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. When a church was first built on this site is unknown, but it is believed that there has been one here from at least the 11th century.

Many changes have been made since that time, particularly when a Faculty was granted in 1864 for the repair, alteration and rebuilding of part of the church. One result of these changes was the loss of the Minterne side chapel and its memorial tablets. Most of these memorials were re-sited inside the walls of the west tower.

The west tower is a fine embattled structure of three stages, built in the first half of the 15th century. The tower opens into the nave by a lofty arch, beneath which stands a very early font. The font is curious. The stalk is an octagonal Norman column of Ham Hill stone with the cap formed of the usual rolls diminishing to a point as they reach the beaded neck-mould. The basin is of a different stone, probably Portisham, and is apparently earlier still, to judge from its rude ornamentation. It is a cube with its sides rounded, with four bead-like columns at the corners and its sides marked with shallow incised circles.

The 15th century roofs to the nave and chancel are of open barrel design, with carved bosses. The nave windows have plain lights and tracery; major conservation work was carried out in 2002. An ancient stoup can be seen beside one of the pews on the north wall.

The chancel is paved with encaustic tiles. Against the south wall is a 13th Century piscina.
The elegant screen of Ham Hill stone is of open stonework, the embattled cornice being added in 1864.
The bells have had a chequered history. An account of their theft and recovery can be seen in the entrance to the church.
The oldest gravestone in the churchyard, dates from 1680. Within the church, memorials date back to 1595.

The beautiful  organ, built by Brian Daniels of Crewkerne, was our ‘project’ for the new Millennium. It is housed in oak, and is a single manual organ without pedals, its size being appropriate for this small church. It was chosen after visiting Hardy’s Stinsford Church, where Brian Daniels had designed and built the organ.