St. Edward the Martyr

St. Edward the Martyr as depicted on the stain glass window of St. George's Church, Fordington, Dorchester © Mark North/DCM 2014

St. Edward the Martyr as depicted on the stain glass window of St. George’s Church, Fordington, Dorchester © Mark North/DCM 2014

The following is an extract taken from the ‘Chambers Book of Days’ March 18th 1864, with regards to the death of Edward the king of England who was brutely murdered near Corfe Castle, Dorset.

“The great King Edgar had two wives, first Elfleda, and, after her death, Elfrida, an ambitious woman, who had become queen through the murder of her first husband, and who survived her second; and Edgar left a son by each, Edward by Elfleda, and Ethelred by Elfrida. At the time of their father’s death, Edward was thirteen, and Ethelred seven years of age; and they were placed by the ambition of Elfrida, and by political events, in a position of rivalry. Edgar’s reign had been one continued struggle to establish monarchism, and with it the supremacy of the Church of Rome, in Anglo-Saxon England; and the violence with which this design had been carried out, with the persecution to which the national clergy were subjected, now caused a reaction, so that at Edgar’s death the country was divided into two powerful parties, of which the party opposed to the monks was numerically the strongest. The queen joined this party, in the hope of raising her son to the throne, and of ruling England in his name; and the feeling against the Romish usurpation was so great, that, although Edgar had declared his wish that his eldest son should succeed him, and his claim was no doubt just, the crown was only secured to him by the energetic interference of Dunstan. Edward thus became King of England in the year 975.

Edward appears, as far as we can learn, to have been an amiable youth, and to have possessed some of the better qualities of his father; but his reign and life were destined to be cut short before he reached an age to display them. He had sought to conciliate the love of his step-mother by lavishing his favour upon her, and he made her a grant of Dorsetshire, but in vain; and she lived, apparently in a sort of sullen state, away from court, with her son Ethelred, at Corfe in that county, plotting, according to some authorities, with what may be called the national party, against Dunstan and the government.

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle, Dorset

The Anglo-Saxons were all passionately attached to the pleasures of the chase, and one day—it was the 18th of March 978 — King Edward was hunting in the forest of Dorset, and, knowing that he was in the neighbourhood of Corfe, and either suffering from thirst or led by the desire to see his half-brother Ethelred, for whom he cherished a boyish attachment, he left his followers and rode alone to pay a visit to his mother. Elfrida received him with the warmest demonstrations of affection, and, as he was unwilling to dismount from his horse, she offered him the cup with her own hand. While he was in the act of drinking, one of the queen’s The Murder of King Edward the Martyr attendants, by her command, stabbed him with a dagger. The prince hastily turned his horse, and rode toward the wood, but he soon became faint and fell from his horse, and his foot becoming entangled in the stirrup, he was dragged along till the horse was stopped, and the corpse was carried into the solitary cottage of a poor woman, where it was found next morning, and, according to what appears to be the most trustworthy account, thrown by Elfrida’s directions into an adjoining marsh.

The young king was, however, subsequently buried at Wareham, and removed in the following year to be interred with royal honours at Shaftesbury. The monastic party, whose interests were identified with Edward’s government, and who considered that he had been sacrificed to the hostility of their opponents, looked upon him as a martyr, and made him a saint. The writer of this part of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, who was probably a contemporary, expresses his feelings in the simple and pathetic words, ‘No worse deed than this was done to the Anglo race, since they first came to Britain.’

The story of the assassination of King Edward is sometimes quoted in illustration of a practice which existed among the Anglo-Saxons. Our forefathers were great drinkers, and it was customary with them, in drinking parties, to pass round a large cup, from which each in turn drunk to some of the company. He who thus drank, stood up, and as he lifted the cup with both hands, his body was exposed without any defence to a blow, and the occasion was often seized by an enemy to murder him. To prevent this, the following plan was adopted. When one of the company stood up to drink, he required the companion who sat next to him, or some one of the party, to be his pledge, that is, to be responsible for protecting him against anybody who should attempt to take advantage of his defenceless position: and this companion, if he consented, stood up also, and raised his drawn sword in his hand to defend him while drinking. This practice, in an altered form, continued long after the condition of society had ceased to require it, and was the origin of the modern practice of pledging in drinking. At great festivals, in some of our college halls and city companies, the custom is preserved almost in its primitive form in passing round the ceremonial cup—the loving cup, as it is sometimes called. As each person rises and takes the cup in his hand to drink, the man seated next to him rises also, and when the latter takes the cup in his turn, the individual next to him does the same.”

Extract from an article written by the George J. Bennett. titled ‘The Religious Foundations and Norman Castle of Wareham’ from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 19 1898, 

St. Edward the Martyr Sign

St. Edward the Martyr commerative sign Corfe village © DCM 2014

The Saxon Chronicler asserts that in A.D. 979 the Saxon King Edward was slain at eventide at Corfe Gate, on the 18th March, and then he was buried at Wareham without  any kind of kingly honours. Those acquainted with the records of Edward’s murder and burial are aware that the monkish historians  affirm that three times the dead king’s body was discovered by supernatural lights:- 1. In a cottage at Corfe Gate. 2. By the light which appeared above the marshy ground. 3. By the light over the grave at Wareham.

When the treacherous blow had been dealt, the mortally wounded monarch rode hastily away, but, falling from loss of blood, he was dragged a considerable distance by his horse. We learn from Hutchins (Hutchins, 1st Ed., Vol I.p. 177.) that Elfrida immediately despatched some trusty servants to ascertain the result of her treachery. Russel (Russel’s Hist. Eng., p. 47.) informs us that they traced it by the blood, and found the king’s corpse much bruised and defaced. From conflicting records we gather that Edward’s body was found at the base of the hill, by what was afterwards termed St. Edward’s, or King Bridge. Elfrida then commanded that the body should be hidden in a cottage. The superstitious affirm that during the night, the house became illuminated by a blaze of miraculous light, by which the sight of a blind inmate was restored. On the site of that house a church was afterwards built. Corfe Castle Church is one of the very few in England dedicated to King Edward the Martyr.

The morning after the murder, when she had been informed of these circumstances, Elfrida commanded that Edward’s body should be removed from the cottage secretly, and hidden in a marshy place. This was done, and it is evident that only Elfrida’s confederates in guilt were entrusted with the work. When the guilty Queen had seen her orders executed, she, in order to avoid suspicion, left Corves-geiite, and retired to the Royal residence at Bere Regis. Ineffectual search continued to be made by Edward’s retainers for the body of their late master. At length their efforts were rewarded. The superstitious supposed that “a pillar of fire,” descending from heaven, illuminated the place where it was hid. Edward’s body was then carried to Waieham, and buried with as much secrecy by the late monarch’s friends as his enemies had used in hiding it. If Edward’s body was really concealed in one of the Purbeck peat bogs, Brannon says : “The astonishing power of peat would actually embalm the body ; the presence of animal matter evolve at a strong phosphorescent light, and the ‘ pillar of fire,’ in this case an ignis not factuus, would rest over it.” By accepting this theory the supposed miracle is accounted for. When writing of the discovery of Edward’s body in the marshy place, Hutching, quoting Brompton, observes : ” Some devout people of Wareham brought it to that town, to the church of St. Mary, and buried it in a plain manner (non regio more) on the east side, where a wooden church, (Hutchins, 2nd Ed., Vol. I, p. 177. ) afterwards built by religious persons, was to be seen in that author’s time.” From Brompton, the historian, we learn some important facts. First, that the actual spot where Edward was buried at Wareham was unknown, even to the ecclesiastics, so secret was the burial. In his Magna Britannia, (Dorsetshire, p. 562. ) published 1720, the Rev. T. Cox shows that it was only by a supposed miracle that Edward’s burial place at Wareham was discovered. He writes of Edward thus : — ” His body had been clandestinely buried at Wareham, in hopes that his murder might have been concealed ; but it being afterwards discovered by a miraculous blaze of light hanging over his tomb.” The reports of the miracles and wonders at Wareham, were, according to Malmesbury, wide spread ; and much good is said to have been effected by the sanctity of the royal remains. As an historical fact, Brompton, Abbot of Forvant, informs us that the body of King Edward was buried, not in, but on the east side of St. Mary’s Church. The fact that Edward was not buried in a church, and the statement of some, probably correct, that the body was discovered in unconsecrated ground, would be ample reason for the removal of the body from Wareham. When the report of the miracles (Dorsetshire, p. 562.) and discovery of the body had been communicated to Elfrida, she granted permission for Edward’s remains to be removed to Shaftesbury Abbey, and there royally entombed. We are informed by the Saxon Chronicler that in A.D. 980 ” St. Dunstan and Alfere, the ealderman, fetched the holy king’s body, St. Edward’s, from Wareham, and bore it with much solemnity to Shaftesbury.” For his information, though brief, we are under an obligation to Brompton. He tells us that the Saxon King Edward was buried on the east side of St. Mary’s, and that on the spot where Edward had been buried a wooden church was built. And what is also important, Brompton asserts that the wooden church was still existing when he wrote at the close of the 14th century. Here we have a substantial proof that the body of King Edward was never buried in St. Mary’s Church ; that church was also existing. None of the monkish historians tell us that King Edward was buried in St. Mary’s Church, nor do the modern make any such statement.

That the late Mr. T. Bond accepted Brompton’s statement is certain. In his ” Corfe Castle ” he writes : — ” Search being made for the body, the place where it was concealed was discovered, and thereupon some devout people of Wareham, having conveyed the corpse to the church of St. Mary, in that town, buried it in a plain and homely manner on a spot where religious men afterwards built a wooden church, still standing when Brompton’s Chronicle was written.”

When, in 1841, the nave of Lady St. Mary’s was demolished, and the original St. Mary’s shortened, some ancient stone coffins were discovered and destroyed. One, however, was preserved, the remarkable boat-shaped sarcophagus of Purbeck marble now standing at the entrance to the church. In circumference it measures 17ft. it is 8ft. 2in. in length ; width at shoulders, 30in. ; greatest outer depth, 17in. ; it is estimated to weigh considerably over a ton. Some think King Edward was buried in that coffin; competent judges assert that it is much too modern. Supposing that the King’s body had been laid therein, it would have been an utter impossibility to have buried a coffin of such size and weight secretly in so small a building, 12ft. wide and about 45ft. long. To such a secret burial as King Edward had, this huge coffin would have been a mostserious hindrance. The original St. Mary’s is now used as a choir vestry and called King Edward’s Chapel.

Saint Wite of Whitechurch Canonicorum

Church of Saint White, or Candida, and Holy Cross,  Whitechurch Canonicorum.

Church of Saint White, or Candida, and Holy Cross, Whitechurch Canonicorum.

From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 28, 1907, an article written by the Rev. D. Holland Stubbs entitled ‘Church of Saint White, or Candida, and Holy Cross, Whitechurch Canonicorum: A Descriptive Sketch, compiled from notes made at various times by former vicars’

In the valley of the Char, near the village of Charmouth, about midway between Bridport and Lyme Regis, stands the ancient Whitechurch Canonicorum, founded by King Alfred the Great about a.d. 897. It is a building composed of various styles of architecture, and consists of nave with north and south aisles, transepts, chancel, and western tower.

The first point of interest lies in the names by which it is so honourably known. It would therefore be fitting perhaps to observe what is generally believed to be the origin of the church and its dedication. Upon good authority it is considered to have been built by King Alfred, who united a few townships of which he was presumably the owner — for it is well known that the Kings of Wessex held great estates in all this district — and built a church of stone on this his royal domain. As a rule, churches derive their names from the parishes in which they are built, but in all probability this parish derived its name from the church having been built of white stone, or possibly having been whitewashed*. (*N.B. This theory of the origin of the place-name is simple and in harmony with the well-known instance of “Candida casa ” in Galloway. Vide Article by the Rev. Charles Druitt in the Club’s Proceedings, Vol. XIX., 1898)

In his will, dated a.d. 901, King Alfred bequeathed Hwitan Cyrican to his youngest son Ethelwald. In the next century, about the year 1060, the then Rector of Withchirche, Guntard by name, who was Chaplain to William the Conqueror, “being desirous to retire into the Monastery of S. Wandragesil, prevailed upon the King to grant the two churches (Whitechurch and Sherston) to the monks of that house.” Accordingly the Rectory of Witcerce was given by William to the Benedictine Abbey of S. Wandragesil, now called S. Wandrille (near Caudebec in Normandy), and was constituted a “cell of the abbey” under the name of Album Monasterium. This connexion lasted about a hundred and forty years, during which time the monks began to rebuild King Alfred’s Church on a larger scale.

The Abbey of S. Wandrille surrendered the Rectory of Witcherch to the Church of Old Sarum in 1200. The right of presentation to the Rectory then passed to Sir Robert de Mandivel, a resident knight (whose name survives to this day in Mandivel Stoke), apparently on his undertaking to carry out the unfinished work of the abbots, and this was done in the Early English style in the early part of that century. This accounts for the different shapes of the arches and the admixture of Norman and Early English in the nave arcades. By the addition of transepts the church was now made ‘ cruciform.’ It was on Christmas Day of the year 1240 that a charter was signed by which the Rectory and rectorial revenues were assigned to the Canons of the Cathedrals of Salisbury and Wells, from which time the church became known as Whitechurch of the canons, or, in its latinised form, Canonicorum. Thus we have the earliest name of Hwitan Cyrican about a.d. 900, then in William’s charter to his Rector Guntard, Withchirche, in Domesday, Witcerce, and in later periods (1200) Whytecherche, (1228) Wittecheriche, (1240) Witcherche, or, in its latinised form, Album Monasterium, and then Whitechurch Canonicorum.

The Western Tower

The Western Tower

To make a tour of the church in systematic order it is best to proceed first to the outside of the western tower. This massive and lofty tower, in the Perpendicular style of architecture, is a conspicuous object in the landscape for miles around, and is used as a landmark by vessels at sea when making for the port of Lyme Regis. With its buttresses it is thirty-two feet square and seventy-five feet high. The fine western window with three lights is, so far as the tracery is concerned, more modern, although a copy of the original. On either side of it there are canopied niches well preserved, but from which sacrilegious hands in times of religious strife have torn down the effigies of the saints. The tower contains six bells, with inscriptions respectively as follows : —

Whitechurch-Canoncorum-bellIn the walls of the church are embedded many fragments of carved stone which have been preserved from former buildings probably on the same site. On the south side of the tower, and high up, is an interesting stone carving of an archaic ship and an axe. On a separate panel, and a little higher on the right, will be seen another axe and an ancient weapon resembling an iron socketted celt.

Whitechurch-Canoncorum-AxeOn the north side is a perfect, unweathered specimen of the same curious weapon. The ship has been supposed by some to indicate that the donor of the tower was a merchant who had obtained, by the traffic of his ships, the wealth which enabled him thus to dignify and adorn his parish church, but a more probable explanation will be found later on.

A “spoked circle,” supposed to be an old sun dial, but, more likely, a mystic symbol which had to do with solar myths, will be seen built into the south-east side of the diagonal buttress of the south transept. The most interesting fragment, however, and deserving of a paragraph all to itself, is fixed in the south wall between the tower and the porch.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail

It represents a two-handled cup and is supposed to be a figure of the Holy Grail. It is similar in design to the Holy Grail as seen by Bishop Arculph in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem about A.D. 680. The Holy Grail, in mediaeval legend, is the Holy Cup used by Our Lord at the Last Supper, originally the ” San Great,” or Holy Dish, in which it is said Joseph of Arimathaea collected the Sacred Blood. There is a similar representation on a cross at Sancreed in Cornwall, of a one-handled cup, but it more probably refers to the ” pot and lily,” symbolical of the Annunciation and not to the Holy Grail. (Baring-Gould).

South Porch

South Porch

Particular notice should be taken of the south porch with its striking Inner Doorway, which is really a beautiful example of Norman work. The jambs are ornamented with circular shafts, having foliated capitals, and the circular head enriched with nail-head ornaments and pointed roll. On the eastern jamb and on the inner side of it, will be seen four roughly-cut crosses, which are said to be consecration marks. These crosses, it is supposed, were first marked in holy oil by the bishop who re-consecrated the church, or some part of it, possibly after desecration by bloodshed, and were then chiselled in their present form to commemorate the event. Of special antiquarian and ecclesiastical interest also is the old sacring-bell-hut over the west gable of the chancel. In this hung the bell that was rung at the consecration prayer in the Latin Mass before the Reformation. Nearly all over the country these sacring-bells and their huts were destroyed in Puritan times.

Projecting from the four corners of the porch are grotesquely-cut figures called gargoyles, evidently of earlier date than the part into which they were built. Others may be seen on the north side of the church, and the upper portion of the tower. On the north side also may be observed traces of a foundation which may be a remnant of the old Saxon portion of the fabric.

Whitechurch-Canoncorum-InteThe Interior of the Church. — In the severely plain, yet most dignified interior, there is much more of interest than at first meets the eye of the casual observer, and much that is of great value to the student of ancient architecture. Attention is at once drawn to two arches of the south aisle, which are Norman. They date from the time of the re-building by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of S. Wandrille. These foreign owners began to re-place the earlier church with a larger structure in the then prevalent style of architecture.

The Font

The Font

The bowl of the font is Transition Norman work. It was discovered by a former vicar, the Rev. Sir William Palmer, in a field belonging to Berne Farm, and was erected by him on a base in character with the ancient piece of work.

On the east wall of the south transept there is a painted board with tablet to the memory of Elizabeth Floyer, dated 1666, and a hatchment above showing the arms of Floyer impaling Mainwaring. The following quaint inscription sets forth the virtues of the good lady : —

Æsuœ 42.

Come, gentle reader, to bestow a teare,
Upon her sacred dust doe not forbeare,
Shee was a vertuous wife, a tender mother,
A neighbour kind, theres scarse left such another,
Though shee bee dead her memory will find
A name in her faire issue left behind
And in her pious life, which here below
With us, shee was too good to stay we know,
Who on her death bead thanked god most high
S’was not asham’d to live, nor feard to dye.

The vestry door should receive special attention, as it is considered a good example of mediaeval architecture. Originally there was a rood screen or loft across the chancel arch, the remains of the entrance to which may still be seen in the wall above.

The chancel is a very large one for a country church. It is simply, but effectively, furnished and adorned with oak stalls, the panelling being known as the ‘ linen pattern.’ The altar is well raised, and the whole appearance of the sanctuary from the west end is of an elevating and devotional character. The east window is bold and impressive, but not old. It was placed there by the Rev. Sir William Palmer, a former vicar, 1846- 1885. The altar rail is of the same date as the pulpit. One of the most striking features is the highly-decorated tomb of Sir John Jeffery, of Catherstone, with a recumbent figure of the knight, whose casque hangs overhead. Hard by is the smaller and less sumptuous tomb of John Wadham, of Catherstone, a kinsman of the founder of Wadham College, Oxford. There are remains of stones with matrices of missing brasses in the floor of the sanctuary. The old registers indicate that in this Church lie (in a nameless grave) the remains of a gallant sailor, Sir George Somers, born at Lyme Regis in 1554, the famous admiral who annexed the Bermudas in the reign of James I. No stone now marks the site, but a movement is on foot for erecting a tablet or brass to his memory.

The fine carved pulpit, which is Jacobean in style, was placed here in the time of James I. It serves to mark an epoch in the history of the church. Simiiarly-carved pulpits exist at Netherbury, Lyme Regis, and at Wootton Fitzpayne.

The north transept bears the date of 11 28 on a small wooden cross built into the upper portion of the east wall. It was intended to include the shrine of S. White or Candida, around which such interest gathers. Here too stood, formerly, two altars, one under each window, lighted by two small lancets. Very good specimens of foliated capitals to the arcade are deserving of special notice, particularly that representing a leaf of the water avens, or herb bennet. The north wall, it is probable, was originally of the same design as the bays of the east wall, with a lancet window, replaced later by the three-light window.

St. Wite's ShrineBeneath this window is the recessed tomb which is the reputed resting place of S. Wita, or Candida, and locally known as ” the saint’s shrine.” The monument consists of two parts. the lower, of a 13th century base brought from some other place, and rebuilt in its present position to bear the upper part, which is of older date. The three oval openings beneath the tomb are a common feature of such monuments. In these openings, handkerchiefs and other small articles were placed, in the belief that they would become possessed of healing virtues, and could then be carried to recover the sick. This coffin was opened by the Rev. Sir William Palmer, and was said to contain a small stone box in which were a few bones, but no documentary evidence remains of his act, nor any record of what he found there. On the top stands a small stone cross much decayed, which formed the finial of the east gable of the chancel. It was placed here for its preservation by the Rev. J. R. W. Stafford, a former vicar, in 1890. A second opportunity for examining the contents of the tomb presented itself, for in March, 1900, an ominous fissure appeared in the north wall, and it was necessary to underpin the walls, which was done by the then Vicar, the Rev. Charles Druitt. The movement of the soil and consequent settlement dislocated the old shrine, re-opening an ancient fracture in the stone coffin to such an extent that it became necessary to reset the broken end. It was during the execution of this work that the re-discovery of the relics was made.* (* N.B. Vide the Eev. Charles Druitt’s paper, ” Discovery of the Kelics of S. Wita,” in the Salisbury Diocesan Gazette for Sept., 1900.)

The broken end of the coffin having been withdrawn, there was seen within the end of a leaden casket eight inches square ; and on it, cast in raised letters on the lead, was found the following inscription : —

Whitechurch Canoncorum

This proved to be the square end of an oblong, ancient, leaden reliquary of 2ft. 5ms. It was badly damaged, having been ripped open from end to end. The incrustation of oxide on the torn edges seemed to show that the damage was not recent ; apparently it had been done some centuries before. In the reliquary were a number of large bones, a good deal decayed, presumably those of a small woman. These were not disturbed in their resting place, but one of the bones which lay upper most, was measured and found to be 13⅞ins. long. The larger fragments found on the floor of the coffin were placed with the bones in the reliquary, and all the smaller fragments and dust reverently collected into a small metal box and placed within the coffin. One side of the reliquary was complete and undamaged, and on it was found cast in similar raised letters on the lead the following inscription: —St.-Wite-Inscription

(Here lie the remains of Saint Wita.)

The whole of the relics were carefully replaced in the stone coffin, the broken end being securely cemented in its place. Formerly, it is said, there was a painted inscription on the stone front of the tomb, but the only words decipherable were:
Candida…….. Candidiorque ……..

Now the great question of interest is: Who is this S. Wita, or Candida? Certain theories have been propounded from time to time, to account for her origin and the presence of her bones at Whitechurch, but none of these can so far be proved to be more than conjecture. By some it has been thought that she was a virgin-martyr saint who suffered death under Maximian at Carthage, but it would be difficult to explain what she could possibly have had to do with a Dorset village. Some think that the abbots of S. Wandrille, perceiving a desirable connexion with a saint in the Roman calendar of the name of Candida, or White and Whitechurch, had her bones conveyed here. Others, again, that it is possible that a male saint of the name of White, or S. Candidus as he might be called, who suffered martyrdom near Utrecht in A.D. 755, is intended, as he was believed to be a native of western Dorset. But the best and most probable explanation of the mystery is that recently advanced by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, who is a recognised authority on such subjects. He has kindly written the following notes expressly for this paper :

“Who was S. Candida, or S. White? No legend exists of her in England, but she has received recognition in Brittany under the Celtic name of Gwen, the Latin name of Candida, and the French name of Blanche, all of which have their equivalent in the English name of White. We can only conjecture as to her identity. Of Gwen we know a good deal. She was twice married. By her first husband she became the mother of S. Cadfan, the founder of Tywyn Church in Merionethshire, where his stone with inscription still remains. She was the daughter of Emyr Llydaw, a prince of Brittany, and her first husband was Eneas Lldewig. On his death she married Fragan, cousin of Cado, Duke of Cornwall. For some unknown reason, Fragan resolved on leaving Britain and crossing over to Brittany, in the latter part of the fifth century, and took with him his wife Gwen ‘ of the three breasts,’ and his two sons with her, Gwenthenoc and James, and he settled near where is now the city of S. Brieuc, at a place still called Ploufragan, or the Plebs or tribal residence of Fragan.

“Shortly after their arrival in Brittany, Gwen gave birth to another son who was named Winwaloe, a notable saint, who died in the year 550. Gwen received the name of ‘the three breasted’ from an expression in use among the Welsh and Irish, descriptive of a woman who was twice married and who had children by both husbands. At Ploufragan there is a modern statue of her as a queen, but at Scaer is her holy well, yielding an abundant outflow of crystal water, and there she is called Candida.

“What little that is reliable concerning her we know from the life of her son S. Winwaloe, but legend has been busy with her name and story, and Sebillot, in his collection of folk tales collected in Brittany, tells some of the traditional stories connected with her. According to them the connection with England is still present, but she is fabled to have been carried off by English pirates to London, but she escaped from the ship with the loss of two fingers cut off by an axe by one of the pirates — according to another version, the loss of her left hand — and to have walked on the water back to Brittany. There the track of foam left by the tide as it turns is still called ‘ the track of S. Blanche.’

Le Chemin de Saint Blanche.

Le Chemin de Saint Blanche.

“She must at one time have had a considerable cult in Brittany, as not only are there churches dedicated to her where she had her settlement of retainers, as at Plouguin and Pleguen, but there is also a parish of S. Gwen, and she is likewise venerated at S. Cast,

“In A.D. 919 – 921 there was a great influx of Bretons flying their country under their chief Matuedoi who came to England, as the Chronicle of Nantes says, ‘ with a great number of Britons,’ and they brought with them the bodies of their saints. By this means a large number of the relics of old Welsh and Breton saints arrived in England. Athelstan, although not yet King, received the refugees kindly and planted them, there is reason to believe, in Cornwall and Wessex, of which Dorset was a part. At Wareham, in Dorset, have been found inscribed stones that belong to these settlers. Athelstan placed the relics in various churches, and it is quite conceivable that he gave those of Gwen, or Candida, to Whitechurch which his grandfather had founded.

“Now it is remarkable that nowhere in Brittany is it held that her relics were preserved; consequently it is not at all improbable that when the migration took place to England, the refugees carried with them the bones of the mother of some of their greatest saints, S. Cadfan, S. Winwaloe, S. Gwenthenoc, and S. James. It is possible that they conveyed those of Gwen, the ‘three-breasted,’ to England, and that Athelstan gave them to Whitechurch, partly influenced by the name it bore. If that be the case, then Whitechurch may congratulate itself in possessing the remains of a notable mother of saints. Her son, S. Winwaloe had^ and has still, churches dedicated to him in Cornwall, Gunwalloe, Tresmere, etc., and in Devon, that of Portsmouth.

“There are several Candidas in Martyrologies, but none of these can be the S. Candida of Whitechurch. S. Candida, the martyr of Carthage, was a virgin, but both the history of Gwen and the legend of S. Blanche represent her as a married woman,
and do not admit of her having been a martyr. It is possible enough that the emblems of a ship, a ‘Celt,’ and an axe represented on the tower of Whitechurch may have reference to her legend, the axe that cut off her fingers, the ship in which she crossed the sea, and the ‘Celt’ to symbolise the pirates.”

In the church walk which runs along the outside of the church grounds there are many ancient stones built into the wall which at one time formed part of the historic building. There are also many other stones on which are carved texts of Scripture, the gifts of various bishops and other dignitaries of the Church.

Fordington St. George by H. J. Moule

Tympanum of Door at Fordington Church, Dorchester

Tympanum of Door at Fordington Church, Dorchester

From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 5, 1844, an article written by the Henry. Joseph. Moule, M.A.  entitled ‘Fordington St. George’

As it is a short paper that has been asked for, and a paper not so much on the church, as on a -particular feature of the church of Fordington St. George, general remarks shall be as brief as may be.

The site of the church was well chosen. It stands on the highest spot in the village. Yet the site was oddly chosen too. The church was set down in a great Romano-British Cemetery. The growth of a graveyard round a church is, of course, universal almost, and natural. The erection of a newly founded church in an old graveyard is uncommon, I take it.

On approaching the church you pass three good, plain, massive, 17th century altar-like tombs; one of them bearing the well known solemn epitaph, beginning
“Remember that Death tarrieth not.” (Remember that Death tarryeth not, and that the Covenant of the grave is not showed unto thee. For I was as thou art, and thou shalt be as I am.)

The Tower is worth notice, not only as being a capital one in design, colour and position, but as having what, as far as I know, is a peculiarity of plan. Its north and south faces are each 1ft. 4in. narrower than those on the east and west. Of its six bells the third and fifth are mediaeval, Legends: –

“Sancta Katarina ora pro nobis;” and “In multis annis resones campan Johannis.”

These bells are said to be those, or some of those, referred to in the doggerel couplet still current in Wool and elsewhere:-

“Wool streams and Combe wells –
Fordington rogues stole Bindon bells.”

The cage is probably the original one.

Readers of the third edition of Hutchins may be led to think that my honoured father, the late Vicar, was answerable for the dreadful design of the north aisle. I take this opportunity of denying it. A then leading architect in the Diocese recommended the design, which doubtless is worse than any journeyman mason in the county could now be guilty of. On the other hand my father first reduced and then removed the western gallery, which he found actually so high that there were hat pegs on the crown of the tower arch. And he revealed to sight several curious bits in the Church.

Well, this North Aisle exists. The eighteenth century Chancel exists, in place of a glorious one with timber roof, and stalls, and roodloft. The Nave and Transept are ceiled. The interior is spoilt as a whole. Still it possesses several interesting detached features. I can but simply name the plain stone Elizabethan pulpit, the rood loft staircase, the curious little window high up in the Transept, and the piece of encaustic pavement in situ, but with the patterns quite gone. In my boyhood, by the way, these patterns were still so far remaining that I managed to make them out and depict them. Close to this pavement are laid down a number of tiles which were found under pews. Several of these tiles are of some interest. Not a few of them have the fylfot cross.

Besides the above bits there is an interesting remnant of a piscina and arch in the Transept, and two (perhaps three) Norman piers, one with a cap of apparently later date; and carrying singularly rude pointed arches.

I now come to the two really noteworthy features in St. George’s, both .at the South door, and both preserved from an older church, and enshrined by the 15th century builders in their own work, more suo. Indeed it may be noted that here they seem to have been so disposed to an even uncommon degree. This appears from their retaining the Norman piers, although fitting in very awkwardly.

The first of the said features is the Holy Water Stoup. Its font-like shape is remarkable, but by no means unique. There is a much later one, for instance, at Hastings. But, as far as my limited knowledge goes, the moveable, or moveable-looking arrangement of this one at St. George’s is peculiar. It was hidden behind a high pew and forgotten until uncovered by my father ‘some thirty-five years ago. The slight moulding and ornament on it are perhaps hardly enough to settle its date. But I take it to be Norman. Piscinae of that date, and with something of a family likeness exist, I believe, in several places; at Bosharn among others. But these, it seems, resemble short, fixed columns, with the cap hollowed; and are not, as this Stoup is, like a minute font.

It is claimed that St. George miraclous apperance lead crusaders into battle in the Holy Lands, is recorded in the stone tympanum over the south door of St. George's Church at Fordington near Dorchester. This still exists, and is often thought to be one of the earliest images to depict the saint.

It is claimed that St. George miraclous apperance lead crusaders into battle in the Holy Lands, is recorded in the stone tympanum over the south door of St. George’s Church at Fordington near Dorchester. This still exists, and is often thought to be one of the earliest images to depict the saint.

I must now pass on to the Tympanum, close to the Stoup, but outside of instead of within the South door. A Tympanum within the South door of Tarrant Eushton Church may be noticed in passing. It is like this one in date, and to a certain extent in shape, but quite different in subject, and also in construction, as far as I can judge from the rough cut in Hutchins.

I may as well at once express my belief, for what it is worth, that this Fordington Tympanum is undoubtedly Norman. I do not forget that at the meeting of the Archaeological Association in 1871, an opinion that it is much more recent was very decidedly expressed. It was said that the hardness of the stone accounts for the character of the carving. I doubt the fact, and deny the inference. As to the stone, there is a theory that it is of foreign, even of oriental origin. I can find no foundation for this idea. It is a more prevailing, and much more likely belief, that it is of Portesham Oölite. At the same time there is a tradition at Sutton Pointz that of stone from the now grass-grown quarries on Loddun, a hill there, all the “Wold arnshunt builduns to Darchester “ were constructed. “There,” said my informant, ”Portland line – he weren’t finished – not then.” But, whether from. Portesham or Loddun, I think I shall be borne out in believing that oölite from those places, as from Portland, is not when first quarried of by any means stubborn quality. But if it were as hard as basalt, what then? Would the iron hardness of the stone have made the post-Norman carver plainly, if rudely, portray the Norman nasal, the Norman hauberk, the Norman shield, the Norman prick-spur? For in truth this carving might be the petrifaction of some lost bit of the Bayeux Tapestry. Every feature, almost, in the Tympanum may be clearly traced in the tapestry. Almost, for from my remembrance of the latter, and examination of the imperfect set of the facsimiles thereof to which alone I have access here, I cannot satisfy myself that the strapping of the shield to the neck, so conspicuous in the Tympanum (lubke’s “Ecclesiastical Art,” p. 2420,  shown in the tapestry. The object below the horseman’s foot I have always thought to be the end of his sword hanging, of course, on the near side of the horse. I think so still; yet in the Tapestry I see a different object so hanging, and which may be a large dagger or a long end of the girth. This, whether dagger or girth, may be the thing of which the Norman carver here was thinking – just possibly.

As to the subject, I have no new theory to offer. Abroad – and the Anglo-Norman was in much harmony of thought with the Franco-Norman, with the Frenchman, and with the German – abroad, the Tympanum mostly displays some figure or symbol of Our Lord, as by the way we see on the Tarrant example. But here at Fordington it is not Our Lord who is figured or symbolized. His cross, indeed, is fully shown, but not Himself. Yet, the horseman, though not divine, is sainted. His aureole, however faint and rude, is plain enough. Now this is St. George’s Church. About two years before one of the dates assigned for its founding St. George was beheld (men said) charging the Paynim. I see no better likelihood than the old accepted one that this rider is St. George in the onslaught at Antioch. It may be objected that the enemy are in Norman harness. This is nothing. Everyone knows that variation of costume, &o., owing to either differing time or clime, was constantly ignored in mediaeval, nay, down to modern times. Many here must have seen the immortal coloured print of the Prodigal Son going away from home in a post chaise.

I have called this rudely carvel door-head a Tympanum. The books call it so. It is well. But I would in one word point out that it is a widely different feature from the normal Tympanum; and is uncommon – I had almost said unique. The regular Tympanum, of constant occurrence, especially abroad, is a massive lintel stone, fitting into the soffit of an arch above it. With the soffit it is, in truth, like half of a tambourine, τύμπαυου. This Tympanum here is not a stone – it is six stones. It is not a lintel – it is an arch, however rude.

I conclude by pointing out that there are faint traces of red paint on the stone, and recording that the whole was hidden in plaster and unknown until discovered by Clerk Brooks, whom I well remember.