MELBURY BUBB is a hamlet on a hillside deep in Hardy country, which the long-distance Hardy Way passes. It has a fine manor house and a Church that is well worth a visit in its own right if you are in the areaMELBURY BUBB CHURCH
Close to the Trig Point and in a strip of woodland to the right as you climb uphill along the Hardy Way, you’ll find an old lime kiln cut into a high bank. There is also a hollow way (or SUNKEN LANE) close by. If you have read Rogue Male (or seen the film), you can imagine that the steep banks are where the hero was forced to conceal himself as the evil antagonist closed in on him.
St Mary’s Church in Melbury Bubb, Dorset stands on a hillside deep in Hardy Country. In The Woodlanders, the hamlet is called “Little Hintock”. The little-known church contains a particular pre-conquest treasure – a well-preserved c10 Anglo-Saxon font of great beauty and intricacy of carving. Simon Jenkins calls St Mary’s a “single treasure church” and praises its extaordinary “lack of pretension”. This remains one of the few un-electrified Dorset churches, with oil lamps for light and a coal-fired stove in the nave for warmth. The solitary church at nearby Hilfield is another.
The interior has a carved wood rood screen and wooden ‘waggon’ roof. The stove and oil lamps are visible.
A quick glance at the font reveals that it is in fact upside down. The theory is that it is carved from the upturned base of a Saxon cross, perhaps a “preaching cross” that presumably predated the original early church building as a place of congregation and worship. The carvings appear to depict – possibly – a lion, a wolf, a horse, a stag, a dolphin or porpoise, and a couple of smaller creatures. It takes a bit of a leap of imagination, and of course the beasts may even be mythical rather than representational. However, the helpful memorial frieze on the wall certainly makes tentative identifications easier without having to crick one’s neck unduly. I thought I’d detected a fish of some sort, but it turned out to be an upside-down animal haunch… I have included photos of the documents that are on the wall by the font, which give additional information and historical interpretations about the “single treasure”
Two c17 tombs in the churchyard
Credits: all photos RH; light-touch research from church documents and Simon Jenkins ‘Great English Churches’