The first church to stand on this site was of Norman character and was built in the 12th century, about the time of Richard Coeur de Lion. Very little remains of the original edifice except for the chancel arch, which was rebuilt between the north aisle and the organ chamber in the 19th century, and part of the tower arch.
One of the earliest remnants of the fittings in the first church is the Norman font, although the pedestal, in the form of a cross, is 19th-century.
During the 19th century the church was largely rebuilt, and those who designed the reconstruction were careful to follow the style of the 15th century when the first major changes to the original structure were introduced. The arcade on the north side of the nave is 15th-century, and it would appear that the ancient building was modified during that period so as to comprise a nave, north aisle, the lower section of a west tower, north and south transepts and chancel.
The chancel, which had been rebuilt in 1768 in what the Victorians considered to be debased style, was pulled down and replaced in the style of the 15th century. In addition to the new and enlarged chancel, the church was given a new south aisle, a new south door with a stone canopy, and a new south arcade, which is an extremely successful copy of the 15th-century north arcade.
The tower was extended from the level of the belfry upwards and given a new west door and window during the period of Victorian reconstruction.
The original four bells were recast in 1775, and two more were added for a total cost of Â£100. The tenor bell bears the words: ‘I to the church the living call, and to the grave do summon all.’
The clock was designed by EB Dennison, the designer of Big Ben, and was built by EJ Dent, Clockmaker to the Queen. It was presented to the village by the third Earl of Ilchester in 1853 when the dials were installed in the then newly constructed spirelet.
This is at the east end of the south aisle and, like the font, is a survivor from the medieval church.
The Chaliced Priest
St Osmund’s church remembers one of its former rectors, William Grey, who had the living from 1511 to 1524, with a small brass. Once on the floor of the chancel, this is now to be found on the north wall of the chancel, just above the communion rails. It shows the rector wearing the eucharistic vestments and holding a chalice. ‘Chaliced Priest’ brasses are very rare, with perhaps two in Dorset and only twelve in the whole of England. Beneath the brass is an inscription in Latin: ‘Pray for the soul of William Grey formerly rector of this church who died on the 18th day of March in the year of our Lord 1524, on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.’
Behind the altar, on the east wall of the chancel, is a panelled oak reredos with a brass cross in the centre and four brass panels depicting the symbols of the four evangelists: Matthew (angel), Mark (lion), Luke (ox), John (eagle).
George Crabbe, rector and poet
George Crabbe, who was rector of the parish from 1783 to 1789, is regarded as one of our great national poets. He had a sympathetic understanding of country people, and his poems of country life present a realistic picture of what it was really like to be a poor cottager in ‘the good old days’:
Go then, and see them rising with the sun
Through a long course of daily toil to run,
Like him to make the plenteous harvest grow,
And yet not share the plenty they bestow.
And he contrasts the ‘Humble Cot’ of romantic painting and fiction with the reality:
Go, if the peaceful cot your praises share,
Go look within, and ask if peace be there.
This ancient and beautiful church must be handed on in good repair to future generations for their help and inspiration. The cost is considerable, and any contribution visitors care to make to the Fabric Fund would be most welcome.
The War Memorial in the church reads as follows:
In memory of the men of the parish or associated therewith who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country 1914 – 1918
Captain W. Vincent
2nd Lieut. H. Ford, M.C.
” ” C.P. Hirst
Sergt. W.T. Gerrard
Corpl. A. Dubbin
Lce Corpl. F.J. Banks
” ” G. Kitching
Pte T.H. Bartlett
” E. Dubbin
” J.M. Green
” W.D. Lane
Erected by parishioners and friends.
There is also a Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918 which bears the following names:
Capt W. Vincent (Killed in action RIP)
Lieut. Stanislas E. Clark
Lieut. Owen George
Lieut. J. Hirst
Frampton Banks (Killed in action RIP)
Hubert Bartlett (Killed in action RIP)
William Gerrard (Killed in action RIP)
Edward Pitcher (Killed in action RIP)
William Lane (Killed in action RIP)
William J. Groves
Albert W. Bird
Maurice Green (Killed in action RIP)
Percy E. Bartlett
Edmund A. Beauchamp
E. William Groves
George Kitching (Killed in action RIP)
Ernest Dubbin (Killed in action RIP)