St Gregory, Marnhull, Dorset

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Feature Sets (3)


The village is located in the Blackmore Vale in north Dorset and sits above the river Stour. The present building consists of a chancel rebuilt c.1882, a 14thc N chapel; a 15thc S chapel; a nave with a late-14thc N aisle; a S aisle and a porch of c.1852, and a 15thc W tower.

The only Romanesque architectural sculpture is a pier, with capitals, that forms part of the N arcade. A 12thc font bowl also survives, now located in the S aisle.


Marnhull is not mentioned in Domesday Book.

The Salisbury Diocesan registers of 1388-1413 record a chantry to St Mary at Marnhull, and the 14thc N chapel originally appears to have had a lodging for a chantry priest attached to its W wall.


Interior Features


Pier and Capitals incorporated into nave N arcade

The second pier in the nave N arcade survives from a late-12thc four-bay N arcade. The arches it now supports are of the late 14thc.

This pier is of a fine grey-buff limestone, dressed by an axe. It comprises a square core with a keeled three-quarter shaft attached to each face. The bases, if any, appear to be concealed beneath the present 19thc floor. The N, E and W capitals have three scallops with wedges. The lower edges of the shields are defined by borders with pellets; above this the surface of the shields is filled with more pellets. Plain abaci with a slightly hollowed chamfer decorated with a row of zigzag. Plain roll neckings.

The S capital comprises three heads below plain square abaci. The head on the SW corner is naturalistic: slightly elongated with stylised wavy hair parted centrally and taken down over the ears; prominent eyebrows; a pointed nose; almond-shaped eyes; a narrow chin, and slightly smiling lips. The SE head is similar, but with a close-fitting cap with a square-cut opening over the brow concealing the hair; a short moustache; flatter lips and a more jutting chin. The central face is more schematic: oval, chubby, with round eyes and mouth, and a snub nose; it is slightly tilted to the W and almost feline in appearance. It is not clear whether the head is wearing a cap with projecting corners or whether these represent cat-like ears. Above this head a plain vertical clasp covers the abacus. On the L and R side of the heads, a wide leaf furls downwards.

The SW re-entrant corner of the capitals to this pier has been hacked back, and the corners of the N abacus have been chamfered.




Located in the S aisle, W of the S door, this font was probably moved from the W end c.1852 when the S aisle was created. It comprises a large crude square block of buff-coloured limestone, much eroded on the S side, with rough spurs at its upper corners. The two lower corners on the E face have been chiselled back, and there is an outlet for drainage at the bottom of the W face. There are indications of a hinge for a cover at the upper NE corner and a hasp at the SW, but both are largely concealed by the octagonal lip of the thick – probably c.1852 – lead lining to the bowl. The basin is round with straight sides and a flat base.

The bowl is set on a central octagonal drum of grey Purbeck marble, of the 15thc, which rests in turn on a base of c.1852 of a dark grey stone.

Depth of basin 0.25 m
Diameter of basin 0.65 m
Height of base (overall two steps) 0.32 m
Height of bowl 0.42 m
Height of drum 0.50 m
Length of bowl (N-S) 0.825 m
Total height (NB. all set on modern plinth) 1.24 m
Width of bowl (E-W) 0.81 m


Font: It is suggested that originally this block formed the base of a mediaeval cross-shaft (RCHM: see also the very similar base with the remains of a shaft in the churchyard at Maiden Newton). Glynne visited the church in 1842, before the alterations creating the S aisle. As well as noting the Romanesque pier surviving in the N arcade, he wrote: ‘The font is in its proper place’, (presumably at the W end) ‘a plain octagonal basin on a panelled pedestal. There is in the churchyard, another font now neglected.’ The latter probably refers to the present 12thc font bowl. The other was probably the  15thc bowl that went with the surviving base. An octagonal font basin now sits loose at the W end of the S aisle, but this dates from the 19thc.


  • S. Glynne, 'Notes on some Dorset Churches', in J.M.J. Fletcher, Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club Vol. 45 (1923-24) 35-37. 

  • J. Newman and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Dorset, New Haven and London 2002, 270.

  • Royal Commission on Historical Monuments: Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol. III Central: Part 2 (1970) 148-152.

general view of church from S


Site Location
National Grid Reference
ST 7815 1851 
now: Dorset
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Dorset
medieval: Salisbury
now: Salisbury
medieval: St Gregory
now: St Gregory
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Howard Austin Jones 
Visit Date
07 Jun 2013