St Mary
This is "Weatherbury" in Thomas Hardy's novels, well known for its "gurgoyles" on the church.

"The tower of Weatherbury Church was a square erection of fourteenth-century date, having two stone gurgoyles on each of the four faces of its parapet."

"A beholder was convinced that nothing on earth could be more hideous than those he saw on the north side–until he went round to the south.  Of the two on this latter face, only that at the north-eastern corner concerns the story. . . . Here and thus, jutting from the wall against which its feet rested as a support, the creature had for four hundred years laughed at the surrounding landscape voicelessly in dry weather, and, in wet, with a gurgling and snorting sound."

[There are slight variations in the text between different editions]

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Brief outline of the church history and its fittings

This is a large village church which has one of the most "atmospheric" interiors in Dorset.  Constructed mainly in the late mediaeval period, its core dates back considerably further.  There is a fine panelled roof to the nave

The font is "beaker" shaped, probably dating from the 11th century.

The box-pews, west gallery and pulpit are all 17th century.

Note also the fine array of 15th and 16th century brasses and monuments, and the Comper glass in the South chapel.

West gallery, with turned balusters, dated 1635.

Brief outline of the church history from 1634 as it relates to the fittings, gallery and quire 

Archbishop Laud's visitation [when?] led to the conclusion that a pillar needed strengthening, the seats were not decent and were much decayed, and more seating was needed. A meeting of parishioners on August 10th 1634 decided to reseat the church throughout, strengthen the pillar and arch, make a pulpit and prayer desk, provide a communion table and rails, build a west gallery with seats, and provide a new font cover. All of these furnishings still survive in situ. The estimated cost of £130 was to be raised by subscriptions, by a levy of 5/- on seat holders, and by "five ordinary single rates."

A 1637 seating plan survives, when the sexes were segregated. Another of 1679 shows them no longer separated. The gallery was intended for extra seating, but for a long time served as a musicians' gallery.

Thomas Hardy says that his grandfather when a young man, before 1800, lived in Puddletown and played violoncello in church. He later became a member of the Stinsford choir, by which time Puddletown had eight instrumentalists and Stinsford only four, all Hardys. Hardy's father told him that at Puddletown "in the time of the violin, oboe and clarionet players, Tom Sherren used to copy tunes during the sermon."

In 1845 a barrel organ was introduced and the band (two clarinets, a piccolo, a bassoon, and two bass viols) dispensed with.

In 1852 a small manual organ replaced the barrel organ, which was sold to Bere Regis. The present organ was built 1906 and stands in the gallery, which is still used by the choir.
(Dorset churches leaflet)

A picture of the west gallery in Puddletown church, now partly filled b the organ, and in which in 1990 the
West Gallery Music Association presented a Harvest Songs of Praise for the BBC.
See also "Thomas Hardy and his Wessex" at


"Puddletown Church" Photograph © 1997, Samuel K. Sewall (to return to page, click here.)


Dove's reference to the bells

Puddletown, Dorset, S Mary V (GF), 6, 16-1-18 in E. Mon 


Map reference  :  SY 758943

Photograph 1: © 2002  John Allen   See his web site - Images of Dorset

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Edwin and Sheila Macadam,

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