The Church of the Holy Rood originated as a parochial chapel, belonging to Coombe Keynes until 1844, when
Wool became a separate parish.
In 1384 it was decreed that Wool Chapel should be dedicated for the third time,
and since then, with its Mother Church at Coombe Keynes (made redundant 14th
January 1974), it has been dedicated to Holy Rood.
According to Hutchins in his History of Dorset, the church on this site
consisted originally of only a nave. The chancel and tower were added later,
From then until 1865, the church consisted of the original nave, a small
chancel, tower and a north arcade.
In 1865 a faculty was issued to pull down the body of the church and chancel
with the exception of the tower and north and east walls of the nave and to
build a south aisle. The church was lengthened by 12 feet.
The result was the church as we see it now. The extension included the
ancient burial place of the Turbervilles of Wool Bridge. The architect was John
Hicks of Dorchester.
Text based on the Holy Rood Guide written by
the late Mr Alan Brown (2003)
and used by permission.
Alan was also the author of
excellent books on local history: "A Backward Glimpse of
Wool", "The Changing Face of
Wool", and "More Memories of
Sadly Alan died in 2020, but all three books
are available from "Willowmead",
East Burton Road, Wool, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 6HG where his family still may be contacted.
The nave and chancel are
mostly built using local Heathstone with
scattered blocks of Purbeck Limestone.
Limestone is also used for quoins
(corner stones) and dressings, while the
porch and most of the windows are made
from Bath Stone. The 15th-century tower
is wholly built from Purbeck Limestone,
mostly a broken-shell limestone known as
A detailed survey of the
Holy Rood stonework was undertaken by
Dorset Geology History expert Jo Thomas in 2018,
the results of which can be found on the
Dorset Building Stone website
It describes the
different places the stone has come from
at different times in the building's
history, and has many interesting
The small chapel in the north east corner is the Bindon Chapel which was once
larger than at present, as part of it was taken in when the vestry was enlarged.
This picture shows the painting
before its repair and restoration.
For some time the above painting of Mary belonging to Holy Rood Church was in
storage as its condition was deteriorating. It was given to the Church by the
Revd Eric Tarrant who was Vicar of Wool from 1929-40. The painting probably
dates from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, but draws its
inspiration from the work of the seventeenth century Spanish artist Murillo.
Towards the end of 2007, the Parochial Church Council decided to have it
restored by a professional conservator. The work included strip-lining and
re-stretching the canvas, cleaning the surface and repairing some minor damage.
It has also been re-framed in line with the conservator’s recommendations and
re-hung in the Bindon Chapel.
The painting in 2008
The North Porch, although rebuilt in 1866, retains much of its 15th century
The special feature of the church is the triple chancel arch, which is possibly
unique. The tympanum is plain and the whole screen dates from the middle of the
The windows are mainly 15th century and were re-used in the 1866 rebuilding.
The stained glass windows on the north side were removed from Coombe Keynes
church at the time of its redundancy.
The font and the two stone arches on the north side are 15th century.
The water stoup
exhibited on the window sill in the north aisle was once fitted into the wall of
Coombe Keynes Church and removed in 1974.
cresset stone (also on the north window sill) containing four receptacles in
which wicks floating in oil were burnt before a shrine, is a fine example of
mediaeval work, and was discovered during the rebuilding in 1866.
The flute was stolen some years ago from
the church by someone who must have
thought it was valuable. It wasn't, but
it was interesting because it linked us
to the times when it was one of the instruments belonging to the church band, before the
organ was introduced.
The band would probably have played in the
west gallery, which
in the 3rd edition of Hutchins' History
Of Dorset was referred to as follows: "In 1852 the
interior arrangement of the church was improved by the removal of the singing
gallery to its present position behind the tower arch. It formerly extended much
further into the church and was a great source of disfigurement"
West Gallery bands and choirs
("Quires") were a common feature of
village church musical life in those
days. Nowadays we may not have the
gallery, but still welcome the
performances from the group "Purbeck
Village Quire" who generously offer
their time and skills to let us sample
some of the old music, readings,
costumes and atmosphere still surviving
from former days.
George III Plaque
A Coat of Arms of George
III hangs on the rear wall in the body
of the church and dates from prior to 1801.
The plaque after restoration, 2020
After King Henry VIII had
placed himself as head of the new Church
of England, it became a legal
requirement to display the Royal Arms
inside parish churches throughout the
land. The Royal Arms were usually
painted on a rectangular piece of wood
or cloth and hung in a prominent place
for all the congregation to see. (The
King presumably was keen to emphasise
that he was now the head of the new
Church of England, and not the Pope.)
Parish records indicate
that the Holy Rood plaque was
commissioned in around 1793 by John
Brown, who was Churchwarden from about
1790 to 1798. It’s possible that he
commissioned the work from a local
painter of pub signs, which was common
practice at the time. John Brown was
also chairman of the Poorhouse
Committee, but he was evidently relieved
of his post since he never attended a
George III reigned from
1760 to 1820. In 1800, the King
abandoned his ancestors’ claim to the
French throne. We can be certain that
our plaque was painted before 1801
because in that year, the French
insignia (the fleurs-de-lys on a blue
background) was dropped from the top
right corner of the royal shield to be
replaced by the arms of Scotland (a red
lion on a yellow background).
Our Coat of
Arms was magnificently brought back to
life in 2019 by art restorer Tim Everett
of Taunton, following a very generous
gift from Holy Rood’s retiring
Churchwarden, Commodore Geoffrey
Edwardes R.N. O.B.E.
enabled the fully restored plaque to be
rehung in August 2019.
retired Royal Naval officer who served
as Churchwarden for eight years, worked
long and hard to overcome numerous
obstacles and get the necessary
permissions, liaising closely with the
conservators throughout the process.)
The shepherd's crook displayed in the north window sill was used by Walter 'Shep'
Trevett, a local shepherd, who for many years before the days of electricity
pumped the organ for services until the 1930s.
The brass eagle lectern was given as a memorial to Mr Plumber the organist in the
early part of the 20th century.
The crucifix above the chancel arch was given by the late Mr S. J. Tong. It was
carved by Mr Edward Tong in memory of two sons, Herbert, who died of wounds in
1917, and Arthur who died some years later from wounds received in 1918.
The pulpit was removed from St. Mary the Virgin, East Stoke, on its redundancy
and replaced the stone pulpit which stood on the opposite side of the aisle.
The reredos at the rear of the altar was made in 1925.
The church possesses an ancient altar frontal, which is in the custody of the
Dorchester Museum. It was made up from portions of 15th and 16th century
vestments in eight vertical strips. The vestments are thought to have come from
Bindon Abbey after the Reformation.
It is of great interest and is described on its
The church possesses an Elizabethan chalice with a cover originally used as a
paten, bearing the date 1571.
There is also an earlier silver chalice of national and possibly international
importance, belonging to the church and in the custody of Dorchester Museum. Originally from Coombe Keynes it is known as the
Coombe Keynes Chalice. (It is said to be
one of the finest examples of an English pre-reformation silver chalice in
existence.) See this link.
A large photograph of the six bells (reproduced below) hangs in the
ringing chamber. It is inscribed:
“In commemoration of
the re-hanging of Wool Bells, with the addition of two new ones in 1907, and in
memory of the Rev. A.C.B. Dobie, M.A. who whilst Vicar of Wool from 1896 to 1912
was mainly responsible for this work. He loved his church and served it
faithfully. Given by his son.”
There are six bells still used regularly. There were only four
originally, with another two added in 1907.
The bells' details are:
Inscriptions and makers:
1. "In loving memory of my dear mother and my dear grandmother Caroline
Esther Hedgecock. 1906. Florence Dobie. John Dobie 1907."
Gillett & Johnson, Croydon
2. "Love God" 1606
John Wallis, Salisbury
3. "John Hayte CW. Anno 1738. WKBF" (pictured above)
"WKBF" is probably
William Knight, Master Bell-Founder in Closworth
Bell Foundry from 1709-47.
4. "Serve God. W. 1606"
John Wallis, Salisbury
5. "C. W. T. B. Anno Domini 1659".
Thomas Purdue, Master Bell-Founder in Closworth
Bell Foundry from 1647-1691.
6. "These bells rehung, tenor and treble added, 1907. Arthur C.B. Dobie, Vicar.
Jas. Spicer and Walter Wright, churchwardens."
Gillett & Johnson, Croydon
An ancient rhyme regarding the twelve bells from Bindon Abbey at the time of
the Dissolution of the Monasteries reads: “Wool streams and Coombe wells,
Fordington cuckolds stole Wool bells.” The bells were believed to have been
hidden in a lane near the church and removed by men from Fordington St George.
The lane was later called Bell Drong. (Drong is a West Country word for a
narrow lane.) Eventually, Fordington, Wool, and Coombe Keynes shared the bells.
The registers of Wool and Coombe Keynes dated from 1583 are now in the County
Archives at Dorchester.
The previous vicars of Wool and East Stoke are listed at the back of the church.
The War Memorial in the churchyard is a plain Latin cross and was erected in
Although the church now stands on the edge of the village, it was not always so.
Church Lane was once a busy road. A hundred yards past the church the road
reached a junction: one road to East Stoke, another through Wood Street and into Purbeck,
and yet another to Coombe Keynes, running parallel some quarter of a mile east of the
Hutchins 3rd edition also referred to the position of the church: " - it is
conveniently situated on gently rising ground in the Southern part of the
village. There is a tradition among the people, that some time ago it formed the
central point of the village; and within the memory of the present generation,
changes have taken place which have made it less so than formerly, some houses
near the church having been pulled down, and others built at a greater distance,
in common, Bindon Lane etc."
Text based on the current Holy Rood Guide written by Alan Brown (2003)
and used by permission.
Alan was also the author of two excellent books on local history "A Backward
Glimpse of Wool" and "The Changing Face of Wool".
Sadly Alan died in 2020, but until then
all three books were available direct from him
Bindon Lane, Wool, Wareham, Dorset BH20 6HG
where his family still may be contacted.
(Website photos are by Chris Irwin.)
Inaugural Service for the new Benefice of West Purbeck - Wed 13th March
Holy Rood was full, for the service to inaugurate and celebrate our new
benefice which came into being on March 1st. Many people attended from the three West
Purbeck Benefice churches - Holy Rood, Bere Regis, and Affpuddle - as well as
visitors from the adjacent Benefice of The Lulworths, Winfrith Newburgh and
Chaldon. Our Archdeacon, Ven. Antony MacRow-Wood, Archdeacon of Dorset, was also
At this service, our vicar, Revd Carol Langford, was given her new Licence,
as the first Rector and Incumbent of the new Benefice of West Purbeck, by the
Bishop of Sherborne, the Right Revd Karen Gorham.
At the same time, Revd Jenny Alidina was Licensed to the new benefice as an
The Bishop of Sherborne, the Right Revd Karen Gorham, officiated and preached
from the Gospel of St John chapter 15 on our need to be part of the True Vine.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped to organise the Inauguration Service
and refreshments afterwards last Wednesday.
It was a great start to this next phase of our common life together.
Blessings, Rev Carol