St. Gabriel’s Chapel, Stanton St. Gabriel, NGR: SY4020 9241, Grade 2* and
St. Gabriel’s Church, Morcombelake NGR: SY4055 9375 (Lead author: PS)
The church at Stanton St Gabriel, now a ruin , was formerly a Chapel-at-Ease to St. Candidia’s Church at Whitchurch Canonicorum. Today the National Trust look after the ruin and have stabilised what is left of the old church which lies on the Jurassic Coast Path between Bridport and Lyme Regis.
Originally Stanton St Gabriel was a parish in its own right and the village was a thriving community. The exact origins of the chapel are not known but thought to be as early as the 12th century. Sometime in the Middle Ages the village lost its parish status and became a perpetual curacy to the church at Whitchchurch Canonicorum. From the mid 18th century onwards the village population declined rapidly as people left the land to find work and the chapel fell into disuse as a church. However, with a secret path to the shore nearby, the chapel was a convenient place to store contraband from the thriving smuggling industry.
The font bowl (see right) from the Stanton St. Gabriel Chapel was rescued, re-cut and installed on a new pedestal in the church some time later. The stone is a very white limestone possibly Beer Stone.
All text and images by PS, June 2107
The walls of the ruin are mainly knapped chert with a few blocks of Blue Lias scattered in the walls. The Chert nodules would have been found in the Upper Greensand close to the village, or gathered from the fields as loose nodules. A few large blocks of Ham Hill Stone remain in the lower part of the chancel window (see photo left) on the south side.
The arch of the porch (see left), interestingly, appears to be Bindon Sandstone which also has been used for the nave pillars and arches in the mother church of St Candida’s at Whitchurch Canonicorum.
In 1840 - 41 the chapel was superseded by a new church with the same dedication but more conveniently placed in Morcombelake village which grew up when the Dorchester to Exeter turnpike road (now the A35) was re-routed via Bridport. Only a rood beam (c.1500) and later, the font were re-used in the new church.