St. John the Baptist, Mill Lane, Symondsbury, Grade I listed. Lead author: Pat Snelgrove
SY 44492 93614; Lat/Long. 50.739472 -2.7880087
Symondsbury is a village just off the A35 to the west of Bridport, situated at the foot of the local landmark Colmer’s Hill, a conical hill topped by Scot’s Pines.
The church is approached by a set of Blue Lias stone steps. The main body of the church dates from the early 14th century and was built in Early English style, cruciform in shape with a central tower.
The church, like much of the village, is built of Inferior Oolite limestone on a plinth of Forest Marble limestone. Inferior Oolite, a Middle Jurassic, deep yellow oolitic and sometimes fossiliferous limestone, was quarried locally just outside the village. Of interest are some blocks in the wall adjacent to the tower steps which contain particularly large iron oxide coated ooliths.
The interior of the church is very plain, a result of having undergone two major 19th century refurbishments. A detailed account of both restorations is given in the church hand book. The four arches supporting the tower are Ham Hill stone . The aisle floors are large dark grey slabs of Blue Lias limestone with many white fossils of the oyster Liostrea . The Bath Stone font came second hand from the Bedfordbury Chapel in St Martin’s Lane in London and is Victorian. The whereabouts of the medieval font is not known. The ‘marble’ in the font pillars has not yet been identified.
Text and photographs by Pat Snelgrove with additional images from Alan Holiday. February 2017.
Recommended to anyone visiting the church is to also take a look at the roadside wall of the Manor Barn next to the church. The wall has been built and repaired over the centuries with a variety of building stones, such as Inferior Oolite, Forest Marble and Blue Lias. There are also some blocks of another locally quarried stone, the
Beacon Limestone. These blocks, mainly towards the eastern end, are very fossiliferous and have a variety of fossils in them.
The south facing porch is a 15th century addition in matching stone. An interesting feature at the porch entrance is the block of stone with a ‘scratch’ or ‘mass’ dial, a relic of the days when services were held according to the position of the sun on the dial.
The Forest Marble, commonly used for building foundations because of its weather resistance, was most likely quarried at Bothenhampton about 2 miles distant and taken by cart to the site. The external dressings on the church windows, doorways and buttress cappings, are Ham Hill stone from Somerset. The window sills are Forest Marble except one, in the window adjacent to the porch, which is the only sill original still in the church and is Inferior Oolite.