St. Mary’s Church, Tarrant Crawford. NGR: ST92300 03477, Lat:50.8303 Long: -2.1107
Lead author: JT
The 12th century church of St. Mary was originally built to serve a community of nuns or anchoresses, founded by Ralph de Kahaines at the end of the 11th century. Although well endowed, it was not successful, and was refounded in 1230 by Richard Poore. He was baptised in Tarrant Crawford, and became Bishop of Chichester, Salisbury and Durham, in turn. He is credited with planning and building Salisbury Cathedral from 1219, and with adding the Chapel of the Nine Altars to the eastern end of Durham Cathedral.
The nave and chancel of St. Mary’s is 12th century, with 13th century windows and the main part of the tower. The upper part of the tower, and the porch are 15th century, the whole being restored in 1911. The walls are mostly flint, with dressings of Upper Greensand probably from Shaftesbury, some Tertiary heathstone which could have been taken from boulders in the river gravel, and Wardour Portland white oolite. The white oolite has also been used for the blocked south doorway in the chancel and the inner door jamb of the main entrance.
In the interior are two coffin lids of Purbeck Marble, that on the north having a cross, and reputed to be that of Richard Poore, as he requested that he should be returned to Tarrant Crawford for burial. The coffin lid on the south is said to be that of Queen Joan, daughter of King John, and wife of Alexander of Scotland. She travelled between England and Scotland with her husband, and Bishop Poore presented the Abbey to her when it was founded in 1230.
1. The north side of St. Mary’s church has been rendered, with only the quoins of the nave identifiable as heathstone and Wardour Portland white oolite. The 13th century windows are of Upper Greensand, as are some of the quoins of the chancel. The 15th century north porch is a mixture of flint, heathstone and Upper Greensand.
The only remnants of Tarrant Abbey are part of a tithe barn and the stones re-used in the post-Reformation buildings.
On the Bishop’s death in 1237, he was returned for burial, and only eleven months later Queen Joan was also buried there. Their coffin lids were moved into the small church on the destruction of the Abbey. However, scholars now question this account, and consider that the coffin lids could be those of an abbess and a nun.
There is an extensive series of medieval wall paintings.
JT 16.3.2018 Photos MT