St. Mary’s Church, Tarrant Gunville. NGR:ST92513 12665, 50.9134 -2.1079. Lead author:JT
The most famous building in Tarrant Gunville is the one that isn’t there; Eastbury, a country mansion built by Vanbrugh in the 18th century, and demolished before the century ended. Only one block and a gateway remains from a complex of buildings as big as Blenheim Palace.
A traveller’s tale in 1888 reported that “Eastbury was built chiefly of Melbury stone, 6 miles to the north, the ornaments are of Portland stone. It is said the carriage of the materials cost £20,000 and the whole not less than £200,000.” This account refers to a very fine white stone from Melbury. This could be the Zig-Zag Chalk, which was quarried on the north side of Melbury Down, or the Melbury Sandstone below the Chalk, as the quarry spread out into the field. The Melbury Sandstone is finer grained, and paler green than the coarse Upper Greensand. Both are used in the chequerboard walls of the nave, aisles and chancel of the church and could have come from the demolition of Eastbury in the 19th century restoration. The two different textures can be most clearly seen in the gateway to Eastbury as two sets of gateposts on the road into the village south east of the church. ST92750 12610
The nave, aisles and south porch of St. Mary’s church were built in the 14th century, the west tower in the 15th century with a partial rebuild in the 16th century. The remainder, and a general restoration, was undertaken by Wyatt in 1843-45. The oldest remnant in the church is some Norman arcading high in the south wall of the north aisle. The roof is of grey slates, probably Welsh.
3. The entrance archway may be Corallian oolite.
4. A magnified photo of the entrance archway oolite.
Flint and Upper Greensand dominate as building stones, banded in the 1st and second stages of the tower, but Greensand ashlar above.
The foundations of the tower are iron-rich sandstone, but are Greensand to the remainder of the church. The south aisle is late 14th century, flint and Greensand chequer; the chancel flint and Greensand chequer to match the south aisle, but dated 1843. The north aisle was originally 14th century, but the west end was changed in 1843. The old windows are of Upper Greensand, the 19th century replacements and repairs of Bath Stone.
The 14th century south porch was built of Upper Greensand, with a sundial on the right. Upper Greensand was quarried on the south side of Shaftesbury. The iron-rich sandstone is fine-grained and could have been collected from boulders present in the Clay with Flints remaining on top of the Chalk downlands.
9a. A magnified photo of the darker stone, judged to be the Wardour Main Building Stone, a glauconitic sandy limestone of Portland age.
All Text and images by JT, March 2018