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Whitchurch Canonicorum parish church
Described as 'the cathedral of Marshwood Vale' the parish church of Whitchurch Canonicorum in Dorset has another claim to fame which puts it on a par with Westminster Abbey in London. Apart from Westminster Abbey, Whitchurch's much humbler building is the only other English church to retain a pre-Reformation shrine of a saint. Westminster Abbey has St.Edward the Confessor, Whitchurch has its patron Saint Wite (Candida in Latin).
Officially known as St Candida and Holy Cross, the church stands on a hill in the attractive Dorset village not far from Charmouth's Jurassic beach. As well as being the shrine of a real saint, the church is also the lasting resting place of the remains of murdered Bulgarian dissident and broadcaster Georgi Markhov and verteran British broadcaster Sir Robin Day. Mr Markhov is near the gate, Sir Robin's ashes are close to the church door. Mr Markhov was famously shot in the leg with an umbrella air gun firing a poison pellet.
The village's interesting name is derived from Canon's Whitchurch because the tithes were divided between Salisbury and Wells. There was probably a Saxon church on the site, but nothing now survives earlier than the 12th century south doorway protected by the 15th century porch. The nave and central section are 13th century although some of the south windows and the lights in the clerestory are of 1848-50 by Joseph Butler of Chichester. The Early English (1190-1310) capitals of the nave arcade are beautifully carved with deeply cut flower and wild plant designs.
High up on the south side of the chancel arch is a door, which would certainly have once led to the rood loft. The magnificent tower, which greets the visitor on entering the churchyard, is 15th century. In the chancel there is a fine elaborate example of a stone canopied monument with a recumbent effigy of Sir John Jeffery, one of Queen Elizabeth I's knights, who died in 1611. Also in the chancel is a memorial to Sir George Somers, born in Lyme Regis in 1554 and a contemporary of Sir Walter Raleigh. He is generally credited with the discovery of Bermuda, giving great assistance to the American colonists and being an inspiration for Shakespeare's 'Tempest'.
The pulpit is an excellent Jacobean example, decorated with large arches. There is a most impressive organ rather tucked away in the south transept. The font is Norman and cauldron shaped with an intersecting arch decoration.
Probably the principal reason for the church being built was to enclose the shrine to St Candida, although her origins are uncertain. For 900 years local legend sested she was a Saxon Christian woman who was murdered by the Danes. They landed at Charmouth beach and pillaged the area. Her 13th century shrine is still in the north transept and takes the form of a stone altar like structure with three oval (mandorla) openings into which sick limbs can be placed in the hope of healing. Handkerchiefs or notes are sometimes left in lieu of people too sick to come themselves.
In 1900, when repairs were being made a lead-lined casket was found containing the remains of a small woman who had died aged about 40. The words "HIC-REQUECT-RLIQE-SCE-WITE" ("Here rest the remains of St Wite") were found on the lid indicating that these are the remains of the saint herself. The survival of the shrine is remarkable and rare because all were supposed to have been swept away during the Reformation.
"My son knows better!"
He may know better, but he acts like a sniper! My military neighbors are unable to control their kid or numerous dogs. The boy shoots at our house and property with his pellet gun. Their fence has a hole that needs to be repaired that would prevent their dogs from running at large. They know about the hole because a neighbor called the cops because the military people's dog was stalking her in her yard. They refuse to fix the fence like it's against their religion or moral beliefs. The jr. sniper's mother denied that her son would shoot at our property until my mom told her I had the pellet. She then said "He didn't hurt anybody!" I hope they are the exceptional ignorant military family, and not the standard! Thankfully, they will move soon when they sell their house, hopefully for a putrid loss due to the housing slump!
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