St Martin's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
Wareham Town
National Grid Reference:
SY 92222 87701


Parish church of St Martin in Wareham.

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement.

The parish church of St Martin in Wareham has a long and varied history with many different architectural styles represented charting its development, the survival of the wide range of wall paintings is particularly rare and important.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 15 December 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a parish church situated to the south of the River Piddle or Trent within the old part of the settlement of Wareham. The church survives as a roofed stone building with rubble walls and ashlar dressings which stands to full height and internally contains many wall paintings of varying date. The chancel and nave date to the early 11th century, and are thus pre-Conquest, the west end of the nave and the north aisle are 15th century, the porch and south tower are 16th century and the top of the tower was rebuilt in 1712. The whole church was restored in 1935-6. The south window of the nave has two lights and tracery and dates to around 1330. The tower has saddleback roofs over the south door inscribed ‘Richard Coole Edward Benet church ward Ans 1712’. The north wall of the chancel has 12th century wall paintings including one depicting St Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar. It is thought likely the decoration extended to cover the walls fully at this time. Painted decoration of 13th century origin is also visible on the north wall of the chancel and the chancel arch. There is also a 16th or 17th century black letter painted inscription which reads ‘Let every lawe be subject unto a higher power for there is no power but of God Rom’ and parts of the Decalogue on the east wall of the nave, together with further painted decoration from the 15th century which in itself is overlain by an Achievement of Royal Arms and another Decalogue of 1713. The north arcade has a painted memorial inscription for Mr Robert Carruthers (1799) and his family. The west wall has a fragment of 15th century black letter inscription and the south wall has a painted creed from the early 18th century. It is thought that St Martin’s Church might have been predated by an earlier church built by St Aldhelm in around 700 AD. During drainage works it was noted the original west wall of the 11th century nave began just west of the south porch and thus the original nave was approximately 7.5m long. The church was rarely used after 1736 and fell into disrepair. It was restored and rededicated in 1936 at which time the paintings were rediscovered. The church is Listed Grade I (1153149).


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 62
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-456722


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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