Parish church of St John’s, St John’s Hill, Shaftesbury.
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 John’s, St John’s Hill, Shaftesbury represents an early church associated with an Anglo Saxon fortified settlement or burh. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, social, religious and political significance, longevity, abandonment and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 February 2016. This 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.
This monument includes the site of an early medieval church and its associated churchyard situated on the summit of the prominent ridge known as Castle Hill in Shaftesbury in the extreme south western corner of the Anglo Saxon settlement. The church survives as entirely buried structures, features and deposits within the walled confines of what is believed to be its churchyard. It is thought to have had Pre-Conquest origins dating back to the time of the Saxon burh in Shaftesbury. It is documented from 1272 and there is a list of rectors from 1320 – 1446. Dedicated to John the Baptist the church was amalgamated with that of St James and went out of use in the 15th century although burials continued. The church was dismantled in the 18th century. The burial ground is very uneven and contains some 18th and 19th century funerary monuments. It is maintained as a grassy area with benches.