Dorset OPC

Melbury Bubb

Dorset OPC

Melbury Bubb Church
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC  2011

Melbury Bubb is a village nestling beneath the well-wooded hill known as Bubb Down, seven miles south of Sherborne in North-West Dorset. Despite its small size, it has always been a parish and remains so today, and includes the tything of Woolcombe, which formerly had its own chapel, part of Redford, a few houses at Holywell and three at Heneford. It is thought that ‘Melbury’ comes from the joining of two Old English words, ‘maele’ and ‘burh’, meaning ‘multi-coloured fortified place’, hinting at long forgotten battles in ancient times. Opinions are divided as to whether the manorial addition of Bubb, which distinguishes this parish from nearby Melbury Osmond and Melbury Sampford, refers to a long-extinct noble family who were Lords of the Manor here in mediaeval times or to a Saxon named Bubba who lived here prior to the Norman Conquest.

The parish is watered by the Wriggle stream, which flows through it. Commanding what Marius Wilson described in the 1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales as a ‘very extensive and beautiful view’, Bubb Down Hill housed a beacon in former times. Also of topographical note is the ridge that runs through the southern part of the parish, forming the watershed between the English Channel and the Bristol Channel. The present road along it is believed to be a section of the ancient pre-Roman track between East Anglia and the South Coast at Seaton (Devonshire) known as the ‘Ridgeway’ or ‘Northern Trackway’.

At the foot of Bubb Down, next to a stone Jacobean Manor House, is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The church has undergone two major restorations, one in 1474 to which we owe the tower, and another in 1854 when most of the rest of the church was rebuilt. However, a significant amount of exquisite stained glass from the 1474 rebuilding has survived, generally in the upper lights of the windows. Scenes depicted include events in the life of the Virgin and the parable of the foolish virgins, symbols of the evangelists and coats of arms of the earthly families of Maltravers and Warre.

The Church is also famed for its font, which is thought to be the hollowed-out, upturned base of an Anglo-Saxon carved cross. The carvings depict a bestiary, with two small dragons and four large animals: a stag biting a serpent whose coils interlace the feet of the other animals; a tall horse with paws instead of hooves; a male lion biting a small dog with its tale between its legs and a large animal with a mane facing the horse. The presence of this intriguing artefact suggests that at the very least there was a standing cross on the Manor in Saxon times, if not a church. Services were conducted at these standing crosses, which often later became the sites of parochial churches.

Melbury Bubb Hamlet
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011

The post of Online Parish Clerk (OPC) is currently vacant
If you would like to volunteer for the role, please contact the OPC Project Co-ordinator
Contributions of additional resource materials for the site are always welcome

Census 1841 Census [Keith Searson]
1851 Census [John Ridout]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1731-1880 [Janet Courtney]
Marriages 1732-1836 [Janet Courtney]
Burials 1731-1880 [Janet Courtney]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records  
Photographs Melbury Bubb Baptismal Font (includes Church photographs) [External]
Monumental Inscriptions List of names on Burial Monuments in the church ground [Brian Webber]
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1679-2000. Marriages 1681-2000. Burials 1679-1999





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