Dorset OPC


Dorset OPC

St Michael and All Angels Church, Rampisham
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011

Rampisham is a secluded village and parish, hidden in a fold of chalk upland alongside a deeply-bedded stream where beech trees flourish, two miles West-South-West of Evershot and 5 miles East by North of Beaminster. A 4m x 3m Roman pavement was found here in 1799, confirming the settlement’s ancient past. Popularly known as ‘Ransom’, the meaning of the name ‘Rampisham’ is uncertain. The second part, ‘ham’ is from the Old English word for enclosure, but the first part could refer to a human, an animal or a vegetable: a man called Ram, a ram or wild garlic. What is certain is that Rampisham lives up to Frederick Treves’ billing in his 1906 “Highways and Byways of Dorset” as one of the county’s most beautiful villages. From the picturesque thatched and whitewashed old post office next to a shallow ford, to the former schoolhouse designed by A.W.N. Pugin and the some-time ‘Tiger’s Head’ pub at the central crossroads, overlooked by the Manor House and the Church of St Michael and All Angels from a wooded knoll above the village, there is much to praise in Rampisham.

As with so many churches in Dorset, the parish church is a combination of medieval elements and Victorian restoration, thankfully in this case tastefully done. The South tower was built in three stages: the first two storeys date from 1326 and housed a chantry chapel in memory of the son of the then Lady of the Manor. The base, now the vestry, contained an altar that permitted a view of the main altar by means of a hagioscope. During the 1858 reconstruction the tower’s belfry was added and houses a peal of five bells. The Victorian restoration had been carried out in two stages: Pugin rebuilt the Chancel, cleverly incorporating some of the surviving 14th century artefacts, and designed the East window in 1847, and John Hicks, possibly together with his young trainee architect Thomas Hardy then aged 18, rebuilt the nave and extended the tower in 1858-9. Inside the church are two brasses from 1523 and an elaborate octagonal font with carved figures of saints and evangelists beneath canopied niches, a gift to the then rector from his brother in 1844.

Just beside the porch in the churchyard are the remains of a 15th-century Ham Hill stone perpendicular cross. Carved into a square pedestal mounted on an octagonal base are scenes depicting the martyrdom saints, including St Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, St Edmund, St Stephen and St Peter. There is a Latin inscription to one Porter who died in 1516, while the date of 1606 is inscribed on another side of the platform. Also of note in the churchyard is the Drewe family stone table tomb from the mid-18th century. Only the name of Anne Drewe can be made out now. Across the road from the churchyard is a curious topiary menagerie of strange creatures and a chorus line of ballerinas.

Sir Robert Sherard, priest here during the reign of Henry VIII, found himself in the dock for having the temerity to suggest in public that the King was not worthy of his crown, making a mark for free speech. Rampisham’s most famous son, however, is Francis Glisson (1597-1677), a graduate and later professor of Cambridge University and a founder member of the Royal Society in London. He wrote many learned papers, including a series on rickets (partly observed in Dorset) and his description of the anatomy of the liver, and in particular the fibrous sheath - known to this day as Glisson's Capsule – is still the basis of modern medicine’s approach to this organ.

Rampisham Post Office and Ford
© 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 [Jennie Roberts]
1851 Census [Royston Clarke]
1861 Census [John Ridout]
1871 Census [John Ridout]
1891 Census [John Ridout]
Parish Registers Baptisms 1813-1880 [Terry Pine]
Marriages 1574-1846 (Philimores) [Emma Squires]
Burials 1731-1880 [Janet Courtney]
Trade & Postal Directories  
Other Records Will of John Humber 1888 [Terry Pine]
Monumental Inscriptions  
Records held at the Dorset History Centre
Christenings 1575-1868. Marriages 1574-1841. Burials 1575-1932.

Former Tiger's Head Pub
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011

Rampisham School
© Kim Parker/Dorset OPC 2011


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