St. Mary’s Church, Almer. NGR: SY91317 98933, 391317 98933. Lat: 50.7900 ;Long: -2.1245. (Lead author: JT)
St. Mary’s Church was founded by the Abbess of Shaftesbury, and part of the north wall is Saxon. The nave is built of Heathstone and dates from the 11th century, the north arcade and north aisle being added in the 12th century, with round heathstone piers and arches inside, including the occasional block of Purbeck limestone. The church has a clay tiled roof with two courses of Purbeck stone tiles at the verge.
The Bastards of Blandford rebuilt the south wall of the nave in 1750, using a lighter colour Heathstone in ashlar blocks of sizes diminishing upwards. The round-arched 18th century windows are of Portland Freestone.
Although the Heathstone is of two different colours, the grains are all sub-rounded and coated in iron oxide. It is therefore possible that they all come from the Lytchett Matravers Sandstone of the London Clay, which is found in Lytchett Matravers parish and westward on the high ground in Charborough Park and Morden. This church is within the patronage of the Drax estate of Charborough Park.
The chancel was rebuilt early in the 19th century with small pieces of the dark brown Heathstone, using ashlar in diminishing courses, with a few blocks of Upper Greensand and a pale oolitic limestone on the quoins, including the chimney to the boiler.
All text and photographs by JT, December 2017
The tower was built in the 15th century mostly of heathstone, but with bands of Purbeck Burr (Broken Shell Limestone) in the lower storey. Above the string course is another band of Purbeck Burr and a bell-chamber opening of the same except for the tracery on the north side, which appears to be Upper Greensand. On the south side the bell-chamber frame is all Burr, with slate in the openings. The tall and narrow inner arch of the tower is of Purbeck Burr. The 13th century font close to the tower arch is of Purbeck Marble.
The church was restored in 1907. The inner chancel arch is of the same pale oolitic limestone, with only one band in each pier of heathstone. Could this be the Corallian oolite that we found in Sturminster Marshall, where we found a family connection with Marnhull?