St. Mary’s Church, Tarrant Rushton. NGR: ST93739 06060, lat:50.8540, long:-2.0903. Lead Author:JT
St. Mary’s Church has a wonderful mix of stones, most of them reasonably local. The River Tarrant runs through a Chalk valley lined with river gravel containing flint. To the north the valley begins near Shaftesbury, where there are quarries in Upper Greensand Shaftesbury Sandstone, not far distant from the quarries in the Vale of Wardour that could provide both the sandy limestone of the Main Building Stone and the white oolite that corresponds with the Portland Oolite of Dorset. To the south the river joins the Stour near the Tertiary London Clay heathlands that can provide Lytchett Matravers Sandstone. The Poole Formation sands and clays top the hills to the south and east. All these building stones have been used at different times in a church that was first built early in the 12th century in a cruciform style.
The church as seen today is mostly flint, with occasional blocks of Heathstone in the transept walls and banding with Heathstone in the chancel. It is occasionally possible to see that the grains in the Heathstone are rounded and coated in iron oxide, which would indicate the London Clay Lytchett Matravers Sandstone. The windows are mostly the Wardour Main Building Stone, a sandy limestone with glauconite that has weathered to a golden colour. These are all dated 14th century by the Royal Commission for Historical Monuments. The exceptions are the square-headed window in the south transept, which includes Heathstone, and the south-facing window made of Upper Greensand which is heavily weathered.
The late 12th century tower over the western extension to the nave, is built of Flint, with scattered blocks of Upper Greensand, and Heathstone. The porch was added in the 15th century and the inner porch walls are of flint and Upper Greensand chequer. The south transept walls are of flint banded with Heathstone.
3. Square-headed window in the east wall of the south transept, built of Heathstone and Wardour Main Building Stone, with two blocks of Upper Greensand either side at the top. The wall is Flint, Heathstone and Greensand. The top left of this window looks a different stone. As becomes evident when inside the church, considerable restoration was undertaken in the 19th century.
Both north and south transepts were extended in the 14th century, with a window in the west wall of the north transept built of Heathstone that has ‘sharp’ grains, only partly covered in iron oxide, and therefore probably from the Poole Formation. On the exterior of this window are marks of hands, and it is said to be a ‘lepers’ window, through which the altar could be glimpsed via a squint in the corner of the north transept. This window may have been built earlier and replaced when the wall was rebuilt.
Text and images by JT August 2018