Like the Romans, once the Normans had conquered England they built monumental religious edifices. The Parish church of St Martin (above) sits in the centre of Martinstown village. The original building was 12th century, but was refashioned in the perpendicular style when the tower was added in the 15th century and finally ‘restored’ in 1905. Inside there is a square Norman font (c1125) of Purbeck marble. A Chantry was founded here in 1367, probably in the north aisle where the Lady Chapel is now sited. There are the remains of a Jacobean pulpit, cut down from its original three decks, and a very rare George II hatchment (died 1760). The 18th century bells were sold to defray debts, but after a hundred years of silence, chimes rang out again in 1947 when five new bells were hung in memory of the war dead. Since the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Manor has been held by only nine families: fitz Grip, de Lincoln, fitz Pain, Maltravers, Stafford, Howard, Napier, Sturt (later Allington) and Duke. The latter family auctioned off much of the land in 1912. Lordship of the Manor of Winterborne St Martin is still a registered title, however on a couple of occasions unscrupulous solicitors have concocted scams to sell the title of ‘the Barony of Winterbourne St Martin’, which does not exist.
In 1268 Henry II granted a charter to Winterborne St Martin, allowing it to hold an annual fair within five days of the feast of St Martin. For many centuries there was also a weekly market here for farmers to buy and sell animals and other produce. A circular sheep-washing pool just up the road from the village pub still exists, but these days it is used only for the annual duck race.
The church, originally Saxon, was rebuilt in the 12th century, with the tower and porch being added to the original structure in the 14th century. The church is one of only three in the County to have a spire, and is the oldest of the three. There is a West Gallery, originally built to accommodate the Church Band.
The church dates from Norman times, and the tower, which houses three bells, from the 15th and 16th centuries. The chancel has a Royal coat-of-arms of Charles II, and dates from 1250. There is a Jacobean gallery bearing the date 1701, and the church had its own band. The living was formerly owned by Lincoln College, Oxford.
St Thomas à Becket,
Compton Valence is a very small village, consisting of 27 households, of which 30% are owner occupied, the remainder being farm cottages which are let. The village is known for its snowdrops, which provide a wonderful display each February, attracting many visitors, many of whom take the opportunity to visit the church.In 1838 the church was rebuilt, except for the Fifteenth century tower with its weather-worn gargoyle. The nave was lengthened, the north aisle added and the re-constructed chancel given an apse-shaped end wall. The materials used included local stone, Ham Hill stone, some Portland stone and Bath stone for the Pulpit. The nave roof and benches are of English Oak. The altar, a block of Caen stone was replaced in 1871 by the present wooden communion table.