St Andrew's Church, Winterborne Tomson, Dorset

Off Marsh Lane, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 9HA
How to find us | Access information
Opening times:
Open daily
  • Overview
  • Map
  • What's nearby

A Dorset gem saved by Thomas Hardy

St Andrew’s church, Grade 1 listed, is one of only four English single-celled Norman churches with an apse at the east end, rather than being cruciform in shape, and is the only one in Dorset. This small chapel, built of flint and stone, with a tiny weatherboarded bell turret, has barely been altered since it was built in Norman times. The inside is simple, bright and beautiful - with uneven limewashed walls and a flagged floor.

The early eighteenth-century oak fittings were provided by William Wake, then Archbishop of Canterbury, whose family lived nearby. The silvery-grey box pews, the pulpit, the screen, the communion rails and matching table, the font cover and the west door all date from this refurbishment. The wagon roof is unique in that it curves round the apse, with finely carved bosses where the oak ribs intersect.

The church was sympathetically restored in 1931, when The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings sold a collection of Thomas Hardy manuscripts to pay for repairs. During this work the gravestones were removed, leaving one unmarked tomb in the walled churchyard. The restoration work was supervised by the architect A R Powys, Secretary to the Society. It is thanks to him that this lovely church has survived in such a wonderfully unspoilt condition. A plaque in the church commemorates Powys' work at the church where he buried.

Winterborne Tomson is a hamlet between Winterborne Zelston and Anderson. It is understood locally, that its name derives from Thomas, a long-forgotten lord of the manor, and the Old English word ‘tun’ for estate. The earliest mention in records is in 942 AD, when King Edmund made a grant of 8 hides of land (961 acres) to Wynflaed, a rich Anglo-Saxon noblewoman.  She was the first British woman to leave a written will, now held in the British library, a fascinating testament to life in 10th century England. Her daughter, Saint Elgiva of Shaftesbury, married King Edmund I.

Looking for more?

Youtube Video: A Brief History of St Andrew's, Winterborne Tomson, Dorset by Rupert Hardy.

Clicking on the video will navigate you away from this page to watch.

Youtube Video: A solo cello concert at St Andrew's Church by Emily Burridge.

Clicking on the video will navigate you away from this page to watch.


  • Access information

    Access to the church is via a private road, with limited parking in an adjacent private car park. The postcode is DT11 9HA. There is wheelchair access.

    A single large door (120 cms wide) in the west wall is approached over gently undulating, grass churchyard, which has been maintained in a wildlife friendly manner. Level access to the west door then one step down to slightly uneven flagstone floor on nave aisle (150cms wide). Box pews with comfortable seating capacity for about 50. There are two uneven steps to altar in apse. There is a steep ancient ladder to the west end gallery, but not to tower. Although this gallery is supported by a new support, the original beam is badly eaten away, the balcony rail is low (about 50 cms) and access must be banned. Electricity meter and sockets at top of the ladder on west wall.

  • Facilities & Hire

    The Church Community holds at least two services a year, a Harvest Festival and a candle-lit Advent Carol Service.  Other informal services are held from time to time.  A concert is usually organised in the spring. Christenings, weddings and funerals may be held here. There is an American harmonium.

    Due to the historic nature of this  building, there is no heating, running water,toilet facilities or lighting.

  • Directions
    8 miles west of Wimborne Minster, off A31 at the end of a private road
  • Transport
    Nearest railway station: Holton Heath (5.9 miles)
  • History & Further Information

    Why not make your visit more enjoyable and informed by finding out more about this church and the CCT before you visit? You can download a range of publications below including the relevant county guide, and any walk round guides we have for this church.

    Cornwall, Devon and Dorset County Guide

    This free of charge short guide contains details of all the churches CCT cares for in Cornwall, Devon & Dorset. Printed copies of the county guide are also available at the church.

    St Andrew's, Winterborne Tomson Guide Book


  • Community information

    Click here to download a copy of the Church Plan which sets out the shared vision for the future of the church. This is a working document that will be updated on a regular basis. If you have any feedback or if you want to contact us about the church plan please drop us a line. When you write, please do give the name of the church, thank you!


    All our Dorset churches are in CCT's West region.

    Useful local links: