Designed by Benjamin Ferry (1810-1880) in 1848, this beautiful church replaced a small chapel which stood about half a mile further along the road to Mappowder. It is now deconsecrated and functions solely for cultural and entertainment purposes, as a concert and recording venue and a venue for wedding celebrations.

It is a simple, balanced building in an attractive late Decorated style verging on the Perpendicular. The roof of the nave is supported on large hammerbeam trusses with a double tier of windbraces, and the chancel on archbraces. The mouldings of the window mullions are typical of Ferrey’s attention to detail, as are the oak furnishings and fittings which all survive, and which are all of complementary design, with the exception of the twelfth century font which was brought from the site of the old church in 1932.

The east window depicts St. John the Baptist flanked by St. Peter and St. Paul, with four angels in the tracery, and is probably the work of Thomas Willement (1786-1871) ‘Stained glass artist to Queen Victoria’ as he advertised himself. It was given to the church by James Farquarson the famous Dorset Master of the Foxhounds, whose portrait by Sir Franci Grant hangs in the Dorset County Museum.

A son of the Mayor of Christchurch, Benjamin Ferrey was articled to Augustin Pugin in Bristol, and on setting up his own office of his early work, including Clyffe House, Tincleton (1832), Dorset County Hospital (1839), Dorchester County Hall (1847), appears to follow the railway line between the two centres.

While Ferrey is generally admired for his churches, and his ecclesiastical practice was prolific, his country houses are regarded as slightly less inspired. In fact, his last work, which was a commission from Queen Victoria to design Bagshot Park, Camberley for the Duke of Connaught, is described by Pevsner as ‘scarifyingly ugly brick-and-stone Tudor like a Bournemouth Hotel’. Perhaps the Christchurch wheel finally turned full circle.

Anthony Jaggard