Welcome to All Saints
The present church was built in the fifteenth century and has been described as impressive and important.
The list of priests goes back to 1263, so it is likely that there was at least one earlier building on or near the present site. Indeed the first reference to a church ‘of Wyke’ is in 1172.
Wyke itself has an even longer history with evidence from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Extensive Roman remains have been found on the hill to the east of the church.
We hope you will enjoy your virtual tour.
Looking Round the Church
If you stand between the two doors, facing the altar at the east end, you get a good sense of the proportions of All Saints’ church. You can appreciate the perpendicular style, with its slender columns, pointed arches and plenty of light – note the large east window.
In general the church as you see it is the church which was consecrated on 19 October 1455. However, it would have seemed very different then. For one thing, there would have been no pews, just some benches against the walls for the elderly. During the week, the nave – the area where the congregation now sits in the pews – may well have been a busy meeting area for parishioners.
In common with most parish churches, All Saints’ had three altars: two where the present, modern ones stand, the third where the organ is.
The two heads, facing each other across the nave from their respective pillars, are Henry VI, king when the church was built, and his queen, Margaret of Anjou.
The nave would have been divided from the chancel, where the choir stalls are, by a screen. The stone angel corbels which jut from the walls at this point are each missing a wing where a beam would have been, perhaps topped by a crucifix and statues.
Royal Coats of Arms
There are two. That over the main door on the south side is Tudor and comes from Sandsfoot Castle, the ruins of which overlook Portland Harbour. The painted one, on the west wall of the north aisle, is of King George I. Canny church officials made it serve two more Georges, first painting in the ‘II’, and then adding a third ‘I’, and ignoring the fact that the arms themselves changed!
This is perpendicular in style, of the same date as the church. So many thousands of babies, and a good numbers of adults, too, have been baptized into the Christian faith in it. The font originally stood in the nave between the two doors.
The Lady Chapel
At the opposite end of the south aisle is the altar dedicated to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The altar, and the screen behind it, the reredos, were put in place about 1950. A white light burns here, indicating the presence of the Reserved Sacrament, the bread from holy communion, kept for taking to the sick and dying.
Pulpit and Lectern
At either side of the chancel steps are the lectern and pulpit. The lectern is in the form of a brass eagle, its outstretched wings to support the bible, and carrying the good news over the world beneath its feet. The teaching ministry of the church is exercised from the stone pulpit opposite.
These form a memorial to those killed in the Second World War, some of whose names are carved here.
The main door appears to be the original one, consisting of planks, vertical on the outside, horizontal on the inside, roughly nailed together. Just inside is a badly damaged holy water stoup, which would have contained the water the faithful used to bless themselves with as they entered the church. There are niches in the porch, above the door, and above the entrance to the porch. These would have contained statues, destroyed in reformation times.
The corbel heads in the aisles are nearly all of Early English period and came from the building that the present church replaced and are mainly of secular subjects. An interesting one in the south aisle, to the east of the main door is of a workman carrying a hod, and gives a good idea of the dress of those times. Another one on the nave side of the south arcade almost over the font, is of a mason carrying a mason’s tool (Maul) under his arm. By the tower arch on its north side , is a very interesting corbel indeed. It represents a dog with a bone in its mouth. This corbel is probably Norman and is probably the only evidence that a Norman church once stood on the site.
The splendid west tower, for centuries a landmark for sailors in Lyme Bay, contains a ring of eight bells. The heaviest weighs in at over 16 hundredweight (0.8 tonne), the lightest 42 hundredweight. When the church was consecrated there were just four bells, these being confiscated by the Crown a hundred years later. The present ring was recast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1891.
The churchyard contains a number of mass burials of those lost at sea. Among them are eighty of those who drowned when the East Indiaman, the Earl of Abergavenny, sank in Weymouth Bay in 1805. Her captain, John Wordsworth, brother of the poet William, was buried away from the others to the south of the church, although there is no surviving stone on his grave.
A memorial was erected inside the church adjacent to the North Door, by the Wordsworth Trust in February 2005, in memory of John Wordsworth and to mark the 200th Anniversary of the sinking of the Earl of Abergavenny.
A stone on the grave of a young smuggler, William Lewis, is reputed to have inspired the novel Moonfleet, set on this coast.
The inscription which is barely readable today reads:
Sacred to the memory
who was killed by a shot
from the Pigmy Schooner
21st of April 1822 aged 33 years.
Of life bereft (by fell design),
I mingle with my fellow clay.
On God’s protection I recline,
To save me on the Judgement Day.
There shall each bloodstained soul appear,
Repent a! Ere it be too late,
Or else a dreadful doom you’ll hear,
For God will sure avenge my fate.
In the east churchyard is buried William Thompson, who is credited with taking the first underwater photograph in 1856.
All Saints’ Today
The church serves a parish of about 8,000 people, who still come here to be baptised, married and buried.
The church is not just a beautiful building, it is also a living and worshipping community. Services are held most days subject to the Rectors availability. On Fridays there is a communion service at 10.30 am. On Sundays the main services are at 8.00 am and 9.30am. Full details can be found on the weekly notice sheets available in church. Visitors are very welcome to join us.
Thank you for your visit. We hope you have enjoyed All Saints’ church. The maintenance of the building is a costly business. We welcome donations for its upkeep which may be placed in the wall boxes near where you bought this leaflet or beside the main entrance.
Text: Keith Hugo, photographs and additional text Gary Hepburn 1999- 2010 © The Parish of Wyke Regis, All Saints with St Edmund