St James Church before 1786

Abbey Church, Woodward, 1770

The present St James Church is located in the centre of The Street in the ‘new’ village of Milton Abbas. It was built in the 1780’s and consecrated in 1786. We know that there was a St James Church before this date since there are baptisms there, and it must have been the local or parish church before then, but where was it and when was it dedicated to this saint?

Milton Abbey church had been dedicated to St Mary, St Michael,  St Samson and St Branwalader, but not to St James. Some believe that St James church may have been attached to the Abbey near the south door, but there is little evidence. The 1770 map does show an extension to the south aisle between bays 3 and 4 from the east end, and the stone work here does show some changes – could this have been it, or was this just a porch? There is a record of a repair to the porch in 1641.

In the Churchwardens Books in the Dorset History Centre which we have transcribed, 1638 – 1644 there is much expenditure on the bells. We presume that these are the Abbey bells, unless a new set was purchased since the surrender of 1639 and installed in St James church. There was a clock too, since in 1640 1s was paid for a pulley wheel for it.

From the Churchwardens Books we also know that the font was moved in 1641 at a cost of 7s. But from where to where?