|Denomination||Church of England|
|Rector||The Revd Canon Eric Woods|
|Vicar(s)||The Revd Jane Craw |
The Revd Lesley McCreadie
The Revd Jono Tregale
|Curate(s)||The Revd Guntars Reboks |
|Organist/Director of music||James Henderson|
Sherborne Abbey, otherwise the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin, is a Church of England church in Sherborne in the English county of Dorset. It has been a Saxon cathedral (705-1075), a Benedictine abbey church (998-1539), and since 1539, a parish church.
It is believed that there was a Celtic Christian church called Lanprobi here as early as AD658 when it was part of the Celtic Kingdom of Dumnonia, and Kenwalc or Cenwalh, King of the West Saxons is believed to be one of its founders.
When the Saxon Diocese of Sherborne was founded in 705, to relieve pressure from the growing see of Winchester, by King Ine of Wessex, he set Aldhelm as first Bishop of the see of Western Wessex, with his seat at Sherborne. Aldhelm was the first of twenty-seven Bishops of Sherborne.
The twentieth bishop was Wulfsige III (or St. Wulfsin). In 998 he established a Benedictine abbey at Sherborne and became its first abbot. In 1075 the bishopric of Sherborne was transferred to Old Sarum, so Sherborne remained an abbey church but was no longer a cathedral. The bishop (in Old Sarum) remained the nominal head of the abbey until 1122, when Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury, made the abbey independent.
Known Abbots include:
The Benedictine foundation at Sherborne ended in the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, when the abbey was surrendered to King Henry VIII. Various properties at Sherborne were bought from the king by Sir John Horsey who then sold the abbey to the people of Sherborne, who bought the building to be their parish church (as people of many other places did), which it still is. The original parish church alongside the abbey was demolished, though the foundations are still visible. In 1550, King Edward VI issued a new charter to the school that had existed at Sherborne since 705, and some of the remaining abbey buildings were turned over to it.
The Abbey is a Grade I listed building. It has several distinct architectural styles throughout. Saxon features still remain in some parts of the Abbey, mainly around the Western door. Roger of Caen demolished most of the Saxon church and replaced it with a much larger, Norman style church.
The Lady Chapel and Bishop Robert's Chapel were added in the 13th century in the Early English style, and in the 15th century, the choir section was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style, including the fan-vaulting Sherborne is still famous for, the remodelling by William Smyth, under Abbot John Brunyng (1415-1436). The vaulting is believed to have finished in 1490.
During this renovation, a riot in the town caused a fire that damaged much of the renovation, causing delays. Traces of the fire's effects can still be seen in the reddening of the walls under the Tower. The fire and its effects also caused the design of the Nave to be altered. Some of the Nave's pillars are Norman piers cased in Perpendicular panelling.
The whole building is around 240ft (73m) in length and 98ft (30m) in width.
The North Nave Aisle, sometimes called the 'Trinitie' or 'Dark' Aisle (as it is overshadowed by the adjoining Cloisters) contains several colours from the 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment and the Dorsetshire Militia. The South Nave Aisle contains colours of the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.
Inside the Wykeham chapel is the tomb of Sir John Horsey and his son. Horsey had bought the church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and sold it to the townspeople. Also in the Chapel is the plainly marked tomb of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt.
The South Transept contains an impressive baroque memorial to John Digby, 3rd Earl of Bristol, made of marble and designed by John Nost. Additionally there is a memorial to Robert and Mary Digby.
The North Aisle contains a memorial to Abbot Clement (1163) and an effigy to an unknown Prior, while the South Aisle contains an effigy of Abbot Lawrence of Bradford (1246).
The Digby Memorial, situated outside the Abbey, is a memorial to George Digby who provided a lot of funding for renovation work during the 19th century. It was built in 1884 and features statues of St Aldhelm, Bishop Roger of Salisbury (Roger de Caen), Abbot Bradford and Sir Walter Raleigh.
The Abbey's organ, located in the North Transept, was installed in 1856 by [[Gray & Davison] to some considerable acclaim. It was completely rebuilt in 1955 by [[J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd] with a remote console in the Crossing and a large specification which included a Tuba. In 1972 John Coulson of Bristol again altered the organ by adding a neo-classically styled 'Positiv' in place of the Choir manual, some big mixtures on the Great--including the fancifully named Stieglitz--and increased wind pressures throughout. By 1987 an increasing lack of reliability led to a proposed scheme by Bishops, supported by John Norman, Cecil Clutton and Patrick Moule, favouring a return to the Gray & Davison past by almost halving the number of stops, returning the console 'upstairs' to the front of the case, and including a 'Chair' section instead of the Positiv in order to try to overcome the difficulties of the position of the organ. This was a bold move, but was hardly in keeping historically and proved to be musically and mechanically a disappointment. After just over twenty years it was necessary for the organ to be rebuilt again, and in 2004/05 Kenneth Tickell changed the tonal quality of the instrument, installed new ranks in the Choir and Swell divisions, and provided a new solution to the location issue by installing a new Nave division, located under the West Window. 
The organ specification can be found here.
The Abbey has two reredos. The more recent is in the Lady Chapel, and was designed by Laurence Whistler in 1969, and fashioned in glass. The second, more substantial reredos was installed in 1884 and designed by RH Carpenter.
The Abbey contains a number of stained glass windows. The diarist Richard Symonds, post 1664-1665, described the location, blazon and surname for coats of arms of some leading families of Dorset displayed on stained glass in the Sherborne church as he observed them during the Marches of the Royal Army during the English Civil War.
The Great East Window was designed by Clayton and Bell and installed in 1856-58. It features the Apostles Mark, Luke, Matthew and John, and Saints Sidwell and Juthware (Juthwara), who is featured in the Sherborne Missal. The glass in the Southern Aisle commemorates Sherborne School For Girls' 1949 Jubilee.
The Lady Chapel glass comes from the 1930s, and depicts St Aldhelm presenting a model of his church to the Patron.
The Great West Window is the newest of the major windows designed and made by John Hayward (1929-2007), being installed in 1997 to replace a poor quality, faded, Pugin conceived glass. The new glass depicts the Patron and the baby Jesus, the Biblical Magi and the Shepherds, the Genesis story, the fall of man and the Easter story.
Choir east window by Clayton and Bell 1856 - 1858
Nave west window by John Hayward 1996
Millennium window by John Hayward 2001
South transept south window by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin
The Abbey contains ten 15th century misericords, situated 5 on each side of the choir. These depict such things as the last judgement of Christ, and gurning.
The C15th central tower contains the heaviest ring of eight bells in the world, with the tenor bell weighing of 46cwt and 5 lbs (5,157lb or 2,340kg).
|1||Treble||3' 0"||9-2-25||B?||1858||Whitechapel Bell Foundry|
|2||Second||3' 2"||10-1-3||A||1858||Whitechapel Bell Foundry|
|3||Third||3' 4"||11-3-4||G||1903||John Warner & Sons|
|4||Fourth||3' 6"||12-1-6||F||1803||Thomas & James Bilbie|
|5||Fifth||3' 10 1/2"||16-3-3||E?||1787||William Bilbie|
|6||Sixth||4' 2 1/2"||22-1-4||D||1858||Whitechapel Bell Foundry|
|7||Seventh||4' 7 3/4"||28-0-18||C||1903||John Warner & Sons|
|8||Tenor||5' 4"||46-0-5||B?||1934||Whitechapel Bell Foundry|
The Sanctus bell is chimed at the blessing of the sanctum.
The Fire Bell is unusual in that it has an in-turned lip, and so has a completely different sound to a conventional bell.
The Lady Chapel is on the site of two earlier chapels: the c1250 then Lady Chapel and the C15 Chapel of St Mary le Bow. These were taken over by the governors of the newly founded 'Edward VI Grammar School' (now known as Sherborne School) in 1550 and were partially demolished and converted in 1560-61 as a house for the headmaster. It remained in use by the school until 1921 when plans were drawn for the grafting of a new Gothic-style Lady Chapel onto the remaining section of the Medieval chapel and was completed in 1934. The remaining section of St Mary le Bow's Chapel contains a fireplace mantel from when it was a domestic dwelling.
The Lady Chapel contains the oldest chandelier in England dating prior to 1714.