The timber roof of St. John the Baptist, Bere Regis
General view of timber roof, St John the Baptist, Bere Regis
In Bere Regis church can be found a carved and painted oak roof, dating from the fifteenth century. This was allegedly paid for by Cardinal Morton, who was born in the parish and later became Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury.
The twelve protruding beams are carved into figures dressed in medieval costume, probably either monastic figures or (more likely, given their iconographic content) meant to represent the twelve Apostles. It is thought that the prominent face in one of the timber bosses is a representation of Morton himself.
Detail of a face, supposed to be that of Cardinal Morton
Speculation remains as to which apostle is which, although St Peter as a bishop with his iconographical keys is quite distinctive. A scheme devised by Fred Pitfield (and others) assumes that the figures are arranged in alphabetical order, moving clockwise around the church. Starting from the north-east corner of the nave, this would make the general order: St Andrew, St Bartholomew, St James the Greater, St James the Less, St John, Judas Iscariot (north side); St Jude, St Matthew, St Philip, St (Simon) Peter, St Simon Zealotes, St Thomas (south side). Whoever they are meant to represent, the figures are extremely interesting, life-sized versions of people wearing fifteenth-century costume. The distances involved means that the photographs included here cannot do real justice to the reality.
Four Apostles: South side, from West to East (left to right on the left-hand side of the church)
Left: St. Matthew (?); Right: St Philip (?)
Left: St Peter (Simon Peter); Right: Simon the Zealot (?)
Four Apostles: North side, from West to East (left to right on right-hand side of the church)
Left: St Bartholomew (?); Right: St James the Greater (?)
Left: St James the Less (?); Right: St John (?)
- Betjeman, J., Sir John Betjeman's guide to English parish
churches, revised and updated by Nigel Kerr. London: HarperCollins,
1993, p. 180.
- England, J. and Pitfield, F.P., Bere Regis Church, Dorset [church guidebook]. Wincanton: Dorset
Publishing Company, [ca. 1994]. ISBN 0-948699-00-0. [Commemorating the 500th anniversary of the oak roof, first published
- Hope, M., Dorset. In: Humphrey, S.C., ed., Blue guide: churches
and chapels of southern England. London: Black; New York: Norton,
1991, pp. 186-188.
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1988, p. 10.
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Dorset, 3rd ed., edited by W. Shipp and J. W. Hodson, Westminster:
J.B. Nichols and Sons, 1861-1873, Vol. 1, 1861, pp. 150-154.
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Lane, the Penguin Press, 1999, p. 147.
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England. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1939, pp. 25-28.
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Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, pp. 89-91.
- Pitfield, F.P., Dorset parish churches, A-D. Milborne Port:
Dorset Publishing Company, 1981, pp. 58-64.
- Pitfield, F.P., The book of Bere Regis. Wincanton: Dorset
Publishing Company, 1996 (1978).
- Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An inventory
of historical monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol. 2, South-East
Dorset. London: HMSO, 1970, Pt. 1, pp. 13-18.
- Sackett, T. and Sackett, E., Francis Frith's Dorset Churches.
Salisbury: Frith Book Co., 2000, pp. 67-68.
To Dorset Churches Index Page
Maintained by Michael Day,
Last updated: 6 August 2009.