Radipole changed dramatically in the time of the 1930’s with a great increase in population. The little church of St Ann, which had served the rural community for 700 years was too small and it was remote from the new growth areas and very few families had cars! The Rev W S Syson, Rector from 1936, initiated a great effort by the parishioners to meet the need for a new church.
The site in Spa Road was made available through the generosity of Mr A A Hayward whose family home was on the corner of Spa Road and Radipole Park Drive. It had been his market garden, but in Georgian times a small Spa building stood here, with a deep well under the position of our present church kitchen.
Building to plans by architect Mr Randall Blacking of Salisbury progressed through great difficulties, including being struck by fire bombs, in the very dark days of the second World War. The builder was Ralph Fry from Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset, who built and restored many churches in the area.
Dedication by the Bishop of Salisbury was on 15 March 1941. The stone commemorating this, and the foundation stone, are near a door in the West wall.
The building was completed and the church looked as shown in the plan, 1941, the front being pebbled and with shrubs and trees.
St Aldhelm’s 1941.
Weymouth College Aisle 1941.
After the war
The Church Hall was built behind St Aldhelm’s as a result of fund raising over many years (fetes were popular). This REMA building provided a Badminton court and rooms for meetings and activities. The Hall was dedicated in 1961 and was used widely by the community including Sunday School, Guides and Brownies.
The Ratcliffe hall is also used by the community, in recent years mainly during the week as a pre-school.
The main church building was designed to be extended at the southern end, when war time building restrictions and funds allowed, and in 1969 an entrance porch, clergy and choir vestries were dedicated by the Bishop of Sherborne.
St Aldhelm’s 1962.
Ratcliffe Hall Sunday School 1952.
Inside the back of StAldhelms (the South wall) pre 1969.
Sunday School in the new hall 1962.
Weymouth Chapel 1962.
The North End Chancel pre 1969.
Inside the REMA hall 1962-2011.
The back of St Aldhelm’s South side, post 1969 pre 1982.
The seating in the church became inadequate for the growing congregation and in 1979/80 the church was ‘turned around’. The original choir area and chancel (see diagram) became available for seating and the centre room of the stage 2 addition was opened up to become the Sanctuary. Now people had their backs to Spa Road instead of facing that way.
A few years later, the development of the building in the 1980s to meet new needs was the inspiration of Rev Richard Luther, ‘Dick’ who was team Vicar. Dick’s vision was to extend northwards towards Spa Road, to form a welcoming Lounge, Kitchen, Office, Toilets and Crèche room.
Architects K C White drew up plans.
A sound proof screen enabled the lounge area to be used as a separate area, or when folded back, provided space for extra seating for large services.
A Baptistry for total immersion baptism was formed.
Two pillars were removed giving a clear view throughout the church (see diagram).
Pews were replaced by chairs for more flexibility of seating.
A new heating system was installed.
The Thanksgiving and Dedication Service took place on 21 January 1983 led by Rt Rev John Kirkham, Bishop of Sherborne, in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Weymouth.
The considerable expense involved in planning this caused many to wonder whether it would be possible, but the DCC were convinced that it was right to go ahead. Three days before the launch of the project, at the very moment the team clergy were praying about the matter, a London Solicitor rang to say that Mrs Dora Craddock-Hartopp had died the previous day and had bequeathed the residue of her estate to the Parish of Radipole. She particularly requested that a ‘Hall’ be built in memory of her parents, Henry and Ellen Martina Cox whose home was Radipole Manor. The Lounge is the fulfillment of her wishes. Portraits of her parents are in the Lounge.
Years before, this very significant will had been privately discussed with Rev Eric Allen, then Rector of Radipole. It must have been a joy to him to know that ‘The Cox Trust’, of very considerable value, would eventually come to Radipole.
The Furnishings in St Aldhelm’s are significant as many provide links with past places of worship.
Weymouth College, a Boys’ Public School, closed in 1939 and St Aldhelm’s became guardian of their memorials.
The West Aisle of the church is known as the Weymouth College Chapel. Here are memorial stained glass windows, Books of Remembrance (replicas now, as the originals are held for safe keeping in Dorset Records Office), carved oak screen memorial to Headmasters of Weymouth College and a plaque to College chaplain Rev E V Tanner. In the main body of St Aldhelm’s at the south end are carved panels with 180 names of Old Weymouthians killed in the 1914-18 war, and in the Chancel is a Prayer Desk, ‘a gift to St Aldhelm’s Church from three American Old Weymouthians’.
The fine organ, originally built by Norman and Beard and rebuilt by Willis, came from Weymouth College Chapel.
Gifts from the demolished Christ Church (near the Railway station) were the pulpit, font, and pews (now all passed on).
The 12 foot long carved oak Communion Table was made in Radipole. Matching rails and kneeling step are stored in the Church Hall.
Other memorials are the doors of the ‘Old Porch’ (now referred to as the flower room), Carved Screen East side, Sanctuary Chair, Credence Table, and Processional Cross.
A modern Font consists of two parts, a wooden stand made by Peter Kirby and a pottery bowl made by Jon Robbins.
Peter also made the modern Lectern/pulpit.
Communion vessels include a wooden chalice from Kenya.
The Church wardens staves are held, one in St Ann’s, the other in St Aldhelm’s.
Banners and Silk Paintings made by members of the congregation including young people, adorn the walls and change with the special seasons of the church year.
There was a church bell which was removed because it was unsafe. It is now in safe keeping.
St Aldhelm’s Window
This brilliantly coloured window in the Chancel of St Aldhelm’s Church illustrates St John’s vision, Revelation, Chapter 1.
‘… I saw seven lamps of gold and among the lamps one like the Son of Man, robed down to his feet, with a golden girdle round his breast. The hair of his head was white as snow-white wool, his feet gleamed like burnished brass refined in a furnace … In his right hand he held seven stars … His face shone like the sun in full strength.
‘He laid his hand upon me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, and I am the living one; for I was dead and now I am alive for evermore.” …’
The window was designed and made by Jon Callan of Dorchester. The glass is very thick and uses the Dalle-de-verre method . The window was a wonderful anonymous gift to St Aldhelm’s in 1985.
Who was Saint Aldhelm?
He was born in the 7th Century, a poet, musician and Bishop of Sherborne. He could read the Scriptures in Hebrew and knew Latin and Greek. He was greatly beloved, a great and good man. He sang as he went about his diocese preaching in a familiar style to the crowd. A true pastor to his people. Click here for more information about Saint Aldhelm.
After AD43 there may have been a Romanised village and the Romans used Radipole as a landing base for supplies to Durnovaria, our Dorchester. Coins of the Emperor Constantine have been found so a Christian community may have been here so long ago.
Doomsday Book 1086 records the presence of a priest at ‘Retpole’ under the authority of the Benedictine Abbey of Cerne (Abbas), founded c. AD 950.
St Ann’s Church first recorded Rector is Walter Hervey 1299. Dates of the other parish churches are St Mary’s 1606 (present building 1815), St John’s 1854, Emmanuel 1973 and Park Church 1994, developed from an earlier mission hall.
More details of our fascinating history are in ‘The Buildings of Old Weymouth’ by Eric Ricketts, RIBA, available in St Aldhelm’s Library.