Excerpt from Wimborne. A Miscellany: Book 1 by Malcolm Angel.
The minster church of Saint Cuthberga
“The twin stone towers of the Minster Church of St. Cuthberga dominate the town. But for all its size there is gentleness in the building’s presence. Whether from design, or good fortune, the stone used for its construction is of varying shape hue and colour and appears speckled, like the teeming trout in the rivers flowing clear under the bridges of the town. The effect is both attractive and timeless.
The greater part of the Minster as we know it today was built after the Norman conquest between 1120 and 1180 to support a college of a secular cannons founded by Edward the Confessor. The oldest part of the building is thought to be the Saxon stair-turret, which is built from brown heathstone rubble. It possibly dates back to the 700’s and formed part of or a chapel within the Saxon Abbey and can be seen protruding from the outside wall of the north transept. Behind rises the massive 12th century central tower.
This tower once supported a stone spire, described as ‘being of very great height’. It was damaged and repaired after a gale in 1530, but collapsed 70 years later in the year 1600 destroying part of the chancel. The disaster struck while a well attended morning service was taking place inside the church and a busy market was going on in the streets outside. But remarkably there was no loss of life or even injury. The spire – which was never rebuilt – can be seen on the 1563 seal of the Corporation of Wimborne’s Free Grammar School.
The west tower is home to the Quarter Jack – an animated wooden figure – which stands high up in the North window. He is a great attraction to the many visitors drawn to the town and a visit would not be complete without seeing and hearing the old man in action. On the quarter, small crowds wait to see him swing his hammers to ring out each quarter of the hour.
However, he was not always as we see him now. He is first recorded in the 17th century and by the time of the Napoleonic Wars was reportedly gowned in lead with a flat round cap, (thought to be a monk) before being altered to the brightly uniformed Grenadier that we see on the tower today.”
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