Coombe Keynes (Holy Rood)

Coombe Keynes Church

Former Church of the Holy Rood, Coombe Keynes (October 2015)

This beautiful church, now sadly redundant, has an interesting thirteenth century tower with a pyramidical roof made of Purbeck stone. Much of the rest of the building reflects the substantial rebuilding carried out in the 1860s under the Dorchester architect John Hicks. The building is now in the care of the Coombe Keynes Trust.


Current church guide (available May 1999):

Coombe Keynes Church: an object lesson in Victorian self help by Christopher Scoble.
This is not a traditional church guidebook but a photocopy of an undated article published in Dorset: the County Magazine, no. 95. The article is copiously illustrated and comprises a history of the parish church, though concentrating on its restoration in the 1860s. The article includes information on the three bells and the fifteenth century silver chalice (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). The article also prints an interesting drawing of the font made by Thomas Hardy in 1861.


Until the church became redundant, there were three bells in the west tower (Raven, 1904, p. 117):

  1. Angelus [device] Michael [device] Gabriel [device] Maria.
  2. Anthony Bond made me. 1636.
  3. Love God. I. W. 1599.

Further Details

The Treble

Bell by Thomas Hey

The treble is the oldest of the three bells. Its foundry mark indicates to Walters (1938, p. 101) that it was cast by Thomas Hey in the 14th century. Walters (1912b, p. 196) describes Hey as a man local to Dorset - Dalton (2000, p. 219) suggests Montacute in Somerset - and notes that his other bells remain at Wraxall, Stock Gaylard and Turners Puddle, and also at West Chinnock and Low Ham in Somerset. The Montacute connection is suggested by the inscription on the West Chinnock bell: [device] SANCTE [device] KATERINA [device] DE [device] MONTE [device] ACUTO (Ellacombe, 1875, p. 38).

Thomas Hey's founders mark

Founders mark on treble bell at Turner's Puddle (from Raven, 1903, p. 137).

Walters notes that Hey used "a very pretty cross in a quatrefoil, of Early English type" (see above), and that the bell at Wraxall is inscribed "Thomas Hey makede". Raven (1906, p. 206) compares the bells at Stock Gaylard and Wraxall.

The former presents a strange contrast in shape to its fellow just mentioned, the diameter being four-thirds of the height. The A's are all placed sideways - As Thomas Hey "makede" the latter, no doubt he also "makede" the former.

The Second

Bell by Anthony Bond

In contrast to the treble, the second bell's inscription tells us both who founded it and its date of casting: "Anthony Bond made me 1636". Very little is known about Anthony Bond , he was the founder of two other bells in the Purbeck area - at Steeple (Raven). He also cast the old tenor at Wimborne Minster that was re-cast in ca. 1910 by Gillett and Johnston.

The Tenor

Bell by John Wallis

The third (and heaviest) bell from Coombe Keynes has the inscription "Love God I.W. 1599". I.W. stands for John Wallis, who cast bells at the Salisbury foundry from about 1580 to 1624. By the early twentieth century, 216 of Wallis's bells still remained in Wiltshire and its adjoining counties, 77 of them in Dorset (Walters, 1912a, p. 294). Little is known about Wallis as an individual except for the phrases that he recorded on his bells. The inscription on the Coombe tenor, "Love God" is representative of the types of inscription that he used.

Lukis (1855, p. 46; Lukis, 1857, p. 7) wrote that

There appears to have been an extraordinary demand for his bells; and he seems to have been a man of few words, but of great deeds. A man is known by his works, and a man's character and tone of mind may be known in some measure by his words. If we estimate him by his works, he was a great man; and if we take his laconic epigraphs as an index of his heart, he was a trustful, religious character - "In the Lord do I trust"; "Give thanks to God"; "God be our guide"; "Praise God"; "Hope well", "Serve God"; these are some of his short expressive epigraphs.

The earliest Wallis bell that remains in Dorset is the current second at Buckland Newton, dated 1581. His bells remain also in two parishes that adjoin Coombe Keynes, one in East Lulworth and two in Wool (inscribed "Love God IW 1606" and "Praise God IW 1606")

Walters (1912a, p. 295) says that Wallis is noteworthy as the founder of the earliest ring of eight bells in an English parish church, that cast in 1602 for Bishops Cannings (Wiltshire), some of which still remain in the current ring.

All three bells from Coombe are currently on public display in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.


Dalton, C., 2000, The bells and belfries of Dorset, Pt. 1. Ullingswick, Hereford: Upper Court Press.

Ellacombe, H.T., 1875, The church bells of Somerset to which is added an olla podrida of bell matters of general interest. Exeter: William Pollard.

Hutchins, J., 1876, The history and antiquities of the County of Dorset 4, 3rd edn, ed. W. Shipp and J.W. Hodson. Westminster: J.B. Nichols.

Lukis, W.C., 1855, On church bells: with some notices of Wiltshire bells.Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 2, 40-82.

Lukis, W.C., 1857, An account of church bells: with some noticies of Wiltshire bells and bell-founders. London and Oxford: J.H. Parker.

Lukis, W.C., 1859, History of Salisbury bell-foundry. Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 141-150.

Raven, J., 1903, The church bells of Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 24, 103-148.

Raven, J., 1904, The church bells of Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 25, 33-128.

Raven, J., 1905, The church bells of Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 26, 204-221.

Raven, J., 1906a, The church bells of Dorset. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 27, 97-137.

Raven, J., 1906b, The bells of England. London: Methuen.

Victoria County History, Wiltshire.

Walters, H.B., 1912a, The church bells of Wiltshire.

Walters, H.B., 1912b, Church bells of England. London: Oxford University Press.

Walters, H.B., 1938, Dorset church bells. Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 60, 97-120.

Coombe Keynes Church

Coombe Keynes Church

Former Church of the Holy Rood, Coombe Keynes in the snow (January 2010)

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Maintained by Michael Day, Last updated: 11 January 2016.