Ibberton Church | Then and Now

Ibberton Church is one of three in England that are dedicated to St Eustace, the others being at Tavistock in Devon and Hoo in Suffolk.

That number was in danger of being reduced to two as the Ibberton building teetered on the brink of collapse.

My ‘old’ picture shows the church almost roofless and with its walls shored up by timber props.

Many sources – including my own book A Blackmore Vale Camera – date the picture to 1889.

Ibberton Church 1892

But an unpublished diary that came to light about 12 years ago suggests the collapse occurred three or four years later.

In her entry for December 8, 1892, diarist Julietta Forrester records a visit from a distressed Rector of Ibberton with Belchalwell, the Rev Augustus Rix.

‘He was in great trouble – the roof of the chancel and chapel at Ibberton had fallen in and the nave [is] expected to follow,’ writes Julietta, wife of James Forrester, Lord Portman’s agent for the Bryanston Estate.

Six days later she paid a return visit.

‘I called first at Belchalwell Church, where the chancel roof was off and men were busy restoring that end of the church,’ she says.

‘At Ibberton I noticed the roofless chancel and side chapel of that church. The walls were very much out of perpendicular and the ceiling of the nave full of ominous-looking cracks.’

Ibberton Church 2010

Restoration work at Ibberton did not start until 1902 and took seven years to complete at a cost of £1,500. The church reopened in 1909.

In the meantime services were held in a specially built corrugated iron building that later became the village hall.

Standing well above the foothills of Bulbarrow, Ibberton Church today offers a view that few Dorset churches can match.

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