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Church of St Martin, Purbeck

Description: Church of St Martin

Grade: II
Date Listed: 12 March 2013
Building ID: 1413052

OS Grid Reference: SY9317589940
OS Grid Coordinates: 393175, 89937
Latitude/Longitude: 50.7090, -2.0980

Locality: Purbeck
Local Authority: Purbeck District Council
County: Dorset
Postcode: BH20 7AJ

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Listing Text


Church, originally serving as a music room, school and chapel, of 1876 with a contemporary organ for local philanthropist Miles Rodgett.

Reason for Listing

Church of St Martin, Sandford of 1876, originally built as a school, chapel and music room, containing a contemporary organ by Maley, Young and Oldknow is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Artistic interest: the church contains an organ which displays craftsmanship of the highest order and which retains its original decorative scheme;
* Historic interest: the organ epitomises a period in British organ building that was strongly influenced by the significant French organ builder, Cavaillé Coll;
* Architectural quality: the Gothic Revival architecture of the church, whilst not of intrinsic special interest, forms an ideal, simple foil for to the organ;
* Interior: aside from the organ, the interior is of modest quality, with minimal decorative treatment and standard features and is not of special interest.


In 1876, Miles Rodgett a philanthropist and Justice of the Peace who had purchased the Sandford Estate in 1863, commissioned an organ from the London firm of organ builders Maley, Young and Oldknow. It is believed that the organ was intended as a gift for the Church of Lady St Mary in Wareham but it was not installed in the parish church and Mr Rodgett had a building, now St Martin's Church, constructed on his estate in Sandford specifically to house the organ. The building was for the use of his family and also for the local community, serving as a chapel, a school room and a music room; the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1888 describes it as a school. In c1892 the building was extended with an additional range to the north-west which is understood to have served as a further classroom (now the vestry). It is understood that the Rodgett family were already known for their philanthropy having remodelled and modernised the village of Higher Walton in Lancashire for their mill workers when they lived in this area in the mid-C19. The materials, including the bricks possibly from Sandford Pottery which was also owned by Miles Rodgett, and architectural style employed in St Martin's Church are consistent with other late-C19 buildings on the Sandford Estate including Sandford House (Rodgett’s home), Home Farm and estate workers' cottages.

Pipe organs fell out of favor during the C18, when orchestral music became popular. During the early C19 reed organs, which were smaller and less expensive than pipe organs, began to be used in small buildings and private homes. However, a renewed interest in pipe organs appeared in the mid-C19, led by the French organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll who is considered to be one of the most distinguished organ builders of the C19 and the British organ builder Henry Willis. These new pipe organs were better suited to playing orchestral music, greatly increasing their popularity. Maley, Young and Oldknow, who had all previously worked for the established firm of organ builders Bevington & Sons, set up their own company in 1876. Records show that they built at least forty organs, and it is likely that the organ in what is now St Martin's Church was one of the earliest, if not the first instrument to be built by them. Some sources suggest that Miles Rodgett may have been directly involved in its design. The organ was built to a very high standard using top-quality materials and pipes for some of the stops were imported from France, possibly from the workshops of the renowned organ builder Astride Cavaille-Coll. Miles Rodgett seems to have promoted the work of Maley, Young and Oldknow by introducing them to other landowners in Dorset, and at least 17 of their instruments were installed elsewhere in the area; unfortunately most are now lost or have been altered. A Maley, Young and Oldknow organ of c1880 was installed in the Church of St James (Grade I listed) in Kingston, Purbeck. The company of Maley, Young and Oldknow flourished until the company was dissolved in 1887.
Contemporary records indicate that the organ in St Martin's Church proved popular, with members of the Rodgett family providing regular organ recitals for the local people. In December 1876 the Dorset County Chronicle reported that ‘a pleasing entertainment was given in the School room at Sandford'’, while the Wareham Parish Magazine of May 1877 described the organ as having 'remarkable beauty and richness of tone'. Following Mr Rodgett's death in 1882 his widow commissioned Maley, Young and Oldknow to build another organ that was a gift to Lady St Mary‘s Church, Wareham. This second organ was almost identical to that in St Martin's Church and was installed in the parish church in 1883.

The organ in St Martin's Church is little altered since it was built except for the addition of an electric blower which replaced the bellows in the late 1950s. In 1966-67 a new school was built immediately to the south-west of the original school/chapel building and the latter was dedicated in the name of St Martin in 1967. In 2000, the organ was awarded a Historical Order Certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies.


MATERIALS: the building is constructed of buff-coloured brick including the plinth, with ashlar dressings under a slate roof with coped verges.

PLAN: the building which is set back from the road and is designed in the Gothic Revival style. It is a single-storey building that is L-shaped on plan comprising the church which is orientated north-west to south-east and, at right angles to the south-east corner of the church, is a lower three-bay range containing the vestry. This was built in matching materials and to the same design in the last decade of the C19. The church has a single-cell nave of five bays with a chancel at its south-east end which consists of a single, shallow bay with a lower ridge; the organ occupies the whole of the north-west end of the nave. Access into the church is via an attached late-C20, flat-roofed addition on the south-west side which also connects the church with the adjacent school buildings which are not of special interest.

EXTERIOR: the principal (south-east) elevation faces towards the road and has minor detailing in contrasting dressed stone. There are offset brick buttresses with ashlar copings to the corners and further buttresses define the bays. To the left the chancel bay is lower and breaks forwards with a cruciform window of plain and coloured glass. The taller gabled bay of the nave has a small lancet to the apex and a cruciform finial. The vestry range to the right is built in a matching style with window and door openings flanked by buttresses. The left-hand bay has an entrance door with a rectangular fanlight and a chamfered hood mould with plain labels; the middle bay has a mullioned and transomed window; and the window in the right-hand third bay has been replaced with a pair of doors. The side and rear elevations have the same detailing with mullioned and transomed windows. There is a chamfered hood mould above the window in the north-east elevation of the vestry range, and a decorative metal finial to the apex of the gable.

INTERIOR: the interior of the church is simple: the walls are finished in painted plaster with minimal decoration and detailing, and over the nave is a roof of scissor-braced and collared principal rafters; the former carried on timber brackets. The pointed chancel arch has slender roll moulding which rises to small foliate capitals. The most distinctive feature of the interior is the pipe organ of 1876. Its chamber occupies the whole of the north-west end of the church. It has a painted panelled case, probably of oak, with a moulded cornice and dogtooth frieze and the central console comprises 34 speaking stops located in side panels, three keyboards and pedals. The console carries the inscription: MALEY, YOUNG & OLDKNOW - LONDON N1'. There are nearly 2000 pipes, and the front pipes which rise above the screen are decorated with coloured stencilling, typical of the High Victorian style, while the rest of the pipe work is housed in the rear chamber.

A doorway at the southern end of the nave leads through to the lobby entrance, the vestry and lavatories. The interior of the vestry is plain and is not of interest.

The special interest of St Martin's Church lies primarily in the survival of the substantially-intact organ by Maley, Young and Oldknow, the rest of the interior although forming part of the historic context is not of intrinsic special interest.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.