A Brief History of St Mary's Parish Church
The Parish Church in West Moors was constructed in 1896 and was blessed and dedicated to St Mary the Virgin by the the Right Reverend John Wordsworth Bishop of Salisbury (also the founder of Bishop Wordsworth School) on 9th December 1897. The Reverend Claud Brown, who had come to Verwood in 1887, was instrumental in driving forward ministry in West Moors, with the building of the church, school and vicarage along Station Road (initially used as a curate's house). The church and churchyard was not fully consecrated until Monday 18th May 1908 - again by the Bishop John.
In 1910 a new Parish of Verwood, Three Legged Cross and West Moors was formed with Claud Brown as Vicar. Until 1912, a succession of curates from Verwood looked after West Moors, before the Revd C A Frankland was appointed the first Priest in Charge. In 1917 Claud Brown retired from the parish, before passing away in 1929. He is not forgotten though and his legacy and contribution to ministry in West Moors endures to this day.
On 3rd March 1922 after four years of conversations West Moors finally became a parish in it's own right, with the Revd Charles Carew Cox as it's first vicar. A Chapel of Ease was created in 1925 on some land along Pinehurst Road. A disused wooden chapel building in the neighbouring parish of Holt was bought, dismantled and re-assembled over the course of 4 months by a team of 15 volunteers. The church (known as St John's) was rededicated and blessed on 5th November 1925, by the Bishop of Sherborne the Right Reverend Richard Abbott (the first Bishop of Sherborne under the revival of the ancient bishopric first held by St Anselm). Known locally as the Gypsy Church there was a regular and loyal congregation for 74 years until the building was deemed unsafe by insurers, forcing its closure and demolition in 1999.
Further building work to the parish church of St Mary's commenced in 1927, when the west end of the nave was extended. The work took some four years to complete and included the building of an organ chamber on the north side of the nave. In the early 1970s a meeting room was constructed on the north side of the church and this served the congregation and village well until 2010 when an ambitious building project (partly funded by the sale of St John's Church) resulted in the construction of the present modern church hall. During 2020 the lighting in the church was refurbished after a major failure and a new sound and media system was installed by CPS a local firm based in Christchurch.
There have been changes over the years to the accommodation provided to the incumbent. The large vicarage (originally built to house the curate-in-charge) on Station Road was sold in 1980 and a 1930's detached house along Glenwood Road purchased as the new vicarage. The Centenary of the dedication of St Mary's was celebrated in 1997 with the re-dedication of the church by the Right Reverend David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury and again in the 2008 the Bishop returned to celebrate the centenary of the church's consecration.
The parish is rightly proud of it's history dating back to the 19th Century vision of Claud Brown. The same vision still drives the parish now as we seek to live out our vision of loving God and loving West Moors. Along with those who have gone before us, we are ever looking to improve the facilities of the church and provide as many opportunities as possible for both young and young-at-heart to worship God in the parish's beautiful church building. For over 120 years the parish church has stood as a beacon of hope in West Moors and its walls have borne witness to many thousands of moments of great joy and sorrow. It has been our privilege to accompany the people of West Moors throughout these important times in their lives, to offer comfort, support and hope; and we look forward to doing so for many more generations to come.
List of Incumbents, Priest and Curates-in-charge
Ecclesiastical Parish of Verwood, Three Legged Cross and West Moors
1887 – 1917 Claud Brown M.A. Vicar of Verwood, Three Legged Cross and West Moors (1897)
1897 – 1900 WF Cecil Gurney Assistant Curate from Verwood
1900 – 1911 JS Barrett Assistant Curate from Verwood
1911 – 1912 TV Morley Assistant Curate (Verwood, Three Legged Cross & West Moors)
1912 – 1915 CA Frankland Priest-in-Charge
1915 – 1916 HE Ridsdale Priest-in-Charge
1916 – 1917 J Richard Priest-in-Charge
1917 AS Bryant Priest-in-Charge
1917 GS Gallar Priest-in-Charge
1917 – 1922 Charles Carew Cox Priest-in-Charge
Ecclesiastical Parish of West Moors
1922 – 1927 Charles Carew Cox First Vicar of West Moors
1928 – 1937 WH Courteen Vicar
1937 – 1943 DAG Muir Vicar
1943 – 1951 Charles F Hall OBE Vicar
1952 – 1973 Alban Ernest Elliot Vicar
1973 – 1979 H Brien Dawe Vicar
1980 – 1988 Norman Taylor Vicar
1988 – 2001 Ian Chisholm Vicar
2002 – 2005 Stuart Miller Vicar
2005 Andrew Rowland Priest in Charge
2006 – 2018 Andrew Rowland Vicar
2019 - Andy Muckle Vicar