Parish History

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. The controls of the lighting in both church and hall were also refurbished to give more flexibility in the system.

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. During the Covid pandemic the church doors were locked along with the rest of the country, however this period did give time for reflection and a new vision for the parish was born, that of Loving God Loving West Moors. In 2022 St Mary's celebrated 125 years of the church's dedication and we were overjoyed to welcome the Right Reverend Stephen Lake who had only recently been inaugurated as the new Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Stephen visited to rededicate the church on the Patronal Festival and was presented with a book of messages prepared by every child at St Mary's First School and Nursery. In October 2022 the PCC approved a proposal from the vicar, Revd Andy Muckle, for opening the church building. This was a historic moment after over thirty five years of the church being shut during the day. In 2023 Revd Andy was appointed as the next Chaplain to St George's Crypt, a city-wide homeless charity in Leeds.

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 125 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 -  2023     Andy Muckle               Vicar