The exact date of the foundation of St. Nicholas’ Church is unknown. The Domesday survey indicates the presence a church in 1086. Only the north wall and lower part of the tower dates survive from the second half of the 14th century. The porch, which is gabled to the north, has a 15th century arch over the door. Extensive but largely sympathetic additions and alterations to the main structure were undertaken in 1877-78. The chancel was widened which involved removing the Norman arch and its im-posts. A south arcade was added and the narrow south aisle widened. The roof timbers were largely replaced during this rebuild. The estimated cost of these works was £1,050. The organ chamber, electric lighting and pulpit were gifted by Revd Joseph Staines Cope who was the incumbent for 17 years spanning World War I.
The tower, which was not completed until the 15th century, has a two-light 14th cen-tury window in the west wall. There are three bells, one of which is late medieval and inscribed “Ave Maria” in black letters. Another was made by William Purdue in 1615. The Purdue family established a famous bell foundry in Closworth, Somerset.
The east window is an example, rare in Dorset, of a 14th century window having intersecting tracery. Two of the original late 14th century windows were re-used in the new central south wall window. There is an unusual quatrefoil window in the east wall of the porch.
There are two fonts - one dates from Saxon times which was reputedly exposed by a ploughshare close to the original site of the church at Chaldon Boys (now West Chaldon) and was placed in our church in 1897. This one is used for baptisms rather than the Victorian one at the back of the church.
Chaldon Herring - The Parish
Members of the congregation admire the Easter Garden
The name Chaldon is derived from Calvedon or Chalvedon - most likely meaning “the hill where calves were pastured”, The Retreat or Hiding Place Down or simply Chalk Down. Herring is probably derived from the Norman Family, Harang, who became Lords of the Manor after the conquest of 1066.
In 1446 the Bishop of Sarum united the churches of Chaldon Boys (which was dedi-cated to St. Nicholas) and Chaldon Herring. The original parish covered over 3,000 acres and stretched from the cliffs over the downs into the valley where the village lies, then over the ridge with its famous barrows, known as The Five Marys, and into the heathland beyond as far as Tadnoll. In 1917 the parishes of Chaldon Herring and Winfrith Newburgh were combined and in 1979 the parish was extended to in-clude East and West Lulworth
Chaldon Herring has attracted an unusual number of literary and artistic residents. The Powys family, who were blessed with many gifted children, moved to the village and many of the brothers and sisters lived in and around the village. Theodore Powys used the village as a model for Folly Down in his novel “Mr. Weston’s Good Wine. Llewellyn Powys’ memorial stone is on the cliff path. The sculpturess, Elizabeth Muntz, established her studio in The Well House in Chydyok Road. Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland are both buried in the churchyard, unusually in the same grave. David Garnett set his novel “The Sailor’s Return” in the village. There is an excellent exhibition of the literary/artistic life of the village in the Dorset County Library in Dorchester. A locally produced guide to the village and its writers can be obtained from St Nicholas Cottage.
Altar for Remembrance
Recently restored south window Collage of the Five Marys by Elizabeth Muntz Wedding party as seen from the tower