Holy Trinity - Blackdown - History
Interior View East
Interior View West

John Pinney, described as a Gentleman, considerable scholar, an eloquent charming preacher, very facetious, but always grave and serious, became the Vicar of Broadwinsor in 1649, taking over from Thomas Fuller, who went to follow King Charles 1 in the civil war. John who married Jane French, a churchwarden’s daughter remained there till 1660, when Fuller returned, as he had never surrendered the living. Hearing John preach he told the people afterwards that he would not deprive them of such a man. But John did not remain for long, as an act passed in 1662 required incumbents to be ordained by a Bishop He was ordained in Bristol, but still ejected from Broadwinsor for doubtful orthodoxy. Thereafter his life was the dangerous one, of the travelling preacher, he twice suffered imprisonment for conscience sake.

Ten years later Charles 11 made a special grant under the Privy seal to John “of the perswasion commonly called Presbyterian” permitting him to have a meeting place for worship at his house of Bettiscombe. He preached there and at Blackdown, Bridport, Crewkerne and Wayford. He also spent five years in Dublin 1683-1688. In 1685 his son Azariah Pinney joined the rebel Duke of Monmouth at Lyme Regis along with other dissenters in the locality, but he was later sentenced and given with ninety-nine other prisoners to a contractor named Jerome Niphe, to sell as a convict in the dreaded plantations. Niphe transferred his rights to George Penn who inconsideration of a bribe of £65 allowed Azariah to go into exile as a free man. Azariah was banished to the Leeward Islands where he flourished exceedingly and laid the foundations of a West Indian fortune.

The Toleration Acts of 1689, allowed freedom of worship to protestant non-conformists and meeting places began to appear throughout the land. One such was at Blackdown, which was built shortly before John died “at about eleven of the clock at night of the Lords day November the Twenty fifth 1705 “aged 82 at Bettiscombe Manor, which he had purchased the lease of for three lives Only earlier that day “he having that day preached on Blackdown Hill fore and afternoon on the first Chap. Mark and the 40. verse.”

A covenant, which appears to be in his own handwriting with twenty signatures (not Pinney’s) states

“wee who are members of the congregation that assemble in the meeting house on Black Downe, Doe declare that with full purpose of heart, through the grace of God, wee will adhere and keep our covenant made with God: the father, son, and Holy Ghost in our Baptisme; And doe promise to performe the dutyes of members in this congregation.”

In his will John Pinney made the following endowment. ‘To the meeting at Black Downe for the support of it in the purity of the worship of God I doe give to it five poundes to be payd twenty shillings by ye year’

But one of the first ministers joined a sect called the Arians and as a result the congregation dwindled to almost nothing and little is known about the chapel at this time except that in recent years a small book which appears to be a register for burials has surfaced and runs from 1712 to 1817. The ministers between 1734 and 1772 all of whom held the Christian name of Joseph were Keech, Russell, Bradshaw and Paull. Sometime in the early part of the 19th century the meeting house must have fell on evil days because when it was conveyed in 1839 it was referred to as just the meeting yard, although the burial ground did contain the graves of dissenters (as above, burial names available on the Dorset Online Parish Clark website) there was no problem building a chapel of ease for the church in Broadwindsor.

Just before the church is described one name must be mentioned of a man whose “labour was abundantly blessed”. James Hargreaves who settled in Morcombelake in 1830 and who worked and preached till he died in 1864. He often came to Birdsmoregate and Blackdown., but the roadside or the cottage kitchen were his only chapels.

The Chapel of Ease, a plain rectangular building with stone and chert walls, slate roof and a bell turret was built due to the efforts of Archdeacon G A Denison of Broadwinsor who contributed £1,000 some of which had come from private loans and some from the Queen Anne’s Bounty Bond. The new building was fully equipped, well decorated and thanks to a wooden gallery could seat 250. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity it was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury on 22 April 1840. And with its own curate who in 1851 was Thomas Langdon, who lived near Racedown

Another curate of Blackdown for 3 ½ years till 1869 was the Rev Charles B Wardale who was a much loved and esteemed minister. On his leaving party in September 1869 at Drimpton a purse containing £20 12s was presented to the Rev. gentleman, by the inhabitants of Drimpton, Blackdown and Broadwindsor. Curate F Parham presided over the Harvest Thanksgiving Service in 1880, where the offering of £1 13s 2d was given to the Dorset County Hospital. The church being tastefully decorated by Mrs Pinney, Blackdown House, Schoolmistress Miss Coles and the Misses Pinney’s The Firs.

Harvest Thanksgiving services were a yearly event, as today, the ladies going to town with their decorations and many familiar names are mentioned in the 19th century services. Mrs W Bailey, Mrs Liddell, Mrs Dunster, Misses Forsey, Hannaford, Seward, Slade, Smith, Bryant..Sydenham or Ada Hannaford usually presiding at the harmonium beneath the gallery.

Another annual service was the flower service held on Ascension Day, which would be attended by children from the four churches, who would bring, bunches of flowers which would be sent away to the Cottage Hospital in Rotherhide to ‘gladden the hearts of suffering little ones’. A collection being made to defray the costs of the carriage of the flowers. Afterwards the choirs would be entertained to tea at the vicarage.

Services at that time were usually evensong every Sunday at 3pm of 6.30pm, followed by Holy Communion, on two Sundays a month at 11am.The choir practised every Wednesday at 7pm, but was rewarded, together with the choirs of Broadwindsor, Burstock and Drimpton with an annual outing. In August 1887 the choirs were conveyed to the Chard Railway Station and there took a train for Weston Super Mare. Many members whilst there took a trip to Wales, Cardiff and back by steamer, others took trips on the waters in small boats. With various amusements on the sands to satisfy the juveniles. Immediately after tea about 7.30, the party numbering 60 left Weston and reached home soon after 11 o’clock. Other places visited were Clifton, Weymouth, Bristol, Budleigh Salterton, and Seaton.

One of Blackdown Sunday School annual treats was tea on Pillesdon Hill, hosted by Mrs Pinney of Blackdown House. In August 1875 the children assembled in the Blackdown Schoolroom which had recently been improved through the taste and literality of the Rev S C Malan and were then taken in wagons, kindly lent by Mr E Pinney, esq. to the top of Pilsdon Hill where they were joined by a large company including the Pinney family, Vicar and Miss E Malan, Studley family, Miss Johnstone, Mrs Bryant and family, Mr Hannaford and many more. The company enjoyed cake, coffee and bread and butter followed by races and games of all kinds. Prizes were then given by Miss Pinney to the most regular attending children, the vicar supplementing Miss Pinney’s books with other books, cards of texts and advice of his own.

In February 1890 a mission was organised and during its ten days, 114 sermons were preached in the four churches. Everyday Blackdown had four services. These included Separate services for men, women and children as well as periods of instruction. The number of communicants reached a record 70. At the close of the last service memorial cards were given to those who felt that they had received a blessing.

Just before the Rev H R W Farrer left Broadwindsor cum Blackdown and Drimpton in 1895 he hosted a Garden Party at Broadwindsor Vicarage for the Sunday school scholars of Burstock, Broadwindsor, Blackdown and Drimpton numbering upwards of 300. Farrer was replaced by the Rev G C Hutchings, who in 1900 erected, painted and carved reredos and a painting of the nativity in memory of Ven G A Denison, Archdeacon of Salisbury. A stained glass East window was also given in memory of the Pinney family. Hutchings left to take up residence as Vicar of Beaminster in 1912. At his presentation in Blackdown, Mr C E M Pinney of Blackdown House said as soon as the people of Blackdown became aware of his leaving they were anxious to give him some proof of f their love and esteem. He then presented the Rev with a beautiful timepiece.

William Gibbs Forsey of Drimpton played the pipe organ in the gallery for many years, till 1919 when his daughter Grace took over for a further five, she remembers the full congregation and the choir in the gallery, led by Fred Elliott m with his fine tenor voice.

In 1920 the church erected a memorial tablet to commemorate the members of Blackdown who fell in World War 1, the curate by this time lived at Burstock, and he would conduct Blackdown services travelling from church to church by bicycle.

In 1934 when the last curate left Burstock (his name was Tod and his sons founded a boat building business by that name) services at Blackdown were reduced and congregations dwindled.

In 1958 the church installed electric lighting, but there was still an old iron stove used for heating. Then on 16/17 December 1961, in the time of Rev F B Horsey the church caught fire, and all that remained were the stonewalls. It was once thought it was the action of the Chard Fire Bug, see clippings, but it was probably caused by excessive heat from the stove chimney, which had been lit for the next day’s service and which went up besides the gallery timber.

A citation for faculty to build the new church arrived in November 1963 but it was argued that the restored building rebuilt in 1964, by Spillers of Chard, should be designed for the dual purpose of church and village hall, but those supporters did not get their way. The architect Mr Stark of Jackson and Stark, Dorchester was responsible for the modern interior.

The walls were repaired and replastered on the inside; a new roof was added, topped by an unusual open bell tower. The consecration service was held on November 29 1964 by the Ven, the Archdeacon Maddocks, and televised on Tuesday December 1st.

The first christening in the new church was on January 10th 1965. In May 1965 a harmonium was given by Mrs Burkinshaw of Uplyme. The family of the late Mr Forsey of Drimpton who had been organist for 40 years, gave an alter chair. Whilst a new 6’ alter frontal in new gold and off-white cloth was presented by Mrs Bailey Senr. Other gifts of kneelers, blue carpet, large bible lecturn, (later renovated by Mr Rodney Hobbs) chairs, and organ came from churches that were being closed. Herb and Vida Snell fetching the chairs from an army surplus store at Luggershane. As the raffia seats later needed repairing, the chairs were replaced with another set from another redundant church, this time collected by Mr Harry Hardwill. Aided by his young son our present churchwarden Philip. The stone font came from a church near Athelhampton

In 1983 the congregation were reminded that the building was still but a chapel of ease it was “out on a limb”.

Today the church is fully licensed, with churchwardens Philip and Alison who succeeded Syd Bailey and Harry Hardwill, and it looks forward to hosting its first ever-wedding service.