Gussage St Michael


The village lies in a vale on Cranborne Chase, 10 miles North-East of Blandford Forum and 14 miles South-West of Salisbury (Wiltshire). Built amidst the ruins of a Saxon church, the oldest part of the present church of St Michael and All Saints is the embattled tower, whose base is 12th century with later additions in the 14th and 15th centuries.


Unusual markings on the 12th century font in the church, which include Marian monograms combined with a daisy or sun wheel to promote good luck and ward off evil, may point to a local sun-worshipping tradition having been co-opted by Christianity when it first arrived at Gussage St Michael. The allusion seems to be to the woman clothed with the sunmentioned in the book of Revelation and which many scholars have interpreted to refer to the Virgin Mary. It is certainly true that the site of the present church has been used for worship for over 1,000 years.

Built amidst the ruins of a Saxon church, the oldest part of the present church of St Michael and All Saints is the embattled tower, whose base is 12th century with later additions in the 14th and 15th centuries. It contains a number of bells, some of which are dated as early as 1350. Two bells, cast in the year James I came to the throne, bear inscriptions Feare God on one and Hope wellon the other. The nave is 13th century with late Norman pillars and arches, although the clerestory was added in the 1400s when the roof was raised and the North porch was built. Cruciform carvings on the uprights of the North door are believed to be Crusader symbols. The chancel was completely rebuilt by G. E. Street in 1857 and embellished in subsequent years by the addition of a stained glass window, a reredos (1870) and a screen (1919). In 1896 a small 13th century chapel was converted into a vestry. Despite these more recent renovations, the overall impression is of a pleasant old country church.


According to Dorset place-name expert, A. D. Mills, the word Gussage has been formed from two Saxon words, gyse for water breaking forth and sic for watercourse. A pamphlet in the church gives a slightly different interpretation, giving the origin of Gussage as the Anglo-Saxon word gwysych, meaning a bourne, that is, a watercourse that dries up for part of the year. Both explanations refer to the gushing stream that rises at Gussage St Andrew, flowing through the village to eventually join the River Allen. It is the dedication of the church that gives the parish the second part of its name, although it was formerly known as Gussage Dinant, in honour of Alain de Dinant and his descendents who held it until the reign of Edward I, and often appears in old documents as Middle Gussage in reference to its location between the other two Dorset villages with the word Gussage in their name.

The parish is steeped in ancient history. Ackling Dyke, an old Roman road, forms the boundary between Gussage St Michael and Gussage All Saints, while the mysterious Dorset Cursus, extending for 10 km with two raised banks at either side and presumed to have been used for ceremonial purposes, begins on Gussage Hill. Cashmoor, a hamlet within the parish, also excites interest for its ancient remains. There are traces of seven ditches crossing the road from here to Tarrant Hinton, supposed by archaeologists to be evidence of an almighty battle fought by the ancient Britons, all knowledge of which is now lost to the memory of man. The outlying hamlet of Sudden or Sutton once belonged to the parish, but was eventually transferred to Edmondsham with which it is contiguous.

Church Wardens

Chris Payne

Peter Bending

If you would like to get in touch with the Church Wardens, please email gusschurchwardens@kcb.org.uk

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