Welcome to the 2019-2020 season  –

Autumn is here already and after the long summer days we can now look forward to Thursday 3rd October and the start of an exciting and varied lecture programme taking us right through until July 2020.

On behalf of the Committee, I should like to extend a very warm welcome to all our new Members.  We hope you will all be able to attend the buffet lunch on 7th November in Stalbridge Hall after the lecture.  This is an opportunity for us to meet you personally and for you to meet other new members.  We hope you will enjoy being part of our lively society and that you will make new and lasting friendships.

Thank you for joining us.

With best wishes,


Sheila Williams


While Covid continues to prevent us from having lectures at Stalbridge Village Hall we are presenting Zoom lectures, for our members, in April, May, June and July 2021.

If you are are new to Zoom, this link will help help you to get started.


After almost six years of recording, the task is now completed. Originally set up by Jill Harris in 2011, the current team of seven are to be congratulated for their painstaking work which has culminated in the production of a superb record which will be treasured by posterity.

Jill de Bretton-Gordon      Helen Oakes      Felicity Mc Swiney

Belinda Wentworth           Maggie Blather   Pat Gee

Diana Stephens  

The team was assisted by Frances Moule, Judy Heron, Trish Johnson – and names from the past, Rosie Roberts, Liz Hamilton, photographer Andy Newton, Leon Sparrow and many others.

The record, beautifully- bound in dark blue leather with gold lettering, was handed to St. Mary’s Church at a service of Holy Communion on Sunday 16th February 2020 by the Chairman, Mrs Sheila Williams.


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         Sheila Williams (Chairman)

The annual Young Artists’ Christmas Exhibition is now running from Friday 29th November until Saturday 14th December.  Prizes were awarded on Friday evening by the Chairman, Sheila Williams to Will Montgomery, Peter Hazzard and Sharon Hutchings.  George Thomas and Anne-Louise Richard’s exhibits were Highly-Commended.

A very interesting day was enjoyed by our members and guests on Monday 14th October at The Arthur Morison Memorial Hall, Cucklington when lecturer Anne Haworth gave us some excellent talks about The Silk Road, China’s Windows on the World.

The new venue seems to have gone down well with our members who appreciated the lovely hall and facilities. Let us hope for better weather for the March event so that we can open up all those lovely glass doors and venture out onto the terrace for our coffee and lunch breaks!

With the use of some old maps shown on the big screen, Anne showed us just how extensive the Silk Road routes were and she also showed us some of the many goods that were exchanged along the routes both by sea and through the desert from Ancient times, through the Middle Ages and the European Renaissance, into the 19th Century. We learnt how the Silk Road was named in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen, a well-known German geographer and how the movement of goods were affected at times by the different Rulers of countries that they had to pass through.

As always, this was a very sociable day and we were very well looked after by our caterer Donna and her helpers who served up lots of tea, coffee and biscuits as well as a delicious seated lunch. It’s always good to hear the great buzz of conversations going on around the hall during the coffee breaks and lunch on these days and we look forward to the next Day of Special Interest which will be held on Monday 16th March 2020 when lecturer Rosamund Bartlett will be talking about St. Petersburg.

Penny Brentnall

The Evening Lecture planned for Wednesday 27th May 2020 will be held in the Tithe Barn at Hinton St. Mary. 

The  Making of Landscape Photographs – an Extraordinary Double Act between the Eye and the Brain by Charlie Waite, a world-renowned landscape photographer who produces amazing, artistic landscape pictures.

Doors open 1815hrs followed by the lecture at 1845hrs.  Drinks and canapes served until 2030hrs.

The Hinton St Mary Mosaic

A meeting by invitation only was held on 2 Aug 19 in the Pitt Rivers Tithe Barn at Hinton St Mary (HSM) and organised by The Rev David Dunning and Shane Johnstone. Pauline Batstone, Chair of the new unitary authority for Dorset, chaired the meeting. About 30 people attended, mostly from Hinton St Mary but also included two Sturminster Newton (SN) town councillors and SN Museum volunteers.

Jill Cooke, a curator of the British Museum (BM) gave a presentation on the Mosaic and its proposed relocation from London to Dorset. She explained its national importance in both archaeological and religious contexts. She stated that it had been decided by the Trustees of the BM that the Dorset County Museum (DCM) was to be the location of the Mosaic subject to a confirmatory feasibility study and that SN was unsuitable due to its poor infrastructure and lack of a professional curator. She said there were also significant risks in locating it to SN such as the financial implications after opening, sustaining a continuing high footfall of visitors and possibly not meeting National Lottery criteria.

She also stated that if there was any dissent from SN about the BM’s decision it might result in the Trustees of the BM not relocating the Mosaic to Dorset.

Included in the relocation of the Mosaic to Dorset was the idea of having a self funded visitor attraction in SN which could include artefacts from the DCM and also a funded research project in HSM to determine the extent of Roman occupation in the village. Jill Cooke asked for names of those who could assist in drawing up the concept for the visitor attraction. No location or size of the attraction in SN was suggested.

When questioned about the central roundel* of the Mosaic, which is periodically sent out on tour to other museums, Jill Cooke admitted ownership would be retained by the BM for this purpose and a replica would be exchanged into the Mosaic after the original had been in situ at the DCM for approximately two years.

There was a show of hands towards the end of the meeting which showed support by the invitation only audience for the Mosaic to be located in Dorchester. However, no other site such as SN was offered as an alternative and few SN inhabitants were at the meeting.

On Tue 8 Oct 19 at the committee meeting of the  Arts Society Blackmore Vale it was decided not be involved with the move of the Mosaic to the DCM. Support, if the SN museum agreed, would be given to this museum to develop a Roman Room and  the inclusion of a replica of the roundel.

*It is considered that the roundel is of international importance as it shows the first depiction of Christ. See featured image. The Sturminster Newton Museum and Mill Society has now changed its name to Sturminster Newton Heritage Society. In November 19 The Society wrote to the BM asking if it could have a replica roundel and has received an enthusiastic response.

The Arts Society (formerly known as NADFAS) has always been known for its wonderful work on Church Recording.  That is, recording everything inside a particular Church, from floor to ceiling and eventually producing large illustrated books detailing each item and its history.  These volumes are then presented to various institutions, for example if it is an Anglican Church in England, one volume will be presented to the participating Church, one to the local  County or Diocesan Records Office which holds the diocesan archive, one to Church Care, one to the Victoria and Albert Museum Art Library and another to Historic England Archives.

These books are incredibly useful for researchers, historians, insurance companies and the police trying to identify stolen items, but also of much interest to Church Recorders and worshippers.

The work can be fascinating at times and quite a bit of detective work can be involved trying to discover if an item is original or whether an item has been painted over or renovated incorrectly. Just trying to read some items written in different forms of language can be an interesting challenge.

At our Blackmore Vale Branch of The Arts Society we have a small group of people who are always happy to welcome anyone who is interested in their work to find out more about it.  Having completed the records of St. Mary’s Church in Sturminster Newton, at the moment the group is just starting on the recording of St. Peter’s Church, Hinton St. Mary and two committee members, Penny Brentnall and Jill  Harris went along to see the group in action.  Although we only had a short time with the group it was a most enjoyable visit and a small insight into this very important contribution that the group make.

  It was fascinating to see the great detail that the group go into and how they work together to try and solve various conundrums.  The group carry out their work, a couple of hours at a time, mostly during the warmer months of the year for obvious reasons!

Penny Brentnall


Pat Gee and Felicity MacSwiney

                                                                              One of the many stained glass windows at St. Peter’s Hinton St. Mary 

                                               A quick sketch of the window made by Frances Moule before work begins