Sydling St Nicholas Church


(Last updated May 2022)


St. Nicholas’ Church takes its responsibilities surrounding the safeguarding of children, young people, and adults who may be at risk very seriously, and works in partnership with the Diocese of Salisbury to ensure that we work in accordance with best practice at all times.

If you have any Safeguarding questions or concerns you can contact our Parish Safeguarding Officer, Revd. Pene Kennedy

Alternatively you can contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, on 07500 664800 or email

SAFEGUARDING – POLICY – July 2018 – Promoting a Safer Church -Jun 2017[3479]


St Nicholas Church, Sydling St Nicholas

For church services in Sydling, please click on the following link:

About the church:

The church was built in the fifteenth century on the site of at least two previous buildings believed to date from earliest Christian times. The tower (1430) is the oldest part of the present building. The nave and the north porch were completed in 1480 and the south aisle circa 1500.

Our tour of the church begins at the north porch. Above the entrance is a statue of St. Nicholas which was carved by parishioner Valerie Buckland to replace the original. Inside the porch, notice the fireplace around which parish meetings were once held!

The interior of the church is very light. This is as a result of the destruction of the medieval stained glass windows in Cromwell’s time. Fragments of original glass have recently been remounted and now hang in front of the west window. There is a coat of arms of George I above the doorway. Looking towards the altar, notice the tilt of the arcade columns. It is thought that the foundations sank when the south aisle was built necessitating the erection of massive buttresses outside the south door, to counteract the thrust.

Before entering the chancel look for the opening or squint to the right of the chancel arch. At one time this gave a view of the altar so that more of the congregation could witness the consecration of the bread and wine. The squint contains a stone corbel carved in the shape of a man’s head. It was discovered during renovations of the nave roof in 1961.

On looking up above and to the right of the squint there is a small doorway which would have led to the rood 10ft on top of which would have been the great rood or crucifix.

Originally there would have been stairs leading up to this but these were walled up when the chancel was rebuilt in 1745 by the Smith family who for 150 years were owners of Sydling Court, the large house adjacent to the church.

The chancel contains some imposing Georgian memorials to the Smith family, some of them tragic. One is dedicated to Mary Smith who had 12 children, 9 of whom died in infancy. Beneath the chancel floor is their vault which is rumoured to be linked by an underground passage to Sydling Court.

The organ is Victorian and was made in Stoke Newington. It was hand pumped until about 1978. When the organ was renovated in 2000 a new set of pipes was added, which increased its range and gave a brighter sound.

The box-pews in the south aisle are eighteenth century and are still occasionally used. On the inside of one, several sets of initials have been carved, possibly during a boring sermon!

One funerary hatchment situated above the south door and the other at the end of the south aisle. These would have been carried at the funeral processions of members of the Smith family and display their coat of arms and motto – Semper Fidelis.

The origin of the existing font is uncertain. It is believed to have been made from the top of a Roman pillar and if genuine makes it the oldest item in the church. An octagonal font basin lying to one side is medieval.

Please see the separate section for information about the bells.

The clock, located in the tower, is faceless but strikes the hours. It is thought to have been made by a local blacksmith. It is initialled ETC and dated 1593. The wrought iron frame, wheels and pinions bear the marks of hand forging. It is reputed to be the second oldest clock in the diocese of Salisbury.

The fine gargoyles which carry rainwater away from the roof are a feature of the exterior. One of these, near the south door, appeared in the 1970s film “Far from the Madding Crowd”.

In 1982 when the renewal of the wooden floor in the nave became necessary, and a lowering of the ground level beneath it was involved, it was agreed that this lowering should be done archaeologicaly, in order that any traces of an earlier church could be recorded. Archaeological work was carried out in four areas of the nave. This initially involved the removal of a 19th-century quarry-tile floor, the make-up below it, and the rubble filling of pits or trenches of 18th- or 19th-century origin. This made it possible to examine the earlier stratification in detail, and it was only in the south-west area of the nave that sections were dug through the earlier deposits, including the excavation of a pit containing medieval bellfounding debris. The evidence revealed demonstrated the existence of a large building which pre-dated the 15th-century church, and which was probably an earlier church built in the later part of the 13th century. No evidence of any earlier structure was found. Full details of this work can be viewed at Dorset County Museum in the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volume 104 for 1082 – “Excavations in the Nave of the Parish Church of Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset”

There are some interesting memorials in the churchyard; six of these are listed Grade II. South of the church is a grave marked by a millstone which records the death of the last miller of Sydling. A particularly tragic monument tells of the death in 1902 of two young children. Their grave, to the north-east of the previous one, is marked by a beautiful little statue of an angel.

An archaeological evaluation was carried out in 2006.

The yew tree outside the north door is at least 500 years old.

An area of the churchyard is managed to encourage the growth of wild flowers and biodiversity.

The churchyard was extended in the mid 20th century. It lies in an idyllic setting commanding extensive views up Church Coombe over cultivated fields to a classic woodland hanger and chalk downland. It was used as the setting for the burial scene in both the 1970s and the recent films of “Far from the Madding Crowd”.

Churchyard wild flower areas

Areas of the churchyard have been sown with wild flower seeds and the photos above show this year (2020) during May/June.