Worth Matravers, Dorset
Worth Matravers is a village on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, although the word “isle” is misleading because Purbeck is only surrounded by water on three sides.
The village owes its existence to stone quarrying, there being a number of quarries (active and disused) in the area from which Purbeck stone and marble has been extracted and used in the building of many houses, churches and cathedrals. The houses in the village were originally occupied by quarrymen and stonemasons. These are grouped around a small pond that has a resident community of ducks.
The village pub, the Square and Compass, takes its name from two of the tools used by stonemasons.
The local fields, which are virtually treeless, are criss-crossed by dry stone walls, and it is possible to spot ammonite fossils (coiled cephalopods that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs) in some of the stones.
There are splendid views to be had along the Jurassic Coast from footpaths starting in the village. Also to be seen are medieval strip lynchets alongside steep valleys leading to the coast. These are terraces that were formerly used for agriculture.
Two Ancient Churches
Worth Matravers Church, dedicated to St Nicholas is Norman in origin, although much restored in the 19th century. In the churchyard is the grave of Benjamin Jesty, a farmer who discovered the secret of inoculation for the prevention of smallpox some twenty years before Edward Jenner, who is usually credited with this.
On a nearby headland is St Aldhelm’s Church, a square building with only one small window, that dates from the 12th century. It is said to be the only church in the country with no east wall, because the four corners are at the points of the compass.