The Parish

The Parish of Steeple is first mentioned in Domesday Book (1087), when the manor of “Glole, Stiple and Criz” i.e. Church Knowle, Steeple and Creech, is recorded as being held by Roger de Belmont. Together they must have made an exceptionally large manor. It is known that in 1222 one John of Gloucester was the incumbent, but the continuous list of rectors goes no further back than 1318. The patronage in John of Gloucester’s time was vested in the King, Henry Ill; there after it passed to the noble families of the West Country – the Dukes of Gloucester, the Earls of Hereford and the Earls of March. In 1540 it was bought by Sir Oliver Lawrence of Creech Grange, and in 1691 sold by his descendant to Nathaniel Bond, in whose family it remains today.

In 1721 (reign of George I) the parish was united by Act of Parliament with that of Tyneham; and there the rectors usually lived, Steeple being served by a curate. The parish included the Chapel-of- Ease of Creech Grange, on the other side of the Purbeck Hills to the north of the church, and traces may still be found of the path by which the unfortunate curate had to thread his way over the hill to perform his duty at Creech.

Of the long line of rectors one at least deserves mention. Samuel Bolde became rector of Tyneham in 1682 and to this was added Steeple in 1721, under the Act uniting the parishes. He held both livings until his death in 1737. In 1682 he preached a sermon which was twice reprinted as a “Plea for Toleration against Dissenters”, which so angered King James 11 that in 1685 he was fined and imprisoned for a short time. A noted controversialist in many fields, he also published a number of less dangerous works, among them a defence of John Locke’s “Essay on the Understanding and Reasonableness of Christianity”. His correspondence with Locke has also been published.

In 1943 the War Department requisitioned the whole of Tyneham parish and part of Steeple, and all the inhabitants were evacuated.

In 1952, Creech Grange, being that part of the parish of Steeple to the north of the hill, was transferred to the parish of Wareham, and the remainder of the united parishes of Steeple and Tyneham was placed under the incumbency of the Rector of Church Knowle.

Since 1978 Steeple with Tyneham together with neighbouring Kimmeridge and Church Knowle have been grouped with Corfe Castle under the Rector of Corfe Castle.