Biddlecombes in Stourton Caundle

Tower of St. Peter's, Stourton Caundle
Stourton Caundle is a village in the county of Dorset, about 2 km east and 25 km north of the centre of Dorchester. Information available in the parish church (St Peter's) reports that the Biddlecombes were one of the main families in the village for about ten generations in the 17th and 18th centuries, and possibly for many years before that. John, Thomas and Richard seem to have been the most common male names in this family.

The most obvious Biddlecombe item here is the coat of arms, which is now on the north wall of the church, near the clock made by John Biddlecombe. The monument to Thomas Biddlecombe who died in 1638, reported by Hutchins in his History of Dorset, is no longer visible. Hutchins also reported that the arms were granted to Thomas. Information at the church attributes them to the John B, blacksmith & clock maker, who made the clock and died in 1741.

According to this information, the arms visible today were probably painted by his friend Edward Curay, who was a witness to his will, and is the likely author of the motto in the church porch, shown with a winged hourglass. Motto: Pereunt et imputantur horae [the hours perish, and are reckoned to our account]. - The board bearing this motto & the hourglass also says "E.C. Fecit 1721". - fecit, in this context meaning 'made this'. This John B almost certainly made the clock in the SC church, which was restored in 1977 as the village's way of commemorating the queen's silver Jubilee. The 'almost certainly' is because he was the local man for the job. The equivalent clock in Purse Caundle, nearby, is definitely his work.

Information from the church records that apart from the replacement of a phoenix in the sun's rays by the hourglass and nesting bird, the arms (including the motto, apparently) are those of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, one of the City of London Livery companies. A booklet on the clock project says:

"The significance of this must remain in question, for the old records of the Blacksmiths Company were lost during the war. Nevertheless for a remote country Blacksmith and Clockmaker to have had any such connection in the early 18th century certainly suggests that this John Biddlecombe must have attained a considerable standing in his trade."

Biddlecombe Arms in St Peter's, Stourton Caundle
As the information available at the church notes, the passing of time and mortality of man were common themes of the time, so the winged hourglass is unlikely to relate to the clock-making activities of the local Biddlecombes.

Board in south porch, St Peter's, Stourton Caundle

Many other Biddlecombes seem to know about the SC connection - lots of them have signed the church visitors' book, including ones from Australia. The church is normally locked, but information in the porch should tell you where to obtain the key. Note that you need to insert it upside down (i.e. with the shaft down).


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Editor: Peter Biddlecombe
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