Fifehead Magdalen Church
[See separate page for Fifehead Manor]
As at Sept 2015, Fifehead's church roof repairs have been largely completed thanks to the fundraising efforts of its parishioners with funding assistance from English Heritage. However a new fund has been set up to pay for cleaning and repair of the Newman memorial inside the church. Please read the Appeal and give your support to this worthwhile undertaking.
An 8 page brochure has been prepared (by myself) for distributing to visitors to the church. It explains the link between the Newmans and Fifehead and its manorial estates.
A delightful history of the village of Fifehead Magdalen is given in a paper titled "Fifehead Revisited - A ramble around the village in the 1840s", being as transcript of a talk given in 1988 by ex-resident Peter Oxlade. An extract from "Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset" also describes several features of the church and village. (Both these documents were kindly supplied to me by Peter Mera, Secretary of the Fifehead Hall).
The connection between Newmans and Fifehead appears to extend back to 1408 or perhaps even 1405 when John Newman (brother of Robert Newman of St. Thomas's, Salisbury) is recorded as being Rector there. According to Peter Oxlade's account, the Newmans first rented the estate from its Lord, the Abbot of St. Augustine's Abbey, Bristol, from 1408, and subsequently purchased by Col. Richard Newman in 1660. This disagrees with the information in Wayne Newman's April 1998 article in the Newman Chronicle suggesting that the first lease over the Fifehead estate was taken out in 1530 by Robert Newman of Fifehead. At any rate, the family connection lasted for almost 400 yeas "giving a sense of stability to the village", until the death of Frances Newman in 1775 when the manor was sold (in 1779) to the brother of a vicar of the parish.
[Note: The Evercreech estate was also sold off at around this time, but the Thornbury estate passed to Anne Newman's descendants, the Newman-Toll family, who retained it until the 1930s.
See separate page for information about the Manor House.
Fifehead Church; (see also photos below of Newman Chapel)
Fifehead Church Memorials - A photocopy of an unidentified document has been unearthed, listing the monument inscriptions that may be found both inside and outside the Fifehead church. A transcription can be downloaded here which includes scans of the 'original' photocopy.
In the little church at Fifehead Magdalen is a small chapel on the north side of the chancel that was built by Sir Richard Newman in 1693 (see separate page describing Chantries). The chapel contains three wall-mounted memorial stones, a small one on the west wall, a larger one on the east wall, and a very large one on the north wall.
West wall memorial stone: The inscription on the black stone mounted on the west wall is shown below.
Its indecipherable words are quoted from History of Dorset page 58:
of Evercreech Park, com. Somerset, aged 32 years,
lies in the vault underneath in the (second?) leaden coffin north,
and removed from the chancell in October M.D.CXCIII (1693);
leaveing one sonne Richard, and two daughters Anne and Barbara now living."
East wall memorial stone:
The marble memorial on the East Wall is dedicated to Thomas Newman Newman of Fifehead and his son Richard Newman (see below)
photo by Chris Newman Oct 2004
* Note - John Hutchin's History of Dorset (page 58) incorrectly shows the date on the inscription as MDCII = 1602
Ex generosa prosapie Newemannorum de Newman
Hall, county. Essex, ortus
Judicio antiquus, ingenio solo novissimus
Pietate in Deum, charetatem in pauperes insignis
In Anglia municipaliiure
Sagax non subdolus
Lex ipse sitimet et perfectissima
Ultra octiginta annos corpore moratus
Supra octogenarium animo moratus
Arthritide et senectute, altero morbo confect
Octobris XXI, M.D.C.IL
placide animam egit
From the lineage of Newman of Newman Hall, Essex
By time-honoured values, humble and down-to-earth
Piety in God, without regard to rank,
Rightly belonging to England,
Wise, not treacherous,
Principled and self accomplished,
In body, beyond eighty years of age,
In life, having more than eighty years,
Entombed and safe, the former illness is now ended,
October 21, 1649
Peacefully, soul deliver.
Note: the words "de Newman Hall, county Essex, ortus" appear to have been inserted into the inscription at a later date - see enlarged photo below:
It is not known when or why these words were added or by whom, but perhaps someone believed that the Thomas Newman who built Newman Hall in Essex in 1540 was the same Thomas Newman who is memorialized here. Given that this Fifehead Thomas Newman died in 1649, he could not be the same Thomas Newman who built Essex Hall, but that does not prove that no connection existed between the two families.
photo by Chris Newman Oct 2004
Thomae primogenitus in eodem obdormit sepulchre
Filios Thomam flore juventutis febre abrep[tum]
Et Richardum huius momenti positorem
Huius epigraphes compositorem
Filias Annam et Ianani superstites genuit
Observantia in supiores comitate in interiores
In singulos iustitiam dilligenter exercuit
Viduitatem veram quadraginta quinque annos ten
Patrem tam virtute qua diuturnitate imitatus
Ad amussim officii observavit
Iunii X, AD. M.D.C.L.XIIII
Hemi plegia laborans octogenari expiravit
Thomas's first-born is with the same, asleep in this tomb,
Son, Thomas, taken away in the prime of life by an attack of fever,
And Richard, this the builder founded,
This engraving composed,
Daughter, Anna, and surviving bring forth,
Watch from heaven with kindness below,
Into every justice diligently exercised,
True bereavement but with 40 years of life,
Father so virtuous known so long,
To exact service seen,
June 10, 1664
Gained in eighty years pains to breath the last.
Just inside the entrance gate to the churchyard at Fifehead, there is a large stone memorial dedicated to Thomas Newman, believed to have been the elder son of Thomas Newman of Fifehead. The inscription below is taken from John Hutchin's History of Dorset. .
John Hutchins wrote:
"The ancient burying place of the Newmans appears to have been under large yew-tree in the churchyard (see photo below), where there are some flat stones and two tomb old stones. Upon one, which stands near the church tower under the tree:
Note: When I saw the stone in 2003, I found the inscription damaged and it has presumably suffered surface deterioration since John Hutchins wrote his book. I was unable to detect the date 1668 on the stone (see photo above) even though most of the rest of the text was clear enough and in agreement with John Hutchin's text