This little man in a red coat is easily overlooked but I spotted him on a recent trip to Wimborne, a lovely little East Dorset market town I used to visit a lot as a child, since my grandfather lived there.
The town lies where the rivers Stour and Allen meet and its full name is Wimborne Minster – minster meaning an important church, although the word originally came from the Latin word for monastery. More pictures and a bit of history further down this post…
But to return to the little man standing on the north side of the west tower of the minster (there are two towers). It turns out he is what’s called a “quarterjack”, striking the bells to tell the time every quarter-hour.
The clock was added in 1612, at which time the figure was a monk. But he was re-painted as a grenadier during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). There’s a huge amount of information about the British army of the time here.
Across the road from the minster is another depiction of the quarterjack, although I can’t recall now whether it hangs above a bookshop, sandwich shop or estate agent’s office! I thought the picture identified it, but it doesn’t.
The Minster in Wimborne is dedicated to St Cuthburga, sister to Ina, King of the West Saxons. She founded a Benedictine nunnery on the site around AD 705 and there was a monastery alongside.
The nunnery was destroyed by the Danes during an attack on Wessex in 1013.
In 1043 Edward the Confessor founded a college of secular (that is, non-monastic) canons but the structure we see today was built by the Normans between 1120 and 1180, to support that college.
There is a lot more about the minster’s history on its website.
It is famous for its unique chained library as well as the tombs of King Ethelred (the brother of Alfred the Great), John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and his Duchess (the maternal grandparents of King Henry VII of England).
There are also a lot of interesting-looking hostelries in Wimborne…
And the place seems well looked after…
One attraction I missed this time around was the model town. With hindsight, I think this may be the “model village” I visited as a child, rather than the one in Corfe Castle I blogged about last year.