About the Church of St Martin of Tours, Lillington

Lillington throughout the past two centuries has not had a population exceeding two hundred. It stands surveying the pleasant lands which lie between Batcombe and Yetminster, the most western part of the Blackmore Vale. A geological fault gives rise to the stream which runs through the valley, which is of the Blue Clay so suitable for dairy farming. In a thousand years of history, after deforestation at the time of William the Conqueror, these pastures have been farmed by a community with much the same livelihood then as now.

The name Lillington is said to have been derived from the Scandinavian ‘Lilla’s tun’, and one can imagine Leof of Leof’s tun (Leweston) walking down the hill to talk to Lilla. It is of interest that the ridge between Leweston and Lillington is a watershed, rain falling on Leweston going into the English Channel at Christchurch, and rainfall on Lillington going into the Bristol Channel at Burnham.

Anciently it was subject to the Bishop of Sarum, under the King in chief. Early in the 13th century William de Lillington gave a moiety of the manor (in the words of the Charter “for his soul and for the soul of Sir Godfrey de Saint Martin, his Lord”) to the Augustinian Priory of Bradenstock in Wiltshire. A witness to this Charter was John, King of England. The grant of land, a third of his property, some 57 acres, was leased back almost at once to William de Lillington’s descendants at a rent of £20 a year, for the consideration of one sparrow-hawk. The same rent was still being paid three hundred years later, at the time of the Reformation.

The hundred of Sherborne included the Manor of Lillington, and when Queen Elizabeth gave to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1591 the lease of Sherborne Manor and Castle which the Bishop of Salisbury had, albeit reluctantly, demised to her for 99 years, Sir Walter thereby held the Manor of Lillington until his lands were forfeited to the Crown in 1603.