Built by quarrymen, a Swanage church marks 150 years

A Swanage church which was built by quarrymen got a visit from the bishop to help celebrate this year’s 150th anniversary.

St Mark’s Church in Bell Street, Herston, was built from local stone, some of which was dug up on the site. Popularly known as the Quarrymen’s Church, it opened in April 1872.

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

St Mark’s Church in Herston, west Swanage is celebrating its 150th anniversary

“In their spare time”

St Mark’s has held several special events to mark the anniversary including a concert, a cream tea and a service led by the Right Reverend Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne and Acting Bishop of Salisbury.

The Rev Dave Richards, associate priest at St Mark’s, said:

“The quarrymen built the church in their spare time, bringing the stone down from the local quarry in their wheelbarrows, with the landlord of The Globe overseeing the work.

“It’s a good solid building with a very simple but dignified structure with lots of visible stone. You can see they put their heart and soul into it.”

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

Bishop of Sherborne leads the anniversary service

Serving the local community

On Saturday 23rd April 2022 the church held a concert, featuring local musicians, followed by a cream tea in the church garden.

On Sunday morning 24th April 2022, the Right Reverend Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne and Acting Bishop of Salisbury, led an anniversary service, attended by past and present church members.

Also in attendance were a number of past priests who served at St Mark’s, and representatives from other Swanage Churches.

Bishop Karen Gorham reflected on St Mark’s role in Herston over the last 150 years and how the church will evolve to continue serving the local community in the future.

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

Rev John Cooper and Rev Andy Roberts, former priests at St Mark’s, with Mrs Jane Cooper and Mrs Liz Roberts

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

Members enjoy a cream tea in the church garden


On Monday 25th April 2022, church members met for a social evening and quiz at Herston Village Hall. More events are planned throughout the year.

The church also said farewell to the team rector of Swanage and Studland, the Very Reverend John Mann, and his wife Helen, who are retiring to the Isle of Man.

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

Retiring rector, the Very Reverend John Mann and his wife Helen

“Plan to hold further events”

St Mark’s Church and St Mark’s School have been linked for the past 150 years, and school staff and pupils came to the church on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the link.

The Rev Dave Richards said:

“St Mark’s has been serving Herston for 150 years. Together with St Mark’s School, The Globe, Herston Village Hall, and Costcutter, we are part of the fabric of the local community. We plan to hold further events through the year so the rest of the community can celebrate with us.”

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

The Very Rev John Mann and Rev Dave Richards welcome the head of St Mark’s School, Rebecca Martin, to the church

“Really quite emotional”

Semi-retired, Dave moved to Swanage with his wife Carol in October 2021 from the East End of London, where the Olympic stadium was in his parish.

He said:

“I’m a relative newcomer so it was lovely to be part of this celebration and hear so much about the church’s past and what is planned for the future. It was really quite emotional.”

St Mark's Church Herston
St Mark’s Church

Local musicians Amanda Jensen and Moira Purver perform Duet from ‘The Pearl Fishers’ by Georges Bizet at the concert

New stunning stained glass window

While celebrating the history of the church, there was also a chance to admire the new stunning stained glass window at the church.

Amanda Jensen, one of the musicians who performed at Saturday’s concert, is also the talented stained glass artist who created the eye catching window.

From her studio at Wandle Glassworks in Bell Street in Swanage, she was commissioned to mark the lives of two members of the congregation – Lilian Keats and Irene Makin.

Lilian Keats’ son, Mike, 87, is one of the longest serving members of the congregation. Baptised in the church, he has been going there all his life and still sings in the choir. He came up with the initial design for the new window.

St Mark's Church Herston
Dave Richards

Mike Keats and his wife Uta, with Bishop Karen and (right) Amanda Jensen

“Great honour”

Amanda said:

“It was a great honour to create the new stained glass window in memory of two special ladies – Lilian Keats and Irene Makin.

“I was fortunate to have known Irene, and St Mark’s Church is special to me as I married my husband there and have been a member of the congregation for some years. I feel very privileged to have played a tiny part in the church’s 150 year history.”

The new window’s design features a hand painted dove, representing the Holy Spirit, with beams of light shining on the Purbeck Hills.

The daffodils were Lilian’s favourite flower, and the stone wall background for the inscription represents the dry stone walls common in the area.

Stained glass window at St Mark's church, Herston
Amanda Jensen
Stained glass window at St Mark's church, Herston
Amanda Jensen

The new window making modern day history at St Mark’s

Hunt for old photos

The church is keen to hear from anyone married or baptised there over the years, and is looking for old photographs for a display later this year.

St Mark's Church Herston
Dave Richards

Members of the congregation enjoy supper and a quiz at Herston Village Hall

Further information

  • As well as Sunday services, St Mark’s is open for prayer and quiet reflection every day.
  • Details of how to contact the vicar or to find out more about the church go to its website

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