LODERS, DOTTERY AND ASKERSWELL, DORSET
REV. O. L. WILLMOTT (1910-1996)
Oliver Leonard Willmott was born in Frome, Somerset, and educated there. There he took a great interest in the parish church, St. John’s, becoming a server and also taking up a lifetime’s interest in bell-ringing.
At first, a career in journalism seemed ahead of him, as he started working for the Somerset Chronicle, but he changed course and spent six years training for the priesthood with the monks of The Society of the Sacred Mission at Kelham theological college in Nottinghamshire. Afterwards, he again changed course, tempering the strict, High Church ethos of Kelham, cut off from the world, with two further years’ training at the Bristol Church Missionary Society, with a ministry on the streets of Bristol and in contact with missionary work across the world.
After ordination as an Anglican priest at Exeter Cathedral in 1938, he became curate of Totnes, briefly. But war broke out and he became an army chaplain. At first he was posted to Northern Ireland, then he had charge of the chapel of the Duke of York’s Military School and the chapel of Dover Castle, where services continued despite heavy shelling, as our forces invaded France. He was later appointed chaplain at Fort Darland, Chatham, the Army’s toughest prison.
All of this was before he ‘retired to the country’ (Loders in Dorset) to care for the souls of his flock of 1,100 villagers, from squire to humble widow. He was much more than a vicar: he was a countryman, and a person who helped create a special sense of community in the post-war years. He ran a small-holding in the vicarage glebe, with pigs, turkeys, geese, hens and a cow along with a large kitchen garden to support his wife and family of seven children. He chopped trees for the Tudor fireplace which had most attracted him there first of all. He mowed the churchyard, assisted by his faithful wife. He held forth at early sessions in local hostelries, ‘The Marquis of Lorne’, Nettlecombe, and ‘The Crown’, Uploders. He visited the sick and all his parishioners and collected tirelessly for the yearly fete which earned huge sums for the maintenance of his churches’ fabric - he saw this as a mission in itself. But he kept in contact with the outside world by talking to all newcomers, while scanning The Times and The Telegraph voraciously to keep up with national and international events. He listened to, and later watched the news, five or six times a day.
The fruits of this wide and deep experience are to be found in the Parish Notes, which he wrote monthly for thirty-four years. They record news of his churches, parishes and locality in meticulous detail. But they are much more than a chronicle: they are a testimony to his Christian practice, to his deep theological convictions, to his Anglicanism based on a firm belief in practised ecumenicalism (the ‘unity without union’ that he preached), to his love of all people (apart from a few opponents, with whom he was fair, but ruthless!), to his love of flowers, beasts and birds, and above all to his deep-rootedness in the quintessentially English life of ‘the little hills of Dorset’. He was a remarkable man who had an entertaining and idiosyncratic style, which makes the Parish Notes very amusing, enlightening and, at moments, deeply inspiring.
Michael Willmott (1949-2020) extracted the nuggets from his father’s bequest in three volumes:
Yours Reverently 1948 - 1953
The Parson Knows 1953 - 1968
The Vicar Calls 1968 – 1982
The History Group have some available for sale.
Parish Notes Jul-Sep 1948 Parish Notes Oct-Dec 1948
Parish Notes Jan-Mar 1949 Parish Notes Apr-May 1949 Parish Notes Jul 1949 Parish Notes Aug Sep 1949 Parish Notes Oct-Dec 1949
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1950 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1950 Parish Notes May-Jun 1950 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1950 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1950
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1950
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1951 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1951 Parish Notes May-Jun 1951 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1951 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1951
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1951
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1952 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1952 Parish Notes May-Jun 1952 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1952 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1952
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1952
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1953 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1953 Parish Notes May-Jun1953 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1953 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1953
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1953
Parish Notes Jan-Feb1954 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1954 Parish Notes May-Jun1954 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1954 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1954
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1954
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1955 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1955 Parish Notes May-Jun 1955 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1955 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1955
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1955
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1956 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1956 Parish Notes May-Jun 1956 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1956 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1956
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1956
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1957 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1957 Parish Notes May-Jun 1957 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1957 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1957
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1957
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1958 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1958 Parish Notes May-Jun 1958 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1958 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1958
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1958
Parish Notes Jan-Feb 1959 Parish Notes Mar-Apr 1959 Parish Notes May-Jun 1959 Parish Notes Jul-Aug 1959 Parish Notes Sep-Oct 1959
Parish Notes Nov-Dec 1959
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1960 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1960 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1961 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1961
Parish Notes Jan-Jun1962 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1962 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1963 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1963
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1964 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1964 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1965 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1965
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1966 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1966 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1967 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1967
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1968 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1968 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1969 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1969
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1970 Parish Notes Jul-Dec1970 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1971 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1971
Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1972 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1972 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1973 Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1973