REV. O. L. WILLMOTT (1910-1996)

Brief Biography:

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-Dec 1948

Parish Notes Jan-May 1949     Parish Notes Jul-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

Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1974    Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1974         Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1975     Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1975

Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1976    Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1976         Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1977     Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1977

Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1978    Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1978         Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1979     Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1979

Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1980    Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1980         Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1981    Parish Notes Jul-Dec 1981

 Parish Notes Jan-Jun 1982 end

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