Whitchurch Canonicorum church viewed from the south
Whitchurch Canonicorum or Whitechurch Canonicorum is a village in southwestern Dorset, in the Marshwood Vale five miles west of Bridport. In the 2011 census the parish—which includes the settlements of Morcombelake, Ryall and Fishpond Bottom—had a population of 684.
On the northern edge of the village is the Church of St Candida and Holy Cross.
The church is noteworthy as containing the only shrine in Britain to have survived the Reformation with its relics intact, apart from that of Saint Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey. The saint in question is the somewhat obscure Saint Wite (Latinised as ‘Saint Candida’) after whom the church and the village are named. She is thought to be either a Christian martyred by the Danes or alternatively a West Saxon anchoress. Nothing more is known of her. The shrine of St Wite in the north wall of the transept is foramina-style, with three large vesica-shaped apertures for pilgrims to insert heads, hands, arms or feet. When the shrine was opened in 1900 it was found to contain a lead casket with the inscription +HIC. REQUIESCT. RELIQU. SCE. WITE (Here rest the relics of Saint Wite).
The Flag of Dorset is also known as "St Wite’s Cross" after her.
Sir George Somers (1554–1610) lies buried at Whitchurch Canonicorum; he was the Mayor of Lyme Regis and later Governor of The Somers Isles (which were named after him), otherwise known as Bermuda. Sir George died "of a surfeit in eating of a pig", on 9 November 1610 in Bermuda and while his heart was buried there his body, pickled in a barrel, was landed on the Cobb at Lyme Regis in 1618. A volley of muskets and cannon saluted his last journey to the church at Whitchurch Canonicorum where his body is buried.
Also lying at Whitchurch are Sir Robin Day, one of the great television presenters, and the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, after his bizarre murder by “umbrella gun” in London at the instance of the then Communist government of his homeland.
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