Voices of the Churches October 2021
From Deacon Michael Turnbull, Our Lady’s Church, Marnhull; RC Chaplain, HMP Guys Marsh The prisoner sitting across from me looked
Sturminster Newton welcomes and includes everyone. It thrives on the diversity of its residents and their involvement in local organisations, groups and charities.
The history of the town has helped to shape today’s robust community. The first fair – permitted by royal charter – was held in Sturminster in 1219. In 1730 the town was decimated by fire but with the help of wealthy local wool merchants it was rebuilt. The railway arrived in 1863 and Sturminster grew in prosperity with the dairy farmers now able to supply milk to both London and Bournemouth. There was also a flourishing livestock market.
What might have been a devastating blow for Sturminster – the closure of its market in 1997 – infact left a legacy of a town more united then ever. Through consultation and participation, a magnificent new complex was built on the old market site. Opened in 2007, it included a new medical centre, the fabulous arts centre known as The Exchange, town council offices and a base for a huge range and variety of great community led groups.
The next generation of community champions has continued to work for the good of the town with a number of initiatives which have included taking over the leisure centre, opening up a Community Charity Shop to benefit the town along with the recent addition of the Emporium – a treasure trove of bric-a-brac and all proceeds going into Town Projects. More recently the community rallied to provide great support and help for those worse affected by the COVID pandemic. Even now in late 2020 a new initiative aimed at helping alleviate food poverty in the town (to be known as The Pantry) is opening to assist those in need.