Halstock is located in north west Dorset along the Somerset border and set in a lush green landscape. It has some good stone cottages and a few fine Georgian stone houses.
The church of St. Mary has a 15th century tower, while the nave was designed by the famous Gothic revivalist architect, Pugin in 1845. The chancel was added in 1872. The chapel is dedicated to St. Juthware, (Judith) a Saxon saint, who although she has taken her full place in the calendar of Saints (July 13), and her fate is well known, very few people outside of Halstock are aware that this is the site of her death and martyrdom.
The name Halstock is believed to have been derived from Halgan Stone or Holy Place, and by the 6th century there is evidence that it was visited by monks who found a few devout Christians gathered here, giving instruction in the new faith of Christianity which was just starting to gain a tenuous hold in England. As well as religious instruction, the small community also taught handicrafts. Thus Halstock is reputed to have become a place of pilgrimage by the time of Judith.
Judith is said to have been a very pious Christian and befriended any pilgrim who came near her home in Halstock. She had a brother and three sisters, (the sisters later becoming saints in Cornwall). After her mothers death he family continued to live with there father even after he remarried. It is said that Judith's new stepmother was very jealous of her step-daughter, and was always seeking to cause trouble for her.
One day Judith complained of chest pains. Her stepmother suggested that the application of a freshly made cheese to her chest would alleviate the symptoms and Judith followed her advice. Her stepmother then informed Judith brother Bana, reputed to have a short temper that his virtuous sister was pregnant. Bana immediately challenged his sister as she was leaving church. She of course denied the accusation, but with the evidence of milk, (from the cheese), on the front of her undergarments was not believed. Bana in his rage drew his sword and beheaded Judith.
At this point the body of Judith is said to have picked up her head, walked back into the church and placed it on the altar as an offering to god. She was buried in the church at Halstock, but in the 10th century her relics were taken to Sherborne for final burial. Many miracles are said to have occurred at her tomb.
Judith's memory in the village was for many years most obvious in the name of the local inn, The Quiet Woman, whose inn sign depicted Judith carrying her own head. On my last visit however the sign had gone and the inn was closed and for sale.