– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –
Today we are visiting another of those Dorset churches with a tragic past, one that was all but destroyed, but that was saved and is all the better for it. Today we are visiting St Nicholas’ Church at Moreton. Mind you, it wasn’t always called that!
St Nicholas’ Church, Moreton
This church isn’t so much about its ancient past because it has had to be rebuilt at least three times. It is thought that the first rebuild was in the 15th century, followed by another in the 18th century but the third rebuild was much more recent. In fact as recent as the 1940’s! The church was actually hit by German bomb during WW2 and was virtually destroyed. But it arose like Phoenix out of the ashes to become the beautiful church it is today.
But there is one aspect of that last rebuild that stands out – this church is all about its windows! But it wasn’t originally meant to be that way!
When the rebuilding was completed in the 1940’s, plain green windows were installed in place of the previous stained glass. The parishioners, however, didn’t like this so the poet and artist Sir Lawrence Whistler was commissioned to produce the engraved windows that adorn the church today. These etchings represent various themes and are truly beautiful. With the glass being etched on both sides, they seem to be ever changing with changes in the light.
Whistler made 12 windows and then offered to donate a 13th on the theme of Forgiveness which was initially declined. He went ahead and made it anyway and it was displayed in a local museum for some time. However, eventually, in 2013, this was installed in the church.
The interesting thing about this window is that it is only viewable from outside the church, which was Whistler’s intention as it features Judas Iscariot! Judas was the betrayer of Christ who ultimately hung himself in shame after throwing away the thirty pieces of silver he had been paid for his act of treachery! In this picture though, those pieces of silver turn into flowers as they hit the ground, suggesting forgiveness.
Apart from the windows, St Nicholas’ other claim to fame is that it is the burial place of T E Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia. He lived at the nearby Clouds Hill cottage and was stationed at Bovingtom Camp, riding his Brough Superior motorbike between the two. At the age of 46 and just two months after leaving military service he had an accident when he swerved to avoid two young boys on their bikes, and he never recovered from his injuries.
He died on the 19th May 1935 and his grave lies in a detached part of St Nicholas’ cemetery.
So what about that name? Well, originally this church was dedicated to St Magnus Martyr, the dedication being changed to St Nicholas in 1490 on the orders of the Bishop of Salisbury. The reason for the change has probably been lost in the mists of time but it was not an unusual practice, especially if a church had to be rebuilt.
St Nicholas’ Church is magnificent and well worth a visit just for its windows and its famous grave. In fact, these two features make this place world renowned and visitors come from all around just to look at this beautiful Dorset church in this little Dorset village. And well they might!
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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