Tiny, remote and seemingly insignificant, with a rare dedication, that is St Edwold’s Church, which sits in the equally tiny hamlet of Stockwood in North Dorset.
There are two curious things about St Edwold’s, and the first is its dedication. St Edwold was the younger brother of Edmund, King of East Anglia who was brutally murdered in 870 AD by a Dane with the somewhat unusual name of Ivarr the Boneless. Edwold declined to take his brother’s crown, preferring to adopt a hermit lifestyle which eventually led him to Cerne Abbas in Dorset where he settled until his death just one year later. It is thought that, in addition to Cerne, Edwold also had a cell at Stockwood, and that that is the reason for the church’s dedication. It is unusual in that it is the only church in Dorset, or indeed in the country, to be dedicated to him.
Edwold has actually appeared in my blog before since it is said that he once had a vision of a silver well. On arrival in Cerne Abbas, he immediately recognised one of the wells in the area as the one in his vision, and it was that that encouraged him to stay. The story may or may not be true but if you want to read more, it appears in my post, Quirky Dorset 19 – St Augustine’s Well……or is it! 🙂
The second curious thing is the size of the church which is just 30 feet by 12 feet making it the smallest in Dorset and the second smallest in England.
St Edwold’s is a simple, single cell church which dates mainly from the 15th century with some later additions. Because of its dedication however, experts believe that it was built on much older foundations going back to Saxon times. The porch was added in the 17th century as was the delightful pillared bell turret. The latter which has been described as ‘delightfully naive’, is somewhat ornate compared to the simplicity of the rest of the church. Internally, the font, altar rails, and pews all date from the 19th century but beyond that, other furniture is simply functional.
The church was for centuries a separate living, having its own minister, however in 1888, it was united with the nearby rectories of Melbury Stampford and Melbury Osmond. It remained active until being declared redundant in 1959. The church is now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Stockwood itself, once known as Stoke St Edwold, is a tiny hamlet in North Dorset, sitting below Bubb Down, and comprises just a few cottages and a farm. In fact, the church is situated right beside the 17th century farmhouse and when you visit it, you almost feel like you are trespassing on private land. Despite its centuries long heritage, the graveyard beside the church has just 10 graves and only four headstones.
St Edwold’s Church was a delightful find which I came across whilst on a walk in the area some years ago. Its remote location makes it a peaceful place to visit, and because there are so few houses in the area, you cannot help but wonder at its past and about the people who worshipped here. It is another of those wonderful, mysterious Dorset places which I love.
Stay safe, stay active, stay spiritual, and thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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