Archive | churches RSS feed for this section

Quirky Dorset – Part 15

16 May

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

So we come to the last part of this ‘Quirky Dorset’ set and we pay a visit to one of those ‘ghost villages’, a once tiny but thriving hamlet which is now just a skeleton, the soul having departed long ago. And this is a hamlet with a somewhat sad story too. This is Stanton St Gabriel.

Stanton St Gabriel

Stanton St Gabriel

Stanton St Gabriel on its Hillside

The now virtually deserted hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel sits part way up the west facing slopes of the Golden Cap headland in a somewhat exposed position, open to the elements that whip across this part of the Dorset coast. Indeed, it is perhaps this very exposure that was its downfall! It is a community that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but by the 18th century, death knells were already sounding!

The name Stanton comes from ‘stan’ and ‘tun’ meaning farm on stony ground, and it was very much an agricultural community, although fishing also became a feature since there was a path down to the shore some 200 feet below. The now ruined church was dedicated to St Gabriel, hence that part of the village name, and there is a sad story that is traditionally related around that!

Stanton St Gabriel

The Ruined Chapel of St Gabriel’s

The story goes that a man called Bertram and his new bride were on a barque when a storm blew up and the vessel they were on was founding. So Bertram went to the captain and asked for a very small boat to at least give them some chance of survival. They spent some days in their tiny boat and Bertram prayed to St Gabriel, promising that if they survived the storm, he would build a shrine to the saint. Eventually the storm subsided and the boat was washed up on the shore below Golden Cap, but sadly Bertram’s wife had not survived the ordeal. Bertram, however was true to his word and he is said to have built the chapel in Stanton St Gabriel, interring his wife in the church beneath the altar.

By the 18th century, villagers began to drift away to find employment elsewhere, many in the Rope Works of Bridport. Around this time also, the old coach road that passed through the village eroded away, a new turnpike being built further inland. Thus, gradually, the heart went out of the community and the settlement became isolated, a relic to days gone by. Eventually, it became a deserted village cut off from its surroundings, and the church and cottages were left to the elements.

Stanton St Gabriel

The Manor House, now Four Holiday Lets

Today, the manor house remains, plus one or two small cottages but these are now holiday lets and are just monuments to what was at one time a busy, if always struggling, settlement of farmers and fishermen. In 1906, Sir Frederick Treves wrote that Stanton St Gabriel was, “a village which was lost and forgotten centuries ago.” This is still true today!

A Dorset Cottage

A Tiny Cottage at Stanton St Gabriel

This whole series on ‘Quirky Dorset’ is about places that have an air of mystery, and Stanton St Gabriel fits into that category well. It is a place that time, and people, have forgotten. It is today frequented by just wildlife and walkers, and for the most part it is even bypassed by many of the latter since it needs a detour off the main coast path to find it. But, to bypass this old hamlet is to miss a little Dorset gem since it is a delightful and peaceful place.

If you ever walk this part of the Dorset Coast Path, take the short detour inland and walk through this faded hamlet and wonder what life here was like here years ago!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 5

6 May

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Not so much a curious church today but rather something extremely curious inside a Dorset church. And curious in more ways than one too! In fact, is it inside or outside? Well actually, this is neither……it is the ‘man in the wall’!

The Man in the Wall

Not in and not out!

The Tomb of Anthony Ettricke, the Man in the Wall

Anthony Ettricke was a 17th century barrister who was born at Holt, not far from Wimborne. He served as recorder and magistrate for the Wimborne area and his main claim to fame is that it was he who sent the Duke of Monmouth to trial and eventual execution after the Battle of Sedgemoor. The Duke was captured near Horton, fleeing for his life.

Ettricke was regarded as a pillar of the community but he was somewhat eccentric and although he did a lot of good work, he managed to fall out with the church authorities at Wimborne. In a fit of pique, he swore that he would not be buried within the church, nor in its graveyard, not above ground, nor below it!

Of course, eventually, things settled down and he made peace with the church but being a lawyer, he felt he had to honour his rashly spoken vow despite his wish to buried at the church. So he sought permission to be buried in the wall of the Minster, partly below and partly above the ground. Thus he is neither inside nor outside, and neither above nor below ground 🙂 !

Date Change

The Clumsily Altered Date

The other somewhat curious thing was that Ettricke was convinced that he would die in 1693 and his coffin was prepared in advance for this. In fact, he lived 10 years longer so the date on his tomb had to be altered to 1703……and very clumsily was it done too!

Wimborne Minster

Wimborne Minster

The church which Ettricke is buried in….or out….is Wimborne Minster which is dedicated to St Cuthburga and dates from Saxon times. It is a magnificent and substantial church with twin towers and it would need a full blog post on its own to do it justice. However, I thought I would just post a couple of pictures to give a flavour of the wonderful building, within……or without……which the tomb stands.

Wimborne Minster

The Magnificent Interior

I guess the moral of this curious tale is……..think before you speak 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 4

4 May

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Today, we are going to look at a tiny chapel that is totally different to anything I have featured here before and yet one which has connections with the church at Moreton, about which I posted yesterday. But what is the connection?

St Catherine by the Sea, Holworth

St Catherine by the Sea, Holworth

St Catherine by the Sea, Holworth

This is St Catherine by the Sea and it stands in a tiny coastal hamlet known as Holworth which is half way up the western flank of the White Nothe headland – or half way down of course, depending on how you look at it 🙂 ! This is not an old church in the normal sense since it was built less than a hundred years ago in 1926, but since then it has been extended and refurbished.

Holworth Church

The Beautiful Interior

It may resemble a garden shed from the outside, but inside it is a delight! With the light pouring in, the timber just comes alive, and there is a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere about this place. There is something else that sets this lovely chapel apart from other churches though, and that is its position right on the Dorset Coast Path overlooking the sea. Surely this church has as good a view as any in the country.

Holworth Church

The View from the Graveyard with the Cross that Once Stood on the Cliff Edge

Outside of the tiny church is an equally tiny grave yard. Only a few rest here and they are either local residents or those who died at sea nearby. In fact, in terms of residents, there are few remaining in what has always been the smallest of hamlets since some of the cottages are now holiday homes. Some of the homes that remain, sit perilously close to the crumbling cliff edge and one wonders how long they will last.

St Catherine by the Sea, Holworth

Tiny Church, Tiny Graveyard

So what is it that connects this minuscule, hidden away gem with yesterday’s world renowned church at Moreton? Well the answer lies in that east window. These three panes were etched by Simon Whistler, an engraver and musician, son of Sir Lawrence Whistler who engraved the windows at the more famous church. The style is similar and of course there are only three panes but they are certainly equally beautiful. The window is in fact a memorial to a local farmer and to the victim of a notorious murder on Wimbledon Common.

The East Window

The East Window

The Church

The Church Etched in its Own Window

I walk this part of the Dorset coast all the time, and I regularly stop off at this delightful chapel to sit and pray or meditate, perhaps to eat lunch, or maybe to just sit and soak up that amazing view across White Nothe and out to sea. Surely there can be nothing better.

This church may not have the ancient history of some of those in my other posts, but for its position, the fact that it is still an active place of worship, its wonderful ambience, and its sheer quirkiness, it surely deserves a place in my list of curious Dorset churches.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 3

3 May

– – – 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

St Nicholas Church

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!

Engraved Window

An Engraved Window

Engraved Window

The Galaxy Window

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.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness – The Judas Window, Visible from Outside Only

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.

Lawrence of Arabia

The Grave of T E Lawrence

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.

Moreton Church

Light Floods the Interior

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

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 2

2 May

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Today, we are going to look at another curious Dorset church, and this one is an absolute gem! It stands in a tiny hamlet and is in fact a tiny church but one that has remained to a large extent unspoilt and certainly unchanged in layout since it was built in the 12th century. This is St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson.

St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson.

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson

The small hamlet of Winterborne Tomson takes its name from the nearby stream that flows in winter only, known as a Winterborne, together with the name of the Thomas family who once owned the manor house. Its diminutive church was built in the early 12th century and in terms of layout and structure, it has remained much the same ever since. It has of course been altered in some ways over the centuries but this has always been tasteful done so that the church remains cohesive.

Externally, the main changes involved re-roofing in the 15th/16th century as well as raising the roof slightly, and the fitting of new Tudor style windows. Just one of the original windows remains.

The church is ‘curious’ for a number of reasons, one being its apsidal east end as it is one of only four English single celled churches to have this feature. An apsidal end is a curving east wall with a roof that also curves in line with it. This is more noticeable in the picture below.

St Andrew's Church

The Apsidal East End

It is really the fitting out of the interior that makes this a stand out church, since it has one of the most complete sets of early 18th century oak box pews in the county. These are truly magnificent, and as was the custom, the ‘boxes’ get larger the nearer they are to the front of the church. This was to maintain the social hierarchy of the local people with the wealthiest and most noted people being in the front pews whilst those lower down the social scale squeezed in the smaller boxes at the rear.

St Andrew's Church

Georgian Box Pews

The pews were inserted at the expense of William Wake who was then Archbishop of Canterbury and who once lived nearby. Around the same time, the oak pulpit was also added and strangely this included a ‘sounding board’ above it. This was to ensure that the minister’s voice carried to the back of the church but in such a small church, it was hardly needed. Another seemingly superfluous feature is the rood screen that is still in place, separating the congregation from the altar.

St Andrew's Church

The East End with Box Pews, Rood Screen and Pulpit

The wagon or barrel roof inside is also quite a feature, especially the way it curves around the apsidal end and those beautifully ornate, if somewhat eroded, bosses at the joins.

St Andrew's Church

The Ornate Apse Ceiling

At the west end of the church is a gallery which is in a somewhat dilapidated state. This was probably once a rood loft that has been recycled to provide a small amount of additional seating.

St Andrew's Church

The West End with its Dilapidated Gallery

Towards the end of the 19th century, worship at this delightful church had ceased and it fell into disrepair. In fact, in the early 1900’s the building was used for storage and to provide shelter for farm animals. It was in a very sorry state!

In 1929, the Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings became involved and they sold some old Thomas Hardy manuscripts in order to raise funds for a refurbishment programme. This is somewhat appropriate since Hardy, a famous Dorset author, was a member of the society for 47 years and was himself at one time an architect who had worked on local churches.

St Andrew's Church

Harvest Time at St Andrew’s

Since its refurbishment, this lovely church has been in the hands of The Churches Conservation Trust and is therefore maintained for future generations. It is in a beautiful part of Dorset and is one of my favourite places to visit. When you walk through that heavily studded door into this haven of peace, you just get a sense of the great history of this place, and the people who worshipped there down through the generations. There is just something about it that sets it apart!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Curious Dorset Churches – Part 1

30 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Its time for a new ‘Theme for the Week’, and this week I thought we would look at some unusual, even quirky, Dorset churches…..or, quirky things that are in Dorset churches 🙂 ! And there are a few! And we start with a church with an unusual dedication, the church of St Candida and Holy Cross……although its not only the name that is unusual!

St Candida and Holy Cross, Whitchurch Canonicorum

Th Cathedral of the Vale

The unusually named St Candida and Holy Cross Church stands in a small village which actually has an equally unusual name. It stands in the village of Whitchurch Canonicorum. The name comes from St Wite who is in fact the saint to whom the church is dedicated, Candida being the Latin translation of Wite.

Now, what is unusual about this church is that inside stands the tomb of St Wite and this is known to still contain her remains. This is virtually unique since it is the only parish church in England to still bear its saint’s remains, and also the shrine is the only one in the country to have survived the reformation, apart from at Westminster Abbey where the tomb of Edward the Confessor still stands intact.

The tomb

The limestone and marble shrine, erected in the 13th century, is in two parts with the coffin on top containing a lead box inscribed in Latin, ‘Here lie the relics of St Wite’. When this was opened in 1900, it was found to contain the bones of a small woman.

Beneath the coffin is a base with three oval openings and the reason for that design was so that pilgrims could insert diseased limbs etc in order to receive healing. Items such as handkerchiefs belonging to people too sick to travel would also be inserted. It seems to be still used today for written prayers.

The Tomb

The identity of St Wite has to an extent been lost over time but local tradition suggests that she was a Saxon holy woman who lived a hermit life along the cliffs, possibly lighting beacons to help sailors. It is thought that she was killed by Danish pirates on one of their raids.

Another theory has it that she is Gwen Teirbron, a 6th century holy woman from Breton. This explanation is plausible as many Breton’s travelled to the west of England in 919-921 AD and they often brought their saint’s bodies with them. Other suggestions are that St Wite was male, and was in fact a monk from Wessex – unlikely since the name has always been used in the feminine form. And finally, there is a theory that she was an evangelist who died in Germany.

The traditional and original belief that she was a Saxon Holy Woman has stood for over 900 years so it seems that this is the most likely identity.

The Cathedral of the Vale

The church itself is a large village church that predates Norman times although it has been much altered and extended over the centuries to become the grand building it is today. Such is its grandeur that it is often referred to as The Cathedral of the Vale, the ‘vale’ referring to the Marshwood Vale in which it stands.

The shrine of St Wite is a fine, but comparatively simple structure, and it may well be that it is this very simplicity that saved it from destruction during the Reformation when all others were destroyed. Could those 16th century vandals have just overlooked it as being of no importance because it was so plain? I guess we will never know!

Just one other interesting fact about St Wite before we finish – she is still remembered today in the periwinkles that grow on the nearby Stonebarrow Hill in Spring. These are known locally as St Candida’s Eyes!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 5

22 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Just one final ruined Dorset church for this week and this is one to which the term ‘ruined’ can very definitely be applied! It has had quite a past and there has been some determination shown by the community to keep it going but eventually the battle was lost. This is St Andrew’s Church on the Isle of Portland.

St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew's Church

The Ruins of St Andrew’s Church, Portland

St Andrew’s Church stands, or rather stood, on the headland above Church Ope Cove. It was built in 1100 by the Benedictine Monks of St Swithin of Winchester who had had the whole of Portland bestowed on them by Edward the Confessor, and it was built on what was believed to be the site of a rather grand Saxon church.

The first damage to the ‘new’ church occurred in the 13th century when a fire broke out. It was rebuilt. Then twice, in 1340 and 1404, French raiders tried to destroy the church by setting fire to it, and twice again it was rebuilt. This was only the start of its problems however!

The doorway to nowhere!

The Old Doorway

Over the years, a detached tower was added and after a landslip caused damage in the 17th century, efforts were made to shore up the hillside on which it was built. Forty years later, there was a further large landslip which caused yet more damage. This was like fighting a losing battle and after yet another landslip in 1735, known as the Great Southwell Landslip and the second largest in Britain, half the graveyard slid down the hillside.

Some 20 years later, the decision was finally taken to close the church and to build a new one in the centre of Portland, part of it being demolished to provide stone for houses. However, this still wasn’t the end for this church as yet more damage was caused by bombing during WW2.

The smuggler's grave

The ‘Pirate’ Graves

One of the interesting features that remain are the so called pirates graves. Popular belief has it that these are graves of pirates because they bear the skull and crossbones but this is in fact not necessarily the case since it was fairly common practice to carve these emblems simply as a sign of death.

That’s not to say that there was no involvement with bad things along this coast as undoubtedly smuggling was an activity that would have taken place here, and the church was always under threat from foreign pirates.

Light of the world

The Light of the World

St Andrew’s Church stood on a beautifully rugged part of the Dorset coast and did its best to withstand attacks from above and below but ultimately the fight against erosion was one it couldn’t win. It is interesting that Portland is comprised of some of the best limestone rock that features in many of the UK’s major structures such as The Cenotaph in London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. In fact, Portland is synonymous with the quarrying of solid, good quality rock. So maybe this church was just built in the wrong place!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.