Tag Archives: ruined

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.

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 3

20 Apr

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

Continuing our theme of ruined Dorset churches, and by that I mean churches that no longer fulfil their original purpose, we pay a visit today to a very beautiful little chapel in the Lyscombe Valley.

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

Lyscombe Chapel

This chapel stands in a broad and beautiful bowl of a valley which is surrounded by chalk downs. It is known as Lyscombe Bottom, the name Lyscombe coming from ‘lisc’ which is Saxon for reeds, and ‘coombe’ meaning valley. Running down through this valley is a small stream, a tributary of the River Piddle, and in front of the chapel, this stream broadens out to a sheep wash pool.

Lyscombe Chapel and Cottage

Lyscombe Chapel and Priest’s House from the Sheep Wash

Lyscombe is a tiny hamlet comprising very few buildings, including the chapel and beside it the ruined priest’s house. The chapel itself dates originally from the 12th century although it has been restored and rebuilt over the years. It was an out-chapel owned by Milton Abbey which is some 5 miles away, and was probably on a monastic route since it is half way between Milton Abbey and Cerne Abbey. This would once have been a stopover place for pilgrims. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Milton Abbey grounds were taken over by Henry VIII who passed them to Sir John Tregonwell, who in fact was heavily involved with the Dissolution on the king’s behalf.

The Priest's House, Lyscombe

The Ruined Priest’s House at Lyscombe

At some point, probably during the 17th century, the chapel was converted to a cottage and bake house, probably for farm workers. It was still in use in 1950 although it subsequently had to be protected by a Dutch Barn type building that was erected over it. It ultimately failed completely in the 1990’s when the roof collapsed. In the latter half of the 20th century, the cottage also became derelict.

Lyscome Chapel Interior

Lyscombe Chapel Interior

This was not the end of the story for this tiny chapel though because in 2005 funding was obtained by the then land owner for its restoration, with walls being renovated and a new thatched roof being fitted. Such was the quality of this restoration that it has been recognised with several awards. Sadly, the priests house was beyond repair so this was just made safe.

The Lyscombe Valley

The Lyscombe Valley from the Downs

Lyscombe is a magical place! The chapel retains much of its original charm and perhaps unusually has remained small and simple when most churches have been extended and enlarged over centuries. With the ruined Priest’s House standing beside it, this place has a real sense of history that conveys something of its purpose and heritage. It stands in the most beautiful surroundings, remote, with no roads running through, and just the gentle rippling of the stream and bleating of sheep for company.

It’s purpose has still not ended since Lyscombe Chapel now forms a community space and doubles as bunk house type accommodation for walkers. It seems to me that this is an appropriate use for it, restoring it to a stop over place, albeit for modern day ‘pilgrims’. It is just the loveliest place to spend some time and any walk is made richer for visiting this diminutive chapel in its idyllic setting.

Oh yes, and one more interesting fact – apparently the rent originally paid for this site was 12 fish per year!

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 2

17 Apr

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

So, today we continue our theme of Dorset’s ruined churches, or at least, a selection of them. These are places that have impacted peoples’ lives for centuries but now for one reason or another are not able to extend that legacy. And today we are considering a strange, mysterious, and somewhat melancholy church, a church that some say is just the last of many that were built on the same site but disappeared overnight! Today we are looking at Knowlton Church.

Knowlton Church

Knowlton

Knowlton Church

The reason for my description above is not so much down to the church itself but rather its position, for this church was built in the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge earthwork. This has become known as Church Henge, a one time pagan worship centre complete with its circle of standing stones.

The church is of unknown dedication and so is a ‘church with no name’. It was built in the 12th century and is of flint and stone construction, with some of the stone said to come from the broken up standing stones. These days, it is very isolated but in its earlier days, it was the centre of a thriving community known as Knowlton Village. The village itself was decimated by the Black Death in the 15th century when all the villagers either died or left for pastures new. Even so, the church continued to be used for several hundred years until the roof collapsed in the 18th century.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Knowlton Church and the Earthworks

 The area surrounding Knowlton Church is part of Cranborne Chase and is rife with ancient remains. Church Henge itself is just one of four earthworks in this immediate vicinity and surrounding these is one of the greatest clusters of round barrows in Dorset. This includes Great Barrow, which is the single largest round barrow in the county. In addition, the mysterious and largely unexplained Dorset Cursus, a 6 mile long ceremonial ‘road’, runs nearby. Plus of course there is the old village itself. Sadly, much of this history has been destroyed over the centuries to all but the expert eye by people looking for grave artefacts and by farming. However, if you take to the skies during a dry spell in summer when some of the grass is yellowing, many of these features reveal themselves again.

Of course, as with most places like this, it is said to be haunted! In fact, it is said to be the most haunted place in Dorset with people describing a horse and rider galloping right through the church, a nun kneeling and weeping, and faces appearing in the windows of the tower.

Knowlton Church

The Church Tower

However you look at Knowlton Church, it has an air of mystery and intrigue as well as a presence about it that nudges your curiosity to know more. It served the local community for centuries and certainly witnesses to the transition in this country from Paganism to Christianity. And it continues to do that. For me, this is a beautiful place, being isolated and surrounded by open countryside with birds and wild flowers in season.

Knowlton Church and earthworks

Wild Flowers at Knowlton

One small part of the church continues to serve in any event as the font stands inside a nearby Victorian chapel. In addition, a ‘Wishing Tree’ has somehow been created on the edge of the earthwork simply by word of mouth. This has all manner of objects such as ribbons, notes, scarves, prayers and so on hanging on it. This site still proves to be a draw to local people as well as those farther afield!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
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.