Tag Archives: village

Theme for the Week – Ruined Churches in Dorset Part 4

21 Apr

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

Today we are looking at another ruined Dorset church, but this is one that doesn’t appear ruined until you look at its history. This just looks like a small village church but in reality, it is only half of a church standing in a village that now has two. But what happened to the rest of it and why is there now two? This is Fleet Church.

Fleet Church

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

Fleet is a small straggling village that sits near the banks of the brackish lagoon that shares its name. Across the other side of the water is the famous 18 mile long Chesil Beach, a long and narrow tract of shingle, and beyond that, the open sea. This was once the village’s sole church and it was built around the 15th century. Life went on as normal until one day in 1824 when everything changed!

Fleet Church

Fleet Church with its Small Cemetery

In November 1824, a huge storm blew up at sea, creating massive waves. The waves crashed onto Chesil Beach with such ferocity that despite the shingle bank being some 50 feet high, they breached the defences and swept inland, hitting the villages of Fleet, Chiswell, and other places farther along the coast. The devastation was huge with numerous cottages being destroyed or damaged, and Fleet Church itself being all but destroyed. A local boy who witnessed the scene wrote some 73 years later:

“At six o’-clock on the morning of the 23rd I was standing with other boys by the gate near the cattle pound when I saw, rushing up the valley, the tidal wave, driven by a hurricane and bearing upon its crest a whole haystack and other debris from the fields below. We ran for our lives to Chickerell, and when we returned found that five houses had been swept away and the church was in ruins.”

What was left of the nave had to be demolished and what you see today is just the chancel which was renovated. This no longer acts as a church, having been deconsecrated, although it still contains several monuments to the Mohun family who lived in Fleet Manor in the 16th to the 18th century.

Fleet Church

Fleet Church Interior

As was common in those days, collections were held in churches up and down the country to raise funds to help the devastated community and a new church was completed in 1829. This stands farther inland in order to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

The Fleet and Chessil Beach

Looking Across Fleet Lagoon to Chesil Beach

The village of Fleet, its manor house, and its old church have been immortalised in J Meade Faulkner’s book Moonfleet which was published in 1898. Perhaps because of this, it is always intriguing to visit the ‘half’ church. As you stand there in that peaceful churchyard with just the gentlest of breezes and the cry of gulls, it is really hard to imagine the devastation of that fateful day in 1824. It never happened before and it has never happened since but this now tiny church stands as a monument to a day that changed many lives!

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.

Amen Corner

7 Oct

It’s an interesting name isn’t it. It immediately conjures up images of the Welsh rock band with Andy Fairweather Low of ‘Bend Me Shape Me’ and ‘Half As Nice’ fame but that is not where the name comes from. It goes back much farther than that.

There are numerous places that bear this name, including thoroughfares and literal corners such as this. The name is thought to date from the 19th century in America where it was often used to describe the corner of some protestant churches, usually beside the pulpit, occupied by a group of people who led the responsive ‘amens’ of the congregation. It was also used to describe a corner of a church where a group of particularly ardent worshippers sat.

In this country, it is often used on processional prayer routes where monks would have walked the streets praying and say their final ‘amen’ at a particular corner. This applies to several places in London. On a more gruesome note, it is thought sometimes to relate back to the days when gallows were erected at a particular corner and where people uttered their last ‘amen’!

Down a Country Lane

This particular Amen Corner is a crossroads at the end of the delightful village of Gussage All Saints in Dorset. This is an ancient settlement that dates back to the Bronze Age with Ackling Dyke, that ancient super-highway running nearby. There was once a chapel at Amen Corner, originally of timber construction but subsequently of cob. It was a meeting place and a place of prayer and Henry III is said to have called here in the 13th century.

The truth about the name here is probably a lot more mundane than some of the others and it may simply refer to the fact that this is the last house in the village – and it is appropriately named Amen Cottage.

I pass through here on a regular basis, either on foot or on two wheels. This visit was near the end of a 75 mile bike ride on a beautiful evening as the low sun slanted through the trees. I could not help myself but had to stop and take this picture of what is a particularly lovely part of Dorset.

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.