Slightly less booze than a pub crawl, but so much more History!
This isn’t an invite to a pilgrimage, it’s a journey around some of the architectural beauties that religion has inspired locally.
Architecture is the only art form we can walk into, out of, around and climb over.
July 21st – 30th is Church Tourism Week!
Who knew such a thing existed? But what a fantastic idea to encourage exploration of the special places around us that we take for granted.
I think that the Parish Church is one of England’s greatest treasures.
Here in Dorset there is a huge assortment of wonderful churches, and every one of them is unique.
Many are small, humble buildings, some even found in farmyards! Then there are the famous mighty Abbeys of Sherborne and Milton, the Minister of Wimborne and the Priory Church in Christchurch. Such huge contrasts!
I love Parish Churches, and particularly Dorset Parish Churches. everyone has their own favourite, and for reasons known only to them.
I would like to share with you some of my choices, and to encourage you to look out for others for yourself.
I am not authority on ecclesiastic architecture. I am not a definitive authority on any architecture. I am just an enthusiastic admirer, who is fascinated by the Church’s strong link to the past.
These wonderful buildings reflect the belief and the craftsmanship of earlier generations. Our Parish Churches are our heritage. Our ancestors built these churches, decorated and maintained them. They were baptised, worshipped and married in them. Their social life centered around them, and when they died they funeral prayers were said in them, and they were laid to rest near them.
So, if you’re local to Sherborne, or just in the area, let me share just a few (of so many) of the nearby Churches and why you shouldn’t miss them.
Trent – St Andrew
This Church was originally in the county of Somerset, but the boundary line changed, and it now lies in Dorset, whilst remaining in the diocese of Bath & Wells. It is of 13th Century origin, but the tower and spire and porch are 14th Century, and the chancel 15th Century.
There is a fine vaulted rood screen, a large number of 16th Century bench ends and a 15th Century font & cover. The Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife (Geoffrey Fisher & Lady Fisher) took ‘the living’ here in 1962, and are now buried here near the preaching cross by the front entrance. His mitre, robes and staff are exhibited in the glass cabinet in the South porch.
Lillington – St Martin (of Tours)
The name Lillington is thought to be derived from the Scandinavian ‘Lilla’s tun’, and this lovely little unspoilt 13th Century Church lies some 3 miles from Sherborne, beyond Leof’s tun (Leweston), adjoining the magnificent barn now converted into a private house.
The chancel and the tower are of 15th Century construction and the nave although dating from the 13th Century has a 15th Century plastered wagon/barrel roof.
Lillington Church is associated with Sir Walter Raleigh as both his sons were Christened here in the 15th Century font; his lands of the hundred of Sherborne originally included Lillington and its manor.
Folke – St Lawrence
This little Grade I church that still sits opposite the old manor at the edge of the village was rebuilt in 1628 and in an interesting example of Jacobean Gothic. On approaching the church a Causeway can be seen on the left hand side, this was built to stop ladies’ dresses getting dirty and wet! (It has only been partially restored at this date.)
There was an extensive restoration in 1875 but inside it still appears more Jacobean than Perpendicular in style, and may of the rich 17th Century fittings have been preserved. The pews have shell top ends, and very elaborate late-17th-century chancel screen is surmounted by the Royal Arms. In the pulpit is an hourglass stand.
East Chelborough / Lewcombe – St James
A wonderful remote little church deep in the Dorset countryside, approached along a rough track behind Lewcombe Manor.
It is a simple cell building of 16th Century origin, but altered in the 18th Century. A classical doorway has a large round window above it and is capped by a short stone bell turret. Internally another large circular east window with Gothic tracery, a rose window in fact.
There are 18th century alter rails, a two decker pulpit and a vase font. Over all this little church is a hidden gem in deepest Dorset, well worth finding for a visit. It is heartbreaking that it is likely to close in the near future.
Holwell – St Laurence
This little church sits at the end of a cul-de-sac in the original medieval part of the village, sited next to the Caundle Brook in the north of the parish (which is crossed by a packhorse bridge probably of medieval origin.)
The Grade 1 building, including chancel and organ chamber, largely dates from the late 15th Century, but underwent restoration in 1885. Inside you will find an early 15th-century wagon-vaulted ceiling over the nave and in the north chapel a fine 17th-century wooden ceiling with moulded beams and bosses. During a major restoration of the roof in 2001 some of the timbers were found to date back to the 1190s.
Outside its gates you can still see a small stocks (a traditional form of punishment).
The biblical scholar Henry Adeney Redpath was rector at Holwell between 1883 and 1890.
Holnest – St Mary’s
This ancient small church stands all alone in the middle of a field by the side of the A352 Sherborne to Dorchester road. As a result of the plague the village was abandoned in the late 16th Century and only the church is left. It is mainly 15th Century, but the chancel was renovated in he 19th century.
Left largely untouched by the Victorian restorers, there are some interesting interior features.
A Jacobean Pulpit, rare examples of white painted Georgian Box Pews that carry curved candle sconces above them, and an original Medieval barrel vaulted roof in the side aisle.
…As you can see, we’re not short of some treasures locally!
Whatever your personal spiritual philosophy maybe, we should never forget our heritage. It is through understanding our Parish Churches that we learn who we were, and who we are, or at least I try to learn who I am.
If you’d like to discover more, email me to discuss going on a guided Church Crawl, and I can guide you personally through some highlights tailored to your group.