Dorset’s redundant churches
David Bailey takes a tour round some of the county’s churches that are no longer used for worship. Redundant they may be, but they are nonetheless evocative and somehow still redolent of congregations long gone the way of all flesh.
Published in August ’11
Old St Cuthbert’s chancel in Oborne. This is all that remains of the 1533 church, one of the last to be built before the reformation
The Victorian Hospitaller chapel of St George near Toller Fratrum, north of Dorchester, is a replacement building for the original chapel, which was once part of a larger monastery of the Knights Hospitaller. The building is of relatively little significance, but the Saxon font inside has a beautiful, primitive carving running around its circumference.
St George, Reforne, Portland. Purportedly a homage to St Pauls Cathedral, this massive cruciform layout church was designed by local mason, Thomas Gilbert, and built between 1754 and 1766.
The delightful Norman church of St Andrew in Winterborne Tomson is, in terms of its footprint, unchanged since the 12th century. It is famous for its interior of limewashed walls, stone flags and oak-ribbed wagon roof curves. It was rescued from dereliction by SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) in 1931.
Whitcombe church is full of historical interest; parts of the building date from eight different centuries. Within it, though, is a memorial to an altogether more transient presence: In Memory of Jejane Sherren, Died on Monday March the 6 1815, Aged 6 months one week and five days, “Grive not for me my Mother Dear, But be content think unto you I was but lent, Short was my Days long is my Rest, God call’d me whenever he thought Best.”
Holy Trinity church, Fleet is an early Gothic Revival church built in 1827, designed by Stickland. It contains an 18th-century monument that pre-dates the church, and 400 yards south-east of it lies the ruin and chancel of the original church, which was destroyed by a gale.
The 16th-century wooden screen of St Peter’s church in Winterborne Came were restored in an Arts and Crafts style and the roofs were restored when William Barnes was the incumbent here in 1883
Although All Saints church at Nether Cerne was part of the original endowment of the Benedictine Abbey, there is no evidence of 9th-century construction, its earliest feature being a 12th-century font on a 14th-century stand. It was in use from the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 to 1971, when it was declared redundant.
A small monastery is thought to have been founded in Tarrant Crawford by Ralph de Kahaines (whence Tarrant Keyneston). The current church of St Mary’s post-dates that monastery (and subsequent nunnery), but contains some wonderful 14th-century wall paintings, rediscovered 100 years ago this year.