Nether Cerne, Dorchester, DT2 7AJ
A picturesque riverside church in the Cerne Valley
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This pastoral and picturesque riverside church by an old manorwas built primarily in the 13th-century.
All Saints has a stone tower topped with pinnacles and vigorously carved angel-gargoyles. Inside is an unusual melon-shaped 12th-century font bowl, probably from an earlier church here.
Opening times on the CCT website
Old Church Road, Bothenhampton, Bridport, DT6 4BP
A church tucked away in the lea of the Downs
Tucked somewhat magically under the Downs at the end of a lane, this Medieval parish church is beautifully located inside a walled churchyard.
Only the 13th century chancel and 15th century tower survive from the Medieval parish church. For a while, after E S Prior’s new church was built in 1889, the chancel was used as a mortuary chapel.
An elegant early Georgian reredos forms a single composition with the communion rails.
Off Marsh Lane, Winterborne Tomson, Blandford Forum, DT11 9HA
A Dorset gem saved by the ghost of Thomas Hardy
This tiny chapel, built of flint and stone, with a tiny weatherboarded bell turret, has barely been altered since it was built in Norman times. The inside is simple, bright and beautiful – with uneven limewashed walls and a flagged floor.
The early 18th century oak fittings were provided by William Wake, then Archbishop of Canterbury, whose family lived nearby. The silvery grey, box pews, the pulpit, the screen, the communion rails and matching table, the font cover and the west door all date from his refurbishment.
The wagon roof is unique in that it curves round the apse, with finely carved bosses where the oak ribs intersect.
It is hard to believe that, less than 100 years ago, the church was 'given over to donkeys, dogs, pigs and fowls' of the neighbouring farm. The church escaped total ruin in 1931 only when The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings sold a collection of Thomas Hardy manuscripts to pay for repairs.
Hardy was once an architect’s assistant in this part of Dorset, but this church does not seem to have featured in any of his novels. The restoration work was supervised by the architect A R Powys, Secretary to the Society. It is thanks to him that this lovely church has survived in such a wonderfully unspoilt condition. A plaque in the church commemorates Powys’ work
London Road, Oborne, Sherborne, DT9 4JY
A tiny and enchanting golden stone survivor
This enchanting small building in golden stone is sandwiched between the A30 and the main train line from London.
Only the chancel survives of the 1553 church, which must have been one of the last to be built before the Reformation.
Interesting inscriptions over the east and north windows testify to its origins. Inside are Medieval slip tiles and 17th century communion rails, pulpit and monuments; the pillar piscina comes from the redundant church at North Wootton.
There are 17th century monuments in the churchyard.
Stockwood, Evershot, Dorchester, DT2 0NG
Discover one of England's smallest churches
15th-century St Edwold’s is not much bigger than a single-decker bus measuring only 9.1m by 3.9m.
It nestles in an idyllic wooded valley and few could fail to be captivated by the charm of this tiny, rustic church beside a farmhouse with an old footbridge in front.
The single-celled building, with a western porch and perky little circular bell turret were both built in 1636.
Its unique dedication to St Edwold, the 9th century hermit of Cerne, could indicate that there have been 1000 years of worship on this spot.
Reforne, Wide Street, Portland, DT5 2JP
A church inspired by St Paul's Cathedral.
Vast and solitary, St George's is one of the most magnificent 18th-century church in Dorset. It rises from the rocky, treeless and dramatic peninsula of Portland and is the masterwork of a local mason named Thomas Gilbert who supplied the Portland stone used to build St Paul’'s Cathedral.
The interior is fabulously preserved with it's lectern, pulpit, box pews and galleries all surviving. It is a 'preacher’s church’ with all the seating facing the twin pulpits – one for reading 'the Word’ (scripture), the other for lengthy sermons.
The sprawling churchyard is a treasure trove of fabulous headstones and memorials that tell tales of murder, piracy and adventure in a gloriously atmospheric setting.
There are inscriptions to Mary Way and William Lano, who were shot and killed in 1803 by a press gang, and Joseph Trevitt, an assistant warder at Portland Prison who was murdered by a convict in 1869.
Tarrant Crawford, Blandford Forum, DT11 9HU
Ghostly painted tales revealed in a rural church
In a gentle valley above the River Tarrant, this simple and evocative church, which dates back to 12th century, is all that remains of a wealthy Cistercian nunnery - 13th-century Tarrant Abbey -to which it may have been a lay chapel.
Today, the long, elegant interior has oak furnishings and a beautiful 16th-century wagon roof. There are also several 13th-and 14th-century coffin lids set in the floor, probably of abbesses and nuns.
Best of all, however, are the ghostly 14th-century paintings, made to instruct and inspire the parishioners. These cover most of the walls of the nave, catching your eye as soon as you walk into the church. Though somewhat degraded, they still give a vivid impression of warmth and colour. It is unusual for such an early set of paintings to survive, albeit damaged.
The earliest, in the chancel, is 13th century and consists of a simple masonry pattern with a flower stencil. There are also 14th century depictions of St Margaret of Antioch, said to have been swallowed by a dragon, and three animated skeletons, who warn three princes of the emptiness of earthly rank and wealth.
The paintings on the north wall are more fragmentary, but you can identify St Michael weighing souls, and St Christopher carrying the Christ Child.
Winterborne Came, Dorchester, DT2 8NT
The quintessential country squire's church
Disciples and devotees of the Revd Williams Barnes (1801-86), the Dorset poet, gravitate to this church; he was rector here and is buried in the churchyard.
Close to the Palladian Came House, and alongside some of its outbuildings, it is almost the epitome of the country squire’s church.
It is a simple building dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, and was refurnished in Victorian times. Monuments to the Meller and Dawson-Damer families include a fine tomb chest with effigies to John Meller (died 1595) and his wife Anne.
Whitcombe, Dorchester, DT2 8NY
A saint, a mermaid and a lost dedication
This lovely Medieval church looks like a vision from a Thomas Hardy novel.
One of Hardy’s friends – the poet and scholar William Barnes – preached his first and last sermons here, and the church’s setting evokes the rustic atmosphere of old Dorset life.
Yet in Barnes’ time the parishioners knew nothing of Whitcombe’s great treasure – the magical Medieval wallpaintings that include an image of St Christopher and a mermaid combing her hair.
But the church still holds on to its final secret - its name- the church dedication is lost in time.
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