Background Above Abbotsbury

ur churches are amazing buildings, the centres of communities for hundreds of years as well as repositories of the sort of antiquities, monuments and art that you expect to find behind glass in a museum. All along the coast, churches stand on leafy village greens, hide far from roads or perch improbably on cliff edges.

Morton Church



This is the spot where Lawrence of Arabia is buried; it also has a fine garden and an award-winning tearoom. The church is unique in that its stained glass windows, after being destroyed by a bomb in World War Two, were replaced with clear engraved glass that gives the church an unusually light and airy feel. The engraving was done, over a period of thirty years, by Sir Laurence Whistler, brother of the painter Rex Whistler. Sir Laurence was a poet but gradually turned to glass engraving; he produced fine work for Salisbury Cathedral and for Oxford colleges.

Effigy in Puddletown church Lyscombe chapel

This chapel has recently been the subject of a sensitive restoration. It stands hidden at the end of a farm track waiting to be discovered by those who know the location. Dating from the 13th century it was connected to the monastery of Milton Abbas before being converted into a bake house after the dissolution of the monasteries. Until recently it lay abandoned and left to crumble. It is a moving place to stand in as it was in 2007 Mass was celebrated in it for the first time in 500 years.

Fire buckets Puddletown church

This church is associated with Thomas Hardy, Puddletown being the Wetherbury of Hardy's novels. It was here that many of his relations worshipped and left their mark as graffiti in the church. It dates from the late Middle Ages. Its atmospheric interior houses a set of box pews complete with hooks for top hats, wall paintings which were whitewashed by the Puritans, and a wonderful group of marble tombs belonging to the the Martyns of Athelhampton and dating from the 14th century. Their decayed state makes them all the more evocative. The church door was obviously the subject of potshots in the Civil war: lead pellets were dug out of it during conservation and are on display. And hanging inconspicuously in the gloom are two objects which demonstrate the pleasing eccentricity of church contents: canvas fire buckets dating from 1805 and printed boldly with the name of their provider: Sun Insurance.

Dorset Churches

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