Dorset Churches

St Martins Church (full name St Martin-on-the-Walls) is best known for the life-sized recumbent effigy of T E Lawrence in full Arab dress. Eric Kennington, who was the official war artist for the First and Second World Wars, carved it out of Purbeck marble and Portland stone between 1936 and 1939. Lawrence is wearing a headdress and holding camel whips, two books: the Greek Anthology of Verse & the Oxford Book of English Verse and a dagger given to him by Prince Faisal.

According to a BBC report, about 10,000 visitors a year come to the church just to see the

2sculpture, and members of the T E Lawrence society make regular trips to ensure that the effigy is being taken care of properly.

The parishioners seem resigned to the celebrity of their church. On a recent visit, ten or so were waiting patiently for the service to begin as a steady stream of sightseers wandered through the tiny church.   

The church is interesting in its own right.  At 1,000 years old, is the only Saxon church in Dorset which survives close to its original state. Like most of these early churches, the focus here was the altar round which the mass was celebrated.  Indeed, the altar takes up a big chunk of the church.  The simple tall, narrow nave as well as a tiny window in the north side of the chancel are original, dating back to 1030.  In the northwest aisle is Saxon wall-arcading and traces of a Saxon door. 12th century frescoes on the North wall of the chancel which depict St Martin on horseback, escorted by attendants, dividing his cloak and giving one half to a beggar.




Just across the Dorset border in Somerset stands the tiny church of All Saints. It’s  really worthy of  inclusion as it is such a gem.

The church lies at the end of a narrow lane a stones-throw from Sutton Bingham reservoir. Once thatched, its exterior giving no hint of the riches within.

Entering, it takes a few moments to become used to the gloom. As you do so you realise that the walls are decorated with a rich collection of Medieval paintings dating from the 13th-14th centuries. Whitewashed over during the reformation they were rediscovered in the 1860’s. The most noteworthy, painted on the north wall of the nave, shows two scenes from the death of the Virgin,while through the beautifully preserved Norman chancel arch is a scene of the crowning of the Virgin. There are also  painted figures in the window reveals.


Outside  is another source for amazement. Of the two bells hanging in the belfry the right hand bell has been dated as 1250 and was cast by an itinerant bell founder actually on the spot. The other bell is a comparative youngster dating from 1685.