For such a small and simple church, there is so much to admire and enjoy here. For starters the very location of St Andrew in the tiny hamlet of Winterborne Tomson is a delight. Rural and unspoilt, the church backs onto a dairy farm and I like the way the farm building behind the church echoes the shape of the church itself. There is a manor house on the other side of the narrow road which leads down to the church plus a thatched cottage for neighbours.
It’s not until you enter through the west door that the simple beauty of this church reveals itself. Built of flint and stone in the 12th Century, this single cell church has a most unusual apsidal east end with a plastered wagon roof of slender beams and decorative bosses. All the bleached oak furnishings which include box pews, the pulpit and sounding board above, the screen and altar rail, have turned silver grey over the years. They date from the 18th Century and were provided by William Wake, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716 to 1737. He would worship in this church when staying with his family who lived nearby. Apparently he loved the simplicity of the church compared to the grandeur and opulence of the cathedrals. I can empathise with his feelings and for me this place reminded me of another church in Warminghurst in West Sussex which you can read about here.
It’s hard to believe that less than 100 years ago the church was used by the local farm for pigs, fowl and other animals, but very fortunately was saved from complete ruin in 1931. Money was raised from the sale of some Thomas Hardy manuscripts by the The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and this was used to pay for much needed repairs. The work was overseen by the architect A R Powys, who was Secretary to the Society. On his death he was buried in the churchyard and a plaque can be seen inside the church, commemorating his work. Given its history it’s perhaps no surprise that this church is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, and whilst still consecrated, is only used on a handful of occasions during the year.
Lastly and to put this church in the context of its setting I have included an image taken just yards form the church itself.
Dorset is providing a rich source of lovely churches, so I will certainly be back there in the future so that I can add to my ‘Churches Project’ collection.
Do click on any of the images to view a larger version in a new window.