Posts tagged ‘Churches Project’

Churches Project no. 15 – St Andrew, Winterborne Tomson, Dorset

Winterborne Tomson Church-2


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.


Winterborne Tomson Church-3


Winterborne Tomson Church-4


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.


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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.


Winterborne Tomson Church-10


Winterborne Tomson Church-1


Lastly and to put this church in the context of its setting I have included an image taken just yards form the church itself.


Winterborne Tomson Church-9


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.

Churches Project no.14 – All Saints, Nether Cerne, Dorset

Nether Cerne Church-9


This medieval church was mainly built in the late 13th Century of flint and stone; the tower was added in the 15th Century. Sited next to a manor house and just a few steps away from the river Cerne, it really does enjoy a tranquil rural setting in the valley.

The parish was once in the endowment of Cerne Abbey and was served by its Benedictine monks until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.  Parish services ceased in 1968 and this charming church was sadly made redundant in 1971. Fortunately two years later it was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust, who still care for the building to this day.



Nether Cerne Church-8


There is both sadness and joy to be felt as I walked around its simple interior. Sadness in the sense it has not been used for regular worship for over 40 years, but joy in the knowledge that it is being preserved. To me it still has an air of solitude, and a peace which cannot always be found in a church which is in regular use. The lack of electric lights, radiators, church notices and all the accessories required in a fully functioning parish church are not present here. These things can be a distraction from the delights to be had in a building which evokes memories of a long and distant past.


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Nether Cerne Church-4


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Nether Cerne Church-1


Do click on any image to view a larger version which will open in a new window.

Churches Project no.12 – St Mary the Virgin, Upwaltham, West Sussex

Upwaltham Church-7


The church of St Mary the Virgin is very often called ‘The Church in the Field’ and it’s very easy to see why it has adopted this name. Situated on a hillside with the South Downs for company, this lovely countryside church has fields and footpaths as its neighbours. At this time of year the graveyard is full of white daises and when they catch the wind the scene becomes quite enchanting.


Upwaltham Church-1


The interior has hardly changed since its origins in the 12th Century. Plain, simple and largely lit by candles; which is just how I like it. This is one of a handful of churches in the whole country with a semi circular or apsidal chancel. I visited another church recently with a similar feature in North Marden, also in West Sussex.


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Upwaltham Church-8


There are very few properties in Upwaltham but I have read that at one time the church served a medieval village. In times gone by it would have been a very tranquil place to live, but today the valley floor plays host to the main road between Chichester and Petworth – the A285. It is perhaps the only thing which detracts from this delightful church; as cars rush by, the drivers probably fail to notice ‘The Church in the Field’. If only they stopped to enjoy the delights of this truly charming Sussex countryside church, it would take them back to quieter and possibly less stressful times.


Upwaltham Church-2


Churches Project no.11 – St Nicholas, Moreton in Dorset

St Nicholas - Moreton-10

The church of St Nicholas, Moreton in Dorset


According to Christopher Winn in his book I never knew that about England’s Country Churches’, St Nicholas in Moreton Dorset is the only church in the whole world to have all its windows in engraved glass. I have no reason to doubt this fact but whether it is true or not, this building is a true gem. It also happens to be the burial place of St Lawrence of Arabia, so has quite a claim to fame.


St Nicholas - Moreton-7

The west window


Parts of the church and the original stained glass windows were all destroyed by a German bomber in 1940. It took ten years to rebuild the church and the windows were originally replaced with green glass. The parishioners of this tiny village didn’t warm to this new look and the architect overseeing the work suggested consulting Laurence Whistler, a renowned glass engraver as well as a poet and writer. As a result he was commissioned to redesign the windows.


St Nicholas - Moreton-1

One of the five windows in the curved apse


The first five engraved windows to be installed were in the curved apse and this work was carried out in 1958. These were designed by Whistler but produced by a commercial firm. All the remaining windows were personally engraved by Whistler and fitted over a period of 30 years between 1955 and 1985. The commissioned work must have cost the church and its donors an absolute fortune but the results are truly spectacular. Many of the windows are engraved on both sides which gives a 3D effect.

The south facing window shown below, is a thing of great beauty whether viewed internally or externally.


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A south facing window


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The same south facing window from the outside


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Detail from the bottom left hand corner of the south facing window


The most controversial engraving is that of a man hanging from a tree with coins spilling from his hand. It depicts Judas, the betrayer of Christ and is only visible from the outside. This section of the window is obscured from the inside by a wall monument. This engraving was not well received by the parishioners initially and was only installed in 2014, some fourteen years after Whisler’s death in 2000. This particular window was donated to the church by Whistler himself so he must have felt rather betrayed that it was not accepted by the church at the time of its presentation. I can quite understand why its macabre depiction of Judas would have caused a very mixed reaction.



St Nicholas - Moreton-9

Judas – donated by Whistler himself


The church is filled with light and each and every window is full of the most remarkable detail, unlike anything else you will see elsewhere, let alone in a small country church in the lovely county of Dorset.


St Nicholas - Moreton-2

More detail from the south facing window


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Again more detail from the south window


One window is dedicated to Noel Findlay and the words in the right hand pane ‘and his gift of happiness’ have so many meanings in this rather wonderful place of worship.


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The lower half of a north facing window in memory of Noel Findlay

To fully appreciate the superb glass engravings do click on any image to open a larger version.

Churches Project no.9 – Candlelight in The Priory

Candlelight in The Priory

Candlelight in The Priory

There are many reasons why I enjoy visiting and photographing churches and their interiors. Without question one of them is the unexpected play of light inside a church when the outside is bathed in bright sunshine. The way shafts of light come through the windows can be an absolute joy, as was the case just this week when I called into Boxgrove Priory. It’s a beautiful building which lies to the east of Chichester, and one I shall return to photograph again.

I had not visited the Priory for many years, in fact I think the last occasion was for a funeral. The church was empty so I was able to look around in complete freedom. After about twenty minutes I noticed the sunlight illuminating one of the elegant candlesticks on the altar. The light was very bright and I knew the background to the image would be quite dark if I correctly exposed for the main subject of the picture. I knew I didn’t have long to take the shot as the sun was moving round and the light on the candlestick would soon be lost. The stone arch and stained glass window give context to the picture but the main subject will always be the candle bathed in lovely spring sunshine.