Although Dorset is one of the few counties not to have a Cathedral, it does have plenty of churches both big and small.
St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury
St Catherine's Chapel was built by monks from nearby Abbotsbury Monastery, probably at some time in the 14th century, as a place for private prayer and meditation.
Its magnificent position on top of a hill with an extensive view of the sea ensured its survival after the dissolution, when it acted as a sea-mark and in more recent times had a light burning at the top of the stair turret.
The tiny Holy Trinity Old Church is in fact just the 14th century chancel and the 15th century tower of a slightly larger church, the nave of which was demolished in 1889 when the new Holy Trinity Church built further down the hill.
After that date it was used as a mortuary chapel but became increasingly dilapidated until it was declared redundant in 1971. It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
The church was open when I visited, but check the CCT web site for details of access arrangements.
Apart from the tower St Mary's, Charlton Marshall was almost completely rebuilt in 1713, probably by John Bastard, the father of the famous Bastard Brothers of Blandford. He also added the small pediments and obelisks to the tower, which make the exterior such a pleasing composition.
Church interiors, however, work best if they engender a certain sense of mystery, if not magic. Here, however, the huge imposing reredos and heavy testeredpulpit, combined with the efforts of the lively local congregation to make the place feel as informal as possible, results in a space with all the mystery of a messy modern primary school classroom in an old Victorian school.
External Links and References
Charlton Marshall: St Mary the Virgin
Unusually comprehensive entry on the A Church Near You web site. Includes a brief history of the church. https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/9369/
Completed in 1907, St Stephen's, Kingston Lacy is a fine example of an Arts and Crafts style church.
It was designed by the architect C E Ponting of Marlborough, and built by Mrs Henrietta Banks of nearby Kingston Lacy House, whose late husband left £5,000 "for the purpose of building and endowing a church at Kingston Lacy"
Usually kept locked. It is rumoured to be open weekends from 2.30pm except in the winter.
St Edwold's Church, Stockwood is another church that takes a bit of finding. And certain degree of persistence, as the churchyard has been incorporated into the garden of the adjoining farmhouse.
However, it is accessed via a little arched brick bridge over the stream, so there is no need to actually walk through next door's garden.
This tiny church is dedicated to St Edwold, he of the Silver Well in Cerne Abbas. It dates from the early 15th century. The chancel and nave are undivided, and together measure only 30ft by 12ft (9.1m by 3.9m). The porch and pretty little circular bell turret were both added in 1636.
It was declared redundant on 23 January 1959, and was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust on 1 March 1972. Please see their web site, listed below, for access details.