[St. John the Baptist, Buckthorn Weston, Dorset]
It’s been said by many travelers that if one wants to know what’s happening in any small English village, just go to the pub and listen for an hour. I think the same is true, to a degree, of social life provided by the Church in these towns and hamlets that appear on maps as small squares with crosses.
The village names themselves are worthy of a post for their own sake. There’s Guy’s Marsh, Ebbesbourne Wake, Bowerchalke, Broad Chalke, Sutton Mandeville, Donhead St. Mary, Mellbury Abbas and (my favorite), Little Puddle Bottom. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the English penchant for descriptive and proper geographic place names.
Each of these towns, each of these dots and intersections on maps, nearly always contain a church. The vast majority of these are Anglican or Church of England. Americans know them as Episcopalians. One drives by these small churches everyday when you’re motoring about from places like London to Stonehenge. Stop in one of these small buildings, and time has stood still. Each one is different yet each one is nearly a carbon-copy of the next.
You enter the church grounds (if you’re lucky) through a lychgate. These are small entries into the churchyard that have a roof to protect the pall bearers from the frequent rains. Here, the mourners and the coffin await the priest to emerge and begin the funeral service.
Once inside, you feel the chill. I didn’t have my pocket thermometer with me, but the churches I visited today probably were all about 56 F. If I were attending service, I would hope for a highly charged sermon full of fire and brimstone.
I’d feel warmer.
Here is a small photo gallery of the common sights one sees in so many of these lovely and ancient structures. And, by ancient, I really mean ancient. Most of the churches we visited on June 3, date back 800 to 1,000 years. It staggers the mind to contemplate the fact that worshippers offered up their prayers and pleas to that many years. These churches were ancient centuries before Columbus even thought of sailing to the edge of the known world.
Here are some photos:
[The Book of Common Prayer for the congregation]
[The effigy of Alexander Mowbray who died in 1410]
[Baptismal font from the late 1300’s. I find it interesting to contemplate the tiny infant being baptized and then, 80+ years later, ending up in the ground outside the church under a stone encrusted with moss and lichen.]
[Cushions for kneeling. Sometimes made by the local ladies. Many are Regimental Insignias]
[From birth to death. The end of the story for the faithful worshippers]
The first stanza of one of my favorite poems:
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
the shepherd, homeward, plods his weary way,
the lowing herd wanders slowly or’ the lea,
and leaves the world to darkness, and to me.”
–Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.