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Church Crawl, May 2012


Chalk Newton Map.jpg

Although we offer no particular thanks to the newest weather-caster (who was chiefly concerned with Balmoral anyway) we awoke to a perfect day. All of our chosen churches were in the Melbury Benefice, an area very well known to Thomas Hardy and frequently mentioned in his work with thinly disguised placenames. The Gallery Quire family was well represented, with people from Devon, Cornwall, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Purbeck as well as our own locals. We converged, mostly from the Casterbridge, Emminster or Port Bredy directions, on St Francis, Frome Vauchurch adjacent to Chalk Newton. Here little has changed since Hardy’s day. The churchwarden carried water for our drinks by hand to the church – whether from well, spring or tap I know not but it was welcome! The building is almost entirely Norman, with just a Victorian chancel added. The Jacobean pulpit is an important feature and especially interesting because access to it is through an aperture in the chancel arch. The interior is very intimate and our music filled it. Thence by way of Cattistock to Frome St Quintin, (although the church is dedicated to St Mary). This must be almost unique in Dorset because the church, which is surrounded by a hedge, is in the corner of a field with no road access. The walk was no hardship on such a day; again we were welcomed by a small group of locals who joined with gusto in suitable tunes such as Sagina and Cranbrook. Here we sang the Halsway Grace so as not to scare the people at Benville, later. On leaving the church we were greeted by long views of the crowning Dorset Downs.


St Basil Icon, T Fratrum.JPG We took the Ivel road (now A37) north of Long Ash Lane and Broad Sidlinch. Turning left for Evershead we passed King’s Hintock Court and Melbury Osmund (the home of Thomas Hardy’s wife) and then the ‘(Sow and) Acorn’, Tess’s Cottage and the northern end of Hoi’way Lane before lunch at the now customary (if twice does indeed still make a custom) Talbot Arms, Benville. On, past Benville Lane then south onto Crimmercrock Lane (now the A356 ) over Rampisham Down, descending Whit’ Sheet Hill, having almost completed a circle back to Chalk Newton before turning into Toller Fratrum. St Basil’s is a tiny chapel style building standing in its own graveyard beside a lovely 16c farm house. The name 'fratrum' comes from the Latin for 'brother' and refers to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who owned the property in Medieval times; Toller refers to the river valley. Sadly the church is likely to become redundant very soon although its Friends group will continue to maintain and use it; so its treasures – a c12 font, a panel fragment depicting Mary Magdalene washing Christ's feet and a beautiful St Basil icon by local iconographer John Coleman – may continue to be admired by visitors. One of the Friends was intrigued by the tune Malin Bridge as he had lived there long ago; it was a great pleasure to perform it for him.

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Finally we visited Wynford Eagle (St Lawrence) on one of the approaches to Haggardon Hill. The church stands all by itself, but within sight of a truly magnificent Jacobean manor house, owned in the late c19 by Sir Frederick Treves, surgeon and writer. Harshly, Treves described the church as "a modern building of daring ugliness". Built in 1842 it replaces a very much older church the remains ofwhich are some 400 yards south along the riverside. Plain the building may be, but its acoustic proved the highlight of the day. All the music sounded wonderful, with Complaint of the Righteous (in my view) particularly well performed. The BGQ crawl repertoire is now well established so many favourites were sung throughout the day making each church visit very enjoyable but a mental note was made that in future we should include some pieces just for the band. Thanks to all who came for making it a really delightful day.