11 February 2018

Dorset: post boxes

My Christmas holiday host is well trained – she knows my predilection for old-looking post boxes and is happy to (safely) slam on the brakes when she spots one, or I yell “post box” in her ear. These are a few we spotted as we gadded about the highways and country lanes of Dorset (and the lucky last is from a hop over the border to Somerset).

First up (below left) is this slightly-the-worse-for-wear Edward VII box (DT2 73) that was attached to a post by the side of the road near the little hamlet of Up Sydling, a rather out-of-the-way place to be but we were chasing up my friend’s ancestors’ habitations.

In a much better state of repair and looking very photogenic in its old stone wall, was this lovely old Victoria wall box (DT2 52) (above right, and below) in the historic town of Cerne Abbas.

In the wall of a house in Sherborne, we found this rather unusual Victoria wall box (DT9 6). Named after its makers, James Ludlow & Son of Birmingham, it’s called a Ludlow wall box, and, unlike most old post boxes, which were traditionally made of cast iron, the Ludlows’ were made of wood, though they did usually have an enamel name plate on the front and a thin sheet of steel covering the door.

Moving forward in time, we found this George V wall box (DT9 37) (below left) conveniently positioned underneath the town’s notice board in a small village with the intriguing name of Ryme Intrinseca. And, below right, here’s another from Cerne Abbas, a George VI pillar box (DT2 98), also conveniently situated, in the town's main street.

This last (DT9 67) is the intruder from Milborne Port in Somerset and a relatively modern wall box from the reign of Elizabeth II. It looked freshly painted, in that wonderfully vibrant Post Office red that everyone recognises.

04 February 2018

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Barwick

St Mary Magdalene’s is a small church with a big history. Built of the local Ham stone, the main body of the church dates from the 1200s, while the chancel is a 19th century rebuild that incorporated earlier building fragments.

Barwick doesn’t get a mention in the Domesday Survey but, in 1228, Henry III granted the locals the right to hold a fair here and, in 1231, granted the right to hold a market at the local manor to William de Cantilupe, who held the local estate. St Mary Magdalene's was presumably founded around the same time and was originally a chapel of ease, providing a welcome resting place for travellers along the busy London to Exeter road.

Inside, the church has some lovely old Oak furnishings – the wonderful Jacobean carved panels on the pew ends caught my eye – and a very impressive, colourfully decorated organ. Though I doubt they were particularly old, the symmetric lines and patterns of the old floor tiles were lovely, as were the clean simple lines of the stained glass windows.

The building’s heritage value is recognised in its Grade II listing but the building is in need of major restoration work. According to the Historic England website, ‘The tower roof is in poor condition, the bell frame needs work undertaken and the nave and aisle roofs are also in poor condition.’ Because of this, the church has been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register, yet the congregation was unsuccessful in its 2017 application for a Listed Places of Worship Roof Repairs Grant. I hope the repair money is found soon as this wonderful old parish church is definitely worth saving.