Lawrence of Arabia

A quiet walk across Dorset heathland took me from the Moreton graveyard, where the author, furniture maker and soldier T.E. Lawrence is buried, over the road from the isolated church of St Nicolas to his tiny Cottage at Clouds Hill. There is a circuitous walk of about six miles but it was getting dark and some portions are on fast roads over the heath. So I took the Snakehound just along the track over the heathland for a few miles from the ford to Clouds Hill.

Currently the National Trust has the Lawrence cottage closed while it clears the Rhododendron bushes which have encroached and altered the appearance so much from 1935. Well worth popping in when it reopens in 2012. 

Few pictures do justice to the work of Sir Laurence Whistler in his engraved windows at Moreton Church. I don’t fiddle with photoshop or filters myself but you can probably get some good results if you are a keen photographer. As it is part of a public building there are no copyright constraints. A booklet available in the church is available for those who flinch at the challenge. The reason for this unusual work is due to the Luftwaffe, who managed to virtually destroy this isolated church on the 8 October 1940. ¬†Possibly it was an attempt to hit the nearby RAF Warmwell station, revealed in some of the first ULTRA intercepts as a high priority target for the Nazi regime, but also it could have been a fluke hit from a jettisoned bomb. Largely unreported this was a tiny event in an ever larger war, Jozef Frantizek the Czech ace died on this day hours previously after scoring the highest number of victories in the Battle of Britain. 28 Indian Pilots also arrived to help in the fight.www.WW2today.com

Either way, the inside of this surprisingly bright little church is worth a visit. You follow in the footsteps of amongst many friends and admirers of this very British hero, Sir Winston Churchill, Field Marshall Viscount Allenby, sculptor Eric Kennington, the brilliant Basil Liddell Hart, Nancy Astor MP, E.M. Forster, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon MC. Who knocked the camera out out the hands of a photographer trying to take a picture of the coffin in the grave, before the paparazzi name was coined they were a menace in life and death.

 

The effigy of Lawrence carved by Eric Kennington, (the illustrator of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom), is not in Moreton church but at the much smaller church of St Martins Wareham high on the ancient wall in the Saxon church which was then being restored. The Moreton rector refused for various reasons to have the effigy in St Nicholas’s church. Public notoriety was the reason given for the refusal to have it in placed in Turners Puddle church, so it ended up at the suggestion of the Bishop of Salisbury in Wareham. Today the concerns of those who felt it would become a shrine, given the crowds his grave attracted in a tiny rural location may have been justified, as Lawrence continues to attract visitors. Some who follow the old ways hold him in great regard, and feel his being close to the resting place of Saxon Kings dressed as a Prince of Mecca is entirely suitable.

Sherman the Snakehound resting on his travels. Happy Christmas and all the best for 2012.

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