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St.Martin on the Walls, Wareham, Dorset - 2010 | by Whipper_snapper
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St.Martin on the Walls, Wareham, Dorset - 2010

St.Martin-on-the-Walls at Wareham, Dorset, is a fascinating Saxo-Norman building featuring fragments of wall paintings from many periods as well as the apparently unwanted effigy of Lawrence of Arabia.


The church stands on the Saxon earthworks which surround modern Wareham and is reputed to have been founded by Saint Aldhelm in the 7th century. It is thought that the original Saxon building was destroyed by King Canute in 1015. The present building dates from about 1030 AD. Saxon features include a tall, narrow nave and chancel, late Saxon wall-arcading in the north west isle and traces of a Saxon door. to see the full set.


The building has been altered and expanded over the years but the nave and a tiny window in the north side of the chancel are original features. On the north wall of the chancel are the 12th century frescoes depicting Saint Martin on horseback, escorted by attendants, dividing his cloak and giving one half to a naked beggar. Above the chancel arch is a complicated series of overlaid images. 11th or 12th century wall paintings are overlaid by the Coat of Arms of King Charles which are overlaid by the Coat of Arms of Queen Anne and the Ten Commandments.


By 1736 the church was only being used for the blessing of women after childbirth, baptisms and marriages. During the 1762 Great Fire of Wareham the church was used as a temporary refuge for those who had lost their homes. Later the church fell into disuse but at the beginning of the 20th century a programme of restoration began and the church was rededicated on 23 November 1936.


In the north aisle is a stone effigy of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), created by his friend Eric Kennington. This effigy was expected to be installed at Moreton Church, Dorset, where Lawrence is actually buried but Moreton's rector turned down the effigy - apparently on the grounds that it would detract from the beauty of Moreton Church. Salisbury Cathedral was also considered but the Dean there wanted an upright statue of Lawrence in RAF uniform while Kennington had sculpted him prone in Arab attire. St Martin's was eventually chosen as Lawrence had loved St Martin's and had donated money for the repair of the roof.


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Taken on July 6, 2010