Our visit today takes us around a hollow shell of an old church surrounded by a Neolithic earthwork in the beautiful countryside of Dorset. Join us as we find out why this church was once a symbol of transition from pagan to Christian worship and wander the site exploring how atmospheric and haunted the Knowlton church and earthworks is said to be.

The main earthwork at Knowlton is of a type known as a henge. There are nearly one hundred henges in Britain and Ireland, dating from about 3000 to 2000 BC. Although they are generally believed to have been ceremonial sites, it is likely that they fulfilled many functions, and may have changed their role through time.

There is a rough estimate of over 4000 years that separate the main Neolithic earthwork at Knowlton and the 12th century Norman church that it right in the middle in it’s centre. The earthworks here are just one of the landscapes in the Bronze Age in southern England. There are an additional three earthworks in the area, which can be seen on many websites from a aerial picture taken in 1995. Nearby is the northern circle, the old churchyard and Knowlton farm. Associated with these earthworks are henges known as the Knowlton circles and Dorset is home to one of the greatest burial mounds or round barrows named the Great Barrow. This was the largest individual barrow in the country and In Anglo-Saxon times people were buried here. It’s been suggested that Knowlton was associated with burial activities and known for its ceremonial purposes.

The church was built in the 12th century, as a Norman church as the chancel and the nave both date to this period, it underwent rebuilding and additions in the 15th and 18th centuries when the north aisle was added. Knowlton Church is all that remains of a once thriving community that fell victim to the black plague in the 14th century. As a consequence, the village fell into ruin, only this small church survived. The walls are mainly of flint with ashlar dressings. It’s been said that the church was built as an attempt to convert the local pagan population to Christianity. The remains of the church really are eye-catching, with how isolate and odd the ruin is being smack bang in the middle of the landscape, it gives of an eerie feeling, but it’s reason for the position of the church nods to an attempt to ‘Christianise’ a pagan ceremonial site. Although the tower is probably the most complete part of the church, walking to the opposite end of the building was the most interesting. It is on this side of the church which I believe is the eastern side that there was probably a side chapel, most likely a lady chapel. Here you’re able to look out for some worn away stone work protruding from the wall, to the sides of what used to be a window. Most of the ruins are now reduced down to just its foundations, but you can still definitely picture the characteristic of the Norman period.

This site has not been excavated extensively but I have read that if there were megaliths surrounding the henge, they may have been broken and used as materials for the construction of the church.

There is an on-going mystery surrounding the churches bell from the tower, it’s been said that the devil threw it into the nearby river Allen, some villagers tried to rescue the bell but they were not able to overcome the strength of the devil as he held onto the bell tightly and sank to the bottom of the riverbed never to surface again or another story tells of a team of thieves who stole the bell to sell abroad, they crossed a bridge over the river stour at white mill when suddenly realising they were being pursed dropped the bell into the river and fled. Either way or none it’s exciting to hear the tales and wonder what really happened.

As with tales of the devil and theft, the site is very much known as the most haunted in Dorset. There are many ghosts said to haunt the Church. A shadowy, caped figure has been seen walking around the henge, sometimes accompanied by a giant hound another sighting is a figure spotted in the tower and there are numerous accounts of a woman kneeling before the ruin; possibly that of a nun.

It’s a mysterious, enchanting place, where one can easily see why it has gained a reputation for being haunted, the church is a known hotspot to paranormal groups and investigators so if you are into the more dark and scary , Knowlton could be great for you to explore at night. Just beyond the henge, in a little glade stands an ancient tree, on its branches hang countless tributes; sorrowing reminders of those no longer with us. Taking a moment to read and see what has been left in memory it’s a beautiful monument and something very inspiring. I read up on the fact that yew trees generally are important to both paganism and Christianity and its quite common to find them close to a church. It’s a beautiful yet hidden nod to both the pagan and Christian religions, both bold and colourful respectively.

The site itself is quite distinctive, it has a certain enchantment to it there is something odd, as simple as the place seems, It’s hard to forget Knowlton Church and Earthworks once you’ve seen it first-hand. And truly we don’t think one visit will be enough. You’ll soon be drawn back and intrigued as the first time you arrived. The site is free to explore and roam as is the parking just outside the site.

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Till Next Time!