EARLY DOORS: MAIDEN NEWTON – ST MARY’S CHURCH


MAIDEN NEWTON, DORSET lies in a chalk valley at the confluence of the River Frome and its tributary the Hooke. The Church of St Mary is of particular note, dating from the C12 with earlier Saxon origins. The interior was badly damaged by fire in 2011, and has been rearranged – understandably – as a largely open space, but not fully restored. Many treasures were fortunately unscathed; one in particular received special treatment from the fire crews that saved it.

Behind the new Altar is an ancient wooden door set into the narrow arched north doorway. A plaque states that this is ‘the oldest door with original hinges in the country’. One theory is that the door is pre-Conquest, later incorporated into the Norman church built sometime between in the late C11 and 1200. Owen Morshead dates it C12; Pevsner describes it a ‘a good early door‘. So it is certainly early medieval and – whether or not actually the oldest door with original hinges – it is remarkable for its battered beauty and its overall condition.

A report of the 2011 fire and its aftermath states that “four fire crews initially used an aerial platform to avoid damaging the original doors and hinges, thought to be among the oldest in England”. On any view, it is almost certainly the oldest medieval door hung on its original hinges to have survived a major fire without damage.

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