The hamlet of Monkton Wyld is so close to the western boundary of Dorset that it is almost in Devon. This is very rural hill country with only a scattering of houses here and there and yet quite suddenly and rather unexpectedly, you come upon a simple war memorial with this superb church behind and all held in a fold of the hill. Beyond the exquisitely styled lych gate a path, bounded by beautifully clipped yews, leads to the porch.
The porch is wooden and open at the sides, yet the tracery and colonnettes suggest an anticipation of the quality awaiting inside. The building is superbly proportioned and surmounted in the middle by an elegant 120 ft. broached spire with twin tiers of lucarnes. It was constructed in 1848-9 from flint with Caen stone dressings in pure Decorated style to a design by R.C.Carpenter. Richard Cromwell Carpenter was (and is) a well regarded architect who specialised in Ecclesiological design and is important particularly for his exceptionally sensitive restoration of Sherborne Abbey (1850-5).
Inside, the church is breathtaking; every aspect speaks of the highest quality. The nave is simple and unadorned and, as a result, the eye is naturally drawn forward towards, first the richly decorated choir screen, with a carved and painted rood, and then beyond to the chancel with its luxurious altar rails and coronas (candle sticks). There is a superb pulpit with a magnificent curved stairway leading up to it and the choir screen has an elegant pair of brass gates. The chancel is, according to Pevsner, almost as long as the nave and very much in line with the teachings of the Ecclesiologists. It has a stenciled painted ceiling.
The parish of Monkton Wyld was formed in 1850 from part of Wooton Fitzpaine. In 1891 the civil parish consisted of 327 people, but with only 162 in the Ecclesiastical parish. So this has never served a large population and was originally built at the expense of a wealthy person who lived in the nearby mansion. (Now a holistic education centre).
The church and its lovely setting is undoubtedly one of the little gems of Dorset and well worth visiting.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges images and text by Robin Adeney ©