The History of the Lost Village of Dode


If you would learn of history - of a fragment of rural history in these hidden vales of Kent - come with me to this Lost Village of Dode - So wrote Donald Maxwell - 1926.

This Little Norman Building is a rare and magical place indeed, looking almost exactly as it did some 900 years ago when it was first built in the reign of William Rufus, the son of the Conqueror.

As you stand beneath the massive stone arch, you stand where, over 800 years ago, a Priest told of the death of Thomas Becket. As you sit beneath the sturdy Oak roof, you sit where almost exactly 650 years ago the Villagers prayed for their loved ones as the Black Death swept England. You are in their space within the four walls which they Knew.

Dode is more than an ancient building, for it is a far older place than perhaps we can imagine, it's beginnings go back into the mist of time. If you walk into the meadow surrounding the Building you will see that it is build on a substantial mound which is man-made. The hill which totally surrounds and shelters the Building has been known from time immemorial as Holly Hill and the Building is approached by a narrow roadway which goes nowhere, its ancient name is Wrangling Lane. Here then are the clues to a site of deep antiquity, for Holly Hill is a corruption of Holy Hill and the name Wrangling Lane indicates that here on this mound may well be the site of a Moot or Meeting Place perhaps going back thousands of years.

Archaeological evidence confirms occupation of the site during the Roman period and on a still night when the moon is full it is not difficult to imagine pre-Christian rites in this secluded Valley where real harmony with nature still exists, Dode is indeed a place of myth and legend.

The mound stands at the end of a ley-line which stretches to the east for some 10 miles, exactly upon this line stands three Pre-Reformation Churches, two Roman sites, a Bronze Age Burial Ground and two of the Medway Megaliths, the Coffin Stone and enigmatic Little Kits Coty.

Ancient stones are also to be found on the ley-line including a substantial Sarsen now buried within the fabric of the building itself. This truly is an ancient place, steeped in history which is needed as much today as it was in the distant past, and perhaps more.

The Village of Dode was destroyed in 1349 as a result of the Black Death and shortly afterwards the building was abandoned, it was not to be used for regular worship again. If you have read the last few lines quickly, please re-read them, and think exactly what they mean. To help, visualize that the last Masses were said and that the Building had been silent and sleeping for almost 150 years before Columbus discovered America. Indeed it was to remain asleep until 1901 when it was purchased by a local antiquary who restored it at his own expense, thereafter it gradually began to wake up and for the last 95 years occasional use has been made of the building although it is still very much a silent place.

Today Dode is in private ownership and after an almost unimaginable time span, regular use is again made of the building. To celebrate the millennium a beautiful retreat building has been constructed in English Oak - a place of solitude and peace for those wishing to escape the world for a few days.

Responding to requests from many couples to be married at Dode, some fourteen years ago it was licensed as a Civil Wedding Venue, a use which continues. Baby naming's, Renewals of Vows and Memorial Services are also a feature of this sacred place. The basic simplicity of the building, which has always been Dodes abiding strength, will however remain unaltered. Light will only be provided by candles and braziers, and straw and autumn leaves scented with herbs will always cover the floor.

The 12th Century seating - still in place - around the walls will continue to be used and to provide a reminder of the circle of our forefathers who once gathered here to celebrate important times in their lives, long before any building occupied this special place.

Dode is now loved and cared for by Douglas & Mary Chapman who can be contacted on 01622 734205, e-mail: enquiries@dodevillage.com

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