A Perspective Like No Other

29th January 2021

Deep in the North Kent countryside is a small ancient building with soul, it is all that remains of the village of Dode. The structure was built in 1100 and was once a place of worship for the villagers of Dode. In 1349 the Black Death swept through the village and wiped out the community.

Without a congregation the small church was abandoned, never to be used for regular worship again. The church stood empty for centuries falling into ruin until it was bought by a local archaeologist in 1901. He restored its walls and roof, but the building found itself abandoned again when the archaeologist died.

In 1990 Doug, a chartered surveyor who worked at Canterbury Cathedral, bought the church and set about restoring it to its original state. Today when people talk about The Lost Village of Dode they usually mention Doug and Mary the owners. They are what Dode stands for and their passion will never be replaced. The stories Doug tells of the former Norman Church, along with his originality are unique.

We want to give you an insight into the magical, unique venue where time has stood still from Doug’s perspective.

When you first visited Dode can you remember what you thought?

“I first visited the church on a dark December afternoon. I came, by chance, across an advert that told me that the object of my long term curiosity was now the subject of a planning application for residential development and was due to be sold by auction in a few days time. This clearly was an opportunity to find out where it was and at least to have a look at it before it became yet another desirable residential conversion.

As we carefully followed the directions on the details along winding lanes overhung by trees, their branches bare against the lowering winter sky and down an incredibly steep hill into a secluded valley, we remarked how unlike Kent the countryside was and I remembered that a few years previously the Ministry of Defence had made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the area as a training ground, presumably because it resembled some part of Eastern Europe, as the Cold War raged unseen, and, had things turned out differently, we would have been unable to enjoy such a scenic drive.

Eventually, almost at the end of a no-through road and through a tangle of bushes, we caught our first glimpse of the elusive Dode Church.”

Can you tell us your favourite memory of Dode over the years?

“My favourite memory is ongoing — ‘You’re Mr Chapman, I saw you on the telly last night’ where his opening words ‘Sorry about that’ I replied with a grin, anxious to get on with my job before darkness fell. ‘ I’m Colin Greene with an ‘e’-what can I do to help you?” (on first meeting Colin can be a man of very few words). I was somewhat taken aback, firstly by his forthright manner but particularly by his offer. Why on a cold winters afternoon would somebody obviously take the trouble to ride up on the off chance that I might be there? ‘What do you do?’ was all I could think to say. ‘I’m a gardener’ he replied.’ Then you can do the flowers was my equally brief reply. And so, it was and, it would appear forever shall be, whenever flowers were required Colin produced the most amazing and appropriately naturalistic displays, and although, like myself, after almost thirty years he is slowing down he can still be relied upon to arrange the most spectacular flower arrangements in a manner that complements and enhances Dode’s simplistic Norman interior. Colin’s help and support in so many different ways has been invaluable.

Colin Greene, and my family’s ever growing friendship continued — long before l came on the scene he regularly visited & looked after the desolate church just for the love of it. Without his help & support in the early days l may have given up.”

Do you have a favourite feature in the Church?

“I don’t have a favourite feature, it’s all good – the most intriguing feature is a spot just above the chancel steps where the leylines are said to meet it can be located by dowsing but many people just ‘feel’ it.”

What do you think makes people fascinated by Dode, to visit time and time again?

“I think most people’s fascination with Dode is its history – not the history of Kings, Queens & battles but of ordinary people like us, and to understand that if only for a short time they are a part of that history.”

In your eyes what makes Dode unique?

“What makes it unique in my opinion is that it looks today almost as it did on the day that it was built. If the church’s builders stood in it today they would instantly know it !  All buildings that reach such an age have usually grown larger & have changed or ‘evolved’    because of the Black Death the church was frozen in time, as was its place in the landscape.”

Do you have any wedding tips for couples planning their special day?

“Dode is a simple place. Keep your ceremony simple, after all is said and done it is about just two people making promises to each other.”

Do you have any plans for Dode in the future?

“Virus permitting, we are currently commencing the construction of a columbarium but until we are well underway l don’t want to say too much about it ! If you want to know more yourself there’s a recent light hearted article in Kent online.

I have a dream to remove the existing tiled roof & replace it with thatch  – as a poem says    to restore the look ‘when Dode was whole’. It’s just a question of money & priorities but hopefully in the future!”

An artists impression of the columbarium

The article for the columbarium can be viewed here.

The Lost Village of Dode has welcomed couples, families, and friends for many years, whether it for a humanist or civil wedding, naming ceremony, memorial, birthday or family get together. Although sadly we cannot welcome anyone currently, we are looking forward to welcoming guests in the not to near future.

In the beautiful valley overlooked by Dode church, your friends and family can enjoy the spirit of Dode throughout the year. On Sunday afternoons from Easter until the end of October the Church is open for visits and time for reflection.

Dode also offers afternoon teas, supper nights, Christmas Carol concerts, history evenings and much more throughout the year, where anyone is welcome to attend. Our events are shown on our website.

Dode has been standing for 900 years and has seen many different visitors from all walks of life, however seems to leave a mark with everyone with its history that is unique. For more information on having an event or wedding in the Church please contact Becky – becky@dodevillage.com

We hope you have enjoyed this perspective on Dode.

The Lost Village of Dode Team