If you are travelling from the A46 you skirt the Badminton Estate and pass on the right hand side the astounding Worcester Lodge, designed by William Kent and about the best bit of architecture for miles about. But I've not got a photo, apologies.
St Lawrence is the original parish church and was essentially abandoned in Victorian times when a new church, dedicated to St. Michael, was built just a few hundred yards along the street. This has saved St. Lawrence from being brought in line with the thinking of the Ecclesiological reformers and so it retains the appearance of a Georgian parish church. It was built in two campaigns, the nave and chancel in Norman times and a transept in the early C13th. This has resulted in a somewhat unusual L shape.
This is a famous photograph taken of the interior by that exceptional photographer of churches and cathedrals Edwin Smith. I plan to do a post on him sometime as his photographs capture the magical essence of these buildings like few others. I find it amazing that this photograph was taken as late as 1961.
You can see the same bench in the Edwin Smith photograph.
The church was restored very sensitively in the 1980s and retains a special atmosphere; it is very intimate and pleasingly unfussy. The woodwork is painted an unusual but authentic limey green.
About three years ago I first visited the church and it was then vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and obviously unused. When last there I was surprised to find it once again being used for parish worship. It may be that with falling numbers the Victorian replacement was no longer needed and the parishioners of Didmarton have returned to their original parish church. The only downside is that some accommodation for modern expectations of comfort have been made, so there is rush matting covering the stone flagged floor and modern chairs in that part of the nave which previously had no seating.
The workings of the clock hang down through the transept roof and the loud ticking fills the air.
Less than a mile away is the Church dedicated to St. Alrid at Oldbury-on-the-Hill. This is very definitely not used and has no prospect of ever being used again. It too is vested in the Churches Conservation Trust but here the decision seems to have been made to allow it to slide into quite sleep. It has been made watertight but no more.
It was first built in the C13th., much altered in the Tudor period and again in Georgian times.
It too escaped the Victorians and is much more rustic than St. Lawrence. It is dusty, there are birds nesting inside, and even a few weeds growing in the floor of the nave but somehow it too is special.