Wednesday, 3 June 2015
St Basil of Toller Fratrum
When I started my journey collecting the Shell Guides the one title I wanted to find, for obvious reasons, was the Dorset volume. As I have said previously, the joy of these delightful books is not only the hidden treasures within the county landscape that the editor directs you to, but the atmospheric photography - usually John Piper, sometimes Edward Piper and if you are really lucky Paul Nash or Edwin Smith.
The first Shell guide to Dorset was published in 1935 - written and illustrated by Nash it is as rare as Burbot in River Toller (or River Hook as it is now known). You will have to make do with the still very good later Pitt-Rivers edition which includes much of the original by Nash........and if you are lucky only for the price of a pint of beer!
The one image in the Dorset guide that, for me, stands out above all others is of the late Saxon font at St Basil, Toller Fratrum by John Piper. The guide did its job - it made me investigate the church and it has now become a regular place to visit when in that part of the county. What are the figures depicting? Moses saving the Israelites in the battle of Amalekites? Christ or Saint Michael, with cross leading souls from hell? Creatures attacking a man, a fallen Golden Calf, slain Amalekites? Take your pick, but I find it totally mesmerising.
The wonderful Little Toller Books have published a small book on the church which can be purchased directly from them (click on this link) - another book I must add to my "wants" list!