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Discover the lost village of Dode
By Jo Pattison
BBC Kent

Dode
The building remains the same as it would have been 900 years ago

Deep in the north Kent countryside is a small ancient building, it is all that remains of the village of Dode.

The structure, which stands on a hill off Wrangling Lane near Cuxton, 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 whole community.

Without a congregation the small church was abandoned never to be used for regular worship again.

Dode church
The former church was destined to be restored

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 once more when the archaeologist died.

Remaining nominally owned by the Catholic Church (because it closed before the time of the Reformation it was never ceded to the Church of England), the building was again left to decay and was vandalised.

Finding Dode

However, it seems that the church was destined to be saved as in 1990 Doug Chapman, a chartered surveyor who worked at Canterbury Cathedral, bought the church and set about restoring it to its original state.

Doug Chapman
Doug has spent his life restoring ancient buildings

"I didn't find it - it found me," explains Doug. "I'm keen on archaeology and I've spent my life restoring ancient buildings. I'd read about it - this place that looked like it did 900 years ago - but I never found it because it was never signposted.

"Eventually it came up for sale so I came to look at it, fell in love with it, said I was going to buy it. A few days later I owned it because I couldn't not have this place, it was so quiet and so beautiful.

"I bought it because when I first walked in the door it was peaceful and I just want to get away from the world," says Doug. It's a privilege just to look after it - its that simple."

A spiritual space

There are very few places in the world where you can actually sit in the same space that other people sat 900 years ago and where the people who built it would recognise it today. Dode is one of those places because it hasn't changed at all.

Just walking through the door you experience a timeless spirituality and peace. Doug believes that most people who visit Dode feel that - some in a very deep way.

Doug Chapma
Doug believes most people feel there is something special about Dode

"I don't think many people would argue that this is a sacred place but it's not a religious place. We will have no religion here, we do not permit it, I don't want it.

"What fascinates me is that people come here - they walk through that door and they realise there is something very special about it. We've got a group of people who are always here - 'Dodites' we call them - and they are often around because they just want to be here, they just want to sit here."

There is no doubt this building would have been at the heart of the tiny village at Dode all those years ago and today it remains unchanged and a popular venue for civil celebrations but now accessible to a much wider community.

"I bought the quietness and tranquillity," says Doug. "I like being here - I bought it to get away from the world unfortunately the world followed me a bit up here. But when a wedding is finished, everybody has gone, it's dark and I blow out the last candle - then it's all mine."




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