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Dode: the village that was abandoned after the Black Death

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The controversial history of the British Isles is one steeped in tragedy, death and destruction, and there is one site just 30 miles of London epitomises that fact more than others.

Deep in the north Kent countryside is the village of Dode, located above the River Medway close to Maidstone, England, with a current population of zero.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Before tragedy struck more than 600 years ago, it had been a thriving local community, not different to many others of the period.
There has been a settlement in the area since 1087 but all that remains now is the Church of Our Lady of the Meadows, and the story behind its abandonment is what has earned Dode its rightful place in local folklore.
The village itself was built at some point between 1087 and 1100 during the reign of William II of England. It was built on top of an ancient manmade mound that it is now known as Holly Hill, as opposed to “Holy” due to the hamlet’s nefarious reputation.
Interestingly enough, the church is built upon a confluence of Ley Lines – magnetic ‘lines’ in nature that birds, mammals, insects and bacteria use to migrate long distances. And the point where the lines meet often produces a measurable energy output, which has led certain religions to consider these areas sacred.

And today, all that remains of the diminutive settlement is the Norman church which can only be accessed by a solitary through road known as Wrangling Lane.
The structure was once a place of worship for the villagers of Dode, but 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 again.
It was deconsecrated and boarded up in 1367 by the order of Thomas Trelleck, the Bishop of Rochester at the time.
Destined to be restored, it stood empty for centuries falling into ruin until it was bought by a local archaeologist in 1901, who restored its walls and roof, but the building found itself abandoned once more when he 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.
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.

There is a myth that the villagers sheltered in the church during the outbreak, as they awaited rescue. It’s said that the last survivor was a seven-year-old girl known as the Dodechild, who died in the church.
The Dodechild is supposed to haunt the churchyard and surrounding area, though sightings are scarce.
In local superstitions she would supposedly appear on the first Sunday morning of every month but as nobody who inhabited the village survived the plague, it was believed that the area was cursed.

The church has also become notorious for black magic rituals, and another legend stated that the well next to the church was bottomless but this was proved to be false in 1996 when a team from Kent Underground Research Group measured it to be about 10,5 meters deep.

In any case, Holly Henge is the name given to the stone circle at Dode which is said to evoke the spirituality of the centuries that have passed.
Timeless rites of passages take place within the circle, such as baby naming events, which are witnessed by the centuries of time that “go beyond Dode and on to eternity”, as well as the Handfasting ceremony, that has roots to Ancient Celtic Tradition and goes back as far as 7,000BC.
It involves a couple that have their hands bound by cords, where they then exchange gifts within Holly Henge.

Legends, history and stories apart, the fine looking medieval church is now used as a wedding venue and it hides the secret of its past and the horror of the Black Death that struck 600 years ago.

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