St Mary’s, Almeley is a small country church on the western side of Herefordshire, near Weobely – a town that occasioned much discussion as to the pronunciation of the name. Wee-obb-ley? Web-ley? I’ve been told it’s Wib-bley. Herefordshire seems to delight in names that don’t sound like they’re spelled, trapping the unwary stranger into a faux pas. Leominster being a well-known example (pronounced Lemster). And Almeley is another – there was a board in the church with tips on pronunciation (the spelling has changed over the years as well). I didn’t take a photo but if memory serves, the locals pronounce it ‘Am-il-lee’ (anyone want to correct me… feel free!). The name apparently means ‘elm meadow’, according to the guide leaflet.
St Marys, Almeley
The last church that we visited on 4th September 2017 was that of St John the Bapist and St Alkmund, at Aymestry. Like Wigmore and Brampton Bryan that we also visited that day, it is in the North-west of Herefordshire. Aymestry is a small village that is part of the Mortimer Trail, and the church is to be found just off the A4110, the main road running through the village.
Church of St John the Bapist and St Alkmund
St. Barnabas, Brampton Bryan
St. Barnabas, like Brampton Bryan village and neighbouring castle, was destroyed in 1643 in the civil war. It was rebuilt in 1656 by the Castle’s family, the Harley family. The head of the family in the 1640s and much of the 50s was one Sir Robert Harley, who was one of the Godly leaders in Herefordshire. His wife, Brilliana, had been home during the seiges of the 1640s, and fell fatally ill during one of them. Her letters – some 200-odd, to her husband and eldest son, Edward – have survived and have been extensively studied, particularly in Jaqueline Eales’s book, Puritans and Roundheads. I was fortunate enough to have been able to visit the grounds of the castle in 2015 with Herefordshire Victoria County History. The Castle is privately owned (by the Harley family, and is not usually open to the public) but on that occasion we ran out of time to visit the church, so that one was missed out – until 4th September 2017, at least.
Brampton Bryan Castle ruins (with Brampton Bryan Hall to the left, which was built in 1661-2 and largely rebuilt in 1748).
On 4th September 2017 I visited three more churches. St. James, Wigmore made it onto the list primarily because of its most famous vicar, who I had come across in my archival research – one Alexander Clogie (with varying spellings). He was prominent enough to have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and at least one published book (Vox Corvi) – a copy of that can be found on Early English Books Online – all great stuff as far as I’m concerned! Clogie managed – somehow! – to survive all the political and religious changes of the seventeenth century and to remain in position throughout. He was installed in 1647 and was vicar until his death in 1698. When I learned that Mr Clogie was buried at Wigmore, his church, I had to visit.
Church of St James, Wigmore
This was the final of the three churches I visited on 17th July 2017. St. Margarets parish is near Clodock – it took around 20 minutes to drive there via winding narrow country lanes – and is a beautiful small two-cell church. The main reason for visiting was the ‘deliciously carved’ rood screen/loft¹. As with the previous blogs in this series, the remainder of this blog is focused on a few of the photographs that I took that day, with some explanatory text beneath each one.
If you’d like to visit St Margaret’s church, then more information can be found here.
The sixteenth-century south porch doorway to St Margaret’s church
Another one of the churches that I visited on 17th July 2017. St. Clydawg lies in the parish of Clodock and Longtown in Herefordshire, not far from Abbey Dore (still in the Golden Valley). It is an early church; a church has stood here to St. Clydawg from around 500 A.D. The unusual name is for one Clydawg, the son of Cledwyn, King of Ewias, who was murdered; when he was buried, the oxen pulling the cart refused to cross the river Monnow, so he was buried near the river bank. He was regarded as a martyr and people began to worship at his tomb; the church was built and a settlement grew up around it, called Llan (enclosure) Y Merthyr Clydawg, or Clodock. The church was restored in the seventeenth century, and today has a lot of seventeenth-century surviving material, hence my visit. As with my previous Abbey Dore blog post, the rest of this is primarily photographs with the occasional explanatory text.
If you’d like to visit St Clydawg, then the details can be found here.
The path leading up to St Clydawg, or St Clydog, from the road and Lychgate (which is a modern reproduction of the original).
Dore Abbey, one of only two former Cistercian Abbeys still used as a parish church in England (the other is Holme Cultram, or Abbey Town in Cumberland, according to Pevsner’s book on Herefordshire), was the first on the list of churches that I visited on 17th July 2017. The Abbey suffered the usual dissolution on March 1, 1537, being bought primarily by John Scudamore. It was his great-great-grandson, John Viscount Scudamore who restored the church in 1632-33. What remains today is what was the presbytery, crossing and transepts (the nave has largely gone), although ruins around the church allow the visitor, with the help of the guidebook and map, to work out what would have been where. Scudamore was a friend of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the church was rebuilt in ‘Laudian’ style. As such, it was one of the first to go onto my list of churches to visit in Herefordshire. My visit was primarily focused on the seventeenth century elements (as that is where my PhD is focused) but archaeological digs took place around the church either side of the turn of the 20th century and the items dug up then have been placed inside the church and are available to view by visitors. I also took photographs of some of the other, non-seventeenth-century elements. The remainder of this blog is focused on a few of the photographs that I took that day, with some explanatory text beneath each one.
If you’d like to visit Dore Abbey, or would like more information, then their website can be found here, or a website on the churches of Herefordshire can be found here.
The church, seen from the main path leading down from the road. This was not the original, pre-reformation approach to the church but has been put in later, after the 1632-33 restoration.