Sunday 15 July 2012


Where is this, do you think? Somewhere in Italy? France? No, it's in Herefordshire, and I was there at the weekend, church crawling again among its bosomy hills and fertile wooded valleys. The church is St Catherine's, Hoarwithy, the work of the archtitect and designer J.P. Seddon, under whom Voysey trained. The picture shows the cloister that runs along the south wall of St Catherine's, which sits on a hill above the village of Hoarwithy, its Italianate campanile rising above a plain basilica-plan church (in local stone) that reveals itself gradually as you climb the sloping path to it. I must admit that at first glance the belltower didn't inspire a lot of confidence, and I was half expecting a heavy-handed Victorian pastiche - but at the first sight of that cloister I realised I was in for something very special. And so it proved; the interior is quite as extraordinary as the cloister, with its breathtaking Byzantine-Italian East end making beautiful use of coloured marbles, and a glittering mosaic of Christ Pantocrator over all. The hanging lamps are copied from ones in St Mark's, Venice, the choir stalls are carved with scenes from the life of a local saint, Dubricius, and at the apex of the West window is an Angel of Doom by Morris and Burn-Jones, a glorious blaze of red, blue and gold.
 As if this altogether extraordinary - not to say unique - church was not enough, there was more to come, notably the great Arts and Crafts church of All Saints at Brockhampton... But that's enough churches for now - and don't worry, I shan't be going church crawling again next weekend. That's Brockhampton below, and it really has to be visited - no photographs, especially of the interior, really do it justice. Incredibly, a replica of Brockhampton church has been built on the 21st floor of a building in Osaka, Japan, where it's a very popular wedding venue. Funny old world.

1 comment:

  1. I've just nipped in there to correct a classic typo - 'bellower' for 'belltower'. Apologies for any, er, confusion...