"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 5 October 2018

A Day Out in Herefordshire - Part 2: St Michael's Church, Castle Frome

After visiting the museum, having lunch and a brief look round Bromyard we still had a few hours remaining before we needed to set off home. I was rather keen to have a look at the church of St Michael's at Castle Frome about 6 miles away. The church is listed in "England's 1000 Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins mainly due to the exquisitely carved Norman font and the 17th century Unett tomb. According to Jenkins the carvings of the font are "only equalled by the font at Eardisley church" (which I am yet to visit!) "and the doorway decorations at Kilpeck".

D took some photos from the car as I drove towards the church.


We saw many orchards with ripening fruit.



Views from the car park by the church.

St Michael's, made of local sandstone, dates from around 1125. It was probably founded by the de Lacy family - Norman nobility who owned a great deal of land in Herefordshire.


About 350 yards from the church at the end of a holloway is a motte and bailey castle although only the mound survives today. It may have been Walter de Lacy's keep. I had read on one website that the motte was no longer accessible so D amused himself looking round the churchyard trying to get photos of pheasants while I explored the church with its Norman architecture.

The porch dates back to 1878

A very old sundial is located above the South doorway about 4 metres from the ground and only partially visible. Information at the church suggests it is Anglo-Saxon although other sources say it is Norman. According to the church the probable date of the sundial is 1050 AD although it could date from as late as 1150 AD - this was a period when Norman influence had not fully exerted itself in England. It is one of about 50 Anglo-Saxon sundials in England - most of which are mounted on the south side of churches. This sundial is carved from a single stone and the gnomon would have held a horizonal bronze, iron or wooden stick. It is about 30 centimetres in diameter and divided into six segments - 3 for the morning and 3 for the afternoon.

Norman doorway - the tympanum is plain.

The Norman font carved from one piece of local sandstone around 1170 is just beautiful. The carvings were made by the Herefordshire School of Romanesque Carvers and were inspired by carvers in Italy and Spain and there are also suggestions of influence from the Vikings and Saxons. They show the triumph of baptism over evil. It is amazing to think that the carvings were made using just a hammer and chisel.

The font rests on 3 crouching human figures which could represent sin. Two of the figures are sadly badly damaged.

There are snake-like carvings on the stem of the font and it has a plaited rim.

The four evangelists are carved on the font together with the Baptism of Christ.

Here the winged bull or ox of St Luke.

The winged lion of St Mark by the eagle of St John.

The eagle of St John

A pair of birds (doves?)

St Matthew represented as angel holding a book.

The Baptism of Jesus who is standing in water with ripples in concentric circles and four fish. The Hand of God points to his head and St John the Baptist stands to one side with a Dove representing the Holy Spirit pecking at Jesus's head.

Interior of the church

The panelled nave roof ceiling is 15th century.


The Norman Chancel Arch with

a tiny carving of a human head.

Fragments of 15th century stained glass in the South window of the nave.


17th century pulpit

Memorial Tablet to the Unett family

Alabaster tomb of the Unett family 1630.

The effigies are of William and his wife Margery who died early in the 17th century and show much detail of clothes worn at that time. William is wearing a cavalier style uniform. The effigies were once painted and traces remain.


14th century East window.

One last view of the stunning font.

Norman door again with a plain tympanum

Views from the churchyard

The church really is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

On the way back to Bromyard we stopped off briefly at the Hop Pocket Shopping village which contains a plant nursery and several independent shops. I did treat myself to a dried hop garland which was much longer than I expected and I am still trying to decide where on earth at home to put it!


D amused himself taking photos of the lovely Herefordshire countryside as we drove along.



Oast House or Hop Kiln








View towards the Malverns


Finally back on the M5 and on the way home.


*D Photos taken by D with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera

Rest of photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330

Sadly, the church seemed to have sold out of church guides so I relied on information from the internet to find out about the church - although information on the sundial is mainly from the information sheet in the church porch

Great English Churches
Britain Express

"England's 1000 Best Churches" by Simon Jenkins.

I do hope we can return to the area as there is so much more to see. Ledbury is on the list of places to visit and I would also like to go to NT Brockhampton and the Ralph Court Gardens and, of course, there is Elgar's cottage nearer Worcester. Not to mention the churches at Much Marcle and Kempley - the latter has some of the best preserved medieval wall paintings in England.


amanda peters said...

The drive to the church looks lovely, beautiful day too. I bet you were very excited to get inside and look at the font.

The carved stone in the doorway is very unusual, WOW the font it's self is stunning and has survived very well, it's the first one I have seen with a carved (feet) rest. The workmanship is of a very high standard.

The building inside is quite simple, but to have a Alabaster tomb and that font makes it a special place.

The whole area looks lovely, I do hope you get chance to go back and discover more, our list of "I must go back" get's longer and longer.

Great post RR lovely to see.
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda. You see the font as soon as you open the south door. I had seen photos of it before I went but nothing prepares you for the craftsmanship of it. I also really liked the tomb - again so beautifully made.

lol! re: going back lists getting longer!! :) I forgot to mention what I had missed and this was the possible site in a chancel recess of a "heart burial".

Lovely area - as I may have mentioned before I could live in Herefordshire :)

Rosie said...

What a wonderful church. The font is amazing so detailed and intricate. The Unett tomb too is so detailed. What a lovely day out you had. I was trying to remember the name of the pretty village I visited with a couple of friends when we went to visit another friend near Llandrindod Wells on the Herefordshire/Powys border, it had a separate bell tower - we never got inside the church so I would love to go back one day and explore. I think it was Pembridge:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much Rosie. So pleased you liked church, font and tomb.

The church in Pembridge does have a separate bell tower. Hope you can go back one day. My son had a day out a few years back and visited 4 of the black and white villages - Weobley, Eardisland, Pembridge and Dilwyn. We had such a great time we went back as a family for a short break and stayed at The Gables in Weobley. If you want to see more of that area you can click on Herefordshire under my "Labels" and see the posts. The first few are recent visits but if you click on the older posts you will eventually get to the short breaks posts and also the day out post. Eardisley (we did visit the huge oak there but not the church) has another brilliantly carved font and is also on the "black and white village" trail.

Rosie said...

I've looked back at your earlier posts and yes, Pembrdge is the village we visited on that little break, such a pretty village. We also visited a garden called Hengist Croft too as well as an old Quaker Meeting House and burial site. I must see if I have any photos, I can't remember when we visited or even if I had a camera then! I did notice on one of your posts that you had bought a Heron Cross Pottery jug. I have a little jug from them too. The factory isn't far from us here no more than a couple of miles in Herons Cross between Fenton and Stoke, unfortunately they don't have a factory shop but I often see their wares on local market stalls and in antique and vintage shops:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - So glad you found out it was Pembridge - yes it is very lovely there. Hengist Croft Gardens look lovely and somewhere else I would like to visit. Would be good if you had some photos. Most of my old old ones are in the form of prints stored in boxes! When we first went digital I didn't take many photos for years as son and OH had nabbed the digital camera. I stopped using my old Pentax slr then as print film etc. worked out expensive compared to digital images. I only really got back into photography about the time I started this blog when the family bough me a surprise Olympus dslr for my birthday.

That is so interesting about the Heron Cross factory - it is so good to find items that are still made in England. You are fortunate to be able to buy jugs locally. I have a blue and white one called "Waking Woods" which I bought years ago from an antique fair I think - it has a blue lady on it! So I was thrilled to find a stall selling them in Ludlow. My son bought me a large harebell one for Christmas or Birthday and when we went back I bought the one with brambles, blackberries and dog roses. I love their pottery :)

CherryPie said...

The church looks really interesting and the font as you say is stunning! The carving is exquisite.

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you - the most amazing font I've ever seen!

Caroline Gill said...

How lovely, RR, to be in Herefordshire at this time of year, with its mellow light and rolling landscape. I haven't been to this church: what remarkable carvings. The hops remind me of my Kentish childhood: we had some in our church here in Suffolk last Sunday for Harvest Festival, and, oh, what a pang of nostalgia, brought on by their trailing form and heady scent! A friend of ours in those days lived in a converted oast house. I haven't checked the map, and it is probably too far for you for a day trip, but when we lived in Swansea, we loved to visit NT Croft Castle. I have only been to Ledbury once, when I was taking part in a poetry anthology launch at a fringe festival event. Again, a lovely place to explore.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thank you so much. It is amazing how the sight and smell of items can bring back so many memories. With Herefordshire and me it is always Damsons (my grandparents came from Herefordshire) and Dad always used to go over there for Damsons so Mum could make jam! ) I still haven't decided what to do with hop garland!

How wonderful to live in a converted oast house :) I've just checked NT Croft Castle - it is a long way from here but have occasionally been similar distances on a day out. Saving Ledbury for a family day out as I think my daughter might like it there.

John Scurr said...

What a great church. The font undoubtedly the highlight.

I am getting into the iron work on doors and those 2 doors look very interesting as well.

John Goodall in Parish Church treasures mentions an image on a window mullion here dating from around 1300 that shows a figue with a heart between the praying hands which he says relates to the Heart Burial here. He comments that it was "tragicaly stolen in 2012".

Another great Herefordshire church even if Simon Jenkins only rates it 1 star. I am only just beginnig to use that reference book having acquired one for 25p second hand in a church sale earlier this year!

Ragged Robin said...

John Scurr - Thanks so much. Iron work is fascinating as I too am beginning to discover.

Somehow I missed the heart burial recess - I didn't read my notes properly when there :( I didn't realise the image had been stolen so thanks so much for that information.

I thought Simon Jenkins was a bit mean to give it only one star to be honest!! I have found some super churches that are not in his book although to be fair he was limited to a 1000!