"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

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Short Trip to Herefordshire - Part 2: St Peter's, Birley


Monday afternoon I decided to visit a local church. I didn't want to go far as we were going for a meal in the evening and I had to get back.  In the end I decided to visit St Peter's, Birley, which is slightly less than 30 minutes drive away and has family connections. It  was dry when I left Hatfield but it was drizzling slightly when I arrived at the church.

My great great grandfather Noah  (born 1830) who was a Gamekeeper/Farmer  lived at Birley for a while and married an Anne Galliers.  Their first child, a daughter Ada, was born on 24th February, 1867, at Birley.  They later moved to the Sarnesfield area of North Herefordshire.

St Peter's is a Grade 1 Listed Building built in the C13th and extended in the C14th. The West Tower is early C13th and the shingled pyramidal roof is probably C17th.

The manors of Birley were in the possession of two important Marcher families - de Lacy and Mortimer and were run by tenants.  In 1086 the tenants were Godmund (tenant Roger de Lacy) and Richard (tenant of Ralph Mortimer).

War Memorial

The South Chapel is C14th and the timber framed gable was probably added in the C17th.

The churchyard was full of Buttercups and in some places Cowslips.

The South Door is probably C12th.

It is always good to see a sign that the church is open :)

The interior of the church was very dark and, although I tried, I couldn't find a light switch anywhere and so I used high iso for most of the photos, except the windows, and even then I was only getting a slow speed.

The church was restored in 1873/4 by Henry Ward.

This window from 2000 is by Richard Mather.

Encaustic floor tiling from the Restoration which Pevsner describes as "strident"!

The C12th chalice shaped font is the only evidence that a Romanesque church was here.  

Ogee headed C14th stoup.


Stained glass window by Jones and Willis 1902.

Pulpit from 1633

C14th chancel arch with ballflower decoration.  The piers are decorated with human faces and the heads of floppy eared puppies.

C14th Piscina in the chancel

The East Window (1887) is by Jones and Willis.

Looking from the chancel down the nave towards the West Tower.

Rose Window

The South Chapel

Victorian Memorial Glass

Looking from the chancel towards the West Tower

Back outside the rain had stopped - ignore any raindrops on the lens in the initial photos of the exterior!

Birley Court is opposite the church

As usual I missed a few features mainly fragments of medieval stained glass and my photos of the reredos were rubbish!

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone wishes to use one or one of my son's I would appreciate an email first - thanks).

Reference: "Buildings of England Herefordshire" by A Brookes and N Pevsner (Yale University Press 2017


Caroline Gill said...

What a lovely church trip, RR. We are still being fairly Covid-cautious, but are also out and about a bit and doing more (I've just had my 9th CEV Covid jab!). The kneelers are beautiful. I'm sure I came across an ancestor in my family tree who was a 'hassock maker', but typically can't find him right now. We were on the sea front at Aldeburgh earlier today ... in a cool sea fret (having gone in search of butterflies ... some chance!). The sun has come out again now, but it was good to see Timothy (in a recent post) all dressed up for the cooler moments that can still catch us out in May!

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much. I am still being cautious too e.g. only rarely go in supermarkets and that is just for one thing! Must admit being in a pub having a meal that break made me slightly nervous! But I am doing a lot more than I was! Still wear a mask where there are a lot of people even though I get strange looks! I do like the different patterns on kneelers in churches. Sorry there weren't many butterflies about at Aldeburgh - it still seems cool to me for May. We've had a few species of butterfly in the garden at home but not many so far.

Rosie said...

Such a lovely church, both inside and out. It's always extra special when you know you have family connections with a church and can think about them being there and how it would have looked and felt for them when they entered the building. I like all the small features, the carved faces, the poignant memorials and in the churchyard the steps in the wall and the iron kissing gate. How timeless it all looks:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much and I agree it does all seem timeless. It was very quiet there. It is only a small hamlet so no idea where great great grandfather lived although family history information suggests a place called Lady Grove but I couldn't see a cottage there with that name - there again house names can change.

Rustic Pumpkin said...

A lovely church to record. I guess those of us who are still in a post Covid frame of mind have to make the decision to cautiously rejoin the human race or stay put. If only people showed some respect for everyone else in light of what we all went through.

Ragged Robin said...

Rustic Pumpkin - Thanks so much. I still get very nervous in small spaces where there are many people and you hardly see anyone wearing a mask anymore.

The Quacks of Life said...

Ooh that looks an interesting building. Is it me but herefordshire churches often look higgledy piggledy outside?

Ragged Robin said...

The Quacks of Life -Thanks so much and I agree they do! But some are so very interesting :)

The Wessex Reiver said...

Have you ever found your ancestor Noah's grave? A fey years ago we went to look for Julies great grandfather in Charminster near Dorchester, only one grave remained upright under an ancient yew - and yes, it was him.

Ragged Robin said...

The Wessex Reiver - Thanks so much. I haven't found Noah's grave Andrew but must admit I haven't looked. I seem to remember from family history info he's buried in a cemetery in Hereford. I do my know grandmother's parents and brother are buried at Burford Church - the Church Warden offered to show me and that is a meeting I must arrange - naughtily I have put it off. So pleased that Jules found her great grandfather's grave. I think finding graves and seeing houses or areas where ancestors lived helps bring meaning to family trees.