St Martin, Holt, Worcestershire
- Site Location
- National Grid Reference
- SO 829 626
now (or name of monument): St Martin
- Type of building/monument
- Parish church
II General Description
Built of red sandstone ashlar, the church has a 12thc. aisleless nave and chancel, the latter extended in the 13thc., a 14thc. S chapel, a 15thc. W tower and a modern vestry. There are two plain round-headed windows of 12thc. date on the N side of the nave, and two in the N chancel wall, the latter windows later lengthened. Romanesque sculpture is found in the S and N nave doorways, on the string course on the N wall of the nave and chancel, in the chancel arch and on the font. There are also one window on the S side of the nave, one on the N, and a doorway leading into the vestry, all bearing sculpture related to the Romanesque work but probably of 19thc. date. Restorations were begun by the Ward family in 1859.
III Exterior Features
(i) S doorway, nave
Round-headed, three orders, set in a projection and with the R side of the door obscured slightly by the 14thc. chapel wall.
In the arch, two rows of lateral stepped chevrons on the face, centripetally carved, inside a third row of shallow hollow chevrons. The hollow chevrons are hyphenated, except for those on the four lowest voussoirs on the R; symmetrical stylised leaves are carved in the triangular fields between the hyphens and the points of the second row of chevron. The keystone stands proud of the other voussoirs; it is badly eroded, but may bear a horse's head showing bared teeth. On the label is a single row of irregular nailhead; on the R, the springers are hidden by the 14thc. chapel wall. The capitals appear to have been re-dressed, except for that on the R side of the second order.
|h. of opening||2.82 m|
|w. of opening||1.11 m|
|h. inc. necking||0.27 m|
|h. without necking||0.23 m|
|max. w. of S face||0.19 m|
|max. w. of E face||0.19 m|
L impost: two parallel grooved strands run across the impost and part to form a circle at the angle and on the E face; these two circles are entwined by four tendrils radiating from their centres. Above is a row of beading.
Nook shafts on round bases, a plain chamfered necking on the L, a cable necking on the R; boldly carved block capitals (see below) and imposts continuous with the first order. The R impost bears a spiral grooved stem secured by triple clasps, with a row of beading above; it appears to be re-dressed.
L capital: carved with a serpent, which forms a figure-of-eight, the head turning backwards to bite the tail, which curls beneath the body. It has a broad rounded body with horizontal ribs flanking a central row of beading, an open mouth with pointed teeth and almond-shaped eyes with drilled pupils.
R capital: a tripartite stem rises up the centre of each face and loops around its counterpart at the angle before splitting into three tendrils. On the S face, the central tendril passes beneath the stem while the flanking ones pass over it; this is reversed on the W face. Each of the central tendrils has an ovoid leaf terminal with hollowed centre. The arch bears point-to-point chevron, the chevrons outlined by reeding.
L capital: at the angle is a crowned head with moustache and beard, with upraised arms emerging from the necking to grasp the foliage issuing from the gaping mouth. The round eyes have large drilled pupils.
R capital: carved with a full-length grinning feline mask with ribbed nose and forehead indicating wrinkles, notched eyebrows and almond-shaped eyes with drilled pupils. Re-tooling marks.
(ii) N doorway, nave
Round-headed, two orders, set in a shallow projection.
|h. of opening||2.81 m|
|w. of opening||1.11 m|
L capital: block capital with recessed ground. On the N face is a bird, on the W face a quadruped, both drinking out of a tall ribbed barrel at the angle. Both creatures have drilled pupils and the plumage is indicated by shallow curved grooves. The subject is probably Aesop's fable of the fox and the stork.
R capital: block capital with recessed ground. On either side of the plain angle volute and rising from the arched beaded strap below is a large furled leaf with fluted surface and scalloped edge, backed by a plain pointed leaf. The leaves run diagonally across the face; between the beaded strap and the volute is an ovoid ribbed fruit. In the arch, irregular point-to-point chevron, the chevrons outlined by reeding. Plain chamfered label. Above the door is a string course decorated with a beaded cable moulding (see para. III.3a below).
(i) Nave, S side
Round-headed, two orders.
L capital: cushion capital with angle tucks and recessed shields, each carved with a bird. The curved edges of the shields are decorated with beading.
R capital: Corinthian type, three rows of leaves, but with the volutes contained within the contours of the block. The two lower rows of leaves are plain and regular, with recessed centres. The volutes, two on each face, are formed from broad plain leaves that emerge from the angle and the outer edges of the block.
L impost: straight-edged, with an undulating foliate stem carved on the face.
R impost: straight-edged, with the face divided into rectangular panels, each symmetrically carved with affronted S-scrolls alternating with cursive saltires with scrolled tips, all on a recessed ground. In the arch, two rows of stepped lateral chevrons on the face, one row of lateral chevrons on the soffit, meeting point-to-point at the arris, the chevrons outlined by wedge mouldings. Diaper ornament on the label. The ensemble seems to be 19thc. work, although the second block of the label from the L is eroded, and could be original.
(ii) Nave, N wall
Round-headed, two orders.
L capital: as nave S window, second order, R capital.
R capital: a full-length grimacing mask.
L impost: the lower section of the face and the curved lower edge are carved with a flattened cable moulding, with an indistinct motif at the corner. The narrow upper section of the face is plain except for a groove.
R impost: as L impost, but with beading and a lily on the angle. The arch bears point-to-point chevron, the chevrons cut at an obtuse angle and outlined by reeding. The label bears an openwork guilloche, with a scroll at the R label stop, and an eroded motif at the L. In the centre of the keystone is a trefoil motif. The ensemble seems to be entirely 19thc. work, although the imposts adopt motifs from the adjacent Romanesque string course.
3. Exterior Decoration
a. String courses
(i) Nave, S wall
On the S wall of the nave, running W from the doorway and broken by the 19thc. neo-Romanesque window. Eroded, and decorated with leaves and flower-heads.
(ii) Nave, N wall
(iii) N chancel wall
IV Interior Features
a. Chancel arch/Apse arches
(i) Chancel arch
Round-headed, two orders on each face.
On the face of the arch, two rows of lateral stepped chevrons, centripetally carved, the chevrons outlined by wedge mouldings. The label bears a ribbed chain ornament, each of the flat links forming a W-shape with a pellet in the centre, issuing from inverted feline masks above the imposts. In the spandrels between the links are single fruits on the inside, and furled stylized leaves on the outside, many of them missing.
First order, shared
L capital: multi scallop type, with angle tucks, double-sheathed cones and depressed shields, which bear grimacing feline masks above the tucks. The masks have drilled eyes outlined by grooves and hold the cusps of the shields in their open mouths, as if they were drawing a drapery up over the cones.
R capital: Corinthian type, carved with a single row of plain leaves, the tips forming stylized volutes. The arch has a row of hyphenated lozenges at each edge, outlined by reeding or wedge mouldings, and with a cogwheel edge, with two rows of shallow hyphenated chevrons meeting point-to-point on the soffit.
Second order, E face
L capital: a groove defines the lower edges of the shields.
Second order, W face
L capital: symmetrically carved with two grooved stems rising from a clasp at the angle and scrolling to R and L, their bifurcated tips with leaf terminals passing under and over the looped stems. The loops are held at the angle by a further grooved clasp, with a fruit above.
R capital: triple scallop, with deep shields, the lower edges outlined by a groove. Tapered cable mouldings in the tucks.
5. Interior Decoration
(i) Vestry doorway on N side of chancel
Round-headed, two orders.
Point-to-point chevron in the arch, with a rolled edge inbetween and the chevrons outlined by reeding. Plain chamfered label. Although the work seems to be entirely 19thc., many of the carved motifs follow those of the Romanesque work.
L capital: triple scallop with angle tucks and the lower edges of the shields defined by a groove.
R capital: similar to N nave doorway, second order, R capital.
Situated at the W end of the nave. Cauldron-shaped, with a cylindrical stem and base. The font is made in two sections, the base from a pinkish sandstone, and the bowl and stem of a harder, greenish-grey sandstone, and stands on a modern cylindrical plinth. The tripartite base comprises a hollow then a shallow roll with an upright below, the last decorated with incised zigzag. The stem is carved with spiral rolls alternating with wedge mouldings; above is a beaded cable moulding, running in the opposite direction to the spirals below and surmounted by a ring of upright chip-carved scoops. The bowl is encircled by a chain of six large grotesque masks, the ribbed links emerging from their open mouths and ears. The masks have large drilled pupils, almond-shaped eyes, chip-carved eyebrows, large indented nostrils and wrinkles indicated by grooves. All the links but one contain a fluted leaf with scalloped edge issuing from the upper arc. On the SW face is a downward-pointing clenched hand, drilled above the wrist.
Before 1269, Holt was a chapelry belonging to St Helen's, Worcester. In 1086, Urse d'Abitot held five hides at Holt from the manor at Wick; at his death the estate passed with the rest of his possessions to the Beauchamp family.
The church was apparently in an extremely dilapidated state before its 19thc. restoration. It is often difficult to distinguish the new work from the genuine 12thc. sculpture, much of which has been re-tooled. For most of the Ward family's patronage the Rector was a Mr C J Sale, whose wife, a sculptress, executed the neo-Romanesque stone pulpit. Details at Holt may be compared with work at Halesowen (scallop capitals with deep shields, stylised volute capitals - similar also to Canterbury crypt - and the stepped and hyphenated chevron types) and at Ribbesford (interlace). The carving on the font also shows some affinity with the carved panel set into the N tower wall at Pedmore, and possibly also with the stem of the font at Broome. Stratford in Pevsner 1968 (198, fn.) dates the work toc.1160-75, and compares it with sculpture in Herefordshire (e.g. Bromyard and Upper Sapey), although not with that of the Herefordshire School. Stylistic similarities between the sculpture of the font and the chancel arch suggest that the same workshop was responsible for both. According to the Church Guide, the font was once painted and the removal of this paintwork, probably undertaken in 1859, explains the somewhat crude condition of the surface. The large drilled pupils could have contained metal stops. Doorways set in a projecting bay, as here, occur in a number of churches in the county (see Preface to Worcestershire).
- C. J. Bond, 'Church and Parish in Norman Worcestershire' in J. Blair (ed.) Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950-1200, Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 17. Oxford 1988, 119-158, 150, 151, 152.
- F. Bond, Fonts and Font Covers. Oxford 1908, 51.
- N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire. Harmondsworth 1968, 45, 46, 197-98.
- The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Worcestershire,vol.III. London 1913, 403-07, 406-407.
- Holt St Martin, Guide book