Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Madley, Herefordshire

Feature Sets (2)


Madley is a large village in central Herefordshire, 6 miles W of Hereford. There is evidence of Iron Age and Roman settlement in the area, and a Roman road runs through the E end of the village, running from Leominster towards Abergavenny. The church stands in the centre of the village. It has an aisled and clerestoried nave with a north porch and a S chapel; a W tower, and a chancel with a crypt below it. The building history begins with the 12thc. N porch, apparently once the transept of a much shorter church. The present church is substantially of the 13thc. and 14thc., and the oldest part of this is the W tower, whose E arch still has a form of scalloped capital, and whose windows and bell-openings are plain, pointed chamfered lancets. The nave arcades are of six bays, carried on cylindrical columns with moulded capitals and chamfered, two-order pointed arches. The clerestory windows are plain pointed lancets. The aisles extend westward alongside the W tower; a 13thc. arrangement with the original lancets surviving on both sides. There was a major remodelling c.1320, when the four eastern bays of the N nave aisle were heightened and fitted with three-light reticulated windows, and a chapel with a four-bay arcade was added S of the S aisle (the Chilstone Chapel). The semi-octagonal-apsed chancel and its crypt also date from this campaign. There were repairs in the 17thc. and 18thc. (see Anon (1957) below). In 1833-35 and again in 1871-79 the church was re-seated and repaired; the latter campaign under the supervision of F. R. Kempson of Cardiff. Further repairs were carried out in 1962-64 and in 1979, both times by H. J. Powell of Scriven, Powell and James, Hereford. Photographs of the 13thc. E tower arch capitals are included, but no description. The former N transept, now the N porch, has plain 12thc. lancets on its E and W walls, and the remains of a 12thc. arch above the present 13thc. entrance. These have been photographed but include no sculpture and are not described in detail here. The only 12thc. feature recorded below is the font.


According to the Domesday Survey Madley was the property of the canons of Hereford. The dedication of the church to the Nativity of the Virgin is rare in England and Bond says that there are only 12 such dedications in the country.





On the N side under the western tower is a breccia or Ccornstone font. The large, shallow bowl of this font, with a roll-moulding at the bottom, has a major horizontal crack around the bowl at mid-level, repaired in a dark mortar. There are also rim repairs at W and E. The bowl is lined with lead. The stem, made of two courses of sandstone ashlar, and the chamfered base are not original.

ext. diam. at rim 1.20 m
h. of bowl 0.43
h. of plinth 0.17 m
h. of stem 0.58 m
int. diam. at rim 0.92 m
max. circ. of bowl 3.95 m
overall h. of font 1.17 m


This is the largest of the fonts described by Richard Halsey as peculiar to Herefordshire and made of "local reddish-brown, psammitic limestone, called "Breccia" or "Cornstone". In addition to Madley, fonts in this material survive in Bishop Frome, Bosbury, Bredwardine, Kilpeck, Kingstone, Turnastone and Vowchurch. To this number should be added a ninth, the "leg" of which was excavated at Castle Green, Hereford and now in Hereford City Museum and Art Gallery. The attraction of these fonts was the polish that made them look as if made of marble. In this, the influence of the imported Tournai fonts was evident. Like most Tournai fonts, those of the "Halsey Group" were supported by several "legs". According to Marshall (p. 32), Madley font had five such supports. He dates this font to the third quarter of the 12thc., a date accepted by George Zarnecki. The damage to the font was caused by the Puritan soldiers who were quartered in the church in 1645. Subsequent restoration provided a new stem and base.

Benefice of Madley with Tyberton, Peterchurch, Vowchurch and Turnastone.


  • Anon., 'Madley Church Repairs etc. in the 17th and 18th centuries', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’, Field Club XXXV Part III (1957), 308-10.

  • F. Bond, Dedications of English Churches, Ecclesiastical Symbolism, Saints and Emblems, Oxford University Press, 1914, 31.

  • A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 497-501.

  • W. E. H. Clarke, 'Madley Church', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists, Field Club, (1916), 106-13.

  • C. S. Drake, 'The Distribution of Tournai Fonts', The Antiquaries Journal, LXXIII, 1993, 11-26.

  • R. Halsey, 'Eight Herefordshire Marble Fonts', Romanesque and Gothic: Essays for George Zarnecki, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1987, 107-09.

  • Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 6867. Now available online at

  • G. Marshall, Fonts in Herefordshire. Hereford, Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, Published in 3 parts: I (1949); II (1950); III (1951), 33.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, Harmondsworth 1963, 247.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SO 420 387 
now: Herefordshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Herefordshire
medieval: Hereford
now: Hereford
now: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
medieval: not confirmed
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
George Zarnecki, Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
31 July1990 (GZ), 22 June 2006 (RB)