St Mary, Pembridge, Herefordshire

Feature Sets (2)


Pembridge is a small town towards the NW of the county, seven miles W of Leominster. The town is built on rising ground on the S bank of the river Arrow, which has a crossing here. It boasts a tiny market place with a 16thc. timber-framed market house, and a good deal more timber framed housing of the 14thc. to 17thc. The church stands on a steep rise to the E of the market, and is unusual in having a detached timber-framed bell-house to the N. This is octagonal in plan with three storeys having hipped and pyramidal roofs. It was dated by RCHME to the later 14thc., but more recent dendrochronological dating indicates a single build of 1206-17 and a rebuilding after 1668/69 (see Tyers, Morriss). The church itself is a substantial building with an aisled six-bay nave with clerestories and N and S transepts, and a lower chancel with a modern N vestry and evidence on the S interior wall of a chapel arch, with an early 13thc. capital. The main entrance is from the N, via a porch, and inside this is the only evidence of 12thc. fabric here in the form of a loose pillar piscina head. For the rest, the narrow chancel, built of roughly course irregular blocks, may date from the 13thc. while the ashlar nave, arcades and transepts are early to mid-14thc. Curiously the nave arcade takes no account of the transepts at all.


The name Penebruge, given in the Domesday Survey, derives probably from "bridge by the pens or enclosures" (Ekwall, p. 361). Before the Conquest the manor belonged to Earl Harold but it was later claimed by canons of St Guthlac in Hereford, on the grounds that Earl Godwine and his son Harold unjustly took it away from them. In 1086 Pembridge belonged to Alvred of Marlborough (Alvred de Merleberge) whose caput was Ewyas Harold Castle. It consisted of 11 hides less one virgate of ploughland, and woodland enough for 160 swine in a good season. No church was noted. although there was a mill.


Loose Sculpture

Pillar piscina head.

On the window sill of the N porch is the head of a piscina in the form of a scallop capital with pyramid wedges between the cones. The front face is double scalloped and the sides triple scalloped. Between the cones of the front face a hole has been drilled for drainage. The necking is largely worn away, and above the shields is a flattened band at the rim. The inner bowl is square at the top with tapering sides.


ext. d at top rim 0.250 m
ext. w. at top rim 0.295 m
h. of block 0.20 m


The modest piscina for various ablutions, must have been close to the altar of the Romanesque church. Judging by its simplicity this church was not very refined. (Zarnecki).

Benefice of Pembridge with Moor Court, Shobdon, Staunton-on-Arrow, Byton and Lyonshall.


  • A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 541-43.

  • E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th ed. Oxford, 1960, 361.

  • Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 1566. Now available online at

  • G. Marshall, 'The Detached Church Towers of Herefordshire', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists, Field Club, 1943.

  • R. K. Morriss, St Mary's Bell Tower, Pembridge, Herefordshire, An Archaeological Survey. Unpublished contractor report, May 1998.

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, Harmondsworth 1963, 266.

  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 3: North-west, 1934, 159-69.

  • M. Salter, The Old Parish Churches of Herefordshire, Wolverhampton 1990, 60.

  • I. Tyers, Tree-ring analysis of the bell tower of the church of St Mary, Pembridge, Herefordshire, Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 1/1999.

  • Victoria County History: Herefordshire, I, 1908, 338.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SO 391 580 
now: Herefordshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Herefordshire
medieval: Hereford
now: Hereford
now: St Mary
medieval: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
George Zarnecki, Ron Baxter 
Visit Date
01 Aug. 1990 (GZ), 04 May 2005 (RB)