St George, Brinsop, Herefordshire

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Feature Sets (2)


The present church has a late 13thc. chancel and nave to which a N aisle was added c.1320. Nave and aisle were lengthened by two bays c.1330-40. It was restored in 1866-67 when the N vestry, S porch and W bell-turret were added. RCHME (II, 27) claims that the NE angle of the chancel is part of the 12thc. church, but this is doubtful. However, numerous carvings reused inside the church testify to the existence of an earlier building, dating to the second quarter of the 12thc. All the 12thc. stones are reset inside the church, and are described in section IV.5.c. below


Brinsop was held before 1066 by Osbern of Marlborough who settled in Herefordshire during King Edward's reign. He was succeeded by his nephew Alvred of Marlborough and in 1086 Brinsop was held from him by one of his milites, Richard. Domesday mentions a priest here, so there must have been a church at that time, though no trace of it survives. The manor passed to Bernard Neufmarché before 1088, and in 1121 the manor and church passed to Miles of Gloucester at his marriage with Bernard's daughter, Sybil. At Miles's death in 1143 they passed to his son Roger, Earl of Hereford. His tenant between 1143 and 1159 at Brinsop may have been Oliver de Merlimond (see Thurlby, 104). By the time the Herefordshire Domesday was written (c.1160-70) Brinsop was held by William Torel, an outstanding figure who in 1182 acted as a justice in the curia Regis at Westminster, and in 1183 was appointed sheriff of the county.

Benefice of Credenhill, Brinsop and Wormsley, Mansel Lacy and Yazor, Kenchester, Bridge Sollers and Bishopstone.


Interior Features

Interior Decoration


Interlace voussoir (24)

Set in the SE angle of the N aisle, a slightly curved voussoir from a thick-rolled arch, decorated with basketweave two-band interlace, both bands grooved.

l. of block 0.335 m
thickness 0.17 m

Relief panel (25)

Set in the W interior wall is a damaged rectangular panel decorated with four flat, beaded rings arranged in a square and linked by masks. Each ring encloses a bird, and these are identical. They are shown sitting in R profile; their tails are long and reeded, projecting diagonally down beyond the enclosing ring. Their folded wings curve sharply up at the tips, and their slender beaks hook downwards. They are probably doves. The L edge of the panel has a plain straight border to which the two adjacent rings are linked by clasps. The bottom edge, with a narrow border, is also original, but the other two edges are rough. However it can be conjectured that there were no more rings above the existing panel. There are two reasons for this assumption. First, there are no masks on the upper two rings, just as there are none in the corresponding position on the bottom rings. Thus it is clear that what is missing at the top of the panel is merely a plain border, such as exists at the bottom. Secondly, the tails of the four birds continue beyond the rings into the spandrels between them, but the spandrel between the top pair of rings is empty, so there were no birds above. The spandrels on the R side of the panel, however, have remnants of two tails, and there are masks which linked the two R rings to their lost neighbours further R.

h. (L edge) 0.48 m
h. (R edge) 0.49 m
w. (bottom) 0.57 m
w. (top) 0.54 m

Tympanum of St George

Set in the N wall of the N aisle, with voussoirs 1-9 surrounding it. The tympanum has the shape of a tall parabola with lugs extending to either side to act as springers for the voussoirs. It was made of a single block, now broken into three pieces and repaired with cement. St George is on horseback, riding from L to R, the horse trampling a snake-like dragon lying along the bottom of the tympanum, its head to the R, turned to face St George. The dragon's body is decorated with fish-scale. The horse has its left foreleg raised and its tail hanging down. Its head is in profile and wears a bridle with a rein held by the saint in his left hand. Above the metal ring at the end of the rein is a bird, no doubt a hawk. Another bird is to the left, so that the two are affronted on either side of St George's head. St George sits upright on his horse, his face turned frontally. In his right hand he holds a long spear, which he thrusts diagonally down into the dragon's mouth. He wears a pleated cloak, which extends to the left as if blown by the wind, and a pleated skirt. He has a spur on his heel and his foot rests in a stirrup. His face and right arm are worn or broken, and there are traces of red and white pigments.

h. 1.09 m
h. with voussoirs 1.37 m
w. at base 1.64 m

Voussoirs, around tympanum

Set around the tympanum of St George are nine voussoirs, here numbered 1-9, from left to right.

1. Two affronted rampant lions.

2. Looped foliage stem with fluted leaves.

3. Bird of prey standing in L profile with an uncarved outer border.

4. A two-bay round-headed arcade with a frontal standing figure under each arch, each holding a book. They have ankle-length robes with drapery in parallel grooves.

5. A frontal angel holding a book. It has drapery in parallel grooves with the robe split between the legs like trousers.

6. As 5.

7. Pisces: two fish, both with their heads towards the extrados.

8. Branched foliage consisting of a Y-shaped stem surrounded by a loop with fluted leaves.

9. Taurus: a bull walking in L profile, its tail looped between its legs. The voussoir has an uncarved outer border.

l. of voussoirs 0.26 m
w. at base 0.13-0.25 m

Voussoirs, N wall, N aisle

Six voussoirs reset over the doorway to the vestry in a segmental arch. Numbered 10-15, from left to right:

10. Angel in R profile, flying to R with body towards the intrados and wings extended vertically.

11. A pair of angels like that on voussoir 5.

12. A broad voussoir with a mask at outer centre with a pair of stems of foliage issuing from each corner of the mouth and forming symmetrical loops with furled leaves.

13. As 4.

14. As 4.

15. As 4, but the outer corner is lost so that the R figure has lost its head.

depths 0.295m - 0.32 m
l. of voussoirs 0.26 m - 0.28 m
w. at base 0.18 m - 0.235 m

Voussoirs, reverse of doorway described at (iii) above, inside the vestry

Eight voussoirs reset in a segmental arch, numbered 16 - 23 from left to right:

16. As 1.

17. Sagittarius: A centaur galloping L, turning his head back to shoot an arrow from his bow behind him.

18. As 12.

19. Small voussoir with frontal standing angel. The voussoir has an uncarved outer border.

20. As 4.

21. As 4.

22. As 12.

23. As 1.

l. of voussoirs 0.26 m - 0.29 m
w. at base 0.075m - 0.28m


It has been suggested (Zarnecki (1953) that the Brinsop tympanum is based on one of two lunettes on the facade of Parthenay-le-Vieux (Deux-Sevres), and that the other was copied in nearby Stretton Sugwas. The rider at Parthenay-le-Vieux also faces R, pierces his adversary with a spear, holds a hawk on his hand, and wears a windblown mantle. It is generally accepted that the tympanum of St George at Ruardean (Glos.) is based on that at Brinsop but Ruardean is a simplified version without carved voussoirs and so it is not of help in reconstructing the original appearance of the doorway that once house the Brinsop tympanum. It is not even certain that all the Brinsop voussoirs belonged to the same doorway. Of the 23 surviving voussoirs, nine fit fairly well around the tympanum and the other 14 could have formed a second order, but three of them have plain upper borders (voussoirs 3, 9 and 14) and may have belonged to a different doorway, though this is far from certain.

Brinsop shares a number of characteristic features with Shobdon, of which the radiating arch voussoirs are one. The R arch at Shobdon in particular presents many parallels, notably the use of signs of the zodiac selected at random, and in some instances duplicated. At Brinsop, for example, there is one voussoir carved with Pisces, one with Taurus and one with Sagittarius, and the confronted lions, repeated three times, might be intended for Leo. The angels with outstretched wings appear frequently at Brinsop but only once at Shobdon. There are six voussoirs with pairs of standing figures under arcading. At Shobdon similar standing figures appear but they are not under arcades, however the subject does appear at Alveley. Thurlby (1999) noted that this type of tympanum with lateral lugs enclosing the voussoirs also appears at Kilpeck (Herefs) and at Pauntley and Dymock (both Glos.). He related the flared trouser-like skirt of St George himself, and the figures under arcading in the voussoirs to examples at Kilpeck, Stretton Sugwas and Alveley, and the form of the dragon to examples at Kilpeck, Alveley and Shobdon. The birds on the panel and the tympanum also find counterparts at Kilpeck and Shobdon. Thurlby stresses the importance of Oliver de Merlimond in the transmission of the trampling rider motif from Western France to Brinsop, but also suggests that Mithraic cult representations of Mithras slaying the bull may have played a part (Thurlby 1999, 106-07). The editor is more persuaded by his suggestion of possible formal links with Roman grave markers showing a knight trampling a fallen enemy.


  • Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 6881. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p
  • G. Zarnecki, 'The Priory Church of Shobdon and its Founder.' D. Buckton and T.A. Heslop (ed.), Studies in Medieval Art and Architecture presented to Peter Lasko. Stroud 1994, 211-20.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 87-88.
  • M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999, 104-10 and passim.
  • G. Zarnecki, Later English Romanesque Sculpture 1140-1210. London 1953.
Comparative material. Parthenay-le-Vieux, W front, N lunette “Constantine” (Image courtesy of Conway Library).
Exterior from S.
Interior to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SO 442 448 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Herefordshire
now: Herefordshire
medieval: Hereford
now: Hereford
medieval: St George
now: St George
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
George Zarnecki