Moreton Valence is a village 6 miles SW of Gloucester. St Stephen’s church stands in a secluded position located just off the A38 and about a mile east of the River Severn. It is a parish church comprising a C12th nave and chancel with the additions of a C15th-century west tower and a late C15th or early C16th south aisle. The most important Romanesque survivals are the north nave doorway, which features an elaborately-sculpted tympanum, and the chancel arch.
According to the DB, Moreton Valence belonged to the Whitstone hundred and was held by Durand of Gloucester. The inhabitants of the manor are listed as 4 villagers, 6 smallholders and 4 slaves. There is no record of a church or priest at this time. By the early C12th the manor had been tenanted to the Parvus family and the stone church appears to have been built during their tenancy. A charter, datable between 1148 and 1154, details that Moreton Valence church, along with Whaddon church, was granted to Hereford Cathedral by Roger Parvus after his brother, William Parvus, became a canon at the cathedral (Capes, 1908: 12; Walker, 1960: 203–4).
Immediately north of the church is a moated site, believed to be the vestiges of a hall built by William de Valence in the mid-13th century (Elrington et al., 1972: 208–13; National Heritage List for England, no. 1016767).
|Depth of doorway||0.155 m|
|Height of opening||1.96 m|
|Height of tympanum||0.55 m|
|Thickness of tympanum||0.09 m|
|Width of opening||1.09 m|
|Width of tympanum||1.11 m|
Depicted on the tympanum are two confronted figures: a winged angel battling a dragon. The seraph presumably represents Archangel Michael who is shown with a nimbus and long rope-like hair that is partially concealed by a round helmet. His robes are long and ribbed, while both wings are fluted and terminate in lower volutes. It is a dynamic composition with Michael striding to the right holding a lance horizontally in his right hand and a conical shield in his left. With his lance he pierces the dragon through the mouth.
The dragon has a pair of smaller wings carved in the same style as those belonging to Michael, and its serpentine head is twisted towards the archangel while its body is orientated in the opposite direction. Its lower body terminates in a trefoil and its front paws grip a towering cluster of foliage. To the left of Michael are five raised circular shapes which may be the weathered remnants of five figures (see 'Comments/Opinions' below).
The tympanum and lintel are carved from the same stone, and the latter is carved with a horizontal band of saw-tooth sandwiched between two horizontal bands of scale pattern. Nine plain voussoirs of various sizes surround the tympanum and form the first order of the arch
The second order of the arch comprises eighteen voussoirs, again of various sizes, each with a roll moulding and outer quirk. These are supported by a pair of nook shafts. Neither nook shaft has a moulded base, but each is surmounted by a cushion capital that has a large horizontal incision on the inner face nearest the doorway and a necking, and above the capital a chamfered impost with a quirk. The voussoirs that form the label are decorated with roll mouldings accentuated by quirks.
|Height from the ground to the top of the imposts||2.04 m|
|Width of opening||2.17 m|
The south impost of the chancel arch (north face) has a carved inscription. This is almost impossible to read with the naked eye and only marginally easier to discern from photographs. See the 'Comments/Opinions' section below for a fuller discussion.
Roll mouldings adorn the voussoirs of the arch like their counterparts on the north nave doorway, and this arch is supported by nook shafts surmounted by quirked imposts and a pair of cushion capitals with neckings. Each nook shaft has a base embellished with geometric carvings. The south base is incised with a spiral pattern and an upper rim of cable moulding. Likewise the north base has an upper rim of cable moulding, however the main body is instead decorated with point-to-point chevron.
J. J. G. Alexander, Norman Illumination at Mont St Michael 966–1100 (Oxford, 1970).
Anon., ‘Tau-cross head’, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, online at http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O73082/tau-cross-head-unknown/.
W. W. Capes (ed.), Charters and Records of Hereford Cathedral, 840–1421 (Hereford, 1908).
K. Morgan and B. S. Smith, 'Moreton Valence: Church', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, ed. C R Elrington et al. (London, 1972), pp. 208-215.
E. Hamer, Patronage and Iconography in Romanesque England: The Herefordshire School in Context (Unpublished PhD thesis, Chicago, 1992).
J. Hunt, ‘Sculpture, Dates and Patrons: Dating the Herefordshire School of Sculpture’, Antiquaries Journal, 84 (2004), pp. 185–222.
J. Hunt and M. A. Stokes, ‘Sculpture and Patronage in a Shropshire Manor: A Group of 12th-Century Sculptures from Alveley’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 150 (1997).
C. E. Keyser, ‘Notes on a Sculpted Tympanum at Kingswinford Church, Staffordshire, and Other Early Representations in England of St Michael the Archangel’, Archaeological Journal 62 (1905), pp. 137–46.
National Heritage List for England, Historic England, no. 1016767, online at http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1016767.
M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture (Logaston, 2013).
D. Walker, ‘The “Honours” of the Earls of Hereford in the Twelfth Century’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society, 79 (1960), pp. 174–211.
S. Wood, The Eardisley Font (Eardisley, 2012).
G. Zarnecki, English Romanesque Sculpture 1066–1140 (London, 1951).
G. Zarnecki et al., English Romanesque Art 1066–1200 (London, 1984).