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St Michael, Moccas, Herefordshire

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Feature Sets (4)

Description

The church stands on a mound near the south bank of the Wye, in parkland belonging to the Moccas Court estate. It is a three-celled, aisleless apsidal building. The walls are of calcareous tufa with some grey and red sandstone dressings. The church is a well-preserved and complete building of one date, with only a few later additions. The principal sculptural enrichments are the two doorways of the nave, in situ.

History

Liber Landavensis (c.1150) uses the name Mochros, locus porcorum, for in Welsh Mockros means moor for swine (Ekwall, 328). In DS the name used is Moches. In 1086 the land was divided between St Guthlac's Priory, Hereford and Nigel the Physician (medicus). That the place was of some importance is suggested by the remnants of an ancient stronghold, to this day called Moccas Castle (VCH, 1:254), but the stronghold is some three-quarters of a mile from the church, so the two sites are probably unrelated. The church was repaired in 1803 by Westmacott and restored by George Gilbert Scott Jun. in 1870.

Benefice of Cusop with Blakemere, Bredwardine with Brobury, Clifford, Dorstone, Hardwicke, Moccas and Preston-on-Wye.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

N doorway, nave

Two orders with tympanum, now blocked. Of a similar design to S doorway, nave. The tympanum is now almost entirely obliterated by weathering but described by the RCHME as 'scrolled ornament and a beast' (1:204) and by Keyser 'A lion amidst interlacing foliage' (36). An old photograph (Conway, B.2924 and 2925) shows the spirals of the stems covering most of the surface and an animal, carved on the R side of the tympanum, faces L and the open mouth suggests its is eating the foliage. The tympanum has been repaired along its upper edge by the insertion of two moulded stones (see VIII).

First order: the inner order has plain square jambs with grooved imposts and a roll in the arch.

Second order: with engaged nook-shafts on attic bases with carved capitals.

L capital: this has large, upward pointing leaves, and the necking is missing.

R capital: with cable necking and one upward-pointing leaf at the centre, flanked by two plain, fluted leaves and a pair of spiral stems on each side of the capital, springing from the top angles.

The impost of the L capital is plain with a hollow chamfer. The R impost also has a hollow chamfer but on the face it has chip-carved saltire crosses. The round-headed arch is as on S doorway, nave. The label is a modern replacement.

Dimensions
h. of opening (ignoring modern step) 2.07 m
thickness of tympanum 0.19 m
w. of opening 1.20 m

S doorway, nave

Of two orders, with tympanum, under a wooden, in part medieval, porch.

Dimensions
h. of opening: 2.04 m
thickness of tympanum 0.19 m
w. of opening: 1.14 m
w. of tympanum at base: 1.37 m
First order

The inner order consists of square jambs with moulded imposts, supporting a semi-circular tympanum, very badly weathered. With the help of old photographs (Gethyn-Jones, pl.60), taken when the damage was not so severe, the subject of the relief can be described as follows. In the centre is a Tree of Life, its branches of running scrolls, without any leaves, filling the top of the tympanum. The Tree has a horizontal bar, thus suggesting that it is also the Cross. Facing the Tree are two animals, but they are not the usual animals venerating the Tree but evil forces, for they are shown devouring humans who are, heads down, reaching for the Cross. Thus, the meaning of the relief is clear, illustrating the punishment of sins and at the same time indicating the way to salvation. The chamfered hood framing the tympanum is of grey tufa, contrasting with the dark red sandstone of the tympanum.

Second order

The outer order has nook-shafts on moulded bases and has carved capitals. That on the L has cable necking, large fluted leaves enclosing a lily and a moulded impost with a hollow chamfer. The R capital is very weathered, its necking and impost are obliterated and the decoration consists of indistinct arches. The round-headed arch of the outer order has two rows of lateral chevron, roll-hollow on the face, with a cogwheel edge. The label is also decorated with lateral chevron.

Windows

Three apse windows, plain outside

Interior faces have jambs and splays of two orders, round heads and chamfered imposts, all of tufa. Only the arches of the outer orders are of brown sandstone and carved with two rows of lateral chevron on the face, with a cogwheel edge.

Interior Features

Arches

Chancel arch/Apse arches

Apse arch

Towards W this has two square orders with chamfered imposts. The arch of the inner order is plain, but that of the outer order has two rows of lateral chevron with a cogwheel edge.

Chancel arch

The W face of the chancel arch has two square orders. The jambs are of tufa but the imposts and arches are of grey sandstone. The chamfers of the imposts have double roll-mouldings. Above, on the inner order, are large chip-carved stars. The imposts of the outer order extend across the W wall of the chancel until they meet the S and N walls of the nave. They are also enriched with chip-carvings of two horizontal rows of saltire crosses. The arch of the inner order has two rows of point-to-point chevron, with lozenges on the arris between the points, that of the outer, four rows of frontal chevron alternating fat roll-thin roll.

Furnishings

Fonts

In the SW corner of the nave stands a chalice-shaped font with a round, plain bowl, preserving diagonal tooling. It has a chamfered base and a modern plinth. The rim has been repaired.

Dimensions
ext. diameter at rim 0.76 m
h. of base 0.165 m
h. of bowl 0.375 m
int. diameter at rim 0.54 m

Comments/Opinions

It has been suggested (Zarnecki, 1950, 226-7) that there exists a close similarity between the scrolls on the Moccas tympana and that on the font at Bromyard (q.v.) and furthermore, that the doll-like figures, being devoured by the beasts on the tympanum of the S doorway bear a strong resemblance to a motif on a reused capital at Weston-under-Penyard. On this basis, all these works were assigned to the so-called 'Bromyard Group'. However, there is one serious objection to those arguments. The most distinctive motif of the 'Bromyard Group' is a Tree of Life with two crosses amongst its branches. This is found on five tympana of the group as well as on the Bromyard font but it is lacking at Moccas. The capitals used in the Bromyard Group are also very distinctive, quite different from those at Moccas.

RCHM (1:204) ascribed the Moccas doorways to an 'early to mid C12th date' and Zarnecki (1950, 227) to 'early in the second quarter of the 12thc.' while Gethyn-Jones (62) argued that Moccas is 'basically a late 11thc. church' and that the two doorways were inserted 'some time in the first half of the 12thc.' He believes that the repair of the tympanum of the N doorway resulted from the damage to the tympanum at the time of its insertion. This is difficult to accept. The repair is unweathered and dates, in all probability, to the 19thc.

Bibliography

  • Victoria County History: Herefordshire. I, 1908, 254
  • Photographs to add
  • Anon, Archaeologia Cambrensis, IX (1863), 375
  • M. H. Bloxam, The Principles of Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture, 11th ed. London 1882, 1: 90.
  • N doorway B2924 and 5 (collection of G Granville Buckley - NMR copyright)
  • S doorway, tympanum 40/62 (35) Zarnecki copyright.
  • E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th ed. Oxford, 1960, 328.
  • F. H. Fairweather, Aisleless Apsidal Churches of Great Britain. Colchester 1933, 36.
  • E. Gethyn-Jones. The Dymock School of Sculpture, London and Chichester 1979, 60-3, pl.60
  • G. I. Chester, 'Notice of Sculptures of Oriental Design at Bredwardine and Moccas, Herefordshire'. Archaeological Journal 47 (1890), 140-142.
  • G. Marshall, 'Remarks on a Norman Tympanum at Fownhope and others in Herefordshire'. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1918.
  • Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 1775. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p
  • C. Keyser, A list of Norman Tympana and Lintels. London 1904 (2nd ed. 1927), XL, 35-6. Fig. 42.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 253
  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931, 203-4.
  • M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999, 40-41.
  • W. J. Rees (ed. and trans), The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff; from mss. in the libraries of Hengwrt, and of Jesus College, Oxford: with an English translation and explanatory notes. Llandovery 1840.
  • G. Zarnecki, Regional Schools of English Sculpture in the Twelfth Century: the Southern School and the Herefordshire School. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1950, 226-7
Exterior from SW.
Exterior from SE.
Interior to E.

Location

Site Location
Moccas
National Grid Reference
SO 357 433 
Boundaries
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Herefordshire
now: Herefordshire
Diocese
medieval: Hereford
now: Hereford
Dedication
now: St Michael and All Angels
medieval: St Michael and All Angels
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
George Zarnecki