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St Andrew, Bredwardine, Herefordshire

(52°5′41″N, 2°58′19″W)
SO 335 445
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
  • George Zarnecki
  • Ron Baxter
1 Aug 1990, 28 Mar 1992 (GZ), 17 March 2005 (RB)

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The name Bredwardine (DS - Brocheurdie, DBH - Brodewordin) means the place on the slope of a steep ridge and in fact, the village stands on the western bank of the Wye, on the ground that rises to the top of Bredwardine Hill, over 291 m (700 feet) above sea level. Of the 12thc. church, only the aisleless nave survives, with two carved doorways (N and S), the traces of one plain doorway, now blocked, in the W wall and a font. There is some herring-bone masonry in the N wall and tufa was used for quoins and for doorways. The sculptured features are of red sandstone, except for the huge font, of breccia. For the rest, there is a tower of 1790, built on the north side of the nave, at its east end. The nave was lengthened and the chancel, which doglegs to the north, was rebuilt in the 15thc.


The Domesday Survey tells us that before the Conquest, Bredwardine was held by Earl Harold. At the time of the Survey it belonged to Alfred of Marlborough, who had extensive lands in the county and to whom Earl William fitz Osbern gave the important castle of Ewyas Harold. According to DS, Bredwardine was waste, no doubt as a result of Welsh attacks, and thus any pre-Conquest church would have been a ruin. Soon after 1086 Bredwardine passed to Bernard de Neufmarche, the conqueror of Brecknock. His daughter Sibyl, married in 1121 Roger, son of Miles of Gloucester who succeeded his father as Earl of Hereford in 1143.

On the evidence of the surviving structure, the church was built in the last quarter of the 11thc. and the two original doorways were enriched with sculpture in the first quarter of the 12thc. (perhaps not unconnected with the wedding of 1121). S of the church are the remnants of a castle standing on a natural hill, rising some 15 m above the river Wye. Writing nearly two hundred years ago, Brayley and Britton (546) stated that 'from the imperfect traces that remain, it appears to have been a strong and massive fortress'. In this frontier territory, castles and churches often stood in very close proximity.

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


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses




The two doorways of the church attracted a great deal of attention and lead at times to rather eccentric speculations. In his celebrated Diary, the Rev. Frances Kilvert (vicar of Bredwardine from 1877 until his death in 1879) wrote under 2 January 1878 that his father, also a parson, 'especially admired the old Norman 12thc. or 13thc. work in the church and more particularly the S doorway arch and the carving over the Devil's Door (the N doorway)'. It was the carving on the lintel of the N doorway that was the subject of much comment. Writing in 1890, the Rev. Greville Chester saw in it 'an unmistakable representation of Bes or Besa, the Typhon of the Greeks'. The neighbouring roundel 'represents a Cynocephalus ape, the well-known emblem of the lunar gods Khousu or Knons, and Thoth to whom he was held sacred'. Thus, we have an English 12thc. church adorned with sculptures representing 'certainly one and probably two, Egyptian religious subjects'. These views were rejected by Marshall, who saw in the figures a basilisk and Christ in Majesty, while the Gethyn-Jones compared the figures to the two capitals at Lavardin (Loir-et-Cher) representing St Benedict and the Virgin and Child.

However, on one point all writers are agreed, namely that the two lintels are closely related to those at Letton and Willersley, all three being only a short distance from each other (Bredwardine - Letton 2km, Bredwardine - Willersley 3.5km, Letton - Willersley 2.5km), and in addition, at both Bredwardine and Letton, the lintels are insertions in earlier doorways. On all three lintels the geometric chip-carved motifs are used profusely, with elaborate rosettes as the richest element. To this group may be added a similar relief reused as a window sill at Eardisley, only 5.5 km from Bredwardine and closer to Letton and Willersley. Reutersward (1986) has convincingly demonstrated that such rosettes were used as emblems for Christ.

Geometric decoration appeared early in the region, the earliest example, perhaps in the whole country found on the tympanum of Chepstow Castle, 1071, and thereafter it was used well into the 12thc. The cushion capitals inserted in the S doorway are fairly unusual in a rural church in Herefordshire, although they are found as early as 1084, in Worcester Cathedral and a little later in Hereford Cathedral.


E. W. Brayley and J. Britton. The Beauties of England and Wales; or Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County. Embellished with Engravings : Vol. 6 Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Herefordshire. London, 1805, 546.

A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 124-25.

G. I. Chester, 'Notice of Sculptures of Oriental Design at Bredwardine and Moccas, Herefordshire'. Archaeological Journal 47 (1890), 140-142.

C. S. Drake, The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. London, 2002, 23.

E. Gethyn-Jones. The Dymock School of Sculpture, London and Chichester 1979, 10.

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

Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 1555. 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), xxii, xxxv, 8.

G. Marshall, 'Remarks on a Norman Tympanum at Fownhope and others in Herefordshire'. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1918.

G. Marshall, 'Bredwardine Church, Herefordshire', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1928.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 83.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931, 25-26.

P. Reutersward, The Forgotten Symbols of God, Stockholm Studies in History of Art, 35, 103. Uppsala 1986

H. M. and J. Taylor, Anglo-Saxon Architecture. Cambridge, I (1965), 97.

M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999. 96, 112, 113.

G. Zarnecki, Regional Schools of English Sculpture in the Twelfth Century: the Southern School and the Herefordshire School. Unpublished thesis, University of London, 1950.