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St Peter, Rowlestone, Herefordshire

(51°56′19″N, 2°54′43″W)
SO 374 271
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
medieval St Peter
now St Peter
  • George Zarnecki
  • Ron Baxter
30 July 1990 (GZ), 16 March 2005 (RB)

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The original Romanesque church in red sandstone is modest in size. It consisted of an aisleless nave and a chancel without an apse. To this was later added an impressive 16thc. W tower. The S doorway and the chancel arch are, in Pevsner's opinion, 'the very best and most characteristic pieces of the Herefordshire school of carvers'. By contrast, the Romanesque font is so modest that Pevsner fails to mention it. Both the S doorway and the chancel arch are in situ.

Originally there were seven windows but two were replaced by large Gothic openings (in E wall of the chancel and in N wall of the nave) and thus there survive two in the chancel (S and N walls), and three in the nave (one in the S and two in the N walls). The heads of all the windows are made of a single block of stone and the S window of the chancel is enriched with a roll on the arch.


Rowlstone is not mentioned in Domesday, for it was property of Llanthony Priory in Wales. Thurlby (1999, pp.111-115) attributes the patronage of Rowlstone to the 'Lacy family, specifically Sybil de Lacy, and her husband, Payn fitz John', only to weaken his claim by stating 'Whether Payn or Sybil was the patron of the ecclesiastical commissions is uncertain'.

Benefice of Ewyas Harold with Dulas, Kenderchurch, Abbeydore, Bacton, Kentchurch, Llangua, Rowlestone, Llancillo, Walterstone, Kilpeck, St Devereux and Wormbridge.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




It is difficult to accept Pevsner's opinion that the sculpture of Rowlstone is the very best of the Herefordshire School. Much of it is mechanical and repetitive. The Ascension of the tympanum is closely linked with the scene showing the same subject at Shobdon but there the sculpture is majestic and monumental. Nevertheless, the sculpture in this small, modest church has undoubtedly decorative merit.

The present author attributes the two figures placed upside-down to a mistake in carving, as explained in Zarnecki (1953). Allen's suggestion of a mistake in setting the stone is ruled out because the relief is carved from the same block as the adjoining capital. The iconographic explanation: that the left figure is St Peter (to whom the church was dedicated), and he was crucified upside-down was advanced by Blashill and accepted by Thurlby, but seems unlikely because no crucifixion is shown; because the figure carries a cross-sceptre and a book rather than keys; and because it would not explain the inverted angel alongside.


T. Blashill, 'On the Churches of Kilpeck and Rowlstone', Journal of the British Archaeological Association 27 (1871), 489-95.

T. Blashill, 'Rowlstone Church', Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1890-92, 249-50.

A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 585-86.

Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 6782. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p

G. Marshall, 'Remarks on a Norman Tympanum at Fownhope and others in Herefordshire'. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1918, 55.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 282-283.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931, 220-221.

M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999, 111-115.

G. Zarnecki, 'Saints on their heads', Country Life, CXIII, 16th April, 1953, 1167-8.

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, 345-53, pl.112-113.