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St John the Baptist, Beckford, Worcestershire

(52°1′14″N, 2°2′10″W)
SO 976 358
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Worcestershire
now Worcestershire
medieval Worcester
now Worcester
  • G. L. Pearson

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Of coursed rubble. Comprising a 12thc. nave and a later chancel, central tower, N vestry and S porch. Romanesque sculpture is found in the S and N doorways of the nave, in the W tower arch, once the chancel arch, and on a shaft embedded in the S nave wall.


There was a Minster church at Beckford by the late 8thc., when the bishops of Worcester held land here; their estate is first mentioned in the period 757-96. The manor was formed after the Conquest, when William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford (died 1071) joined 11 hides held by Rotlesc, a housecarl, with one hide at Ashton under Hill. His second son Roger forfeited the manor in 1075. The manor of Beckford was granted to the canons of Ste Barbe-en-Auge (founded 1128) who established a priory there, but they were twice evicted during the Anarchy by William de Beauchamp, who claimed Beckford 'in time of war ... by hereditary right'. Papal intervention forced William to make restitution of damages and he later released all claim to the manor. Henry II confirmed Ravel's grant of Beckford to Ste Barbe between 1185 and 1189. The priors appointed the prior of Beckford, who held the manor, with some interruptions, until the end of the 14thc. Beckford church had a number of dependent chapels from an early date, including Ashton-under-Hill. Beckford was transferred from Gloucestershire in 1931.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Interior Decoration

String courses

Stratford (in Pevsner 1968, 76-7) dates the sculpture toc.1160-75, and notes Italianate features: the tympana supported on corbel heads (cf. Ely Cathedral) and the centaur across the shaft of the tower arch (cf. W doorway, S Ambrogio, Milan). He also notes that the N doorway is not in its original state, and that the two beast-heads incorporated into it are of the Malmesbury type. (The corbels seem to be carved in two distinct styles.) The representation of the Harrowing of Hell on the N tympanum, in which ?Adam appears to be held on a leash, also appears at Quenington, Gloucestershire, and Shobdon, Herefordshire (ibid.). Pevsner compares the drapery folds on the capitals of the S doorway with Eldersfield; the VCH suggests that the S tympanum represents animal creation adoring the Trinity. Both the VCH and Pevsner suggest that the shaft inset into the nave wall once formed part of a large window. Doorways set in a projecting bay, as here, occur in a number of churches in the county (see Preface to Worcestershire).

The Victoria History of the Counties of England. Gloucestershire, vol.II, London 1972, 6, 52, 102; Vol.VII, 1968, 250-262, 260.
C. J. Bond, ‘Church and Parish in Norman Worcestershire' in J. Blair (ed.), Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950–1200, Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 17, 1988, 119-158, 150-151.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Worcestershire, Harmondsworth 1968, 16, 45, 46, 76-77.