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St Peter, Peterchurch, Herefordshire

(52°2′27″N, 2°57′22″W)
SO 345 385
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
  • Ron Baxter

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Peterchurch is a large village in the Golden Valley, built along the road from Hay-on-Wye to Hereford and Ross-on-Wye (the B4348) on the E side of the river. The church stands just off the main street, alongside the river. St Peter’s was originally a Norman church with an apsidal E end, a central tower and no transepts, but in the 13thc. the tower was removed and a new one built at the W end. An unusually tall and slender recessed stone spire was added c.1320, but the top two-thirds of it were removed by W.E. Anderson and E. A. Roiser of Cheltenham in 1947-49 when it became unsafe. Funds were collected for its rebuilding, but there was never enough and in the meantime the stump of the old spire also became unsafe. When Pevsner saw it, the stump of the spire remained, with large lucarnes. In the early 1970s a decision was made to replace the spire with a fibreglass copy, 186 feet high. The new spire was installed in large sections, using a crane and the original weathercock was mounted on the top. This later fell off in a gale. What remains, then, is a church with four compartments: apse, chancel, tower bay and nave, and a W tower with a spire. The 12thc. apse is semicircular in plan with a semi-dome vault and three lancets with decorated heads and an ornamental external stringcourse. The chancel has round-headed lancets in the N and S walls. The tower bay originally had two round-headed lancets on each lateral wall, but the W ones on each side were replaced with larger, two-light windows in the 15thc. The nave retains one 12thc. lancet on the S and three on the N. The N nave doorway is 13thc., under a porch of 1867-70 in a 14thc. style; the S is 12thc., without a porch. The tower dates from the 13thc. to the early 14thc., and has diagonal W buttresses. Inside there is no tower arch; simply a 13thc. doorway into it from the nave. In addition to the repairs to the spire noted above, the church underwent a restoration in 1867-70 by T. E. Williams of London, involving reseating and repairs including the rebuilding of the S nave wall and the porch. Romanesque sculpture is found on the two original tower arches, the apse arch, the apse windows and stringcourse, the N nave doorway and the font.


Peterchurch was held by Alweard before the Conquest, and by Hugh l’Asne in 1086. It consisted of 3 hides of ploughland and housed 2 Frenchmen, a priest with a church, and 3 slaves, 1 bordar and 2 men. On Hugh’s death the manor apparently passed to Robert de Chandos, who had married Hugh’s daughter. The manor remained in the Chandos family until the 15thc.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Tower/Transept arches




The font should be compared with those at Blakemere, Stretton Sugwas and Humber. The apse and tower arches, the doorway, windows and stringcourse, and probably the font too belong to the same campaign. This is likely to be between c.1120 and c.1140, when chip-carving was becoming old-fashioned and chevron gaining in popularity. It is always hard to know how churches with a central tower were used liturgically, and modern incumbents also have great difficulties with such buildings. Here the extra decoration of the E central tower bay arch strongly suggests that it effectively marked the division between laity and clergy.

Benefice of Madley with Tyberton, Peterchurch, Vowchurch and Turnastone.

G. Marshall, Fonts in Herefordshire. Hereford, Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club. Published in 3 parts: I (1949); II (1950); III (1951).
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, Harmondsworth 1963, 270-71.
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931.
Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 5029. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p