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St Mary, Abbey Dore, Herefordshire

(51°58′7″N, 2°53′37″W)
Abbey Dore
SO 387 304
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Ron Baxter
  • Ron Baxter
08-10 October 2013

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The church was orginally cruciform, with aisled nave and aisleless chancel but no crossing tower. There were a pair of E chapels on each arm of the transept. This plan was changed almost as soon as it was built (perhaps even before it was built) and the inner transept chapels became the western bays of three-bay aisles alongside the central vessel of the presbytery. This terminated in a three bay E arcade, and outside it the aisles continued in a straight ambulatory, two bays wide and five bays long, The S porch is timber framed and dates from the 17thc, as does the tower that rises over the E bay of the S chancel aisle. The nave was originally nine bays long and was destroyed after the abbey was dissolved in 1536. The E respond and pier 1 of each arcade still stancds outside the W wall of the present church, and the S arcade has the arch of its first bay too. Corbel tables survive at the top of the main exterior walls. All of the main work dates from after the foundation in 1147, of course, but there is nothing dateable before c.1175, and the main structure was apparently completed by c.1200-10. It fell into disrepair after the Dissolution, and was restored in 1632-33 by John, Viscount Scudamore who reduced it to its present size, closing off the nave.


Abbey Dore is was not recorded as a village in the Domesday survey; if it existed in 1086, it was accounted with a neighbouring settlement. The first notice we have is of the foundation of the abbey by Robert fitzHarold, Lord of Ewyas in 1147. It was staffed with Cistercians from Morimond. The church was consecrated in 1275.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches



Vaulting/Roof Supports


Nothing in the present buildings matches the known foundation date of 1147, so it is clear that the monks from Morimond originally operated from temporary buildings. The present building provides a fascinating conspectus of architectural and sculptural forms dating between c.1175 and c.1220. The earliest capital forms are waterleaf, flat leaf and trumpet scallop, and these are found throughout the building. The retrochoir, for example, is dominated by stiff leaf and moulded forms, but waterleaf and trumpet scallops still appear. There is a marked contrast between the capitals of the two chancel arcades. While the S arcade capitals are all trumpet scallops except for one palmettes, those on the N are dominated by stiff-leaf and furled leaf forms.


A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 71-77.

B. O'Callaghan, 'An Analysis of the Architecture of the Cistercian Church at Abbey Dore', in D. Whitehead (ed.), Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology at Hereford, (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XV), Leeds 1995, 94-104.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931, 1-11.

R. Shoesmith and R. E. Richardson (ed.), A Definitive History of Dore Abbey, Little Logaston 1997 (reprinted 2000).

J. W. Tonkin, The Church of Abbey Dore, undated church guide