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St Michael, Moccas, Herefordshire

(52°5′3″N, 2°56′23″W)
SO 357 433
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
  • George Zarnecki

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The church stands on a mound near the south bank of the Wye, in parkland belonging to the Moccas Court estate. It is a three-celled, aisleless apsidal building. The walls are of calcareous tufa with some grey and red sandstone dressings. The church is a well-preserved and complete building of one date, with only a few later additions. The principal sculptural enrichments are the two doorways of the nave, in situ.


Liber Landavensis (c.1150) uses the name Mochros, locus porcorum, for in Welsh Mockros means moor for swine (Ekwall, 328). In DS the name used is Moches. In 1086 the land was divided between St Guthlac's Priory, Hereford and Nigel the Physician (medicus). That the place was of some importance is suggested by the remnants of an ancient stronghold, to this day called Moccas Castle (VCH, 1:254), but the stronghold is some three-quarters of a mile from the church, so the two sites are probably unrelated. The church was repaired in 1803 by Westmacott and restored by George Gilbert Scott Jun. in 1870.

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


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




It has been suggested (Zarnecki, 1950, 226-7) that there exists a close similarity between the scrolls on the Moccas tympana and that on the font at Bromyard (q.v.) and furthermore, that the doll-like figures, being devoured by the beasts on the tympanum of the S doorway bear a strong resemblance to a motif on a reused capital at Weston-under-Penyard. On this basis, all these works were assigned to the so-called 'Bromyard Group'. However, there is one serious objection to those arguments. The most distinctive motif of the 'Bromyard Group' is a Tree of Life with two crosses amongst its branches. This is found on five tympana of the group as well as on the Bromyard font but it is lacking at Moccas. The capitals used in the Bromyard Group are also very distinctive, quite different from those at Moccas.

RCHM (1:204) ascribed the Moccas doorways to an 'early to mid C12th date' and Zarnecki (1950, 227) to 'early in the second quarter of the 12thc.' while Gethyn-Jones (62) argued that Moccas is 'basically a late 11thc. church' and that the two doorways were inserted 'some time in the first half of the 12thc.' He believes that the repair of the tympanum of the N doorway resulted from the damage to the tympanum at the time of its insertion. This is difficult to accept. The repair is unweathered and dates, in all probability, to the 19thc.

Victoria County History: Herefordshire. I, 1908, 254
Anon, Archaeologia Cambrensis, IX (1863), 375
M. H. Bloxam, The Principles of Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture, 11th ed. London 1882, 1: 90.
E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th ed. Oxford, 1960, 328.
F. H. Fairweather, Aisleless Apsidal Churches of Great Britain. Colchester 1933, 36.
G. I. Chester, 'Notice of Sculptures of Oriental Design at Bredwardine and Moccas, Herefordshire'. Archaeological Journal 47 (1890), 140-142.
G. Marshall, 'Remarks on a Norman Tympanum at Fownhope and others in Herefordshire'. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 1918.
E. Gethyn-Jones. The Dymock School of Sculpture, London and Chichester 1979, 60-3, pl.60
C. Keyser, A list of Norman Tympana and Lintels. London 1904 (2nd ed. 1927), XL, 35-6. Fig. 42.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 253
RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931, 203-4.
M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999, 40-41.
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, 226-7
Photographs to add
N doorway B2924 and 5 (collection of G Granville Buckley - NMR copyright)
S doorway, tympanum 40/62 (35) Zarnecki copyright.
Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 1775. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p
W. J. Rees (ed. and trans), The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff; from mss. in the libraries of Hengwrt, and of Jesus College, Oxford: with an English translation and explanatory notes. Llandovery 1840.