St Mary, Orcop, Herefordshire on Flickr.

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On a hillside, my first glimpse being of it at the back of a field of maize (I think). Typical local timber tower on a stone base and a timber south porch. The only real surprise outside is the chapter-house-like vestry at the north-east corner. Many of the details seen date from the Victorian restoration. However it is quite charming in my humble opinion

All Saints, Brockhampton by Ross, Herefs 1/2 on Flickr.

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All Saints dates from the early C20, has a central tower and a short south porch tower with half-timbered bellstage. The church itself is thatched and all is of the Arts & Crafts period. Inside transverse stone arches, and fine attention to detail. Burne-Jones tapestries, cute conical suspended light fittings, and a set of stalls with panelled fronts, each panel differing from the others and depicting local flora.

Chapelry, Sutton Mallet, Somerset on Flickr.

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An oddity, and difficult to photograph from any other angle but this one. It is vested in the Churches Conservation Trust and a key is available from a nearby farm, although the farmer has tried to leave it open but the village has been plagued by yoof who took to “playing” in here as some entries in the VB still evidence. The church is the work of Richard Carver, 1829, but the tower is medieval altered and heightened.

St Mary, Moorlinch, Somerset on Flickr.

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Another church trying to hide, but does not do it as well as Cossington as it is on a hill. Quite a long walk to the porch from the road. West tower, nave, porch and chancel. The tower is unbuttressed and C13 below, the chancel is largely C14 and the rest a medley of styles all tidied up in the C19. Yet the outer doorway of the porch seems to be late Norman, probably reused here. The porch itself shelters a C14 door with blank tracery. From the outside came strains of an organ playing and I hoped it was not a service.

Bampton - Church of St Mary on Flickr.

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is awesome, and one of the most interesting churches I have visited for some time. Cruciform with a tall central tower and spire, and in the corners instead of pinnacles are statues of the Evangelists (one replaced c1990 after the original St John was blown down in a storm in 1989 - it is inside the church in the north aisle and is very weathered).

Monument by Chantrey, Edington Priory, Wilts on Flickr.

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Edington Priory is a unique building, like a miniature cathedral, cruciform and all of the Dec/ Early Perp period. It has everything, furnishings glass and some of the most impressive monuments in the country. This was my fourth visit so I let the others explore. Yet I also seemed to be looking with new eyes, spotting a Victorian Gothic wall monument in the north aisle which was a throw back to Jacobean times with members of the family kneeling and identified below. I also marvelled at the two monuments in the chancel. First is a fabulous alabaster canopied monument to Sir Edward Lewys d1630 and wife. An cherub hovers under the canopy and profers a crown to the effigies below, children kneel partly recessed below the slab which supports the parents, the corners with angels where one might expect columns. The other by the altar is by Chantrey, a lifesize depiction of the deceased Sir Simon Richard Brissett Taylor d1815 aged 32 (but looking here much younger - and very handsome according to my friend) being cradled in an older woman’s arms as his sister(?) looks on squeezing his hand.

Cirencester Parish Church, Gloucestershire (1) on Flickr.

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A couple of my friends wanted to look around antique shops yesterday so I went along too. I was intrigued to see what was happening at St John the Baptist church in Cirencester, and is a few doors along from the Antiques Centre. This famous C15 wool church has the largest church porch in England, three-storeyed, wih multiple rooms, built by Cirencester Abbey as meeting rooms to conduct its business, and among its uses after the dissolution was the Town Hall of Cirencester, a name which has since stuck. The entrance, fan-vaulted, is more like the cloister walk at Gloucester cathedral, and interestingly the porch is almost detached from the aisle, something I had not appreciated before.

St Andrew, Chaddleworth, Berkshire on Flickr.

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On my way back home and towards the Wantage - Hungerford Road from Leckhampstead I had to pass through Chaddleworth. The church is right on the edge of the modern village. It is long and low with a broad rectangular-in-plan west tower, nave and chancel in one with south porch and two family chapels (1706 and 1765) on the north side. To this G E Street added a new “stuff-you” Victorian chancel, higher, different stone and therefore making no attempt to blend with whats there and 150 years has not made it mellow any further! The porch shelters a good Norman doorway and the tower west window also has some Norman work to the head of the window outside.

Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire on Flickr.

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The abbey church of St Michael is part of a modern-day catholic foundation. I came here first in 1972 and this was my only visit since. How the area has changed, even the entrance to the grounds from the Abergavenny road just outside of Hereford is blocked off and the whole site - once a school - is now occupied by housing. The church lingers on by the side of a minor road at the back of all this development and is still served by Benedictine monks. The abbey buildings survive too to the south of the church. The church is by E W Pugin 1854-60, the tower completed by Pugin & Pugin in 1882, and it served as a cathedral for Wales 1855-1920.
I was still at school in 1972 and made a bad mistake of walking out from Hereford to see the abbey. It took so long I was so worried about getting back for my train home that I had to rush round the church . However sensing my “distress” a friendly monk chatted to me in the church, invited me to the refectory for a cup of tea and cake before taking me in his old car to the station well in time for my train home. Acts of unexpected kindness like this have remained with me over the years.

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