Kilpeck church, one of the best Norman village churches in England, was commissioned c1135 by Hugh de Kilpeck. Built in 1142, it was, at first, dedicated to St David, a local man. It later changed to be dedicated to St Mary, probably because the church was given to the abbey of Gloucester. The church is basically as it was 900 years ago. Another church was here as early as AD640 and before that a hermitís cell, St Pedic.
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The church sits on a raised mound and may have foundations of other buildings below it. It was part of a six acre fortified village, including a castle, during the 12th-14th centuries. On the north side of the church is a possible Saxon buttress. The castle was never used after the early 1300s except for during the civil war. Thus the area declined in importance, and the church was overlooked and saved from the excesses of the Puritans.
The doorway of the church is of special note. Over the top is a tympanum representing the Tree of Life.
There are snakes on the right hand pillar, one of nine such places in the church, representing the theme of life and death. A green man, at the top of the right hand column, symbolizes spring. An angel and a phoenix are part of the decoration. The left hand column sports a lion and basilisk, two warriors with unusual clothing, mythological figures four birds, two fish, and lionsí head medallions. Of the 85 stone corbels on the exterior, 70 have carvings.
In the simple church interior are a nave, chancel, minstrelsí gallery, and circular apse. The walls had, at one time, paintings. A middle apse window, designed by Pugin, dates from the restoration of 1868 and shows King David. The chancel arch has carved draperies cut deep with six figures holding a cross and book. At the altar rail where the four ribs meet is a carving with four heads.
The font is a simple early Norman style one made from one block of stone. It stands on small pillars that originated from the castle windows. The oldest artefact in the church, possibly dating from 900 years ago, is under the chancel arch. It is a holy water stoup supposedly from a chapel that once was in the nearby forest of Treville.
At the back of the church the gallery has six Elizabethan wooden pillars, a Jacobean rail, and Victorian stairs. The oldest known gravestone in the church graveyard dates from 1696.
Services are held in the church about once a month.
Eight miles south-west of Hereford; minor road off A465
Photos © by Barbara Ballard except courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Church interior by Philip Halling; church font by Andy Dolman