St Mary the Virgin

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1.  General view of the exterior of the church from the south.  The detached campanile (2) stands at the left of the picture.  

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2.  The detached campanile. This is one of seven in the County, and is reckoned to be the finest.  There is no other campanile in England exactly like it.  Structurally it is related to the stave churches of Norway and the bell houses of Sweden.

It stands north of the chancel and its irregular hexagonal shape is some 45 ft in diameter, with a high truncated pyramidal roof. The second and third stages are of the same shape, only smaller, the sides being of weatherboarding.  The walls of the lowest stage are of stone, with old stone tiles, the upper roofs being tiled.

3.  The massive timber frame within is thought to have been a temporary bell tower, being constructed in the early 13th century. This was added to and cross-braced later, and the ambulatory around the central frame was added sometime in the 15th and 16th centuries. This again was remodelled in the 17th Century. Its walls are thick, with narrow loop-holes, suggesting that it was also used as a place of refuge. 

Major restoration work was undertaken in 1983-84, which the Department of the Environment funded entirely, at which time further evidence of the dates of construction was obtained. It is suggested that the original massive timbers might have come from an old castle or fortified manor house which once stood on the site of the present Court House Farm adjoining the church, and behind the remains of the moat which can still be seen adjoining the churchyard.

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4.   The nave looking east.

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5.  The Jacobean pulpit, showing the carvings of the mythical human-headed dragons.

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6.  The stained glass window over the altar in the south transept.  Much if the mediaeval glass in the church was destroyed during the Civil War.  This rather beautiful stained glass window is in memory of Susan catherine, wife of Thomas Gornall, formerly a doctor in Pembridge.

History of the village and church

Pembridge was once a thriving Market Town. The Mortimer family, whom followed the de Pennebrugge family - hence it's name - made Pembridge a borough, and, in 1240, secured a Royal Charter which gave the own a market and rights to hold an annual fair. The Market Hall is early 16th century, there are several cottages and other buildings dating from the 14th century, and a wealth of other dwellings all constructed with timber frames, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

There is no real record of the previous Norman church which once stood on the site of the present church, although one or two decorated stones now in the detached belfry are thought to have come from it.  Likewise, two built-up 12th century arches remain in the north and south walls of the chancel. The whole of the present church dates from between 1320 and 1360, work having been delayed by decimation of the labour caused by the Black Death of 1349.

The lofty arches of the nave are octagonal, and above the arcades are clerestories with their original circular windows. Two further such windows face east, across the chancel roof.

At the crossing are the Jacobean Pulpit, Lectern and Reading Desk. The intricate carving here shows Herefordshire craftsmen at their best.  The Pulpit is heptagonal and, like the Lectern, portrays in panels mythical figures and designs derived from nature. The panel of the Reading Desk is possibly much older - perhaps from a former pulpit.

The alter rail are also Jacobean


The Church Guide states:

In the angle between the Chancel and the South Transept is a turret.  Through this turret runs a stone spiral staircase which led to the rood loft or singing gallery.  High up the turret can be seen the doorway, protected with bars, that gave access to the gallery from the staircase."

Dove's reference for the bells

Pembridge, Herefordshire, S Mary (GF), 5, 16cwt in F. Detached tower. 


Map reference : SO391580

Apparently open during daylight hours.

Photographs: © Edwin Macadam   2002

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This site has been constructed by, and remains the copyright of, its authors,
Edwin and Sheila Macadam,

Shelwin, 30, Eynsham Road, Botley,
Oxford OX2 9BP
July 2001 -