Bosbury Church — 1844 Renovation

This long article includes a historical essay, a report on the actual work done and a description of the ceremony held when the renovation of the church had been completed on 23rd May. The key section has been highlighted.

From the Worcester Journal, Thursday 30 May 1844 p.3 col.5

The church at Bosbury, Herefordshire, was reopened on Thursday last. The liberality of the landed proprietors and other influential neighbours, seconding the efforts of the parishioners, has enabled them to undertake very extensive alterations and improvements, and to restore the interior of the church to its pristine proportions. A fine organ (by Bates) has been erected at the west end, and a curious old font and lecturn (which had been defaced and injured) have been carefully cleaned and restored.

From the Hereford Times, Saturday 1 June 1844 p.1 col.9 & p.2 col.1

We have great pleasure in fulfilling the promise which we made to our readers last week, of supplying a report of the proceedings connected with the “holiday” and fete at this interesting old village on the 23rd. Before we do so, a few brief notices on the date and architectural pretensions of the church and its massive tower, nay not unacceptable. The sacred edifice is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and from the earliest times the inhabitants of Bosbury have been accustomed to attend the church services on Trinity Sunday in great numbers, and to reserve the week following for a general merrymaking ; thus avoiding the too frequent desecrations consequent upon Sunday-wakes, and the excesses which have so often been visited with the severe, but merited reprehensions of learned Judges on this Circuit.

This ancient village has still many curious relics of by-gone ages remaining amongst its “auld stanes,” indeed the most unimaginative traveller will be agreeably surprised at the lengthened vista of antique gables and picturesque frontage, which meets his eye crossing the bridge at the entrance of the village.

“The antique buildings, climbing high,
Whose gothic frontlet seeks the sky,
Were here wrapt deep in shade;
There on their brows the moon-beam broke
Through the faint wreaths of silvery smoke,
And on the casements played.”

Some of the ancient folk are not a little proud of the “former glories” of the place, and quote (with perhaps a pardonable complacency) the old distich —“Bosburie was a towne ere Hereforde was a citie.” The vestiges of olden times which are to be found in every part of the parish, seem in a great measure to justify the pretension of the inhabitants. ln the old farm-house (called “the Old Court”) and buildings, closely contiguous to the church-yard, are to be seen remains of the palace of former Bishops of Hereford ; the principal entrance and wicket-postern to the palace-yard are still remaining, and prison also which, in the palmy days of Romish prelacy, offenders against the provisions of Leet-courts and Church-laws, were incarcerated. A curious specimen of the embossed ceiling is still extant in the older part of the dwelling-house. On the extreme south side of the village an ancient building remains, with a very handsome apartment 25 feet square, panelled to the ceiling with old oak of a very rich grain, whilst the ceiling is supported with rafters of the same, the points at which they intersect each other being ornamented with bosses, containing the arms of Bishop Skipp (1552), of the house of Scrope. and of William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, Knight of the Garter in the 35th year of Henry VIII. On the fourth boss the arms have been obliterated—it should seem designedly, since the corresponding shield over the mantel-piece has been defaced in a similar manner, whilst the other three shields remain uninjured, and correspond with their respective bosses as above mentioned. These arms are also emblazoned on two very fine monuments in the chancel, to the memory of the Harfords, connected with the ancient family of the Brydges, of this county, now represented by the respected owner of Tibberton Court. A mural tablet to Michael Hopton, of Canon Froome Court, (who died in 1601) and who married Martha Harford; together with a portrait of a Marquis of Winchester, now to be seen at Canon Froome (probably of the same Marquis whose heraldic shield has been already noticed), supply us with data by which to trace the intermarriages of these three families in the 16th century.

On the road to Worcester, one mile and a half from the village, a small farm still retains the name of “The Palace;” whilst another, situated to the east of the church, called the Town-end. In the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, several notices appear, all tending to confirm our impression of the importance of this place as connected with the ancient ecclesiastical endowments of these realms, viz., “e reade it before the Norman Conquest to appertaine to the Bishops of Hereford, and to be their retired residence, and in that hierarchy to have continued till this parliament in 1643 voted them down.” “The admirable ditch which Gilbert de Clare drew to divide his lands from the Church of Worcester, which is now the mere of the two counties,” still continues to be so, and the manor of he Bishops of Hereford still extends from Bosburie, over Coddington and Colwall, to the Malvern Hills. Another MS., speaking of Bosbury, informs us, that “the tenants of this manor were toll-free.” “After the Conquest, it gave name to a family of worship (as most places of note did), of whom we find it thus written in the book of obijts – obitus Rogeri de Bosburie.” In this part of the parish is a farm called the Barlands, which is a tenure of land held the service of carrying or bearing to the lord, or his steward, their provision in their remove from place to place ; such tenant being thus called Bermannus. Our cultural friends will recognise her the origin of their famed barland perry ; the farm once so famous is gone, but the lands (absorbed in the neighbouring estates) still retain their title of “barlands.” Another MS. carries us back to a period still more remote, namely, “Of Bossa vid Monastican Anglicanum, p. 167, floruit A.D. 883, and was witnesse to the Charter of Confirmation of Witlaf, King of the Mercians, to the Abbbey of Croyland ; and thus it is written : + “Ego Bossae, Scriba Regis, Withlafi, manu mea chrirographum istud scripsi.”

In the muniments of Stanford Court, in Worcestershire, may be seen ‘a roll of the expenses of the Venerable Father in God, Richard, Bishop of Hereford, mad by the hand of John de Kemes, hys chaplain, from Friday after the feast of St. Michael, 1289, to the same feast in 1290.” “On the 17th of December he left Bosburie for Ledbury, where he staied three days, during which time he had his wine and provisions from Bosburie.”

This parish further celebrated as being a former station of the Knights Templars ; a distinction which it shares with only one other parish in this county. Temple Court is still one the chief houses in the place, and the old moat round the homestead and garden is yet perfect. Many of more aged people recollect a rude pile of moss-grown stones, the last relics of the Chauntry, erected by those stalwart and militant ecclesiastics.

“Scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis
Agricola incurvo terram molitus aratro
Exesa inveniet scabra rubigine pila;
Aut gravibus rastris galeas pulsabit inanis
Grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulchris.”

[The journalist showing off his classical knowledge possibly?
This is part of a Latin poem by Virgil translated poetically as:

Ay, and the time will come when there anigh,
Heaving the earth up with his curved plough,
Some swain will light on javelins by foul rust
Corroded, or with ponderous harrow strike
On empty helmets, while he gapes to see
Bones as of giants from the trench untombed.

But we must put some check upon our antiquarian predilections, and recall our numerous readers to the “modern instances” of the 23rd ; reminding, however, our clerical friends, that we have authority for the correctness of our quotations, and assuring them that we shall always be happy to enrich our archaeologia with any contributions which they may be pleased to send, (duly authenticated), relating to the ecclesiastical and castellated remains for which our border county is famous.

A very propitious day dawned upon the parishioners of Bosbury on the 23rd; the “hour of prime” was the time fixed upon “to let the merry bells ring round,” and to summon them to the interesting business of the day, for which the most efficient preparations had been made by the authorities of the parish. The approach to the village from the Worcester-road presented a very pleasing and animated scene. On the left side in front of the principal inn, “mine host” ( a true follower of Lord John Manners), had created a gay may-pole, quite of the olden time, handsomely decorated and festooned; on the right the old gable of the school-house (erected by Sir Rowland Morton in the reign of Henry VII) was hung with draperies with suitable mottoes on them. From the Church tower, which has every appearance of extreme antiquity, and suggests the idea of a massive fortalice of a very rude age, floated the meteor flag of England, with smaller pennons on the east and west turrets; whilst the Litchett, and southern porch of the Church were surmounted by branches of British oak and festooned with flowers.

We were much interested by the successful way in which the characteristic and dilapidated relics of this ancient church had been restored. The lichett seemed to be in substantial repair; the fine old cross, which intercepted in former times the entrance to the Church, had been re-set upon a rough pedestal (of it), without any displacement of the mosses and lichens adhering to it. Within the sacred edifice an ancient letturne (or lecturne) occupied the centre nave of the Church, such as may still be seen in some of our cathedrals and colleges. The font coeval with the Church, had been judiciously restored, fresh pillars supplied, and the whole raised on a broad pedestal at the west-end in front of the organ-loft. Our antiquarian readers must forthwith commence a pilgrimage to see this fine specimen of design of the 11th century.

In removing the font from its former faulty position, the workmen discovered (two feet below the surface) another font of the rudest description, turned upside down to form a base to the one now in use. We have no suggestions to offer as to the date of the time-honoured monument, except that its massiveness and simplicity favour the idea that it was the original font used in the church erected here in the eighth or ninth century ; or perhaps, we might assign it a still earlier period. The entire west end of the church, in which 40 years ago a vestry-closet, small gallery and receptacle for coal were introduced has been re-opened; four beautiful lanceolet windows, which had been closed by chimney flues or doors, have been replaced: the fine columns and arches which support the nave and aisles have been thoroughly cleaned from the incrustation of lime and ochre which disfigured them, the oak compartments freed from filth and dirt, and the beautiful grain of the the wood brought out into due prominence. The old unenclosed sittings of solid dark oak (with mural tops cleansed and varnished), harmonize beautifully with the stone columns, whose solidity is however softened by the rich natural tint of the stone of which they are constructed. The west end of the church is now occupied by a handsome gothic elevation, the front screen of which is worked into five or six stalls for the singers; above these a beautiful organ (by Bates) has been erected.

The effect produced by these various renovations is very striking, and reminds the visitor of the rich and solemn beauties of our cathedrals and abbey churches. At half-past ten the village began to be thronged with carriages and vehicles of every description, conveying neighbours and friends from Ledbury and the adjacent parishes. At eleven o’clock a procession was formed at the Vicarage; the architect, Mr Jukes, preceded the Churchwardens and a portion of the Committee, who were followed by the Very Rev. the Dean of St. Asaph, and the Rev. J. Hopton (who officiated at the altar), the Rev. Vicar of the parish, and Rev. W. Dyke, who occupied the reading desk and lecturne,) and the Rev. J. Sill, and Rev. W. Evans, of Burton Court, (Prebendary of our Cathedral), who assisted at the collection during the offertory. The latter gentleman preached a suitable discourse on the occasion, and reminded his numerous and attentive auditors of the necessity of making the church what it assumed to be, “the poor man’s church.” The rev. gentleman drew an eloquent and touching picture of the wants and privations of the “labouring poor;” he paid a just and affecting tribute to their endurance, resignation, and mutual attachment; and taking up his parable from a consideration of the “Unity which is betwixt Christ and his Church," made references full of truth and pathos to the bonds of union which adorn the peasant’s home. He concluded his eloquent address by an appeal to the Christian sympathies of the congregation and admonished them to mitigate as far as in them lay the inequalities of their condition by supplying the poor with church accommodation in no way inferior to that enjoyed by the privileged classes of the community.

At the offertory nearly £65 were collected in aid of the funds to meet the costs of the alterations in the church. Mr. Woodward, organist Ledbury, presided at the new organ, and elicited the full tone and sweetness of the instrument in “the Heavens are telling” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The singing was solemn and effective; the old 100th sung by the full choir, pealed grandly through the arches of the venerable pile. We cannot too much commend the ‘decency and order” which marked the routine of the Church services, and the becoming attention to minutiae, which (though secondary to higher aims,) are not to be neglected without manifest disadvantage. The Committee, consisting of the most influential gentlemen in the parish, distinguished by their white rosettes, the Churchwardens with their wands of office, and the parochial constabulary with their apple-green favors and staves, all helped to give a certain decorous animation to the scene. The collection was received by T. Spencer, Esq., banker, of Ledbury, the parish treasurer, to be carried to the account of the Committee.

At two o’clock the Vicar and Mrs. Underwood, entertained eighty of the leading gentry and clergy the neighbourhood and their families at a cold collation, in the school-room, which was tastefully decorated with evergreens and flowers. Over the sideboard in the centre of the room the cipher V, composed of white roses on a dark ground, and surrounded by a wreath of choice exotics, had a very pleasing appearance. A fine brass band from Malvern, alternating at intervals with the merry bells of the old tower and a set of handbells (played through the street), prolonged the cheerful influences which had marked the day from its first outset. Old English hospitality was not forgotten; large parties were entertained at the chief houses in the parish, and in the smaller a ready welcome greeted the passing stranger. We cannot hope to supply an accurate list of the numerous company who attended on this interesting occasion: our readers who can estimate the difficulty of making a correct return of so many persons, of whom large portion were strangers to us, will pardon any unavoidable omissions or mistakes which may have crept into our report. We subjoin a list of those who were present as far were able to learn them:—The Very Rev. the Dean of St. Asaph, Revs. Prebendaries, J. Hopton, Johnson, W. Evans; Rev. Canon Morgan, Residentiary of Hereford ; Rev. W. Dyke, Rev. J. Sill, Rev. W. Hopton, Rev. J. Jones, Rev. C. Mann, .Rev. W. Lyall, Rev. F. Custance, Rev. T. Dean, Rev. T. Taylor, Rev. John Graves, Rev. H. Dowding, Rev. T. Dowell, Rev. G. Watts, Rev. C. Davison, Rev. W. Pulling, Rev. H. Barry Domvile, Rev. W. Domvile, Rev. Charles Domvile, Rev. Beresford Lowther, Rev. Chas. Hill, &c. &c. Lady Scudamore Stanhope, Mr. and Mrs. Webb, Mr. and Mrs. Heywood, Misses Heywood, Mr. and Mrs. Biddulph Phillipps, Mrs. Haggitt, Miss Parry, Misses Bright, Miss Parker, Misses Domvile, Dr. Henry, Mr. Spencer, Miss More, Mr. R. Underwood, Misses Underwood, Mr. H. Peyton, Misses Morgan, Mr. S. Stratford, Mrs Lee Warner" Mr. H. Lee Warner Mrs. Evans, Burton Court; Mr. and Mrs. Allan Higgins, Mr., Mrs. and Miss Mutlow, Mr. and Miss Shayle, Upleadon Court ; Mr. and Mrs. W. Pitt, Mr. Hollings, Messrs. Edy, Mr. T. Brown and family, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Graves, Miss Poole, Mrs. Hanmer Underwood, Mr. E. F. Stanhope, Mr. W. Stanhope, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Godsall and party, Mr. T. Godsall, Temple Court, Mr. Ineet [Inett] and family, Old Court; Mr. Ricketts, Mr. and Mrs. Mayoss, Mr. T. Sparksman, Mr. and Mrs. W. Berry, Mr. Acton, Mr, Pitt, Mr. Gardiner, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Mr and Mrs. Welland, Mrs. Deane and family, Mr. and Mrs Brydges, Mrs. Cox and family, Mrs. Pitt, Mr. More, Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. S. Gregg, Mr. R. Homes, Mr. Mason, Misses Mason, Mr. Webb, Mr. Bibbs, Mr. Woodyatt, Mr. Smith, &c. &c. A large concourse of strangers, names we could not obtain, thronged the church and churchyard during the time of divine service.

We cannot conclude our report of this auspicious gathering without adverting to the recommendations of the Very Reverend the Rural Dean, who, in proposing health and prosperity to the Vicar and his amiable lady, recommended their example in beginning so good a work to the imitation of the neighbouring clergy. Mr. Underwood in acknowledging the compliment paid him in warm and grateful terms, expressed the sense he entertained of the kindness his numerous friends. The Rev. gentleman availed himself of the occasion to thank all classes of his parishioners for the kind and flattering assistance which he had received from them, and testified to the unanimity which marked all their efforts in improving and ameliorating the condition of their poorer neighbours. This is as it should be; we congratulate our friends at Bosbury and the parish authorities on their prosperous beginning, and see much in so auspicious a commencement to make us sanguine in our expectation that more will follow. Much undoubtedly has been done, but we miss the “heaven-directed spire” of our early boyhood, and lament the imperfect condition of the fine old chancel, whilst the fair fabric of the church itself lacks one crowning ornament—

We love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars, massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.

In a parish spirited and improving (and in an age so favourable for church-renovation), we feel confident that the “embowed roof” will soon be supplied ; the liberality of the parishioners and their friends will as certainly provide the ways and means.—We conclude our lengthened notice with a hope that we shall shortly be enabled to submit to our readers some further account of the “reliquiæ sacræ” of Bosbury.

B S Sharples, 2017

 go to previous menu go to front page