BOSBURY PARISH CHURCH
by David Whitehead
The setting and the churchyard
Bosbury has a large rectangular churchyard and with the site of the old vicarage (now parish hall) to the east, it occupies about one third of the ‘burh’ enclosure at Bosbury, which, in this context refers to an enclosure surrounding an aristocratic residence rather than a minster church. The churchyard is an integral part of the ‘high status’ complex dominated by the adjoining palace and defined by water: on the west the Leadon; on the north a small stream coming down from Beacon Hill and on the east a string of fishponds, visible on early postcards and illustrated by Bentley. To the south there is the planned settlement with burgages stretching towards the fields and separated from the raised churchyard by the main road. A reference in the court rolls of 1693 of a watercourse ‘leading from the bridge to Bosbury church’, turned onto the road by William Bodenham, gent, suggests that there may have been a wet-ditch separating the churchyard from the village. The elevation of the churchyard is particularly noticeable above the lane on the east. It is enclosed by a rubble-stone wall, which has been rebuilt on several occasions, notably in 1900, and on the palace-side contains irregularities indicating a lost building.
In 1796 the vicar, Thomas Fairclough Otley, annexed four yards of the churchyard to the east of his vicarage, and defined the new boundary with a sunk fence. He also requested the vestry to move the ‘Lichet’ to a position opposite the church door, where it stands today. In 1769 the then vicar, Daniel Price, had petitioned the vestry to be allowed to use the upper storey of the lichgate for a pigeon loft. This was agreed as long as the alterations did not impede funerals or the bringing building materials to the church. The work was to be done at the vicar’s expense. Bentley described this building as being ‘of uncertain date’ but since the publication of a sketch in his Account it has been restored several times and has accumulated much more prettiness. Bentley also records the existence of ‘a large shapeless mass of rock’ found beneath the churchyard cross, which a correspondent writing in the Building News for 16th October 1863 regarded as ‘an idolatrous stone’. In his time the stone stood close to the tower on the south side.
The church yard is well-stocked with memorial stones and tomb chests stretching back to the late 18th century. No attempt seems to have been made in modern times to clear the yard for mechanised mowers. There is also a 15th century churchyard cross, rising with steps to a square plinth. Its shaft is new, but the cross-head probably dates from the mid- 17th century. A modern replica of the original cross-head, with the now eroded inscription can be found in the church. In 1796 the Revd. Otley also urged the vestry to move the cross to a position on the south side of the tower at his expense, but clearly this was resisted. The churchyard also retains some of its 19th century evergreen planting and the trees combine well with the buildings – the church, its free-standing bell tower and the old grammar school – adding considerably to the beauty of the townscape. Early 20th century photographs – and Bentley – show a continuous line of conifers on the town-side of the yard, which linked-up with the park-like setting of the old vicarage. The only surviving timber framed range of the Old Grammar School also stands in the NE corner of the churchyard. Photographs dating from the early 20th century also show timber framing on the east-side but now replaced by brick. It had been substantially rebuilt in 1848.
The most prominent object in the churchyard is the detached bell-tower, which stands about 60 feet to the south of the Morton Chapel. It is not as grand as the detached tower at Ledbury but it is 18 feet square and at ground level has walls 6 feet thick and external buttresses on the east and west. It has a north entrance with lancet windows on the other fronts; singles on the ground and first floors but pairs on the top, serving the bell-chamber. The top of the tower is now battlemented but originally there was a timber spire, struck by lightning in 1638 and demolished in 1813. The clock on the town-side dates from 1878 and was presented to the community by the Revd. John Edmund Cheese. There had been an earlier clock which in the mid-18th century had been maintained by Humphrey Prosser of Ledbury for 7s 6d a year.
The tower or ‘steeple’ as it was more generally called was constantly in need of repair. A two-penny rate was collected in 1752-3 for repairs and in 1756 a major campaign was inaugurated, with four tons of timber collected for the purpose and two craftsmen contracted to make wooden shingles for the spire at 4s per 100. The work was to be carried out by two builders from Ledbury, John Smith and James Griggs, who were to make ‘three squares of the steple all new’ and put in new sills. They were to finish the work by Michaelmas 1756 and were to receive £30. John Smith had carried out similar work at Ledbury in 1733, working for the famous Worcester spire builders, Thomas and Nathanial Wilkinson. The work at Bosbury, however, was not completed and the contract was taken-up by John Davis of Much Cowarne in 1759 and the work completed by February 1760 for a payment of £32.16s. However, Davis was back in May 1769 promising to keep the weathercock upright for thirty years –‘if I should so long live’ - unless ‘Thunder and Lightening should happen to put the Weathercock out of order, Mr. James Davies is to be excused’. For a single £7 payment the vestry seems to have regarded this as a good deal. In 1812 the steeple was inspected by three eminent builders, Richard Hooper from Ledbury, with Francis Withers and John Pritchard from Bosbury who reported to a parish meeting that the main beams and props of the structure had weathered away and that the steeple would only stand for another two or three years. Thus, a faculty was sought from the diocese to take it down, creating a low slate-covered roof with a ball and weathercock shaft at its centre.
Today there are seven other detached belfries in Herefordshire; at Ledbury, Pembridge, Richards Castle, Yarpole, Holmer and Garway. To this list should be added Eywas Harold, which was connected to its nave during restoration in the 19th century. Five out of the eight are found in places striving to become towns in the early Middle Ages, where bells were an element in the management of the market place, thus, more convenient if separated from the church. Bosbury is stylistically dated to the early 13th century which would have been the right time or town founding at Bosbury. With the church possibly doubling occasionally as a chapel for resident bishops and with a vicar also under the patronage of the bishop, easy access for the aspiring townsmen of Bosbury made good sense.
The medieval fabric
However, there are also good structural reasons, which can be used to explain the free-standing belfry. The early 13th century represents the principal phase in the reconstruction of the body of the church, when its nave, aisles and chancel were rebuilt. Only the west wall of the nave with its contrasting stonework, pierced by a round arched window suggests an earlier smaller church. The RCHM believes that this implies an earlier date in the 12th century but it could be earlier. This first church was without aisles and was similar in scale to the churches that exist today at Bishops Frome, Cradley and Mathon. During Caroe’s restoration of the church between 1920 and 1921 the walls of the Norman church were found whilst excavating trenches in the aisles to take the pipes for a new heating system. Moreover, what survives of the original west wall today suggests that it was far too insubstantial to provide support for a west tower, especially if hung with bells for the putative market town. Thus, the lack of an integral tower says something about the status of the early church at Bosbury. As the name suggests it was a proprietary church, a vicarage, serving its patron in the bishop’s palace that adjoined it. Albeit surrounded a large parish there is no indication that it had earlier minster status and it is possible that there were other private chapels or oratories elsewhere in the parish at Temple Court and Upleadon to emphasise its inferiority.
Inside the nave and the aisles with their fine Early English arcades with trumpet-scallop capitals, pointed arches and lancet windows, all seem to date from somewhere around 1200, if not before. The exterior corbel table above the clerestory seems to confirm this date. Strangely, all the doorways in the church are round arched but the main south doorway combines this archaic feature with the more up-to-date capitals, confirming the transitional character of the work. The core of the chancel is basically the same date with a chancel arch complementing the nave arcade, with mainly lancet windows north and south, including, originally, a triple lancet in the east window, now replaced with a perpendicular one.
Perpendicular is the keynote of the Morton Chapel, which as a bijou element is the most satisfying part of the church. This extrudes from into the graveyard from the eastern end of the south-aisle with battlements, buttresses and wide Perpendicular windows. Inside all is light and harmony. The chapel is illuminated by three low profiled windows with uniform mouldings. Against the wall of the south arcade there is a similar panelled arch, all of which modulate into a small fan-vault, which frames two quatrefoils embracing a ‘tun’ – the Morton rebus – embellished with the capital ‘M’. Elsewhere the ‘tun’ is carved as a pendent with the initials ‘T.M.’ for Thomas Morton who was the youngest son of John Morton, the celebrated Archbishop of Canterbury (1486-1500) who, with his brother Rowland, took a lease on the bishop’s palace in 1503. They also purchased the Grange, a property that had originally belonged to the Templars. The new chapel was licensed as a chantry in 1510 and endowed with lands, given by Thomas, worth £10. At the Reformation this property was transferred to the Grammar School. The maintenance of the ‘Grange Chapel’ remained the responsibility of the owner of the Grange. In the mid- 18th century this was Richard Hardwick who was exempted from all parish taxes relating to repairs to the fabric of the church as long as he carried out ‘all useful and necessary reparations’ to the chapel
The Morton Chapel was the last major addition made to Bosbury Church before the Victorian age and the commencement of restoration and improvement in the early 19th century. For the next 350 years the responsibility for the fabric of the church was divided between the parish-community -for the nave –and the bishop – for the chancel. The vicar was unlikely to help with the maintenance of the church unless he could persuade the landowners of the parish, and/or the bishop to finance necessary repairs. The Reformation combined with the Renaissance, which elevated classical taste, eroded any surviving sympathy for gothic architecture. The desecration of the chancel at Bosbury in the late 16th century with two monstrous Italianate monuments to the Harford family epitomises the rejection of spiritual space by the county elite. The architect Carőe in his report on the fabric in 1917 suggested that a sedilia and an Easter Sepulchre had been removed for the tombs. There is no sign in the fabric of Holy Trinity of the Laudian revival at Bosbury, which can be detected elsewhere in Herefordshire, sponsored by the first Viscount, John Scudamore and reflected in his patronage to revive the beauty of holiness of Dore Abbey in 1634. Scudamore did, however, in 1632 enhance the income of the vicarage of Bosbury by allowing the demesne lands of the manor of Upleadon to be tithed for the vicar.
Not surprisingly, after the Civil War – in part a conflict about high-church and low-church values - many churches in Herefordshire were ruinous. In the 1670’s the bishop’s court rolls regularly report that the chancel of Bosbury Church was ‘out of repair’ or in ‘great decay’. Forty years later Bishop Bisse, who was very diligent in refurbishing and beautifying the choir of Hereford Cathedral (as a replica, it seems, of a Georgian drawing room) sent out some articles of inquiry prior to his visitation, which brought an acknowledgement from the vicar of Bosbury, the Revd. Humphrey Wynne. The articles state that he resided in the parish in a parsonage house that was in good repair. He had no curate but regularly said prayers and held a service ‘at the usual hour’ of 10.00 am. He also catechised at evening prayers, carried put baptisms, administered the sacrament four times a year and visited the sick. The church had no chapels and the churchwardens assured the bishop that the roofs of the nave and chancel were ‘well covered’, the windows glazed, its floor paved and walls whitewashed and clean. In other words, Holy Trinity functioned as a convenient meeting house for sermons and readings from the Book of Common Prayer and there are only a few, widely scattered, references to work on the fabric of the church in the vestry minute books for the late 18th century. A rare entry for august 1797 refers to a parish meeting called by the Revd. Otley to order the stripping of the plaster from the walls of the north aisle and to repair any faults found. The vicar’s main motive seems, however, to have been to secure a supply of stone, which could also be used to repair the churchyard wall adjoining the vicarage.
How much of the gothic detail of the medieval church survived the routine and utilitarian maintenance of village craftsmen is difficult to ascertain. A sketch of the church in 1717, a year after the visitation, shows all the windows of the church with rounded arches, probably indicating a classical profile rather than Norman or Early English. This may have been simply artistic short-hand but the strange triangular headed clerestory windows in the nave have puzzled architectural historians. Bentley (1881) refers to them as ‘having rather rude straight sided arched heads’. The Diocesan Architect, Thomas Nicholson, has been blamed, but he would have known better (See below) and it is more likely that they are a survival of an unrecorded occasion of ignorant Stuart or Georgian repairs. The chancel seems to have suffered most since the Harford tombs made it gloomy and difficult to refurbish; so that in 1851, on the eve of its initial restoration, the ceiling was said to be so depressed that it obscured the east window, which remained dilapidated even after the raising of the ceiling.
‘The shock of the new’ – the Harford monuments
In his Short Account the Revd. Bentley noticed the Harford monuments but failed to realise how important they were. This was a matter of reproach for Katherine Esdaile when she re-discovered the tombs and wrote a breathless eulogy on them in English Monumental Sculpture since the Renaissance . She placed them in a direct line from the ‘superb’ terracotta monuments of the early 16th century found at Layer Marney in Essex and was particularly excited by the discovery that the earliest monument to John Harford (d. 1559) is signed ‘John Guldo (or Guido) of Hereford made this tombe with his own hande Anno. Dni. 1573’. This inscription she felt was ‘apparently without parallel at that period’. Signing a church monument, as she realised, was a blatant example of Renaissance self-confidence, suggesting that the craftsman saw himself as an ‘artist’.
As Mrs. Esdaile pointed out, these monuments, including the younger Harford monument (1578) on the opposite side of the altar, were the first classically inspired monuments to be seen in the Midlands. Not only was the design, with its classical columns and ‘stately sarcophagus’ straight from Italy but the use of acanthus decoration, semi-urns, fruits and flowers and grotesque masks were equally revolutionary – a substitute for religious imagery that stretched back to the 12th century and beyond. Remarkable as it may seem today, the Renaissance in the Midlands dawned in Holy Trinity and one can only speculate upon the impact that it must have had when the congregation gathered in the church after it’s unveiling.
Soon after Mrs Esdailes book, Mr. F.C. Morgan, Hereford City Librarian went in search of more Gildon monuments and the man himself, who claimed to be ‘of Hereford’ – an equally surprising place to find a precocious artist. Other signed monuments were found at Madley, Herefordshire, Astley, Worcestershire and Abergavenny. Gildon, it seems had a regional reputation. However, none of the newly discovered tombs were as good as John Harford’s tomb; the figures were inferior and very little classical detail was employed. This led to the conclusion that the style was patron led and it was John and/or Richard Harford who insisted on Renaissance detail. Other patrons were less adventurous. Indeed, The Annals of the Harford Family (1909), edited by Alice Harford suggests that John was connected with court circles in the reign of Edward VI – the very moment when John Shute brought to that court the first classical pattern book. Richard Harford was also painted by Hans Eworth, of Antwerp, an important court artist of this period. More recently, Lawrence Butler has pursued John Gildon, making connexions with early classical buildings like Sudeley Castle, Lacock and Longleat, built by courtiers associated with the Duke of Somerset, Edward’s ‘protector’. It has also been suggested that Gildon’s unusual name may derive from a Dutch original. The Netherlands, of course, was the focus for the Northern Renaissance.
F.C. Morgan’s researches among the Hereford City Records found a very different Gildon – a man who ran an unruly alehouse, selling illegal liquor and allowing his customers to play unlawful games. More significantly, Morgan discovered he had four apprentices, often drawn from places where he erected monuments. Equally interesting was his changing trade description from freemason, carver to joiner. This has led to the suggestion that some of the fine over mantles found in Herefordshire, dating from this period, are from his workshop. The one that survives in the remains of the Harford house at Bosbury, the Old Crown Inn, is a possible candidate and similarly, the over mantles at Canon Frome Court, where there is a family connexion with the Harfords. Butler also suggests that the decline in Gildon’s skill, reflected in the rather coarse handling of the monument to Richard Harford, may have been a result of Gildon changing his technique from stone carving to wood carving. However, the general view is that the second monument was an apprentice piece – ‘school of Gildon’ rather than the man himself.
Further work on Gildon is necessary and recently Ruth Richardson has suggested that the monument to Blanche Parry (ex.c.1578) is by Gildon as the carving is of the highest quality and some of the details can be found at Bosbury. Joiners and carvers were also painters in the late 16th century and recently the Commandment Room above the Black Lion Inn, in Bridge Street, Hereford has been put forward as an example of Gildon’s painterly skills on the evidence of the classical costumes used for the figures. The most recent Gildon discovery comes from Gloucester where a local historian working through the Elizabethan Chamberlain’s Accounts came upon Gildon’s name in a set of accounts relating to the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Gloucester in 1574. The work included making ‘the beastes for the Kinges boorde’, which seems to have been a market pulpit, later converted to a butter market. He was also paid for ‘coloringe the Criste scole’ – the Crypt School at Gloucester – and also for ‘mendinge the Queenes picture’, which may probably have been a statue, rather than a painting. In total the work cost the city authorities £128 3s 3d, but it was shared by several craftsmen. Nevertheless, it was a remarkable amount of money and suggests that we can look for further signs of our ‘Michelangelo of Herefordshire’ well beyond the county boundary.
Other monuments in Bosbury church that deserve attention include the fragmentary inscription tablet to Bishop Richard Swinfield’s father, Stephen, which was found by the vicar, William Reece, in 1776. He wrote to an unknown person, presumably attached to the Cathedral in Hereford, seeking permission from the Bishop, Lord James Beauclerk, to place the plaque on the wall of the chancel, where he suggested, it would have originally been placed. He explained that it had recently been found in the wall of the south aisle, partly behind a pillar and upside down and conjectured that it may have been ‘put there by some ignorant mason to repair the building, it being covered with lime mortar’. He provided a well executed drawing ‘being an exact representation of the characters inscribed’. The letters ‘cut in very beautiful proportions’ had originally been filled-in with a ‘composition of mettle (sic) mixed with pitch’ and some of this material still remained in the letters. He ventured a translation but also sought the opinion of his correspondent. It seems that permission to put it up in the chancel was refused and it was placed on the south wall of the nave close to the Morton Chapel, presumably near where it was found. It is now much decayed and virtually illegible.
The Bird MSS provides a long list of minor monuments, many of which have disappeared in subsequent 19th century restorations. Perhaps three others in the chancel are worth mentioning today. The monument to John Brydges of Old Colwall, Treasurer and Senior Clerk to New Inn, who ‘acted with much equity and justice’ both in the ‘public (and) private’ was erected by his nephew, also John Brydges, who died two years later. What makes the monument important is the signature, now difficult to read, of Thomas White of Worcester. He was famous statuary whose skill can be judged in the great pediment of the Worcester Guildhall (1721-4) and, to a lesser degree, in the ‘jolly’ monument to Captain Samuel Skinner (d.1725), found in the south aisle of St Peter’s Church, Ledbury. The Worcestershire historian, the Revd. Treadway-Nash wrote a long eulogy on Thomas White, linking him with Christopher Wren. Here at Bosbury, White is in a more sober mood with a well balanced Palladian composition, fine marble and a precisely executed inscription.
On the opposite wall of the chancel is a simple sarcophagus to John Steadman (d.1828), the builder of Bosbury House, who made his fortune in America, setting up a trading post at Niagara, which marked the foundation of this important city. His monument was carved by George Wood of Gloucester, brother of Thomas Wood, the designer and builder of Nelson’s column on Castle Green at Hereford. He was also the chief mason at Eastnor Castle during the first year of its construction and was also responsible for the obelisk on Midsummer Hill, completed in 1813. However, he was sacked by the architect, Robert Smirke for trying to defraud Lord Somers by setting-up a cartel of Forest of Dean quarry-owners to inflate the price of stone. Wood died as a bankrupt. Finally, near the Steadman monument is a Decorated-gothic tablet, a very apt choice of style for a monument to the Revd. John Underwood (d.1856), who was responsible for the first serious campaign to save the gothic chancel from dereliction.
Early attempts at restoration
The first well recorded restoration of Holy Trinity commenced in April 1804 when a parish meeting resolved ‘to repaid and improve the church this spring’. In the event, the work took nearly two years. The vestry agreed to strip the tile from the south side of the church, whilst repairing the north side and the aisles. In addition the walls were to be inspected, together with the doors and windows etc. Inside a new lath and plaster ceiling was to be inserted into the body of the church, and its aisles. The work was to be superintended by Richard Jones of Ledbury, who bore the new title of ‘surveyor’. The work can be followed in detail in a series of churchwarden’s accounts between 1803 and 1805. Jones was a hands-on surveyor, providing some of the materials but also staying up late to watch the kilns producing the lime for the plaster. The roof tiles, 5500 in total, were provided by John Allcott and were priced at £1.18s 6d for 1000, but it cost £5 10s to haul them to the churchyard. On the laths in the roof they were set on moss pads, from material collected by Ann Lucas from the surrounding woods at 6d per bag. The hire of wooden scaffold and ropes came to £4 5s 6d and one of the parishioners, Thomas Chadd was paid 3s, for clearing the church of all of its fittings. The timber came from a variety of local sources but the largest amount, 435 square feet at 1s per square foot was supplied by Mr Mutlow. It cost £1 to carry four loads to the church, suggesting the wood, or his yard, was not far-away. In all the total payment for the work in January 1805 came to £101 12s 2d.
A new era of restoration at Bosbury began in 1844 during the incumbency of the Revd. John Hanmer Underwood. This was relatively early for Herefordshire but the Worcester Journal noticed the re-opening of the church on 30th May 1844 after ‘extensive alterations and improvements to restore the interior of the church to its pristine proportions’, which in early Victorian parlance usually meant re-pewing. However, Holy Trinity still contains a very fine collection of early 18th century pews. The total sitting available for the congregation was recorded in 1851 as 470 seats. This was a large number but when the congregation was counted on Sunday March 30th 1851 there was a disappointing turn-out of for the morning service of 379 which the Revd. Underwood explained was due to it being Mothering Sunday when relatives and children assembled at the houses of parents and grandparents, which may have taken them outside the parish. In the event, the Revd. Underwood’s explanation was a poor attempt to disguise the unpalatable truth revealed nationally by the 1851 religious census that 42% of the population no longer attended the Anglican church. It comes as no surprise to discover that Holy Trinity kept its early 18th century- pews.
Details of the work remain obscure, but at the opening event a modest £68 was raised to defray the overall expenditure. A new floor was clearly involved since the Early English font was removed and restored with new pillars on a raised pedestal. It was placed at the west end of the nave under the organ loft, which received a new instrument made by T. C. Bates of London. During the work an earlier font was discovered, buried upside down, immediately below the existing font. It was ‘of the rudest description’ and characterised by ‘massiveness and simplicity’. A Hereford Journal correspondent guessed it dated from the 8th or 9th century but modern experts are more cautious seeing it as 11th century or earlier. Also restored at this time was an ‘ancient lectern’, which occupied the centre of the nave and was ‘similar to ones seen in cathedrals and colleges’. This is intriguing but sounds like a Jacobean pulpit, similar to the one in the north transept gallery in Hereford Cathedral or the pulpit with Scudamore connexions at Sellack. It was restored in 1802 when a Mr Winnal was paid £4 8s 10 ‘for the pulpit’ and it seems very unlikely to be the present modest pulpit, which was described as ‘new’ in 1851.
The Revd. Underwood was not finished and turned his attention to the chancel. Again the church was closed and re-opened on Thursday 24th April 1851. The chancel ceiling was removed and ‘open woodwork’ was inserted, described by Bentley as ‘ribbed, stained and varnished’. Four new stained glass windows were put into the lancets on the north and south, executed by George Rogers of Worcester (1805-77), one of the few glass strainers operating in the region. One of his better windows can be seen in the north transept of St Peter’s church, Bromyard. The west window, however, was untouched. A new ‘handsome’ pulpit and reading desk was provided, with carved oak panels ‘brought from some religious house in Flanders’. The chancel screen ‘much injured’ by the collapsing roof of the chancel was restored with new tabernacle work by Mr Freame, a cabinet maker of Worcester, who also provided the new work on the pulpit and reading desk, employing a ‘splendid repertoire of antique and modern carving’.
At a dinner held in the panelled room at the Crown Inn, attended by 100 friends and visitors, including the bishop of St Asaph, the Revd. Underwood was complimented for his generosity in financing the restoration. In response the vicar expressed his satisfaction that in the 14 years he had been responsible for Frome Deanery, all the churches under his charge had been repaired and refitted. He regretted that the east window of the chancel had not been renewed but anticipated that more funds could be raised. A polite reference was made to those holding land in the parish that were liable for chancel repairs and to those more generally ‘interested in monumental records’ –this was either a general reference to the revival of interest in gothic architecture or a plea for the restoration of the Harford monuments. It was decided at the meeting that the work on the pulpit, screen and reading desk, carried out by Mr. Freame, could be paid for out of the church rates. The Revd. Underwood died in 1856 and among his other achievements was the rebuilding of the Grammar School in 1848, for which he again provided the money.
The restoration of 1859 and the arrival of the Revd. Cheese
Work on the church re-commenced late in 1859 heralded by an appeal in the Hereford Journal inserted by the Diocesan Architect Thomas Nicholson (1823-95), for craftsmen to tender for a new roof for the nave. The work took six months to complete and the church re-opened on 1st April 1860. The total cost of the work was £200; a fairly modest sum suggesting that Nicholson simply took away the ceiling and repaired the existing 13th century roof, which had presumably been preserved in 1804. This is a view shared by the RCHME and the Buildings of England and indicates the sensitivity of surveyor Jones and his colleagues to the ancient fabric of Bosbury Church at an early date. On the day the church was opened in 1859 £36 was collected from the congregation. The rest, we must assume, came from gifts or church rates. The celebrations also involved a sermon form the Archdeacon of Hereford, another from the new vicar, the Revd. Berkeley Lionel Scudamore Stanhope and a musical programme provided by some choristers from Hereford.
In 1866 the Revd. Stanhope moved to the rectory of Byford and was replaced at Bosbury by the Revd. John Edmund Cheese, a graduate of Lampeter College and, almost certainly, a member of the Cheese family, who practised law in Kington. He had hitherto been a curate at Presteigne and obtained testimonials from Benjamin Hill the vicar of Norton, Henry Whateley, vicar of Kington and R.W.J. Hunt, the rector of Byton. Cheese was conspicuous as an active evangelical and for the next thirteen years his activities can be traced in the local newspapers. One of his first acts was to create a new choir at Bosbury, augmented by women. It was one of the largest choirs present at the Festival of Parish Choirs held in Hereford in August 1867. Services at Holy Trinity took on a new dimension and the lessons were now intoned with Tallis responses. For special services the church was decorated with flowers; an activity in which his wife was very prominent. The harvest festival was revived at Holy Trinity in 1867 as a means of bringing the rural community together. Cheese also seems to have brought the festival to the new church on Fromes Hill, built to the designs of F.R. Kempson in 1866-7. The ‘improvements in progress under the liberal vicar’ in 1867 included a new wing added to the vicarage, which stood at the west end of the church, ‘giving it an ecclesiastical appearance’. Cheese had made his appointment as vicar of Bosbury conditional on the diocese borrowing £500 from Queen Anne’s Bounty for the work. It was designed by George Haddon of Hereford – so we can anticipate polychrome brickwork and gothic details – and built by Joseph Cox of Leominster. The Hereford Times commented that because of the energy of the vicar ‘the ancient village of Bosbury will in no sense be behind its neighbours in this age of progress and enlightenment’. Clearly, the Revd. Cheese was determined to recover some of the congregation that were absent in 1851, some of whom may have been attracted to the new Methodist chapel erected at Stanley Hill in 1863.
His radical views on the role of churchmen are, perhaps, indicated by the subject of an adult education lecture that he gave at Dilwyn on ‘The Monks of Old’, which apparently ‘brought out strongly the benefits of monasticism for the country’ – clearly an Anglo-Catholic view. This was apparently a moving lecture and contrasted markedly with the next in the series – ‘Stars visible in Winter’ – given by the headmaster Barrs Court School in Hereford. Cheese was a regular speaker at neighbouring churches and reports on his ‘elegant sermons’, which produced ‘large and attentive congregations’ were frequent. His sympathy for the labouring classes is demonstrated by his support and attendance at the local agricultural show founded in 1847. This embraced the parishes of Colwall, Coddington, Bosbury, Wellington Heath, Mathon, Cradley and Storridge. In 1867 several cottagers from Bosbury won prizes from 10 shillings to 2s 6d for the most productive gardens plus special categories such as vine training and hand-made garden tools. His empathy for the Bosbury cottagers is further indicated by his response when approached by the Ledbury Cottage Garden Society to encourage the trade’s people of Bosbury to join their society. Albeit patronised by the Ballards of Colwall and Lady Emily Foley, Cheese felt that the subscription of 5s per year would be out of reach of the poorer classes of Bosbury.
Other local activities that engaged the Revd. Cheese included founding a branch of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Bosbury; holding Penny Readings every week, where his contributions ‘kept the audience in continued laughter’; he chaired the Ledbury branch of the Church Mission Society and attended the British and Foreign Bible Society meetings in Ledbury, which was surprising, since the organisation was dominated by non-conformists.
The Revd. Cheese was presumably well aware that the restoration work carried out by his predecessors at Bosbury was still incomplete. His fees from his lecture in Dilwyn went to the church restoration fund, which after 1868 could no longer rely upon collecting a compulsory parish rate. In August 1867 he is found at the re-opening of St Mary’s Church at Hay-on-Wye where the work was supervised by Thomas Nicholson. As the vicar of Bosbury Cheers had no formal access to funds to finish the restoration apart from his skill in appealing to the major landowners of the parish. His income from the living was £393 gross with six acres of glebe and a residence. Without a substantial private income, which his predecessor the Revd. Underwood seems to have had, his only tools he could deploy for raising money was his energy and powers of persuasion. However, the situation eased a little when the bishop’s lands in the parish passed in 1848 into the hands of the Church Commission. The chancel now became its responsibility.
Late 19th century -church restorations increasingly relied upon the intervention of benefactors, often newcomers to the parish. Such patronage was especially important in the absence of a single resident squire, which was the case for Bosbury. Cheers found just such a benefactor in the owner of Bosbury House during this period, the Revd. Edward Higgins of Brasenose College, J.P., Deputy Lieutenant of Herefordshire and Worcestershire who was a notable antiquarian and had assembled at his home a ‘rare collection of curiosities, ancient and modern’. He was the son of the Revd. Joseph Higgins, the rector of Eastnor (d.1847), whose family had long been settled in Eastnor and was descended from the Clintons of Castleditch who sold-out to Richard Cocks in 1606. He was a rich man who speculated in railway shares and even encouraged the vicar to attend a meeting at Ledbury when the line from Worcester to Gloucester was being discussed. We learn that he had little sympathy for the common labourer. He was litigious and pursued William Morris, an agricultural labourer from Cradley, in the courts because he dug-up 2 dozen briar stocks in his wood at Beacon Hill. In the event he was fined 10s.and sent to prison for 14 days hard labour. Higgins was also an opponent of Free Trade and in 1852 published a broadsheet, which attacked the equally well-publicised views of the Revd. Underwood who took the contrary view and opposed Protection. When 200 labourers gathered at Bosbury in May 1872 to discuss the formation of a union, he attended the meeting and accused the outside speaker of spreading falsehoods and making a breach between the labourer and his employer. This intervention was accompanied with much heckling, good humoured, according to the Gloucester Journal, but he also blamed the labourers’ condition upon ‘the beer shop and early marriage’. Whether he stopped to listen to the sad life-story of Mr James, a labourer of Colwall who spoke-out about bad pay, poor accommodation and the miserable conditions that prevailed in rural Herefordshire, is not recorded. In political terms, he seems to have held views remote from those of the liberal clergy of his parish but he and his family were prepared to dig deeply into their pockets to enhance the fabric of their parish church. In this regard he was typical of the new oligarchs who arrived in country parishes and came to the rescue of Anglican Church in the late 19th century. This occurred just at the point when church attendance by the labouring classes was in serious decline, parish rates had been abandoned and with the onset of the agricultural depression, the local farming community was far less eager to support church-restoration than in previous decades.
The restoration of 1871
Work commenced upon the chancel early in 1871, notwithstanding the earlier remedial work that had taken place in 1851. With characteristic pessimism The Builder declared that it had ‘long been in an unsatisfactory state’. The work was supervised by a London professional, Ewan Christian, who since 1851 had been the favourite architect of the Church Commissioners and the influential journal of the Cambridge Camden Society, the Ecclesiologist. The Camdens took up the cause of Augustus Welby Pugin, promoting gothic as the only true ‘Christian Architecture’ for the Anglican Church. Christian’s zeal for the ‘correct’ style often led to drastic alterations; for example, removing the Romanesque north arcade at Clifford, near Hay and replacing it with something in the pointed style e.g. decorated gothic. In Herefordshire he is often found in the company of Thomas Nicholson who perhaps, was able to restrain his enthusiasm for new work, which, of course, meant extra expense.
Financial restraint meant that the diocese of Hereford had a good record for restoration in the mid-Victorian period. The Parliamentary Survey of Church Building and Church Restoration (1874) shows that the total expenditure upon church restoration in Herefordshire between 1840 and 1874 was £210, 398, compared with £73,891 for new churches. In total 117 churches were restored in the diocese in this period. Moreover, notwithstanding William Morris’s much publicised attack upon the irresponsibility of contemporary architects failing to acknowledge ancient fabric, the RIBA had set-up a committee in 1864 to monitor ill-judged restorations. Ewan Christian was an original member of this committee.
According to The Builder Christian took down the east wall of the chancel, except for the corner pilasters, and rebuilt the Perpendicular window, replacing the vertical mullions. Seen from outside he carefully retained the evidence for an Early English triplet window, which is outlined by quoins. The stained glass in the new window by Wailes and Strang arrived in 1880 and was a gift from the Revd. Higgins of Bosbury House, being a memorial window to his two grandsons. Externally, the roof was raised to its ‘correct pitch’ and covered with Broseley tiles with Bridgewater crests. Inside the ceiling of 1851 was retained and ‘ribbed, stained and varnished’. The floor was provided with encaustic tiles from Messrs Godwin of Lugwardine and new oak seating inserted for the choir. The walls were stripped and re-stuccoed to emphasise the stonework around the windows. It was suggested that a new reredos could be contrived out of some of the elaborate Elizabethan panelling at the Crown Inn ‘but this was deemed inappropriate…and sent back to the Crown’. The plain panelling that exists today was presumably a more sober alternative. As we have seen an earlier organ was situated on the gallery at the west end of the church. This was removed and the sister-in-law of the Revd. Higgins, Mrs. Hope, the widow of another churchman, paid for a new organ made by Messrs. Speechly and Ingram of the Camden Works in London. Its boldly painted pipes complemented the lively Harford tombs. This was a large instrument and required a new organ chamber, which was inserted into the north side of the chancel (just where the Revd. Cheese might have been provided with a vestry). The architect, W.D. Carőe, on surveying the church in 1917, believed a lancet window was removed for the organ chamber, but the new structure was neatly designed by Christian and the total cost of the new work and the organ was ‘a little short of £2000’.
The workmen moved into the nave and apparently, discreetly restored the perpendicular oak screen and the windows, but without leaving much evidence. Again the walls were stripped of several coats of whitewash and neatly stuccoed. The floor was renewed with plain encaustic tiles and the earlier pews were re-used although Bentley states that ‘others of the same pattern and material were added’ perhaps to fill the space left after the demolition of the west gallery. Finally, Christian cast his expert eye over the ‘ancient Grange Chapel’ (i.e. the Morton Chapel) and the porch and made essential, but unrecorded, renovations. All the building work was carried out by Joseph Cox of Leominster who had added the new wing to the vicarage in 1887. According to Littlebury (1876) the total cost, excluding the organ, came to £3,100, most of this coming from voluntary subscriptions from the élite of the parish. An account of this great restoration was given by Samuel Bentley, who became vicar in 1879, to a meeting of the British Archaeological Society at Bosbury in 1881. This was later re-cast in his Short Account of Bosbury (1881) where the Revd. Henry Higgins is credited for ‘much knowledgeable information and for the readiness with which at all times he has aided me in my researches’. It would perhaps have been appropriate to mention his energetic predecessor, the Revd. John Cheese, who had orchestrated the restoration but had died in 1879.
By the end of the 19th century the great revival of church attendance, which many hard-working incumbents like the Revd. Cheese had anticipated had failed to materialise and the agricultural depression had virtually emptied the countryside. In the event, the careful restoration of Holy Trinity between 1844 and 1871 had, it seems, been carried out for a new appreciative audience – the tourists and antiquarians.
‘one of the crew That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were? Some ruin-biber, randy for antique.’ Philip Larkin, Church Going
The Woolhope Club made regular visits in 1894, 1911, 1923 and 1936 and just as frequently wrote- up the history of the church in its Transactions; recording with evident concern the damage caused by the fire of 1917. Outsiders also began to find their way to Bosbury and Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Worcestershire and Herefordshire had reached its 4th edition by 1894 bringing visitors via Ledbury station to Bosbury. They could read a brief summary of the main features of the church plus assurances that that the chancel was’ cleansed and restored’. They passed on their way to Bromyard – and another station – churches at Castle Frome- ‘a curious Norman font’ and Bishop’s Frome ‘judiciously restored in 1863’. In 1892 H. Thornhill Timmins brought his caravan to Herefordshire to sketch and describe the Nooks and Corners of Herefordshire. He was welcomed by Canon H.W. Phillot who felt the author’s ‘facile pencil’ would find many buildings, both secular and ecclesiastical, ‘some in good condition, some in partial or total ruin, yet lively in their decay’. At Bosbury he visited the ‘fine old church’ but preferred to sketch the churchyard cross with the porch beyond, and a picturesque view of the village street.
A key service provided by these guide books was to flag-up worthwhile churches, ignoring new and uninteresting churches, especially those where over- zealous restoration had occurred. Thus, William Morris’s propaganda condemned many very good Victorian churches to oblivion until the late 20th century. For a well-visited church, like Bosbury, there was an opportunity to raise some funds. Significantly, in the 1890’s the vestry began to provide postcards for sale, offering a variety of views of both the church and the village provided by Tilley, Luke and Son, printers of Ledbury. At the same time a broadsheet was made available itemising the key features to be seen in the church, but also flagging-up current restoration projects for which funds were required. In 1908 this was for the restoration of the cresting on the chancel screen. Later, in c.1920, taking advantage, it seems, of the services of the architect, W.D. Carőe the broadsheet was revised.
Late 19th and 20th century developments
The new organ, gifted in 1871, was clearly an instrument of some quality and attracted musicians of renown to put it through its paces. At Harvest Festival October 1875 the eminent High Anglican musician and composer, the Revd. Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, founder of St Michaels’s College at Tenbury and precentor of Hereford Cathedral, came to direct the service at Holy Trinity. He brought with him J.C. Ward, organist of Quebec Chapel in London, but the printed leaflet produced for the occasion states in capitals that Sir Arthur would himself play the organ after the service. Another new element found in the church after 1871 was a heating stove placed at the west end of the south aisle. In January 1876 this overheated and sparks found their way into the roof cavity. Messages were sent to Ledbury to bring the fire engines but the quick thinking of the local police constable saved the church; he shut all the doors, established a bucket chain and removed tiles from an area of the roof to reach the seat of the fire. By the time the two engines arrived from Ledbury the fire was extinguished; albeit the churchwardens were left with 10 square yards of roof to repair.
It seems the errant stove was the cause of a similar fire in 1917, which, again, destroyed a section of the roof and inflicted ‘much damage to the west end’. This inaugurated a campaign of repairs and beautification which had begun before First World War in 1900 when the lych-gate of the church was restored; the altar re-table painted and the lower panels of the chancel screen were removed and replaced with new ones with open-work gothic tracery. Repairs following the fire of 1917 commenced in 1921 and were designed and supervised by the architect W.D. Carőe who had taken over the responsibilities of Ewan Christian as Architect to the Church Commissioners in 1895. Carőe was a thorough and business-like professional with a large private practice in London and appeared in Hereford in 1915 to repair the chancel of Vowchurch Church and later, in 1923, to restore the tower of the Cathedral, frightening the chapter with an estimate for £16,000. At Holy Trinity he rebuilt the south aisle wall to the north of the porch, adding a small three-light Perpendicular window, designed to throw more light into the baptistery. The small Transitional windows either side were left untouched. Whilst attending to the fire damage he supervised the reinforcement of the walls and foundations of the chancel, which again were on the move and strengthened the west front with steel bars. The architect, in his report, was rather disparaging about Christian’s work on the chancel east window where, in his opinion, poor stone had been employed. He also proposed refurnishing the chancel but this was resisted by the vestry.
Caroe was famous for his tasteful ecclesiastical furniture and thus, provided an oak screen for a new vestry at the rear of the north aisle with pretty open tracery. To reduce the draughts in the church an inner porch was provided, also in oak and the baptistery was lined with oak panelling, which also wrapped itself around the west end of the church. Here we learn that some of the pews were replaced and the old panels were reconditioned to carry the names of the residents of the parish who fell in the Great War. The general contractor for the restoration was Beavan & Hodges of Hereford with the artistic woodworking carried out by Messrs. W.F. Drew Ltd of Chalfont near Stroud. The total bill came to £3,365, which, with the exception of a small grant made by the Church commissioners, came entirely from private gifts; including £500 from Miss Kempson, perhaps the daughter of the architect F. R. Kempson, who seems to have been on familiar terms with Carőe.
Little is known about the fabric of the church between the Wars. £200 was available in 1922 to restore the Morton Chapel but it was not until 1986 that it was completely re-glazed at a cost of £71,740. The roof of the church received a substantial overhaul in 1961 and during the 1960's and 70's routine repairs to the church were the responsibility of Bellamy & Harker, architects of Worcester. Mr. Bellamy, rather conveniently, lived at Cradley. He was the local specialist in historic building repairs and restored Wigmore Abbey and Little Malvern Priory during this period. In 1964 he drew-up a ten year schedule of repairs for Holy Trinity. A further campaign of repairs to the chancel took place in 1973-4 but in 2014 Holy Trinity found itself on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register for urgent repairs required to the roof of the north aisle and the tower. Remedial work was also required to deal with ground-level damp causing internal decay. The estimated cost of the work is £223,008 and is to be put in hand by the architects, Hook Mason, with the help of a Heritage Lottery grant.
Along with many other country parishes, Bosbury has lost its vicarage. In 1907 the vicarage to the west of the church, improved in 1867, was sold and transformed into a village hall with accommodation for a caretaker. Bosbury was between vicars – the Revd. R. T. Seddon had resigned but the Revd. T.W. Hervey had yet to be appointed. The Church Commissioner, again with the help of Queen Anne’s Bounty was prepared to pay for a new eight-roomed vicarage on the hill at the south-end of the village. The four acres of ground were given by Major Mynors of Bosbury House. The architect was J. Farmer of Shifnal in Staffordshire who designed a Voyseyesque pebble-dashed residence, which was occupied by subsequent vicars until its sale in 1968.
Copyright 2015 David Whitehead