31 December 2014

Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire

I have wanted to visit Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire for some time to see its fine Norman carvings. I finally managed it on a cold but sunny December morning.

Although not part of South West England by normal definition, as Simon Jenkins comments in his England's Thousand Best Churches:
[Kilpeck’s] motifs are drawn from Scandinavia, Germany, Spain and Italy, and display the Severn Vale as a cultural crossroads of Romanesque richness.
The carvings date from the middle of the 12th century and are to be found around the south doorway:

The west side:

The chancel arch:

And remarkably in the corbels, mostly undamaged, which appear all round the exterior:

Simon Jenkins again:
The Kilpeck carvings demonstrate the vigour of the Saxon-Norman sculptural tradition. Themes and styles are drawn from the pilgrim routes across northern Europe, from Vikings, Saxons, Celts, Franks and Spaniards, the entire 'Northmen' diaspora.
Only some have much Christian significance. The interpretation of the carvings, the identification of similar works by the “Herefordshire School” of stone carvers and of analogues in other parts of Europe is a subject for serious scholarship, not a blog. Though I could imagine one devoted to nothing else. For the merely interested, Jenkins’ book is a start and Pevsner's Herefordshire (latest edition 2012) should be the next call. Visitors can find some useful information in the church.

The nearby and neatly extended Kilpeck Inn is of a much higher standard that might be expected in a fairly remote spot and its menu is a “cultural crossroads of Romanesque richness” too – focaccia, ciabatta, porcini, brioche, mozzarella, olives … and local suppliers, of course.

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