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English Church Architecture -

Herefordshire (U.A.).


AYMESTREY, St. John the Baptist & St. Alkmund (SO 426 652)   (April 2014)

(Bedrock:  Silurian Ludlow Series, Aymestry (sic) Limestone Formation)


The nave and chancel are Norman, as witnessed by the great thickness of the wall between the nave and tower and the little round-headed window on either side of the chancel, of which that on the south side is blocked.  (The N. window is illustrated in the thumbnail, below right.) Perhaps the chancel originally terminated in an apse, which was removed in the mid fourteenth century when the present square end was built in a different stone.  The chancel E. window has two-light straightened reticulated tracery with over-wide lights and an ugly shape posing as a quatrefoil in its head, an ill-conceived design that is repeated in the E. walls of the aisles.


Inside the church, the piers to the three-bay arcades return us to the late twelfth century, although Pevsner, for no very obvious reason, took the view they had been brought from elsewhere.  Either way, they certainly have a very interesting section, with fat round shafts at the angles and truncated spurs between, forming a square overall.  (One of the piers to the north is shown in the thumbnail right.) This is Norman-Transitional in style although the capitals, formed of irregular octagons with longer sides in the cardinal directions, may represent a later modification.  The double-flat-chamfered pointed arches above could probably, to quote Pevsner, "be of any date".  Perhaps the chancel arch is also a composite, with jambs which are earlier than the pointed arch above, bearing a hollow chamfer on the outer order and a roll on the inner.


The short and broad W. tower, rising in two stages supported by diagonal buttresses, is probably an early fourteenth century addition, although the arch to the west seems to accord better with the Early English style than the Decorated style that followed.  (See the photograph, above left.)  The bell-openings have reticulated tracery but the modest square-headed Tudor-Gothic  W. window is presumably an insertion.  A semi-polygonal projection for the stair turret runs up the angle between the tower and the N. aisle.   However, the tower's only really notable feature is that the lower stage is open to the elements through the triple-flat-chamfered W. arch.  A tunnel vault within leads to the doorway through the E. wall, into the nave, past a trefoil-cusped stoop carved in the thickness of the wall to the right.


Furnishings in the church include the polygonal Jacobean pulpit, with the usual blank round-headed arches decorating the drum, and a much more interesting late mediaeval rood screen, replete with finely carved linenfold panelling on the dado, a decorative loft supported by an elaborate network of little lierne ribs, and three delicate tiers of leaf carving topped by brattishing on the cornice. Roofs and benches in the building are all  nineteenth century or modern, but the church contains a considerable collection of monuments around the chancel walls, albeit none displaying figures.  They include, in no particular order, one showing an urn, commemorating Thomas Dunne (d. 1770), another with a draped urn, to John Woodhouse of Yatton Court (d. 1792), signed by King of Bath (1741 - 1804), and a third, very big one, reaching from floor to ceiling on the N. side of the sanctuary, to William Abley, who died in 1751, aged only 31, together with Hannah Abley, his wife, described as William's "relic", who died just two years later.