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English Church Architecture -

Herefordshire (U.A.).

 

MOCCAS, St. Michael (SO 357 433)     (April 2014)

(Bedrock:  Silurian Pridoli Series, Raglan Mudstone Formation)

Like St. Mary & St. David's, Kilpeck, this is another twelfth century building (seen above from the northeast) formed of three cells of diminishing height, the difference being here that there is no rich carving.  However, the setting (in the grounds of Moccas Court) is equally fine and it is a pity the unity of the church's appearance is marred by two renewed windows in early Decorated style either side.  The patently Norman features to be seen externally include the apse itself, lit by three restored round-headed windows above a string course approximately 9 feet (2.7 m.) up, small windows in the N. & S. walls of the nave towards the west and a sixth window in the W. wall, and the N. & S. doorways (shown, respectively, left and right below), the former blocked and both with defaced tympana surrounded by simple mouldings.  The S. porch has been almost entirely rebuilt and a bellcote has been added above the west end of the nave, probably by George Gilbert Scott Junior (1839-97) in his restoration of 1870.

Inside the church, it is easy to imagine how the building would have appeared when originally constructed, albeit that one obvious difference is that with the large inserted windows, it is considerably lighter now.  Nevertheless, the view towards the east is still an atmospheric one (see the photograph, below left), dominated by the chancel and apse arches (according to a leaflet in the church, reconstructed from the original materials), and the apse E. window beyond, set in its deep splay.  Examination at close quarters shows the chancel arch to be formed of two orders decorated with chevron moulding in different planes above abaci carved with saltires, whilst the apse arch is composed of two blank orders above plain abaci with chamfered under-edges only.

Furnishings and other features in the church, it must be admitted, do not amount to very much:  the font is composed of an undecorated Norman bowl standing on a modern stem, all the woodwork appears to be Victorian or later, and the fourteenth century stone effigy of a knight lying on a tomb chest (above right), which occupies all the useful space in the chancel, has, in Pevsner's words, been "depressingly cleaned-up".  None of this nor the simplicity of the architecture prevents a visit here from being an enjoyable one - to an ancient, evocative little building situated in fine countryside, in possibly the most rural county in England.