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English Church Architecture -



HOPESAY, St. Mary (SO 389 833)     (June 2015)

(Bedrock:  Silurian Ludlow Series, undifferentiated)


Unfortunately, the most enduring memory the visitor may take away from this church may be of the amount and stench of dung spread copiously over its paths and churchyard by the two or three dozen sheep (miraculously not seen above, in the view of the church from the south) enfolded within its constricted boundaries.  The building consists of a W. tower, nave and chancel, with an adjoining, fairly deep but windowless S. porch, a cross-gabled N. vestry, and a small lean-to appendage against the N. wall of the nave.  The tower is clearly related to that at nearby Clun, with its asymmetrically-buttressed lower stage which is massive in plan but modest in height, and a wooden upper stage which is short, recessed and capped by a pyramidal roof.  The latter is ascribed to the seventeenth century by notes within the church, but there are no obvious stylistic features to either stage which are any real help with dating.  The dimensions of the lower stage of the tower are given in the notes as 26' (7.9 m.) from east to west and 27' (8.2 m.) from north to south, and based solely on its megalithic construction, one feels inclined to assume it is early.


Elsewhere in the church, windows are either Early English or Decorated in style but so heavily restored wherever they are not completely renewed that only two or three lancets now appear to owe anything to the thirteenth century.  Perhaps another indication of the age of the basic fabric of the building, however, is given by the broad, double-flat-chamfered chancel arch inside, which rests on semicircular responds of which that to the north (left in the photograph above) could possibly be Norman, which must certainly be the period of the earlier of the church's two fonts, still standing just inside the S. door, with its plain, circular, cambered bowl, supported on a plain circular stem. This, then, is a building of ancient foundation, even if there is little to show for it now.


The single exception is the fifteenth century collar-beam nave roof (illustrated above), which - notwithstanding its modest scale - has continuous arched braces from the tie beams to the collars, and purlins one-third and two-thirds of the way up the pitch, whose function seems less to aid structural stability than simply to mark out squares with the common and principal rafters, so that wind braces in between can form a pattern of quatrefoils. Pevsner chose to illustrate this in his Shropshire volume of The Buildings of England (Penguin, 1958), but with the woodwork of a whole county to choose from, that does seem excessively generous.