touching place

St Margaret’s, Herefs

St Margaret’s takes a bit of finding in the high ground behind Abbey Dore, but when you get there you can look round to the southern Herefordshire hills, or to the Black Mountains on the Welsh border. It is just a simple 12th c. stone building with a weather-boarded bell turret over its west end, but you will savour the moment you push open the south door, just as John Betjeman once did.

There is only a narrow arch separating chancel from nave, so there was no need for a roodscreen, but the loft spans the whole width of the nave. So beautifully carved, and now textured by time and greying through oxidation, with two delicate (if empty) niches in the pillars supporting the loft front, it is a wonder created by an unknown craftsman around 1500.

The other furnishings are simple and homely, but are overshadowed by the loft and by the restored 18th c. painted texts on the walls, all so apposite for their position. Behind
the pulpit is ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins’ (Isaiah 63.1), while to the left of the altar is ‘I will wash my hands in innocency O Lord and so will I go to thine altar’ (Psalm 26.6), and ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God’ (Matt. 5.8). In the arch enclosing the south door, read ‘Go and sin no more’.

Higher, directly above, just under the cornice of the roof: ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness’ (Psalm 84.11). Which is how, I think, you will remember St Margaret’s.

Map reference: SO 353 337

Simon Cotton