Church of St Mary & St David, Kilpeck, Herefordshire
Image by saffron100_uk
The Church of St. Mary and St. David is a Church of England parish church at Kilpeck in the English county of Herefordshire, about 5 miles from the border with Wales. It is famous for its exquisite Norman carvings.
The church was built around 1140, and almost certainly before 1143 when it was given to the Abbey of Gloucester. It may have replaced an earlier Saxon church at the same site, and the oval raised form of the churchyard is typical of even older Celtic foundations. Around the 6th and 7th centuries the Kilpeck area was within the British kingdom of Ergyng, which maintained Christian traditions dating back to the late Roman period. The possibility of the site holding Roman and even megalithic remains has been raised, but is unproven.
The plan of the church, with a nave, chancel, and semicircular apse, is typical for the time of its construction, the Norman period. It was originally dedicated to a St. David, probably a local Celtic holy man, and later acquired an additional dedication to Mary from the chapel at Kilpeck Castle after it had fallen into disrepair. The economic decline of the area after the 14th century may have helped preserve features which would have been removed elsewhere. However, it is unclear why the carvings were not defaced by Puritans in the 17th century. The church was substantially repaired in 1864, 1898 and 1962, and its unique features were protected and maintained. The carvings in the local red sandstone are remarkable for the number and fine preservation, particularly round the south door, the west window, and a row of corbels which run right around the exterior of the church under the eaves. The carvings are all original and in their original positions.