Strawberry and Cream at St John’s Church, Shobdon

“The finest C18 church in Herefordshire” (Pevsner) or “English Rococo gone mad” (TripAdvisor) – either way, this is a must-see church for any crawler, and it was a delight to visit it with Robert Walker and friends recently. It’s not as flamboyant as Great Witley, but unlike that confection, it has a wonderful element of surprise as you enter through the door in the Early-English lookalike tower only to be met by Strawberry Hill Gothic not the Norman variry, strawberries and cream not swords and lions:

We wondered what the little stool by the readeror clerk’s chair in front of the reading desk enclosure by the wonderful pulpit was for. A gammy leg? The prayer book? The organ-boy?

The rococo is in bizarre counterpoint to the glimpses of real Gothic that still peep through. The wonderful Leominster- style lions snarl out in disapproval from the font across the front of the nave from the pulpit, while the original chancel arch and dorrways are banished to be a folly at the top of the alleƩ which is now flanked not by a cricket pitch but a field of massed blackburrant bushes destined either for Ribena or perhaps to give up their spirit to make Herefordshire cassis. The county grows a staggering 2.5k tons of the berries each year, and both products are well worth a glug!

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