We ventured out again yesterday down another hidden country lane, opposite the Herefordshire Golf Club west of the city, to visit the little church of St Mary, Wormsley, sleeping prettily in the care of the Churches’ Conservation Trust. I see from the Church Crawling Facebook group that we were in the footsteps of fellow-crawler Richard Jones, but as we all see things slightly differently, I thought I’d post as well, all the same.
The first thing you notice is that you go up a grassy bank to the get into the round-cornered churchyard – the smoking gun of a likely Anglo-Saxon site, and indeed the settlement is there in Domesday, with every likelihood of a simple church, now lost, serving it.
What we see though, as we pass the base of a later medieval preaching cross, is an archetypal twelfth/thirteenth century Norman rebuild (itself rebuilt over the years but along the same lines). The proportions and simple structure remind me of many other straightforward small two-cell churches that still survive often in more remoter rural areas where there was no need for enlargement, speaking of that great age of stone. If you look carefully over the south door as you enter you’ll see a simple tympanum decorated with diamond ‘opus reticulatum’, and inside the font is undecorated deep bowl though well-proportioned and in its way majestic: no cash here then for the fancy work of the Herefordshire Romanesque school. But for me the simplicity is enough and it makes a perfect place for quiet prayer.
A display set up the CCT tells us of the parish’s most famous son, Thomas Andrew Knight, who went on to be president of the Horticultural Society; but more importantly for us locals published the Pomona Herefordiensis, the Bible of apples and pears, and developed new improved varieties dome of which were recently planted in the churchyard near Knight’s fine memorial. We resisted the temptation to do an Eve and pick the apples though so there may be some there for you when you make your own visit (and drop a decent banknote in the wall-safe for the CCT whose income will have taken a hit in these troubled times).