St Mary’s Bromfield

From Stokesay, our Traherne Association tour took us to St Mary’s Church, Bromfield. It happened to be across the road from our fine lunch venue at the Ludlow Kitchen (https://ludlowfarmshop.co.uk/visit-us/ludlow-kitchen/), but also boasts some fine and unusual chancel decorations from 1672 that was of Traherne-period interest.

The site was quite probably a very early – perhaps British – Christian place of worship, and by the time of the Conquest it had become a royal minster serving a huge parochia, served by 12 canons (so a first division player), later becoming monks under the aegis of the Benedictines at Gloucester Abbey. The capitals of the old chancel arch survive behind the reredos – an impressively wide opening but with strangely crude (possibly in more than one sense) carvings.

The big west tower was added in the 13th century, along with a north aisle, proving more accommodation for parishioners. After that decline set in (Ludlow had been founded as the new big local centre), and the Dissolution saw the priory sold to one Charles Fox. The original chancel was then lost, and the crossing incorporated into the house Fox made out of the remnants of the claustral buildings. After a fire that too was lost, however, and the crossing reclaimed as a chancel for parish use. With the striking decoration (the reredos was added in 1890) it works pretty well as a church now, once your eye has got used to it having all the right things, but not all in the right order. And don’t miss the fine letter-cutting of Eric Gill on the Hickman memorial in the nave.

By the way, why not look up the Traherne Association – and even join? https://thomastraherneassociation.org/