A few miles west of Hereford, down a track off a path off a narrow lane lies the secret church of St Mary, Monnington-on-Wye. The settlement was already established by Domesday, and the Court claims an early mediaeval Moot Hall within its fabric. So I suspect an early ecclesiastical site, and while the tower (and general footprint of the church) are claimed for the 15th century, I would not be surprised if the lowest stage of the tower was 13th century and earlier remains still were buried underground.
What is so striking about the church, though, apart from its picturesque and remote setting, is that it is a time-warp from the Restoration, a rare survival of a Royalist cry of triumph as Uvedfale Tomkins repaid the execution of his grandfather with a rebuilding that was then frozen in time. So we still see his chancel furnishings and pews, and oil lamps still hang, though not in the gloom as the church is flooded with light by its re-worked “double-decker” windows from the same period.
Owen Glyndwr is said to have taken refuge at Monnington (probably wrongly), and Kilvert who had relatives at the Court saw the grand mile-long Walk whose vista the church tower closes when it was still a youngster. John Kent the mathematician and poet also lived there and perhaps it is the sort of atmospheric place that could led credence to the legend that he sold his soul to the devil and constructed a bridge over the Monnow in a single night.
A further treat is the 18th century lych-gate, sympathetically restored, with its unusual fretwork balustrading filling the sides. We picnicked there in style, and rejoiced that while the Court is private, the Walk and the church, and the adjacent Bulmer’s orchards, are open to visit for those who can find them.