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Moccas

Dedication : St Michael and All Saints                           Simon Jenkins: Excluded         Principal Features : Almost unchanged Norman Church in Beautiful Rural Setting

Moccas is one of those churches where time seems to have stood still. Set in the most glorious Herefordshire countryside close to the manor of Moccas Park, on a summer evening this was an idyllic visit.

The church was built in about 1130. There had been a Moccas Abbey that was destroyed by the invading Saxons in about AD600. Moccas is an original Norman 3-celled apsidal church whose ground plan has not changed in nearly 1000 years.

Moccas is believed to have been built by the same masons as the wonderful Kilpeck Church, also a 3-celled apsidal church, but did not enjoy the rich funding provided by Hugh de Kilpeck for the church that bears his name. The contrast between the humble plainness of Moccas and the Romanesque fantasy that is Kilpeck could not be greater.

The south door has a tympanum but its design of human figures and beasts around a Tree of Life has been all but obliterated by weathering. The north door’s tympanum had a scrolled ornament and a beast but I defy anyone to distinguish it now. On both doors the carvings on the capitals are faint but still visible. There are chevron mouldings over the doors.

Inside, there is little decoration. The chancel arch is notably plain, but has some lozenge chevron that mimics that on the apse ribs at Kilpeck.

The arch to the apse is almost identical. The chancel is dominated - indeed overcrowded - by a knight’s effigy that has been placed squarely in its centre. This is believed to be of Hugh de Fresne who died in 1375. He was a crusader and so is shown with crossed legs. The c13 and c14 windows in the chancel show the de Fresne arms in their stained glass.

The apse is the original, windows and all, although George Gilbert Scott Jr did quite a lot of restoration. The organ dominates the west end, and it is a remarkable thing. Gillbert Scott designed it and Thomas Kempe (not be to be confused with Charles Eamer Kempe, the celebrated Victorian stained glass window artist) painted it.

The south door. The tympanum is totally weathered.

Looking east through the chancel arch. Although the church is austere, it is as well to remember that originally it was almost certainly painted throughout.

The apse arch is little different from the chancel arch, but this does give a pleasant symmetry to the church. Sir Hugh rests peacefully in the chancel.

The south door capitals are badly eroded, but you can still see the leaf moulding on the left hand capital.. This motif is repeated on the north door.

The apse - a rare survivor from the Norman period. Although they would have been ubiquitous in the Saxon era, they were less common in the Norman period and most were replaced by rectangular chancels.

The de Fresne arms are set into this lovely stained glass window of the Decorated period. They are “Gules two bars party fessewise and indented argent and azure”.

The font dates from c12 or c13.

The decoration on the impost of the chancel arch is continued as a string course as far as the south wall. The pattern is different but this extension into a string course is also seen at Kilpeck.

Sir Hugh de Fresne. A descendant of one of William the Conqueror’s knights, de Fresne built the manor house that is now Moccas Court that adjoins this church. The dog at his feet shows that he died at home.

The roof dates only from 1978, but it is nice to see the Green Man still featuring in the English church!

Any church would be proud to possess this wonderfully-decorated organ.

The west end is as plain as you will see anywhere - but original Norman.

The blocked north door with its irretrievably obliterated tympanum.

One of the deeply-splayed original Norman windows.

Above: One of the north door capitals, with a design similar to the south door, but also showing a decorated course similar to that on the chancel arch.

Right: The south aspect. The de Fresne window is to the right of the porch.

Footnote 1

It’s not every day that you see a part of the Luftwaffe parked next to a parish church! I immediately identified this as a Fiesler Storch of WWII vintage, a spotter plan that was similar to the RAF’s Westland Lysander.

I did some research and was slightly disappointed to find that it is a 2/3 size replica manufactured in the Czech Republic (I think!). It is privately owned and presumably uses the lovely parkland here to take off and land. It was a rare treat to be able to walk around and photograph this gorgeous machine.

Footnote 2

No commentary needed for this picture, I guess. Spare a moment’s thought for Lily Anne and her parents if you visit this church.