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Orleton

Dedication : St George                           Simon Jenkins: Excluded                   Principal Features : Norman Font of Herefordshire “School”; King & Queen Carvings

I suppose Orleton is what I call the “Single Treasure Churches” and, as in so many cases, that treasure is a Norman font, of which I am inordinately fond. Orleton, however, also has a fine chancel rebuilt in Early English style  in the early c13 (and restored in c19) with the distinctive tall lancet windows of that period.

Malcolm Thurlby’s book “The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture” had Orleton as an Addendum. Although he finds some expert clues on the font decoration that link it to the Herefordshire School, he believes that it is a rather crude example - and for my part I was surprised that it was seen as being of that school. See Eardisley and Chaddesley Corbett, for example. However, in recent years a carved shaft that was formerly in the safe keeping of Hereford Catherdral has been restored to the church and from it Thurlby is able to conclude that the church was probably under the patronage of Hugh de Mortimer and his steward Oliver de Merlimond - whose churches were very much of The Herefordshire School. Moreover, he believes that the font was therefore carved after 1143 when de Merlimond had left the service of Mortimer.

The nave walls are the original Norman but you wouldn’t really know it. The tower is c13, despite having a round-headed west door and south window. A filled-in Norman window over the tower arch does not relate to the tower.

All in all this is a church that has historical significance only as part of the Herefordshire School but it is a pleasant church and the EE really is very fine.

The internal carvings are, however, are of considerable historical interest. There is a lovely head of King Edward II (done to death in Berkely Castle) facing his wife Isabella. Above his head is a smaller stone carving of Piers Gaveston who was his friend and, according to some historians, his catamite. The favour shown to Gaveston was one of the roots of Edward’s overthrow and murder.

The font has nine apostles around its bowl. All are carrying books and/or candles except one who bears the keys that denote St Peter and is thus the only one identifiable. To emphasise the relative crudeness of this font see the Norman apostle font at Coleshill in Warwickshire.

Looking towards the west end. The font is at the far end on the left.

The east end of the chancel with two EE lancet windows either side of a niche.

More EE windows on the south side of the chancel.

The filled in Norman window above the tower arch.

Edward II and Isabella

Three views of the rather uninspiring font.

View from the south west.

The carved shaft that “proves” that Orleton is part of the Herefordshire School. Sadly, my picture is a poor one (it was a very dark afternoon!) but you can see a dragon (1/3 way from the top) with jaws apart about to bite another. The scaly body and serpent imagery are similar to those found at Kilpeck.

An original c13 church chest. Even the ironwork is original.