St Bartholomew, Vowchurch, Herefordshire

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Feature Sets (2)


Vowchurch is in the Golden Valley in SW Herefordshire, the village consisting of a few house and the church clustered around a crossing of the rive Dore (little more than a stream at this point) on the minor road to Turnastone and Michaelchurch. To the N the road rises steeply to Vowchurch Common. The landscape here is hilly wooded pastureland. The church, of coursed sandstone rubble, stands alongside the bridge and consists of a long nave and chancel in one with a timber-framed W bell turret with a broach spire. There is no chancel arch. At the W end of the nave the N and S walls are of a different build from the rest, and this section is all that remains of the 12thc. fabric (confirmed by a round-headed window in the S nave wall, immediately E of the S porch). The eastern part of the church was rebuilt in the 14thc., and probably lengthened, and the church was rededicated in 1348 (see VII History). The N and S doorways and the remaining windows are 14thc.; the three-light N, S and E windows being of a type that is locally common that has simple tracery bars on the flanking lights but not in the central light. The bell turret was built with a bequest from Thomas ap Harry of Poston around 1522, and the broach spire added as part of a restoration campaign in 1871. The timber porch is 17thc. and was restored in 1860. The only Romanesque sculpture here is the font.


The place is not in the Domesday Survey, and its first documentary mention is in 1291 when it is called Fowchirche, meaning "multicoloured church" (Ekwall, p.489). In 1348 Bishop John de Treleck dedicated three altars; the high altar and one on either side of the nave, W of the screen. the high altar was dedicated to the Virgin, St John the Baptist, St Bartholomew, St Lawrence and St Ethelbert; the N altar to the Virgin, St Blaise, and to “St Martin, St Gregory and St Thomas Confessors and Bishops”; and the S altar to St Mary Magdalene, St Agnes, St Catherine, St Margaret and St Milburga. The present dedication to St Bartholomew is a modern choice.




At the W end of the nave

A cup-shaped 12thc. bowl, identified by Halsey as a local limestone known as Breccia or Cornstone, standing on a modern cylindrical shaft and cyma base. Except for a short section at the E, the bowl is scalloped all round; the cones following the convex profile of the bowl and the shields recessed. The E section is carved in relief with a pair of broad upright leaves rising from reeded stems. Around the upper rim of the bowl is a broad fillet. The bowl is unlined and there are remains of staples at N and S and rim damage at S, W and E.

ext. diam. of bowl at rim 0.87 m
h. of bowl 0.48 m
int. diam. of bowl at rim 0.66 m


Halsey identified this as one of the group of eight Herefordshire fonts in local reddish-brown, psammitic limestone, called "Breccia" or "Cornstone". Others survive at Bishop Frome, Bosbury, Bredwardine, Kilpeck, Kingstone, Madley and Turnastone. This example is unusual in having relief decoration and in not being polished, and Halsey suggests that it was not polished precisely because it had been carved. GZ describes the font as rustic work of the late 12thc.


  • E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 4th ed. Oxford, 1960, 489.
  • Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 5119. Now available online at http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/db.php/p
  • G. Marshall, Fonts in Herefordshire. Hereford, Woolhope Naturalists Field Club. III (1951), 26.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, Harmondsworth 1963, 305.
  • RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 1: South-west, 1931.
  • R. Halsey, 'Eight Herefordshire Marble Fonts', Romanesque and Gothic: Essays for George Zarnecki, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1987, 107-09.
  • R. E. R., St Bartholomew’s Church Vowchurch. Vowchurch PCC, 1992 (2003 edition).
  • A. S. Wood, A Short History of the Parish Church of Vowchurch, Herefordshire, 1967, pp. I-II.
Exterior from SE.
Interior to E.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SO 362 365 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Herefordshire
now: Herefordshire
medieval: Hereford
now: Hereford
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Bartholomew
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
George Zarnecki, Ron Baxter