We found the glory that is Shobdon Church almost by accident.  The chap in the Tourist Information office in Leominster mentioned to Peter that we shouldn’t miss a detour to Shobdon while doing the Black and White Village Trail.  All Peter could recall was something about ‘strawberries’ – which didn’t really mean a lot to either of us.  We missed the turning and almost didn’t get there at all, but persevered and drove into a village seemingly consisting of housing estates and not much else.  We drove on rather half-heartedly but, just as we got to the end of the village, we spotted a sign to the church.

Turning left we immediately found ourselves driving down an impressive avenue of trees.

Passing a pair of important gates, we reached the end of the drive and found the church on our left and ahead of us what looked like part of an industrial estate where we could park Bessie.  A strange juxtaposition.

We were certainly not prepared for what we saw when we entered the door to the church.

Once through the outer doors, I was stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty of what I saw.

Perhaps a little history might be useful at this point before I get carried away.

There have been three churches on this site.  The first was a wooden Saxon affair dedicated to St Juliana and the second was built in the Romanesque period, c.1070-1160 and consisted of a nave and chancel with a tower.  Luckily, quite a lot is known about this church because when the third and existing one was built in the 18th century, they pulled down the previous one and used many of the amazing carvings to create a sort of folly to stand at the apex of a tree lined grassy avenue which leads up the hill to the north of the church.  These carvings are thought to be examples of the work of the famous “Herefordshire School of Carvers” who worked in the south-west Marches of England and Wales from c.1120-1170.  They can still be seen in this position today.

Unfortunately, however, the elements have taken their toll of the fine carving.

It was the Bateman family who owned Shobdon Court in 1705 that brought about the building of the present church.  Richard Bateman, uncle to Sir John Bateman was a friend of Horace Walpole and a member of the “Committee of Taste”.  Shobdon Church is in the same vein as Strawberry Hill, Walpole’s own house in London and this Rococo style became known as “Strawberry Hill Gothic” or “Georgian Gothic”.  So, you see, this is where the Tourist Information man’s “strawberries” come in!  Glad we sorted that out.

Prince Charles gave a generous donation when the church needed considerable repairs in 2004 and famously visited at that time.  This summer the church was re-opened after further essential work and we were thrilled to see it in all its renewed splendour.

The church has two fonts – one of them being the original Romanesque one from the second church and made by the Herefordshire School of Carvers.

Milord and Milady had their own separate area in the church – next to the fire of course!

Shobdon church is unique in England – not only in its design but that everything, including the furniture, was made together and, thank goodness, has been so beautifully preserved for everyone’s enjoyment and pleasure.