Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kilpeck Church Herefordshire

Kilpeck Church (aka the Parish Church of St Mary and St David in Kilpeck), located in Herefordshire near the Welsh border, is home to the finest collection of Romanesque sculpture in England. It was built in about 1140 and has survived remarkably intact and unaltered to the present day.

There has been a church on this site since the earliest days of Christianity. The village's name of Kilpeck is probably derived from kil Pedic, the "cell of St Pedic," who is otherwise unknown but was likely a local Celtic holy man. Records in the Book of Llandaff indicate that "Kilpeck church with all its lands around" was given to that diocese in 650 AD.

Part of a previous Saxon church may survive in the remains of a buttress on the north wall of the present church. It has the characteristics of Saxon architecture, but remains a bit of a mystery since the Normans usually destroyed all trace of previous Saxon work.

The Normans arrived in Kilpeck not long after the Conquest, and William the Conqueror gave Kilpeck to his kinsman William fitz Norman. This William built a timber castle at Kilpeck, which was later replaced with stone and extended but does not survive today.

William's son, Hugh de Kilpeck, was Keeper of the King's Forests, and it was he who founded Kilpeck's splendid Romanesque church in about 1140. The church was given to the Abbey of Gloucester in 1143.

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