Shobdon Church

Shobdon was another vill of Queen Edith that passed to Ralph Mortimer of Wigmore in 1075. Before 1120 King Henry I granted Ralph the right to build an abbey in his English lands. However Ralph did not carry out his pious enterprise and instead his steward, Oliver Merlymond, built a priory at Shobdon, possibly before Hugh Mortimer succeeded to his father's lands in England around 1140. Around that year Bishop Robert Bethune of Hereford (1131-48) consecrated Shobdon priory. This could well mean that the weathered remains of a church currently used as a folly date from before this time. It would seem that in about 1146 Hugh chased some twenty canons away from Shobdon and they settled for a while at Llanthony abbey before returning to Shobdon around 1147 or 1148. From here Mortimer obliged the monks first to move to Lye and then Wigmore where Hugh founded an abbey for them in 1174. At this point the demoted Shobdon priory became a church of Wigmore Abbey.

Shobdon remained as a parish church, but all that currently remains is the thirteenth century tower which has been built against by the nave of the eighteenth century church that replaced the rest of the structure. The folly on the hill north of the church consists of two Norman doorways and the chancel arch. Two tympana also survive showing the harrowing of hell and Christ in glory. The whole is decorated by lions, dragons, birds and human figures, but are now much decayed, presumably this has happened since they were moved here when the orginal church nave and chancel were rebuilt between 1752 and 1756. The decorative font with four supporting lions would appear to be contemporary with the remains of the priory now set upon the hill.

Some pictures of the arches can be seen here, while details of the church can be found here.

Copyright©2013 Paul Martin Remfry

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