SHOBDON CHURCH Herefordshire

The village of Shobdon in Herefordshire is on the B4362 about 6 miles east of Presteigne. The church is some way from the village to the north of the B4362, on the east side of the village. Follow the brown signs for Shobdon Church and Arches.
(grid reference - church SO 401628 - priory remains SO 400633 - postcode HR6 9LZ)

Shobdon 1
Photo: © Philip Pankhurst (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

A possession of Queen Edith, widow of King Edward the Confessor, Shobdon passed in 1075 to Ralph Mortimer of Wigmore (d<1137) . 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 (d1181) succeeded to his father's lands in England, around 1140. About that year, Bishop Robert Bethune of Hereford (d1148) consecrated Shobdon priory. This could well mean that Shobdon "Arches", the weathered remains of the 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 to Wigmore where Hugh founded an abbey for them in 1174. At this point the demoted Shobdon priory became a church of Wigmore Abbey.

Shobdon 2
Photo: © http://www.shobdonchurch.org.uk

Shobdon survived as a parish church, but all that currently remains of the medieval church is the thirteenth century tower. The rest of the church was rebuilt in the 18th century and is a very important example of "Strawberry Hill Gothic". The rebuilt 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 they are now much decayed, presumably since they were moved here when the nave and chancel were rebuilt between 1752 and 1756. The decorative font with four supporting lions appears to be contemporary with the remains of the priory on the hill.

Shobdon 3
Photo: © John Phillips (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Notes compiled by Hugh Wood, mainly from an article by Paul Remfry

For pictures and more information about Shobdon Arches (the remains of the priory) click here
For more information about the present Shobdon Church click here