Part 1

Location and setting: This isolated church must come as something of a surprise to hikers staying at the Youth Hostel here while plying the Wye Valley Walk, being so far from the nearest habitation, so inaccessible and yet so grand in design and execution, with its tall steeple suddenly visible through the trees.  The setting could hardly be bettered for a folly, the church set on the north bank of the river, the churchyard set into the valley slope and half-hidden by trees, as if designed to ambush the unwary passer-by.

The answer to the riddle lies in the history of the Youth Hostel itself, a grand stone building, or rather range of buildings, of three storeys which was built as the rectory for the wealthy rector and landowner Stephen Allaway, who also paid for the demolition of the old Norman church and its replacement with this fine church in a Victorian version of the same style, and much richer.  


Location and setting: This isolated church must come as something of a surprise to hikers staying at the Youth Hostel here while plying the Wye Valley Walk, being so far from the nearest habitation, so inaccessible and yet so grand in design and execution, with its tall steeple suddenly visible through the trees.  The setting could hardly be bettered for a folly, the church set on the north bank of the river, the churchyard set into the valley slope and half-hidden by trees, as if designed to ambush the unwary passer-by.


A new church was provided at Welsh Bicknor in 1859, at the sole expense of the rector, the Rev John Burden, and Stephen Alloway, who was a tenant of Courtfield nearby. Thomas Rushforth designed the church which so impressed the Hoskyns family of Harewood Park (Herefordshire), that he was asked to provide a chapel there in 1864 (St Denis).



The Youth Hostel itself, a grand stone building, or rather range of buildings, of three storeys which was built as the rectory for the wealthy rector and landowner Stephen Allaway, who also paid for the demolition of the old Norman church and its replacement with this fine church in a Victorian version of the same style, and much richer.A new rectory house was not built till 1868; it is situated adjacent to the church in an isolated and idyllic position within a bend of the River Wye. It is a gabled stone building, the first floor towards the river being treated as a piano nobile, the full length windows being partially protected by elaborate cast-iron railings. The Rev Frederick James Aldrich-Blake was the first occupier of the new building.











 


The estate workers who once must have filled the church are long gone, and the dispersed members of the congregation must negotiate the narrow path down the slope in their cars down to the Youth Hostel, which has a small car park.  Another more romantic option might be to use the small landing stage, perhaps for weddings and baptisms, an option currently under consideration for the future.


The small, almost square churchyard slopes dramatically from the north, the church built at the break of slope with the river’s flood-plain.  The churchyard is laid to grass, and is encompassed by a low coped stone wall, which is heavily encroached upon from the north and west by trees and bushes.  The churchyard is entered through an open timber-framed lych-gate supported on dwarf walls set in the middle of the west wall, and has a steeply pitched hipped roof covered in slates.  The path is paved with bricks up to the west porch.  


There are some fine gravestones dating to the 18th century, two late 18th-century tomb chests (Grade II) and a large cross, of the late 19th century but containing medieval masonry in the base, also Grade II listed.  

There is a ruined building adjacent to the east with large mill-stones within, The whole site is of great antiquity and archaeological potential, with continuous use since at least the 11th century.



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