Edvin Loach Old Church, Herefordshire


Northwest walls
Herringbone walls

Small but atmospheric ruins of an 11th century church in a rural location, on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, and adjoining a Victorian replacement church
Along an undesignated lane, four miles north of Bromyard; HR7 4PW

Edvin Loach is a tiny village of just a few homes, towards the east side of Herefordshire near the border with Worcestershire, on the opposite side of a valley from the slightly larger community of Edwyn Ralph - both derive their unusual names from the 11th century division of the ancient district of Yedeven between two prominent families of the time, Loges and Ralph. The former were probably responsible for construction of a small church in their village, initially consisting only of an aisleless nave, built using the herringbone masonry arrangement characteristic of the Saxons and early Normans, then later enlarged by addition of a chancel on the east side and a square tower to the west.

The church was used continually for nearly 800 years, until a larger replacement was built close by, designed by the noted Victorian architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The 11th century building, now known as Edvin Loach Old Church, was abandoned, and its roof soon collapsed, followed by the upper part of most of the walls, but what remains is still fairly substantial, and retains a number of interesting medieval features.

This church is managed by English Heritage, an open access site, and is a peaceful, little visited attraction, reached by a minor road four miles north of Bromyard. Both new and old churches are surrounded by a tree-lined graveyard that has been in use since ancient times. The Victorian church is also worth a quick visit; it has a fine timbered roof, a polygonal apse at the east end and a tower to the west, all designed in the Early English Gothic style.

The Church

The old church, originally dedicated to St Giles, later to St Mary, was positioned within the earthworks of a short-lived timber fortification, also put up by the Normans, and the outline of the motte and its enclosing ditch can still be seen, running across the graveyard and the field to the south. The building is shielded by large trees on most sides; the least-obstructed view is from the north. The oldest section, the nave, was constructed in the mid to late 11th century using local sandstone blocks, stacked in the traditional herringbone pattern, while the slightly later chancel uses a less regular arrangement. The narrow, square-based tower at the west end is a Tudor addition; this has two levels, illuminated by small, square-headed windows. The one doorway is on the south side, still intact, beside the base of the only surviving window, a narrow opening set relatively high in the wall. Windows, doorways and other structurally important components use more resistant carboniferous limestone. Parts of the walls seem to have been modified on several occasions, most recently in the 13th century.