Bob and Bea were in attendance when HRH The Prince of Wales visited Shobdon Church on Friday 31st January 2014. HRH was greeted by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, The Countess of Darnley JP who presented The Earl of Darnley DL, Bob and Bea, The Chairman of Herefordshire Council, Councillor Olwyn Barnett, The Bishop of Ludlow, The Rt Reverend Alistair Magowan and the Local MP Mr Bill Wiggin MP. The Prince of Wales also met The Chairman of Shobdon Church Preservation Trust Mrs Penny Corbett and the Rector of Shobdon, The Reverend Brenda Jacobs who welcomed HRH back to Shobdon Church. HRH was shown around the newly redecorated and preserved church and met members of the Shobdon Church Preservation Trust, members of the PCC and the regular congregation. Andrew Gilliat, a driving force in the restoration introduced people involved in the restoration. Mrs Penny Corbett then presented the remaining Trustees before asking His Royal Highness and the party to sit while Andrew Gilliat gave a short recital on the organ. HRH signed the Visitor’s Book before unveiling the stone marking his visit. His Royal Highness then left in the pouring rain and was cheered by the mothers and children of Shobdon Primary School.
Both Bob and Bea were delighted to have seen this extraordinary and very beautiful church. Shobdon Church is a hugely important work of architecture. It has a direct connection to Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in Twickenham and the members of the “Committee of Taste” which strongly influenced its design. Its amazingly intact interior and matching furniture are the sole example of this Walpolean Gothick style of Georgian church architecture and furnishing.
The first known church at Shobdon was a timber chapel, built in Anglo Saxon times. The second was a stone church built in the 12th century, the brainchild of Oliver de Merlemond, who employed the knight Bernard to build it for him. A tower was added in the 13th Century. The third and present church consisted of a completely new nave, which was built onto the 13th Century tower, by the Bateman family in 1756.
The original structure was fascinating, mainly for its Romanesque decoration, which connected it to the important Herefordshire school of masonry, and the remains of which can still be seen on the hill above the church. The current church could hardly be more different – it’s interior a unique combination of Rococo and Gothic, often called ‘Strawberry Hill Gothick’, and reflecting the links between the Batemans and Horace Walpole.
It is the striking blue and white interior with its wealth of ornamental arches, lavish pulpit based on the Kent design for York Minster and extensive Gothic detailing that makes Shobdon so unique among churches in Britain.