Hoarwithy, St Catherine Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Extraordinary Byzantine style decoration
The interior is sumptuous, modelled after the Cathedral at Le Puy, in France, with an apsidal chancel raised on steps, with a half-apse to either side. The focal points are the white marble altar studded with precious stones and a similar white marble pulpit with panels of green porphyry. The pulpit was modelled after that of Fiesole Cathedral, outside Florence, while the hanging lamps are copied from those at St Mark's in Venice.
There is a small stained glass window by Edward Burne Jones, depicting an 'Angel in Doom', and the five stained glass windows in the chancel were designed in memory of Prebendary Poole. The colours are modelled after the windows in the north transept of Hereford Cathedral which Poole admired. The richly decorated choir stalls are all carved by hand, using oak from Poole's own family estate at Homend, near Ledbury. The beautifully carved stalls and prayer desk depict local saints, particularly Dubricius, the patron saint of Hentland church. Carved panels show Dubricius exorcising the Devil, in the form of a bat.
The hanging lamps are relicas of those used in St Mark's Cathedral in Venice. The original heating system was a hypocaust, essentially the same as that used by the Romans, though this has now been converted to a modern heating system. The overall effect of the interior is awe inspiring; the Italian style is so unexpected in a quintessential English landscape.
Visiting St Catherines
The church stands on a steeply sloping hillside, just where the road begins to rise, heading north from the centre of Hoarwithy towards Dewchurch. From the road it is difficult to see more than just a bit of fence and a church signpost and gate. There is no parking area so you have to park along the verge by the gate. Through the gate, a path climbs steeply and you see the amazing Italianate tower rising ahead of you. It isn't immediately obvious where the church entrance is; as I discovered after 10 minutes of unsuccessful walking around the exterior, you have to pass along the arcaded porch to the end, then turn right, through a heavy doorway, into the west porch. It is easier than it sounds!
Author John Leonard, in his wonderful book 'Churches of Herefordshire and Their Treasures', calls Hoarwithy 'the most exciting Victorian church in Herefordshire', and I find myself in complete agreement. He goes on to call Seddon's church a work of 'startling originality', and again I have to agree.
Walkers on the Wye Valley walk will be familiar with Hoarwithy Chapel, as the path passes close by the church.
About Hoarwithy, St Catherine Church
Address: Hoarwithy, Herefordshire, England, HR2 6QH
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the centre of Hoarwithy village 5 miles north west of Ross-on-Wye. Parking along the verge. Usually open daylight hours.
Website: Hoarwithy, St Catherine Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Hentland, St Dubricius Church - 1.9 miles (Historic Church)
Little Birch, St Mary's Church - 2.3 miles (Historic Church)
Michaelchurch, St Michaels church - 2.9 miles (Historic Church)
Foy, St Mary's Church - 3.4 miles (Historic Church)
Holme Lacy church - 3.6 miles (Historic Church)
Fownhope, St Mary's Church - 3.7 miles (Historic Church)
Shipley Gardens - 4 miles (Garden)
How Caple Church - 4.2 miles (Historic Church)
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