Rowlestone, Herefordshire

Extract from Littlebury's Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, 1876-7
with Private and Commercial Residents

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2002

ROWLSTONE, or ROLLSTONE, is a parish distant 13 miles S.W. of Hereford, and about 2 W. of Pontrilas station on the Newport, Abergavenny, and Hereford branch of the Great Western railway, which line passes through a small portion of the parish. It is in Ewyas Lacy hundred, Dore union and petty sessional division, Ewyas Harold polling district, and Hereford county court district. The population in 1861 was 145; in 1871, 149; inhabited houses, 32; families or separate occupiers. 32; area of parish, 1,678 acres; annual rateable value, £1,260. Edward Scudamore Lucas, Esq., of Kentchurch court, who is lord of the manor, James Gilbert Price, Esq., William Hoddell, Esq., and Mr. John Watkins, are the chief landowners. The soil is a strong clay on a red sandstone formation; products, wheat, barley, oats, roots, &c. Rowlstone is in the diocese and archdeaconry of Hereford and rural deanery of Weobley; living, a vicarage consolidated with that of Llancillo; tithe, £125, and 85 acres of glebe (joint value, about £300, with residence); patron, Michael King, Esq.; vicar, Rev. James Martin Kennedy, of King's College, London, who was instituted in 1864.

The church of St. Peter is situated in one of the most pleasant rural districts of the county, and through the zealous and energetic endeavours of the vicar has been thoroughly restored, and was reopened for divine service on October 5th, 1865. This interesting edifice consists of a nave, chancel, western tower, and south porch. It was visited by the British Archaeological Society during the Herefordshire meeting in September 1867, and one of the members, S. Blashill, Esq., architect, of London, gave the following description:- "The main portions of the church appear to belong to the period between 1130 and 1150. Its 12th-century work, although possessing some peculiarities, is generally consistent with the Norman type, and free from ornament of the Celtic class. Yet there is a piece of foliage on the south doorway similar to some at Kilpeck, and exactly like that which is used in a similar position at Shobdon.

The sculpture in the tympanum of this door, which represents our Lord in an aureole supported by four angels, is also like that at Shobdon, except as to the position of two of the four angels. This carving has been said to have reference to the text, 'I am the door'. But it is really and solely that most favourite subject with all early mediaeval artists which is known in England, France, and Italy alike as a 'Majesty'. We find it as early as the 4th century in the catacombs of Rome, where Christ is represented blessing, with his right hand open, and having a roll in his left. It was used profusely and with many varieties, in sculpture, painting, stained glass, and manuscripts, and of course over doorways also. Sometimes in large churches an attempt was made to represent, in some measure, the striking scene described in the 4th and 5th chapters of the Revelation. There is the Lord sitting on the throne surrounded by the rainbow like unto an emerald.

At the four angles of the subject are the four beasts, which in progress of time were considered to be symbolical of the four Evangelists, and on the arch above and the lintel below encircling all are the four-and-twenty elders. Here we have simply the Lord in an aureole supported by four angels. The sculptor, for the sake of increasing the size of the tympanum, has brought it down below the upper line of the capitals, and has also adopted the heavy roll moulding of the arch of the same thickness of the column below. These were local peculiarities, of which other instances may be given, as that of Bredwardine; and they were also adopted in Ireland and in Wales in the 12th century. Two remarkable pieces of sculpture exist at the sides of the chancel arch. In each of these is the figure of a saint with an attendant angel, in the traditional flaming costume used in early sculpture, and with bare head and feet, and the flat nimbus behind the head.

Those on the north side carry each a cross and book. The practice of placing the attributes of the Apostles in their hand, as the keys in St. Peter, was then only of recent introduction at the time these figures were cut, and it would not be easy to identify them if those on the south side were not placed with their heads downwards - a plan indicating that the figure on this side, if not the other also, is intended for St. Peter, to whom the church is dedicated. This was a favourite subject with the mediaeval artists, Peter having been by tradition supposed to be crucified in that position by his own desire. The best known instance of this subject is the remarkable altar-piece painted by Rubens for the church of St. Peter, at Cologne. In the renewed figure at Rowlstone the saint carries in one hand a long label, in allusion to the tradition which attributed to each of the Apostles one sentence of the creed.

The cocks, which are finely sculptured on the adjacent capitals, doubtless refer to Peter's denial of our Lord. The birds carved on the string-courses are of the same kind as those to be seen at Kilpeck. They are set amongst tufts of herbage, and are excellent specimens of 12th-century carving. The two iron brackets fixed to the walls of the chancel seem to be of the 14th or 15th century, and they are hinged so as to fold against the wall, and have each five prickets for holding the ends of long candles, which would go through the rings above. Alternate ornaments of cocks and fleur-de-lis, cut out of thin iron, are fixed on both sides. The two brackets differ both in size and design, and were probably not the work of the same hand. They are the only examples of this kind in England.

In the chancel, the Norman arch, with all its carvings, mouldings, and sculpture, has been thoroughly scraped and renovated, the roof timbers have been cleaned, squared, and repaired. The church now contains 120 sittings, all of which are free and unappropriated. About £450 has been expended upon the work of restoration, and has been creditably carried out from the designs, and under the superintendence of G.C. Haddon, Esq., architect, Hereford and Malvern." The Rev. E.L. Barnwell, in his little book on this church, says:- "The principal curiosity is the continual reproduction of the cock throughout the building. They are seen on the imposts of each side of the south entrance. They occur again on those of the chancel arch on its western face, which associated with St. Peter and a winged angel, who are, however, reversed on the southern one; also on the imposts are smaller repetitions of the same bird, two over each impost.

The general style of carving corresponds with the assigned date of the church. But in addition to these birds carved in stone are two very singular movable brackets of wrought iron, the real age of which has been a matter of much controversy. Mr. Henman assigns them to the 14th century. The Rev. J.M. Kennedy, the vicar, thinks them contemporary with the main structure, and were portions of the original arrangement of the chancel. But whether so early, or even of the 13th century, which is not improbable, they are certainly not later than the 14th century. They are of so singular a character, if not unique in these islands, as well as in France and elsewhere as generally supposed, that they may owe their existence to some local circumstance or tradition connected with the history of St. Peter, who certainly seems to be honoured in a remarkable manner by the introduction of this bird, although the apostle is not usually so distinguished.

The chancel is 17 feet 6 inches in length and 2 feet less in breadth. The brackets are fixed on the north and south walls, about 5 feet or more from the ground and 6½ feet from the eastern wall. They are not of the same length, the one on the north wall being 6 inches shorter than the other. Nor is the workmanship the same, as the shorter is the better executed one of the two. The difference in length is not explained. As to their use, no doubt exists of their having been intended to light up the chancel, as well as to honour more especially our Lady and St. Peter, whose images are thought to have stood upon the two corbels still existing on each side of the high altar. Mr. Kennedy suggests that they were lit up on the festivals of the Virgin and St. Peter, but they were probably used upon all festivals, if not on Sundays." The yew trees in the churchyard are extremely fine, some of them perhaps the finest in England. A new vicarage was erected in 1869 at a cost of £1,200, chiefly raised by the vicar and friends. There is no school in the parish, but a school board has been formed for the united district of Walterstone, Rowlstone, and Llancillo.

POSTAL REGULATIONS.- Letters are received through Hereford. Ewyas Harold is the nearest money order office. Pontrilas is the nearest telegraph office. Post town, Hereford.
Parish Church (St. Peter's).- Rev. James Martin Kennedy, A.K.C., Vicar; Mr. John Williams, Churchwarden.
Kennedy Rev. James Martin, A.K.C. (vicar of Rowlstone with Llancillo), The Vicarage
Price Mr. John, Woodbine cottage
Davies David, frmr. & miller, Lower mill
Farr James, farmer, Rowlstone court
Gwilliam John, farmer, Hill farm
Hoddell William, farmer and landowner, Pen-y-worlod
Jones Thomas, farmer
Prosser John, farmer, Rowlstone house
Prosser Robert, farmer, New house
Rogers Mrs., farmer, Park farm
Watkins George, farmer, Wigga
Watkins John, miller, farmer, and land owner, Rowlstone mill
Williams John, farmer, landowner, and churchwarden, Vrow
Williams John, farmer and mason, Pudding lane

OCR/Transcription by Rosemary Lockie in July 2002.

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