St Mary Magdalene
Herefordshire HR3 6NL
This 12th century parish church is best known for its extraordinary Herefordshire School Romanesque font, sculpted in c.1150. It is covered with intricate carvings of twisting vines, foliage, Celtic knotwork patterns and naive figures illustrating tales of Evil and daring-do.
The rest of the church is also very interesting. It consists of a 12th century nave with, a 13th century south aisle and a 14th century north aisle. The ceiling is half-timbered and the west tower is a 1708 replacement for an earlier wooden bell tower, which was probably destroyed by fire.
The south arcade features attractive carvings of a lion’s and human heads at the junctions where the rafters meet the piers. There are two loose fragments of 12th century carving on display, and another fragment has been built into the sill of the east window in the south aisle. The south aisle windows were renewed by the Gothic Revival architect Ewan Christian in 1863.
The font is built like a truncated wine glass, with a short circular base supporting a wide circular bowl. Both the base and the bowl are carved in fantastically intricate patterns of figures, writhing vines and foliage, and geometric patterns. It was carved by the same team of sculptors responsible for the carvings at Kilpeck church in south Herefordshire.
The carvings are designed to tell a cautionary tale – the saving of a sinner from the clutches of Evil. In the carvings the figure of a man is pursued by a lion (Evil) and is saved from the lion by Christ. Christ is accompanied by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above his shoulder. This scene is also interpreted as a depiction of the ‘Harrowing of Hell'.
In another part of the design two knights engage in combat. The two figures are thought to represent Lord Drogo of Clifford and his son-in-law, Ralph de Baskerville of Eardisley, who engaged in a real-life combat in a dispute over ownership of land sometime before 1127. The elder knight was killed, but Ralph repented of his actions and became a monk at Gloucester Abbey.
It is possible that it was Ralph who was responsible for hiring the Herefordshire School of carvers to create the font for Eardisley church.
The church contains displays on local history of Eardisley village and the church building itself. You might be lucky enough to find a coffee morning in progress at the time of your visit, to which you will be invited to participate.
Every day during daylight hours.
Wheelchair access available.
Toilets on site, parking available.
The lych gate at the entrance to the churchyard is very old. Lych gates were formerly used to shelter a coffin until the clergyman's arrival for a burial, or pre-burial service.
George Coke, Bishop of Hereford is buried here, but the old churchyard surrounding the building eventually filled up and had to be extended. In the extension can be found the Commonwealth war graves of a Herefordshire Regiment soldier of World War I, and a Royal Engineers soldier and a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse of World War II.
Contact & Further Information
St Mary Magdalene is a member of the Eardisley Group of Churches.
+44 (0)1544 327440
Follow the directions on this website for getting to Eardisley Village. The church is on the corner of Church and Park Roads.
Google Maps - St Mary Magdalene Church