St Mary the Virgin Leominster
Herefordshire HR4 8HL
The parishioners of Dilwyn and Stretford are lucky to have a virtually unaltered medieval church in their village. This Grade I Listed building is very large because it was once a Collegiate church with six serving priests.
Built of local sandstone rubble and ashlar with castellated parapets, it is the oldest building still standing in the village. Now part of the Leominster Team ministry it has an active church community. There is a church choir, a bell ringing team and a regular group of helpers polishing, cleaning and providing fresh flowers from their gardens.
St Mary’s is open every day from 09:00 – 18:00 hours (16:00 hours during winter)
Tuesdays : 1030 Holy Communion 2nd Sunday of the month – 11:00 Choral Communion 3rd Sunday of the month - - 11:00 All Age Worship 4th Sunday of the month – 09:30 Holy Communion
Team vicar:  Rev. Matthew Burns
Tel: 01568 612124 between 09:30 and 13:00 hours on weekdays
Disabled Access
Wheelchair accessible.
Under the tower are facilities for making tea and coffee, and a toilet. Parking is available.
History & Architecture
A church on this site has served the Dilwyn parish for wellover 800 years. The west tower is the earliest part of the present church and dates to about 1200. It still has two Norman windows but only the north half of the tower arch is preserved with the south arcade running right against the apex of the arch. The only restoration undertaken was in the 19th century when an earlier wooden spire was rebuilt allowing the church’s listing.
In 1733 the peal of six bells was installed in the tower after having been cast by A. R. Rudhall of Gloucester. The tenor bell weight was 12 cwt and the treble was 5 cwt. The bells are rung to summon the parishioners to services, and on special occasions.
The nave and chancel were built together in about 1295 keeping just the tower of the earlier building. The transept dates from the mid 14th century and in the 15th century the clerestory was raised and windows inserted. The porch dates from the 16th century but the interior has hardly changed since medieval times and there is some beautiful original stained glass in a small chancel window.
The arcades that separate the nave from the aisles are Early English in style. The piers are circular and solid with some of the capitals having geometric decoration.
The aisles have a great variety of windows but most date from around 1300, just as the Early English period was giving way to the Decorated, therefore, they include plate tracery, with quatrefoils and cusping.
The impressive East window is early Decorated with three cusped lights and, above, a large pointed trefoil. The documentary evidence that the chancel was built around 1305 fits with the style of this window. However, the painted glass dates to 1867 and the narrative style depicting the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is typically Victorian.
In the north wall of the chancel there is a Decorated period tomb recess with ball-flower embellishment, crockets, and finials. Atop the tomb is a stone effigy of a knight wearing mail, with his hand on the hilt of his sword. It is said to represent Sir George Talbot. who died in 1387 but this date may be rather late for this style of tomb recess. The tomb was moved from its original recess and placed under the adjoining window in 1867 to allow room for installation of the Nicholson organ.
A previous barrel-organ was replaced in 1871 with the installation of a ‘modern’ John Nicholson organ. The organ has recently undergone restoration and now often features in recitals and concerts held in the church.
There is plenty of evidence of pre-Reformation worshipping practices. For example, brackets for pre-Reformation statues have survived along with three piscinas; a lowered window-sill used as a seat; and a coffin lid used four times. A stone sedilia and other traces in the chancel reflect the days when St Mary’s served as a Collegiate church.
Also look out for the two fonts – the original Norman (c.1310) font, kept after its 14th century replacement was installed.
Researching Family History
Many visitors come to an ancient church like St Mary’s hoping to trace family ancestors. The Dilwyn parish registers commence with the year 1558 and can be viewed at the Hereford Records Office.
Dilwyn is the first village on the well-signed Herefordshire Black and White Village Trail tour (see - Picturesque Villages Tour in this website) and we suggest a little time spent exploring St Mary’s church is well worthwhile.
Contact & Further Information
Getting There
Dilwyn is situated on the northern edge of a broad valley that stretches from the west near the river Wye through to Leominster. Running through the valley, south of the village, is the Stretford Brook whilst to the north are the rivers Arrow and Lugg.
The village is about 13 miles (21 km) north-west of the city of Hereford and about 6 miles (10 km) south-west of Leominster.
Google Maps - St Mary's Church, Dilwyn