An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, Volume 1, South west. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1931.
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2 ACONBURY (D.c.).
(O.S. 6 in. (a)XXXIX, S.E., (b)XLV, N.E.)
Aconbury is a parish 4 m. S. of Hereford. The church and Aconbury camp are the principal monuments.
a(1). Parish Church of St. John the Baptist stands near the middle of the parish. The walls are of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings all of local red sandstone; the roofs are tiled. A priory of Austin nuns was founded in Aconbury early in the 13th century by Margery, wife of William de Lacy. The existing Church, being that of the convent, was built c. 1230–40; it probably extended to the E. of the existing building, but which portion, if any, was parochial in the Middle Ages is uncertain. The cloister lay on the S. side and also extended to the E. of the existing church, but there are no remains of the conventual building except some traces of the western range, where it adjoined the church. The West Porch was added late in the 15th century. The priory was suppressed in 1536, and the conventual buildings subsequently destroyed. The upper part of the E., and the eastern part of the N. walls were re-built probably after the dissolution. The Chandos vault was constructed, beneath the chancel, late in the 17th or early in the 18th century. The church was restored in 1863.
The church is of some interest as that attached to a monastic house, and the W. window is an interesting architectural feature.
The Chancel and Nave (56 ft. by 27¼ ft.) are structurally undivided. The partly restored and re-set early 14th-century E. window is of three lights in a two-centred head with a 15th-century moulded label and head-stops; the side lights are pointed and the mullions are carried up to the head on either side of the middle light; in the gable is a round window of the same date, with a moulded label; the wall below the main E. window is of 13th-century date. In the N. wall are three windows, the easternmost a 13th-century lancet-window, probably re-set when the E. part of the wall was re-built in the 16th century; the middle and westernmost windows, also of the 13th century, are each of two cinque-foiled lights in a two-centred head with a quatrefoil in the tympanum; the mullion has a moulded capping. In the S. wall are two 13th-century lancetwindows, similar to that in the N. wall, but set at a higher level to avoid the roof of the former cloister; farther E. is a 13th-century doorway, now blocked, and partly hidden by the flooring; it has chamfered jambs and two-centred head with a modern label; to the W. of the windows and near the middle of the wall is a 13th-century doorway, also blocked, with chamfered jambs, two-centred arch and a partly restored label; near the W. end of the wall and high above the floor is a small chamber in the thickness of the wall; it was entered from the first floor of the western range of the monastic buildings by a doorway, now blocked and with a quatre-foiled opening set in the blocking; looking into the church is a small square-headed window; the chamber has a stone seat at the W. end and at the E. end remains of a string or label of doubtful purpose. The chamber may have been used as a pew in connection with the guest-house or it may possibly be the head of the night-stairs from the dorter; in the first case the guest-house must have occupied the upper storey of the western range; in the second case the same building must have formed the dorter; there are, however, no actual remains of any staircase. The only other remains of the western range are parts of the N. jamb of a 13th-century doorway on the S. face of the church. To the E. of this point and to an unknown distance beyond the church extended the N. alley of the cloister; the height of the roof is indicated by a stone weathering-course; set in the wall are four stone corbels, two above the weathering of the cloister roof, and two on the E. side of the two doorways. In the W. wall of the church (Plate 81) is a 13th-century window of three trefoiled and graduated lights each with a moulded label and all enclosed in a moulded, two-centred outer order with a moulded label, headstops and three moulded quatrefoils in the tympanum; the jambs are moulded and have attached shafts with moulded and foliated capitals and moulded bases; the splays have shafts with moulded capitals and the rear-arch and label are moulded, the label having head-stops; the W. doorway, of the same date as the window, has chamfered jambs, two-centred arch and a moulded label with foliated stops. Above the W. end of the church is a square timber bell-cote with a shingled octagonal roof or spirelet, splayed out to square at the base.
The West Porch (Plate 80) is of 15th-century date and of timber on modern dwarf walls. The outer archway is two-centred and springs from attached shafts with moulded capitals. The side walls are each of two bays, each sub-divided into six lights with trefoiled ogee heads and tracery; the roof has three trusses with moulded wall-posts having attached shafts with moulded capitals or angels holding shields; the moulded braces have carved traceried or panelled spandrels; the wall-plates are moulded. The actual roof is carried on three added trusses, two of which appear to be ancient.
Fittings.—Bell: One, inaccessible. Bracket: On E. wall—above E. window, externally, carved with foliage and woman's head, 14th-century. Chair: In chancel (Plate 26)—with turned frontlegs, shaped and elaborately carved back with arcaded panel and cresting, early 17th-century, partly repaired. Coffin-lids: In chancel—(1) with foliated cross in round quatre-foiled panel, stem with inscription to Johane Pauncev(ort), rosettes at sides, late 13th-century; (2) with cross with foliated ends in quatre-foiled circle, base resting on cinque-foiled circle with rosette in centre, 14th century, with 18th-century inscription added; (3) with eight-armed cross, with fleur-de-lis ends in octofoiled circle, late 13th-century; (4) with cross formed of intersecting segments and a circle, broken and worn, late 13th-century. In nave—(5) to Mahaud de Gorneye "compa(gne)" of (Ro)ger de Clifford, elaborately incised cross with oak-leaf and maple-leaf decoration, moulded base and two shields-of-arms hanging from branches, (a) Clifford and (b) Gerney, marginal inscription in separate letters, early 14th-century; (6) fragment with incised cross with arms of fleur-de-lis form and heart in middle, late 13th-century. Glass: In N.E. window —two quatrefoils of grisaille foliage, and six portions of similar panels, 13th-century. Monument and Floor-slab: Monument: On splays of E. window—late 17th-century carved stones including cartouche, cherub-head and vase and a winged skull, etc. Floor-slab: In chancel —to Sir Henry Barnard, 1680, black marble slab with shield-of-arms. Piscina: In S. wall—between two doorways, recess with moulded jambs and trefoiled head, quatre-foiled drain with front partly cut away. Recess: In N. wall—wide recess with moulded jambs, segmental-pointed arch and label, mid 13th-century, probably tomb-recess. Miscellanea: Above W. window externally, re-set head-stop. Incorporated in dwarf walls of porch—13th-century moulded and carved stones.
a(2). Cottage, two tenements, 100 yards S.W. of the church, is of two storeys. The walls are timber-framed with brick nogging on a stone base; the roofs are covered with modern slate. It is a rectangular building of 17th-century date with one-storey modern additions at either end. Some of the timber-construction is exposed inside the building.
b(3). Cottage, on S. side of the road nearly 1 m. S.W. of the church, is of two storeys. The walls are of local stone-rubble; the roofs are covered with thatch. It was built c. 1700, and has a later weather-boarded barn at the W. end and a modern lean-to addition at the E. end. At the E. end of the original building is a projecting chimney-stack with stepped sides and weathered top above which is a modern brick shaft. Inside the building the ceilings of the ground-floor rooms have chamfered beams and exposed joists.
a(4). Aconbury Camp, earthwork on summit of Aconbury Hill, ¾ m. W.S.W. of the church, is an irregularly-shaped enclosure of approximately 17½ acres, or including the defences 23 acres; it is about 550 yards long from E. to W. and 150 yards wide. It follows the natural contour of the hill and slopes downwards towards the W.; the surrounding ground slopes from the camp in all directions, the slope being precipitous on the N. and W. The camp is surrounded by a rampart with an outer ditch for the greater part of the S. and E. sides and a berm on the N. and W. sides. It has two entrances, at the S.E. and S.W. corners respectively; at the former the rampart returns for a short distance inwards on either side of the opening; at the latter the rampart on the S. side of the opening returns in a curve to behind the rampart on the N. side of the opening, while on the outer side of the entrance is a scarp running for some 50 yards in a S.W. direction, thus giving additional protection. Four other entrances have been cut through the rampart, three on the S. side and one on the N. side, but these are probably all modern. The camp was occupied during the Civil War, when it was probably slightly modified.
Condition—Becoming badly damaged owing to dense undergrowth.