An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, Volume 3, North West. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1934.
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5 BIRLEY (D.d.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)XIX, S.W., (b)XXVI, N.W.)
Birley is a parish 4½ m. S.W. of Leominster. The church is the principal monument.
a(1). Parish Church of St. Peter (Plate 6) stands in the middle of the parish. The walls are of local sandstone rubble with dressings of the same material; the roofs are tiled. The Nave may date from the 12th century, but there is little evidence of this. Probably at the beginning of the 13th century the West Tower was added. The Chancel was perhaps re-built during the same century though the chancel-arch dates from c. 1330. The South Chapel was added late in the 14th or early in the 15th century. The timber top stage of the tower was added perhaps in the 17th century. In 1873–4 the chancel and nave were re-built from a few feet above the floor-level, and the stonework of the windows and doorway restored or re-tooled; the chancel-arch also was reconstructed. The Vestry and South Porch were added at the same time.
The chancel-arch has unusual detail, and among the fittings the font is noteworthy.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (24 ft. by 16¾ ft.) has a modern E. window incorporating some old stones. In the N. wall is a modern window, and further W. is a modern doorway. In the S. wall are two windows, the eastern modern, but with some old stones, and the western probably a 13th-century lancet restored and re-tooled; between them is a doorway with 13th-century jambs and modern head. The reconstructed chancel-arch (Plate 87), of c. 1330, is two-centred and of two moulded orders with a moulded label; the outer order has ball-flower ornament; the moulded responds have each three grouped shafts, those on the N. with moulded and enriched capitals, and a common moulded abacus continued round the W. side of the respond; the S. shafts have capitals (Plate 16) carved with dogs' heads, a fleur-de-lis, etc., and a common panelled abacus, continued round the W. side of the respond and carved with foliage and a leopard; the eastern angles of the responds finish with moulded corbels below the level of the main capitals; both corbels are carved with heads.
The Nave (38 ft. by 20¼ ft.) has, in the N. wall, three windows, re-set and more or less restored; the late 13th-century easternmost and westernmost windows are each of two pointed lights with a plain spandrel in a two-centred head; the 13th-century middle window is a single lancet-light. In the S. wall is a late 14th or early 15th-century arch, two-centred, and of two chamfered orders, the outer continuous and the inner with moulded imposts and chamfered bases; in the E. respond is a roughly-cut squint; further W. are two windows, the eastern a partly restored 13th-century lancet-window and the western modern; the much restored S. doorway is perhaps of 12th-century date, and has chamfered jambs and round arch.
The South Chapel (13¼ ft. by 10¾ ft.) has, in each outer wall, a late 14th-century window of four trefoiled ogee lights in a square head. The S. wall has a timber-framed gable, perhaps of the 17th century.
The West Tower (11¾ ft. square) is of four stages, the three lower of masonry with a battering plinth, and the top stage of timber covered with shingles and finished with a pyramidal roof. The segmental-pointed tower-arch, of c. 1200, is of two chamfered orders; the responds have each a small attached and filleted shaft with simple foliated capitals and square abaci. The N., S. and W. walls of the ground-stage have each a window of one round-headed light. The second stage has, in the N. and S. walls, a window of one pointed light; in the E. wall is a rough doorway. The third stage has now no floor; each wall has a single-light window, that on the E. with a square head and the other three roughly pointed. The timber bell-chamber is modern, but incorporates some timbers probably of 17th-century date.
The Roof of the S. chapel appears to have been originally flat; the existing gabled roof is perhaps of the 17th century, but the foiled wind-braces, and perhaps other timbers, may be earlier material re-used.
Fittings—Bells: three; 2nd, uninscribed, 17th-century; 3rd of 1671. Bier: In tower—of planks and square framing with chamfered legs, inscribed on one side, "Francis Sheriffe: William Rogers: Wardens: 1672, A. F. C." Communion Table: with turned legs, reeded lower and carved upper rails, early 17th-century. Font (Plate 54): round bowl with three-strand interlaced band, short stem with intersecting arcading, moulded base with interlacing ornament and plinth with diapered ornament, late 12th-century. Glass: fragments in tracery of W. window of S. chapel. Locker: In second stage of tower—in E. wall, rectangular recess with heavy oak frame and door, date uncertain. Piscinæ: In chancel—recess with cinque-foiled head and projecting quatre-foiled drain, 14th-century, restored or re-cut. In nave—in S. wall, recess with ogee head and modern sill, 14th-century, probably re-set. In S. chapel—in S. wall, recess with square head and round drain, late 14th-century. Pulpit (Plate 70): of semi-octagonal plan, each face with two panels, the lower having a rosette ornament and the upper an enriched arch, entablature with guilloche-ornament on frieze, half-baluster ornaments on posts; on S.W. side small shaped shield with the date 1633.
Condition—Good, largely re-built.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and with stone, slate, tile or ironcovered roofs. Much of the external timber-framing is exposed, as are the ceiling-beams.
a(2). Cottage, 100 yards S. of the church, has a thatched roof.
a(3). House (Plate 24), now two tenements, 100 yards W.S.W. of the church, has a later addition at the back.
b(4). House, now three tenements, on the E. side of the road about 1 m. S.S.W. of the church, is of L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and W. The W. wing is lower than the main block.
b(5). House, 60 yards S. of (4), is partly in King's Pyon parish.
b(6). Cottage, 270 yards S.S.E. of (5), has been largely re-built.