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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20 DOWNTON ON THE ROCK (C.a.)
(O.S. 6 in. II, S.E.)
Downton is a parish on the left bank of the Teme, 10 m. N.N.W. of Leominster. The old church, now ruined, with interesting remains of paintings and rood-loft, is the principal monument.
(1). Old Parish Church of St. Giles (Plate 14) stands near the middle of the parish. The walls are of local sandstone rubble with dressings of the same material. The roofs, where surviving, are covered with stone slates. The Chancel and Nave were built about the middle of the 12th century. The S. wall of the chancel was re-built late in the 13th century. The E. wall was probably re-built at some uncertain date; from the square proportions of the chancel it is not unlikely that this wall replaced an arch opening into an apse. A wall was built across the W. end of the nave probably in the 17th century to support a bell-cote, which has now disappeared. The modern church was built, in the N. part of the parish, in 1861, and from that date the old church has been suffered to fall into complete decay.
The church has remains of an interesting series or wall-paintings, and the rood-loft is noteworthy.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (Plate 14) (16 ft. by 16¼ ft.) has a gap high up in the E. wall, from which the single-light window has fallen. In the N. wall is a late 13th-century window of one small pointed light. In the S. wall is a late 13th-century window of two trefoiled lights; the base of the wall has an internal offset, probably representing the thickness of the 12th-century wall. The 12th-century chancel-arch is round and of one plain order with hollow-chamfered imposts and chamfered plinths; to the N. is the rood-loft staircase, of the 15th century, with the lower doorway on the E. and the upper on the W.; both have square heads and wooden frames.
The Nave (Plate 14) (46¼ ft. by 19½ ft.) has, in the N. wall, a late 13th-century window of two trefoiled lights with a trefoil in a two-centred head; the 12th-century N. doorway has a round head of one plain order and grooved and hollow-chamfered imposts. In the S. wall was a window similar to that on the N., but now partly fallen; the S. doorway was probably similar to the N. doorway, but only parts of the jambs remain. Across the nave, about 6 ft. E. of the W. wall, is an inserted 17th-century wall containing a square-headed doorway with an oak frame and, further N., a small hatch. The W. wall has probably been re-built with old materials and has no openings.
The Roof of the chancel has been removed except for one tie-beam. The greater part of the two E. bays of the 14th-century roof of the nave is still in position; timbers from the other part are now lying on the floor; the trusses have cambered collars with curved braces forming two-centred arches; the lower purlins have trefoiled wind-braces. The easternmost bay has been ceiled with boarding early in the 16th century to form a canopy to the rood-loft; the moulded and embattled ribs on the main braces remain, together with the moulded longitudinal ribs; the E. truss is boarded to form a tympanum.
Fittings—Bell: In modern church—small and uninscribed, probably 17th-century. Chest: In modern church—with panelled front and lid, c. 1650. Font: round base only remains. Monument and Floor-slabs: Monument: In chancel—on E. wall, to George Haughton, 1694, stone and slate tablet with moulded and draped frame, cornice and broken pediment and enriched apron. Floor-slabs: In chancel—(1) to Dorothy, wife of Samuel Hopkins, 1673–4. In nave— (2) to George Haughton, 1694, and Jane, his wife; also to Mary, his widow, subsequently wife of Edward Baughe, 1698, with shield-of-arms; (3) to Margaret, daughter of Adam Price, 1683; (4) to Adam Price, 1683–4. Paintings: In nave—on N. wall, diapered background in red and white with remains of three figures including a figure holding a book; higher up is an S-shaped trumpet; on S. wall, similar diaper and traces of a figure, late mediæval. Plate: includes cup and cover-paten of 1571, the former with a band of engraved ornament; cup in modern church, paten at Burrington. Rood-loft: with moulded front beam, plain back beam and joists, early 16th-century, boarding gone. Miscellanea. In nave—on S. wall wrought iron bracket with fleur-de-lis, for funeral achievement, probably 17th century.
Condition—Ruined, and S. wall of nave partly fallen.
(2). House, about 150 yards W.S.W. of the old church, is of three storeys, partly timber-framed and partly of brick; the roofs are slate-covered. It was built in the 17th century on an L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the N. and W. There are later additions on the E. side. Some of the timber-framing is exposed. Inside the building is a mid 17th-century staircase with moulded strings and square newels; the balusters have been removed. One room is lined with original and one with early 18th-century panelling.
(3). Hotel Cottage, 300 yards S. of the old church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and with tile and stoneslate covered roofs. It was built in the 17th century, and has exposed external timber-framing and ceiling-beams. Built into the main chimney-stack are some mediæval carved stones, including one with a heraldic passant lion.
(4). Downton Camp (Plan, p. xxviii), on a hill-side above the river Teme, and 340 yards S.S.E. of the old church, has an area including the defences of about ½ acre. The work is of irregular shape, the S. end being protected by a scarp and natural precipitous rock fall. The remainder of the enclosure is protected by a rampart and outer ditch, the latter now only appearing as a berm on the N.E. and disappearing altogether on the S.E., where also the rampart dies out before reaching the southern boundary. The ground slopes rapidly down towards the N.E., and the rampart on this side of the enclosure is not so high as that on the W. and N. There is an entrance at the N. end. What would appear to be an old trackway runs along the berm formed between the foot of the scarp and the precipice, and apparently led to the ford; the position of the latter, and the command of the same, probably accounts for the position of this enclosure.
(5). Mound, 100 yards N.W. of the old church, is about 68 ft. in diameter at the base and rises about 10 ft. above the general surface. There is a rough sinking on the top.