Hentland Church hosted a well-attended AGM on Tuesday afternoon, after which a delicious afternoon tea was provided by the kindness of Mr and Mrs John and Kathy Handby of Michaelchurch Court. The generous contributions from people attending the AGM raised £270 for Hentland Church with an additional £100 sent earlier. This will go towards the £19,000 which Hentland PCC still has to find towards restoration work, even after substantial grants have been approved.

Hentland Church

Tim Bridges gave us an expert talk about the history and architecture of our host church. Hentland probably means “the old church” and it’s likely that it was built by a spring or holy well, on a sacred pre-Christian site. In the C6th a monastery was set up by Dubricius, a Celtic holy man and member of a local royal family in the sub-kingdom of Archenfield. He established several churches in the area and Hentland (the original church may have been on a different site) was an important church centre. In the C13th it was attached to Lugwardine as a Chapel of Ease and it contains C13th and C14th work which may have been executed at the behest of Richard of Rotherham, the incumbent at Lugwardine, and perhaps one of the figures in the East window.

“Drastic” restoration, (Pevsner) was ordered by William Poole, the current vicar, in the C19th. It was carried out  by the architect John Seddon, who worked for the diocese of Llandaff and was involved in other work locally, including Hoarwithy. The screen separating nave from chancel dates from this period as well as the colourful, although faded, medieval-style painting in the chancel itself. This depicts flowers on a background of what look like masonry blocks which are actually painted on the plaster, a technique often seen in the Middle Ages. There are other items of interest:- a C16th pulpit, C17th chair and chest and a C19th organ, built by Walker in 1869 and still capable of being played – provided the organist can find someone to pump the instrument manually – and early C20th glass (Powell’s of London) showing St. Dubricius with a hedgehog at his feet. (The hedgehog is the symbol of ancient Archenfield called “Ergyng” by the Celts meaning “Land of the Hedgehog”.)

The churchyard has many varieties of grasses and wild flowers, encouraged by the God’s Acre project, Georgian and early Victorian tombs, a C17th yew and a C14th cross, the head of which is a rare survival. Of the three bells, two are Medieval and one is C17th. A lovely tradition which is said to have started in Herefordshire is still maintained at Hentland. Pax cakes, (apparently more like biscuits and traditionally generally stamped with the image of a lamb and a flag intended to symbolise peace and goodwill), are distributed on Palm Sunday in accordance with the wishes and benefaction of Lady Scudamore who also left money for cider to be drunk on the same day.

Hilary Ross of Hentland Church told us that the PCC has received substantial grants to restore the painted plaster in the chancel and electricity will be connected to the organ when the restoration is done, which will no doubt be a relief for the person whose occasional duty it is to pump it by hand! A project is also being developed to take into local schools and community groups,to train local guides and interpret archaeological finds from a nearby dig with display boards in the church.

HHCT business

Chairman David Furnival explained the three main aims of the Trust-

  • to give grants and loans
  • to give advice,
  • to introduce more people to churches and church architecture.

Grants and loans

The maximum amount of grant which the Trust will give has been raised to £15,000 to allow greater flexibility, and a new grant for display boards is being considered.


Advice on applying for loans, especially with the possible removal of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Grant for Places of Worship, is available from HHCT’s Sarah de Rohan, Archdeacon Paddy  Benson and Tim Bridges or the Diocese’s Wendy Toomby. A second grants workshop is being considered to which PCC members would be invited.  

Advice on church maintenance through the National Churches Trust’s Maintenance Booker scheme can be given. PCCs can book maintenance teams with the confidence of knowing that they have been vetted by the NCT. Hopefully this will be live in Herefordshire before the end of 2017. Check the NCT website or ask Sarah de Rohan.   

Advice on church security can also be given, particularly necessary in the light of recent lead thefts at Bosbury and Much Marcle. Mr. Furnival has already spoken to a representative from Alarmit, a contributor to the High Sheriff’s Conference on Rural Crime a couple of years ago. This is a non-profit making security company which can advise and install relatively inexpensive equipment to deter thieves. He has also had preliminary discussions with the police about the feasibility of starting a Church Watch scheme along the same lines as Neighbourhood Watch.

Introducing more people to churches and church architecture

Music in Quiet Places has been very successful and will be moving into a third season, while the new Silent Film initiative will continue with a screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in October. The improvised accompaniment will be by Dr. Anthony Hammond, the wonderful organist from Cirencester.

The Church Crawl 2017 will be in the south of the county and is  fully booked. It is hoped that a similar and complementary event might be launched in the future.

The Ride and Stride is being developed to allow more people to engage through a new website (ridestrideherefordshire.uk).

The Coffee Morning requires new helpers after the sad death of Anne Hyde-Smith and retirement of June Chase.

The point was made that churches are about people and  were, historically, the centres of village life. Reordering and installing toilets and basic kitchen facilities allow for flexibility and the opportunity for churches to regain their former status.

A House of Lords Select Committee Report “Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society” was published in March; one of its contributors was James Probert, a Herefordian, new member on HHCT’s Executive Committee and driving force behind Century Britain, a new voluntary Service year recognised by government as a valuable use of a gap year in the heritage sector. The report emphasised the need for charities to introduce change, especially by embracing digital technology or risk organisational stagnation and decay. They cannot be left behind. It is imperative that we encourage young people to join by engaging them in interesting and varied events and it is hoped that by appointing new members such as James and Ben Furnival, young men in their thirties, they will be able to widen the appeal of the Trust so that our rural churches will survive for future generations to enjoy.

This point was reinforced by HHCT Treasurer Dr. Robyn Lee, who explained that by digging beneath the superficially excellent figures in the accounts, it is possible to see that less money was received by the Trust last year than the year before.

David Furnival concluded the meeting by thanking all the Trustees and members of the Executive Committee for their hard work and everyone for attending.

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust