Monday, October 4, 2010


OS reference:SO356433
A 485
The Church of St Dubricius' foundation at Moccas , originally a mud and wattles or even wood monastery of the early British type, talked about so much in this blog, is now named after St Michael of the flaming sword, the angel so much loved in Wales and to whom many mountain churches are dedicated. Moccas is not really a mountain church, but sited at the village of Moccas, which can be reached from just below Pontrilas, where there is the turn off at Belmont Abbey.(A438) I believe the Saxons renamed it after re-establishing the monastic centres on their conversion to Christianity.

Moccas named after the Welsh Moch-ros or 'swine moor'. It has been owned from the end of the thirteenth century by four families.The de Fresnes, the Vaughans, the Cornewalls and the present owner Mr Richard Cheston Master whose father was the cousin of Sir William de Cornewall in 1962.Hugh de Fresne was licensed to fortify his manor house near the present deer park in 1294 but the Vaughans lived in Brewardine Castle and Moccas Castle fell into ruins.

According to tradition, an angel told St Dyfrig to establish a monastery where he would find a white sow with her piglets. He named it 'Mochros' 'moor of the pigs'. Moccas had a moor covered with acorns and oakleaves and the moor was cleared,Around 600AD there was also a plage which finished its status as a monastery and it then became just a church after the end of the Viking emergency.The monastery had been laid waste by the Saxons in 600AD and it seems when the Saxons rebuilt it onl a church remains in the Charters, patronised during Norman times by Hereford Cathedral.

It reappears in Norman times as a Church of St Guthlac's Priory in Hereford and curiously also 'Nigel the Physician. In Pope Gregory's Taxatio it appears as owing £6.0.0 in taxes a huge amount, and the Prior of St Guthlacs 3 shillings of this.The present church was built of local stone in 1130, but during the 16th century it was found to be run down, with everything unrepaired, windows unglazed and not convenient. In 1294, Hugh de Fresne was licences to fortify his manor house near Moccas Park but the castle now has no visible remains.

After the reformation, the Church became part of Henry VIII new Anglican church and gradually the church fell into bad repair . there was a restoration by a Mr Westmacott at the end of the last century.He also re-built the bell cote .The effect of the church upon entry is of astonishment at the Norman arch and the large effigy of the Knight Templar lying in the circular apse, a very early style of Church and a very ethereal and mysterious atmosphere! The Knight Templar, believed to be Richard de Fresne, with his legs crossed to show he has been on Crusade lies facing the altar of his Lord. The Apse has been rebuilt in Victorian times, but in a similar style and there are interesting stained glass windows of Victorian age. The Choir stalls are unusually constructed in a kind of box formation in the chancel around the 'sleeping' crusader.
The nave is large and spacious allowing in much light. There are monuments to
the families on the walls, and at the rear is a huge organ, richly painted in dark green, red and also in gold. One imagines that the family managed to save this monument, when the iconoclasts of the Civil War began smashing most churrch monuments. Possibly the very remoteness of this castle and church saved it from severe damage.
However the rood has been removed as the rood loft and stairs.The altar is plain and there are less holy images of the saints than of the family.

The Church was built on the site of Dyfrig's monastery at Moccas, but the current Church is still in frequent use, even though you have to take the road to Moccas Court from the main road and then turn left to go to the church.
On the other hand, the organ is richly painted and a good quality instrument, the church is well cared for and maintained and for that we should be thankful. So mancy ancient churches are not that lucky, that four families have maintained it so well throughout the ages.

It seems there is a lively congregation, however care must be taken as there is no stone path and in wet weather, I found the path slippery.

The font is Norman , but is also a plain style. It is 12,13 century with a 17th century cover but a modern stem.The church was restored by Mr George Gilbert Scott Jnr. The church and apse was restored to this original design.The chancel and apse were raised again and the windows were restored. About half of it is new. The Chancel arches were cracked and crumbling and were taken down and restored. the porch was raised and details imitated from a nearby Church. In the porch is a
tympanum over the door (12th century) it has decayed human beings carved and beasts on both sides of the tree of life. The blocked doorway tympanum in the North door has details of a scrolled ornament and beast. It is similar to that of the 12 century Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture.

In the nave, the organ was built in 1872 into the West End. the organ was painted bby Thomas Kempe and the case was designed by Geroge Gilbert Scott Junior . High up in the nave walls are two round headed Norman windows. Two others are 14th century a d the fourth one with original glass and tracery are similar to the north window in the chancel.

There are two bells ,one from 1674 in the restoration
JOHN GOPH WALTER DAVIES C WARDENS was cast by John Palmer of Gloucester.

The second Bell GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO 1635 was cast by John

The Crusader, Richard de Fresne died in 1375. His feet being crossed shows he was a crusader and also the dog at his feet showed he had died at home.

The Fresne arms are a helm with two green birds.

George Gilbert Scott said of the unusual side seats in the chancel .'I intended the side seats for the general use, the returned one for any clergy present. It does not look nice to see a clergyman in his surplice sitting side by side with the ladies and genrtlemen.' Many of thes ewould have been members of the Cornwell family.

The  diary of Francis Kilvert describes these details.
' I feel those grey old men of Moccas, thouse grey gnarled, low-browed, low browed, knock kneed,bowed,bent huge strange long-armed deformed misswhapen oak men that stand wiaint and watching century after century, biding God's time with both feet in the grave and yet tiring down and seeing out generation after generation with such tales to tell, as when they whisper to each other in the midsummer nights make the silver birches weep and the poplars and aspens quiver and the long ears of the hares and rabbits stand on end. No human hand set those oaks. they are 'The trees the Lord hath planted'. They look as if they had been at the beginning and making of the world, and they will probably see its end.'
This is quoted from the guide book of the church by K.R.Chew.

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