Welcome to St Peter’s Church
The people of this small parish have worshipped God in this place for 800 years. They have brought their children to the Norman font for baptism, been married at the chancel steps and laid to rest in the peaceful churchyard.
The Nave may date from the 12th century but the oldest part of the present church is the West Tower, which dates from about 1200. The lower windows around the font have the characteristic round head of the Norman period, but by the time the upper stages were built styles had changed to the pointed, gothic style. The wooden top storey, with its pyramid roof, is 17th century and houses three bells, the oldest of which is by Thomas Clibury of Wellington and is inscribed GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO 1671.
Much of the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1873, using the old local sandstone and some of the old timbers, but the South Chapel dates from the late 14th century, with the typical square-headed windows of the time. The timber-framed gable was probably added in the 17th century. The south window in the chapel contains Victorian memorial glass.
The reconstructed Chancel arch, dating from 1330, has a ball flower ornament that is also found in Leominster Priory and Hereford Cathedral. The capitals of the piers have delightful carvings of dogs with floppy ears. The East window is late Victorian, in memory of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee., showing St Peter with his keys, David and Noah, and St Stephen, dressed like a medieval deacon, with a stone in his head to show how he was martyred. The attractive modern reredos behind the altar has round arches to harmonise with the Norman origins of the church and the pulpit.
The oldest piece of furniture is the chalice-shaped Norman font, the only certain evidence of a Romanesque church here. The rough workmanship and limited decoration would suggest a patron of limited wealth. Next to it stands a wooden bier inscribed ‘Francis Sheriffe:William Rogers: Wardens 1672’. The Pulpit is a fine example of Jacobean work, semi-octagonal with arched panels and dated 1633, one of more than 150 in the country that date from the reign of Charles I.
St Peter’s Church is the focal point of the village of Birley. It is in the benefice with Canon Pyon, Kings Pyon and Wellington, it has been possible to keep the church open for regular worship, as well as the celebrations of baptism, weddings and funerals, and for Christmas, Easter and Harvest Thanksgiving. If it is to stay open, it must contribute to the vicar’s stipend as well as pay for the upkeep and repair of the church. Please help to maintain this lovely little church, one of the oldest in Herefordshire, by making a donation in the box at the church or sending it to:
Revd M C Cluett, The Vicarage, Brookside, Canon Pyon, HR4 8NY Tel: 01432 830802.
Visitors are welcome at the church; Keys can be obtained from
Sarah de Rohan, Birley Court, Birley Tel: 01568 720423; or
Ivy Stokes, Merle Cottage, Bush Bank Tel: 01432 830476; or
Gwen Cullimore, Wren Cottage, Knapton Tel: 01568 720205
Church services: Holy Communion 4th Sunday of the month at 11am; Evensong 2nd Sunday 3.30pm winter & 6.30pm in summertime.
Full details of services from 01432 830802