The Churches and Chapels



The pride of Eaton Bishop is its lovely old church, but because it is written about in minute detail in the book of The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (1931), we are here giving only an outline history. It stands at the highest point of the village 339.5 feet above sea level and had its origin in pre-Norman times. The east face of the east wall is thought to be ante 1066, the tower 1070-80, the nave, north and south aisles and the chancel arch about 1200, the chancel 1320-30, lych gate and roofs modern.

The east window with the exception of a few modern pieces, is entirely 14th century glass, unequalled in the county, probably 1320-40, a date suggested because an inscription implies that it was erected by one Adam Murimouth, a Canon of Hereford Cathedral who was born in 1287 and spent the first 40 years of his life in the diocese.

Legend had it at one time that the window had been brought from the Bishop’s Palace at Stretton Sugwas, but a letter from Mrs Underwood, daughter of Canon Musgrave who was Rector from 1841-54 to the Rev. O’Neill says “1 feel sure I heard my father say the old glass was found hidden away somewhere, I believe, and collected and put up in the east window.

An authority, George Marshall FSA, thinks some of the window must have been in situ, but others had been removed when re-glazinging became necessary and it was these which Canon Musgrave found. The Rev. O’Neill thought Musgrave himself had nothing to do with assembling any loose glass and was only repeating a story he had heard about it being found. He believed it was in position before l700.

The present porch was erected in 1859 and in 1885, a big restoration programme was carried out at a cost of £1,700.

The roof, except for the tower, was renewed, the floor was levelled to that of the tower floor and tiled, dates inscribed on some of the tiles recording previous burials under the chancel floor.

The gravestones in the tower floor were left uncovered. In stripping walls of mediaeval plaster and whitewash, workmen discovered an aumbry on the south side by the altar. The 18th century altar table was removed to the vestry and replaced by a new one and the altar rails were re-set across the chancel. Unfortunately early English sculpture was chiselled off the capitals and leases of the six pillars in the nave and the old font was removed to Credenhill church and the present new one installed.

There was a further restoration in 1920, thanks to the efforts of the Rev. O’Neill who raised £800 for the purpose and re-roofed the tower with oak tiles, had the peal of six bells re-hung and the stonework repointed both inside and out.

A translation of the Latin memorial to Richard Snead and his wife, squires of the village in the 17th century and whose descendants were landowners here until 1913 is:

“In memory of Richard Snead Esquire, the best of men and of the most surpassing of women, his wife Elizabeth, who after 43 years of loving wedded life peacefully departed this life, he on September 26th AD 1678, she on the 22nd of the following January.”

“One bed we shared; one tomb now holds us

And our bones, mingled with dust now lie together

One death was ours; one year took us away

One day saved us and gave us back to God.”

Other graves of the Snead and Cox families who intermarried to become Snead-Cox, lie beneath a yew tree in the old churchyard. The estimate for putting the stone there in 1842 was £16.l.4d. and the lettering was evidently re-done at this time since it is Victorian. The family were Catholic but their social position gave them the right to burial in the tranquil grounds of their own parish church.

Ground for the new graveyard which has always been known as “Jack Robins” was given by Sir Charles Pulley and all burials have taken place there since about 1906 with the exception of those in family vaults.

Today, since a Rector is shared with Clehonger, there are morning or evening services but not both. Until recently there were evening services except on the second Sunday in the month, when there was a morning service at ll.0am but recently, morning and evening services have been introduced on alternate Sundays as an experiment for six months.

There are now no church societies; an attempt was made to re-start the Mothers’ Union but with an active WI in the parish, women found they could not devote themselves to two organisations.

A Sunday School with 19 members has met for the past two years in the church each Sunday afternoon.

For some years previously there had been no Church Sunday School but Miss Mary Johnson had one at the Chapel to which children of both denominations went, an indication of the happily close association in which church and chapel work in the village.

There used to be a Primitive Methodist Chapel at Ruckhall in use within living memory, but it is now used as a potato store. Land for the present Wesleyan Chapel was presented by Thomas Wheeler who was at Ruckhall Mill 100 years ago, and though small, it has an active following.

A meeting house of the Plymouth Bretheren is on the boundary in Stoney Street but has been included in the Madley history since most of its members are drawn from that parish.