St John the Baptist’s 12th century church in Beckford is blessed with two Norman tympani and some very unusual Norman carvings on its chancel arch.
The Romans were here and then the Anglo-Saxons. The Saxon Chronicles of Worcestershire record it as “Beccanforda,” and it is documented that a monastery and church, almost certainly of timber, were here as early as the 8th century. Remains of the foundations were discovered in 1911 during the restoration of the present building.
The Norman chancel arch is the interior show-piece. There are three carvings in relief on the north side of the arch; a mask, a single beakhead and, an unfeasibly crude carving of what is believed to be a centaur. It is thought some have claimed this to be part of the badge of King Stephen who reigned from 1135 to 1154. This would fit with the estimated building date of 1135.
The Font is a 15th century octagonal shape, with decorated panels of quatrefoils, having centre of 4 leaved flowers.
The Tower was extended to a third stage in 1622 to replace a lead covered wooden spire.
Modifications were made to the tower in the early 1950s when repair work to the lead flashing on the roof caused a fire.
The base of the Tower now contains the organ and a finely detailed 1/40 scale model of the church with a roof that lifts to reveal an immaculate model of the current interior of this church. It was 2years in the making and if you put a £1 in the slot of the model’s base, the roof rises to the sound of organ music. Pressing the white buttons at the front, lights up the Tower and church interior. Fantastic – never quite seen anything like it before! You can pick up a leaflet which tells you all about the facts of the model, which is most interesting.
You enter and leave by the Lichgate which was erected in 1925 in memorial of those local people who died fighting in the first World War. In Tudor design, it is built in Lechamption stone and English Oak.
We were told about the church and it’s wonderful model while visiting Beckford Silk Mill a short distance away.