St Peter’s Church

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Besford is a tiny settlement off the A4014 to the south west of Pershore. You will need an OS map to find it, but it is well worth the effort as the church has the only timber frame nave in England.

Set at the end of the village is the small church with timber frame nave, south porch and belfry, dating from about 1400. The chancel was rebuilt in stone in the C19th. It is a lovely setting in a graveyard with trees and a few houses round it. The inside is even better.

There are small steps into the nave which has C17th panelled walls and old pews with small carved square with a flower on the ends. The choir pews at the east end of the nave are in front of the plain wooden pulpit.

There are massive wood beams across the roof. The ceiling is panelled and has carved bosses and a carved frieze with grapes and vine leaves round the bottom. Above the west end is the Royal Coat of Arms. Below it is the old wooden reredos, propped up against the wall. In the centre is IHS surrounded by small carved flowers. On either side are quatrefoils with flower motifs, like on the rood loft. A hatchment is supported on one of the beams.

Just inside the door is a triptych to John Harewell who died in 1600. There are four opening doors; the top two are larger than the bottom two. On the outside are the remains of painted shields. Opening the doors, at the top in the middle is a kneeling figure. On the left door is the grim reaper with a scythe, on the right door a skeleton. Below are panels with inscriptions which are too worn to read. At the centre bottom is a corpse in a shroud (not a naked woman which I first thought), with putti on the inside of the bottom doors.

The paintings are in very poor condition, although there are framed pictures underneath which give an impression of what they may have looked like.

The nave has electricity, but the chancel is still lit by candles.

The rood loft dates from 1450 and is a beautiful example of pre-Reformation work supported on wooden pillars. There are carved grapes along the bottom with quatrefoils with carved flowers. It still has traces of the original red and gold paint. Above is a crucifix, carved in Oberammergau in 1956.

The altar rail dates from 1630 and there is cloth covered altar below the east window.

Hanging on the north wall is are gauntlets, helmet and sword.

In the north east corner of the chancel is a tomb base with the effigy of Richard (son of Edmund Harewell, High Sheriff of Worcester, who died in 1576. He is holding a book and round the base of the tomb are shields and weepers. On the wall above is wood panelling with the remains of painted shields.

On the south wall is a large memorial to Sir Edward Sebright d1697 set between twisted pillars with a shield above and an urn with flames.

This is a lovely church with beautiful woodwork. We found it ‘spoke’ to us in a way that many of the larger, more splendid Perpendicular wool churches didn’t. It is redolent with history and atmosphere. Definitely a church to visit.

The church is usually kept locked. There are two keyholders who live locally and their phone numbers are on the notice board. Knowing we planned to visit, I had emailed the vicar before hand asking for the church to be open for us. It was. There is some parking outside the church.

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