History of Edvin Loach Old Church
The curious name of this place originates in the late 11th century, when the district of Yedeven was divided between the Loges and Ralph families, hence the present names of the parishes of Edvin Loach and Edvin Ralph. The ruined church, once dedicated to St Giles but later known as St Mary’s, probably dates back to this time.
A 16th century survey describes how the church ‘adioygneth here so neere an owld decayed fortification as they both seeme to possesse … antiquity and poverty’. In fact, the church lies within the bailey (the outer defended area) of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle: the motte – a large conical mound on which a timber fortification stood – can still be clearly seen.
The herringbone-pattern stonework on the north and south walls is a feature of early Norman churches in this part of England, as is the style of the simple south doorway.
In the 16th century, the church was apparently remodelled and the tower added. It continued in use until about 1860, when the new church (not in the care of English Heritage) was built. This is a small-scale but rather fine example of 19th-century church architecture designed in the Early English style by the great Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott.
The old church gradually became dilapidated, though its roof was still intact as late as the 1890s.
The church has a simple layout, with a nave and a chancel.
Locally quarried soft sandstone rubble was used to build the walls. The corners, and window and door edges, however, were carved from harder tufa – a type of carboniferous limestone found near calcareous springs. The two types of stone differ in colour and texture.
Interesting features include the herringbone arrangement of the wall masonry, and the doorway with its bulky tufa lintel. This must have been rather a dark building, as it had narrow windows high in the walls – just the lower half of one 11th century window survives by the south door.
Like most early churches, it was modified in later centuries. The east wall and parts of the north and south walls were apparently rebuilt in the 12th century, while the buttresses at the junction between the nave and chancel appear to be 13th century additions.
The Tudor-period tower, apparently always open to the nave, was built on two levels and lit by square-headed windows.
Outside the church, the boundary of the Norman castle bailey formed a roughly square enclosure about 70 metres (229 feet) wide. It was surrounded by a ditch about 4 metres (13 feet) wide, now visible as a shallow depression in the field to the south.
The higher level of the graveyard, especially at its western end, is accounted for by many generations of burials in this small rural community.
Merlen, RH, The Motte-and-Bailey Castles of the Welsh Border (Ludlow, 1987)
Salter, M, The Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern, 2000)