Inside Story - St Catherine's Church, Hoarwithy, Herefordshire

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012


Built in an Italian Tuscan style, internationally renowned St Catherine's Church is quite unlike any other Herefordshire church.

Near the village of Hoarwithy, about 4 miles north of Ross-on-Wye. St Catherine's is a chapelry attached to Hentland Parish Church.

There was a church on the site in 1840, but when his mother died, Preb. William Poole used the income from her estate to beautify the church. Work commenced around 1870 and was completed around 1900.

The eminent Victorian architect JP Seddon was engaged to undertake the work. An apse was built at the east end to form the present sanctuary. Seasoned oak was used for the sculptured choir stalls which represent saints of the region, including St David carved by Harry Hems of Exeter, who also carved the prayer desk depicting scenes in the life of St Dubricius.

William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones

The white marble altar is inlaid with lapis lazuli, the central cross being of tiger’s eye. Seven oil lamps in the sanctuary are copies of those in St Marks, Venice. Le Puy cathedral inspired the interior, as did Lyon cathedral the cloister. High up in the apex of the roof, west end, is Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris stained glass in the window of the 'Angel of Doom'.

The church is well used by the local community and holds a number of concerts each year. The church has been used by the parish council for a parish meeting and the small meeting room is used by the parish council for council meetings, otherwise members of the parish would have to travel to other more distant venues in the group parish council area.

St Catherine’s now has a kitchen and toilet facilities and this means that more community events will be held in the future. 

National Churches Trust grant

In June 2012, the National Churches Trust awarded a £15,000 grant to St Catherine’s to help pay for restoration of the church. Part of the beauty of the church is its warm coloured mellow sandstone which unfortunately is very soft and over the years has weathered badly.

The tower is particuarly badly affected and a couple of years ago a large lump of stone fell on the path near the en-trance, which is under the tower.  Urgent limited remedial action was taken  to have loose flaking stone removed, but this revealed the need for a more radical and wide-ranging restoration to the stonework. 

Together with other grants from funding bodies including Hereford Historic Churches Trust and English Heritage, the National Churches Trust Grant will enable St Catherine’s  to embark on this restoration.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: 

“We are delighted to support the restoration work of St Catherine’s church ,  a wonderful Grade I listed church built in an Italian Tuscan style. In these tough economic times, places of worship are finding it harder than ever to pay for essential repairs. This is reflected in a major increase in the number of grant applications we are receiving. In the first five months of 2012, the Trust received 425 requests for grants, a rise of 40 per cent when compared to the same period in 2011.”

 “As a result, with our resources we are only able to support a small proportion of the many worthy projects that apply to us for funding. We rely on the generous support of trusts, foundations and individuals to continue our work supporting places of worship. So if you share our belief in the value of these buildings please consider supporting the National Churches Trust and becoming a Friend.”

For further details please visit the St Catherine's website and to find the church look at the Google Map.