St Mary’s Church Kempley

St Marys Kempley Exterior

Built around 1130, this tiny church is an extraordinary survival from the Norman world. Its exceptional decoration is owed to the patronage of one of the wealthiest early Norman families in England, the de Lacys.

Walter de Lacy had fought with William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings and owned large stretches of the Welsh marches. Kempley was in de Lacy hands in the late 11th and 12th centuries. After Walter died in 1085 his body was taken from Hereford to Gloucester for burial, and may have rested briefly at Kempley. His son Hugh may have built St Mary’s to commemorate this.

St Mary’s probably replaced an earlier Saxon church on this site, and retains a simple ‘Saxon’ layout, with a rectangular chancel and an aisleless nave. The tower, blocking the church’s west entrance, was added in about 1276 during Edward I’s wars in Wales. The timber-framed porch dates to the 14th century.

Text and image copyright English Heritage