Rochford History

This is a Norman Church. The Chancel and greater part of the Nave date from the early years of the 12th Century. The South doorway and the window in the Chancel are later insertions of the 14th Century when probably the North door was blocked up The North door is of particular interest. It is a lovely example of early 12th Century work. It is set in a projecting piece of wall and has two orders of columns. The arch has a double row of outward pointing zigzags and is resting or carved volute capitals, abaci with plait, interlace etc. The Tympanum is decorated with a flatly carved spread-out Tree of Life under a border of stars. It is the only example in Worcestershire of this motif. But in the neighbouring counties of Shropshire and Gloucestershire the design is repeated which suggests that the same team of masons was working on other churches in the area. Unhappily after 800 years the carving is much weathered and soon it may be difficult to trace the intricacy of the design.

The Norman masonry of the church is of Old Red Sandstone. The Bell Turret is of timber and is crowned with a shingled spire. Two of the windows in the Nave, set high in the walls, are original. They reveal the great thickness of the walls. The Norman building was lengthened to the West later on. The Norman Chancel arch also has outward pointing zig-zag decoration. This zig-zag motif is considered to be late Norman though there are examples in the country as early as 1130 - 1148. The one at Rochford probably dates from 1150. In the wooden Bell Turret there are 3 Bells.

The Organ is a charming piece c. 1810, surmounted by a double—headed golden eagle and mahogany foliage crest, and the whole case inlaid with brass.

The glass in the East window is an outstanding example of the very best stained glass of the Victorian period. It commemorates a death in 1863 and is an early work by William Morris. The sensitive design and the pastel colouring of the glass impart a delicate transparency and an ethereal quality to the work which is superior to anything done at the time in England or abroad.

In the North wall of the Chancel is an early 12th. century round-headed light. On the window sill of the Chancel's South window is a trefoiled piscina with an ogee head, and a circular bowl split across the centre. The head is modern hut the rest of it is from about the 14th century.

The Chancel roof is wagon shaped and modern while the nave has a king post roof in 3 bays. The Lectern, Pulpit, and Font are all modern. As the old font was replaced by the existing one as recently as in the Victorian period, it seems quite possible that the old one may be lying somewhere in the vicinity of the church, and if so could be recovered to resume its proper place alongside the other ancient parts of the building

Over the blocked North doorway in the Nave is a hatchment with the Hanoverian Royal Arms, an interesting feature from which it is reasonable to deduce the political views of the parishioners at that time. Though in earlier times it was compulsory to display the Royal Arms in churches, in the reigns of George I and lithe legal requirement would no longer have been in force. The display of the Hanoverian Arms would therefore indicate that the parishioners preferred the Protestant House of Hanover to the Roman Catholic Jacobites.

Fixed on the walls of the Nave are large wooden boards on which are inscribed the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed. The lettering of the Commandments is carved and gilt. Such boards are not infrequently found in ancient churches, and they remind us of the time when few people possessed bibles and when many could read only with difficultly. The prominent display of the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed in bold lettering must have been of much help to them.

On the North wall of the Nave  there is a curious memorial tablet which states—

On the other side of this hall by her own desire are

deposited the remains of Sarah relict of Edward Downes of

Sutton Sturmey, Esquire who died September 2nd, 1802

 

Outside in the Churchyard there is no headstone or other means to mark the burial place, and one is only left to wonder what prompted her seemingly strange wish. Could it have been that in death she wished to lie as close as possible to where she had worshipped in life?

Decoration in the church is provided by the lovely Altar Frontal and the woven curtain screening the entrance door. Both of these were hand woven by the present Patroness of the church who also spun the wool for the curtain. This wool came from the fleece of a sheep from the adjoining Church Farm. The same donor has also woven pulpit frontals for Easter and Christmas. The one for Easter is in white and gold with the Easter Lily pattern and white and gold fringe. The Christmas one is in the Star of Bethlehem pattern with bands at top and bottom in symbolic colours, including blue for Mary’s gown, green for the hillside where the sheep were, grey for the shepherds, black for the heart of Herod, and white for the Angels wings. There is a rough spun piece of fleece for the sheep and a clove is tacked in to represent the spices that the wise men brought.

History of the Church

Though it is not possible to find precise information on the foundation of the church, certain entries in the Domesday  Book show its early connection with William Fitz Osbern, the Earl of Hereford, one of William the Conqueror's chief lieutenants. (After the battle o Hastings, when William the Conqueror returned to Normandy, he placed Willian Fitz Osbern In charge of the Kingdom). It was this same William Fitz Osbern who gave land to Tenbury church, and later, between 1140 and 1168, one of his descendants gave Tenbury together with Rochford Chapelry (which was affiliated to Tenbury) to the Abbey of Lyra in Normandy Lyra seems to have held peaceful possession of its rights in Tenbury and Rochford, except at short intervals, up to the year 1415. In 1436, on the suppression of the foreign monasteries by King Henry V, Tenburv with its Chapelry of Rochford was annexed by the King and granted by him to his own foundation, the Carthusian Monastery of Shene (Surrey).

Some little time before the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VII1-1536 to 1539—the monks of Shene had granted a lease of the living of Tenbury and Rochford to Thomas Acton of Sutton House in the Parish of Tenbury. Throughout this period the Kings exchequer was empty and in order to replenish it the expedient was adopted of selling to private persons land and property held by the King. Hence the sale of the advowson of Tenbury and Rochford to the lessee Thomas Acton took place. From then on the advowsorn of Rochford, by reason of its affiliation to Tenburv church, changed ownership by inheritance through the families of Acton and Lucy; and subsequently by sale, until in 1843 Rochford ceased to be affiliated to Tenburv and became a separate benefice.

Local Notes

The name Rochford (Rock-ford) invites attention to two facts about the site of the church. The first is that here at this point there occurs a rock formation known as Old Red Sandstone It is a geological system (sometimes referred to as the Age of Fishes from the abundance of fish remains found in the strata) associated with and of the same age as the Devonian series, both being the result of deposits. (The Devonian were deposits under seas, and Old Red Sandstone were deposits under inland lakes) At Rochford the Old Red Sandstone outcrop is some 200 yards upstream from the church and forms a bluff overhanging the river.

The second fact is that near to the church there is a ford of the river Teme. Fords were important from a military point of view and were defended by timber forts. Near the church and between it and the river there is a large grassy mound which is considered to nark the site of a small timber fort. Rochford is one of several such defended fords along the river Teme.

The position of the church itself in relation to the river seems to have been wisely chosen by the ancient builders, for though the area suffers from winter flooding, and the cater creeps over surrounding fields, and parts of the village, yet it has never entered the church itself. During flood time the river rises to the edge of the churchyard and no farther.

Again near the church and running alongside the river Teme is the old Roman road to Tenbury used until recent times by the waggoners taking hops to Tenbury and bringing back coal to the village. At a part of the road dangerously near the river bank there are the remains of a Roman wall. Now no longer above the level of the road but overgrown and concealed, only the base is visible from the lower level of the bank sloping down to  the river. As recently as this century, however, the wall bordered the road, guarding the steep drop down to the river, and for the sake of the safety of the waggoners the parish employed someone to place lighted lanterns along the wall to mark the closeness of the road to the river. One of those so employed was the mother of a parishioner who lived in the parish until a few years ago.