The Medieval Churches of Herefordshire

Dr Samantha Harper
A four-day tour uncovering the secrets of outstanding Medieval churches in Herefordshire
Dr Samantha Harper

Tour Dates

20/04/2022 - 23/04/2022 Book
05/10/2022 - 08/10/2022 Book

The Medieval churches of Herefordshire

Herefordshire has an incredible collection of Medieval churches, including majestic Hereford Cathedral and the Norman church at Kilpeck, famous for the carved faces that are inside and out.  

This four-day tour, led by ecclesiastical historian Dr Samantha Harper, takes you to a wonderful selection of churches, cathedrals and abbeys to discover the incredible stories of Benedictine and Cistercian monks, the Templars of the Welsh Marches and religion and society on the unruly border of England and Wales. 

Each church is captivating in its own way, and Samantha will help you explore and admire the amazing array of architecture, intricate decorations and craftsmanship, and the secrets hidden throughout these awe-inspiring buildings.


The expert leading your tour

Dr Samantha Harper specialises in late Medieval political British History and has a particular interest in lay religion pre and post Reformation. She has published a range of academic articles in prestigious journals and her book, ‘London and the Crown, 1461-1529’, will be published by the Oxford University Press in 2022. Samantha recently worked on the ‘Tudor Chamber Books’ project which transcribed and published these valuable documents online for both general and academic use.

She has more than 10 years of university teaching experience at Winchester and Bristol universities and currently works for Oxford University, advising academics on how to ensure that their research has a ‘life beyond the shelf’ and is accessible to general audiences.  

Samantha has a passion for sharing her knowledge of medieval heritage and the religious buildings through which the stories of lost generations of local inhabitants can be brought to life and set in the context of Britain’s wider political narrative.
 

Locations you'll visit on this tour

  • Hereford Cathedral
  • Belmont Abbey, founded by Benedictine monks
  • Abbeydore, founded by French Cistercians
  • St Michael's, an intriguing 13th century church 
  • Garway Church, the most powerful Templar church in the Welsh Marches 
  • Kilpeck Church, the most famous church in Herefordshire
  • Ledbury Church, mixing architecture from all ages
  • St. Bartholomew’s, home of the 'sleeping beauty'
  • St. Dubricius Church, a beautiful church on the banks of the Wye
  • Monmouth Castle
 

Tour prices

This three-night tour costs from £1,199 per person, based on two sharing if you are taking part in the tours, and from £999 if you are not taking part in the daily tours.

There is no single supplement for individuals staying in single rooms, and a small extra charge for individuals in twin or double rooms. 
 

Included in your holiday

  • Expert guide
  • Luxury hotel accommodation
  • Entry to all churches, including some exclusive access
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
 

Available dates


Numbers are limited, reserve your place with a low 5% deposit and enjoy the full flexibility of our COVID guarantee.

Please note, that we require a minimum of five guests for this tour to go ahead. If this number is not reached within four weeks of the departure date we reserve the right to cancel the tour and will offer you a full refund or the chance to move your booking to a later date. 

Accommodation

You'll be spending much of your time exploring sights and attractions with your tour expert, so when you return to your hotel we know how important it is to be somewhere you can relax and refresh in comfort.

For this tour, you'll be staying in a boutique hotel in Hereford. You'll have everything you need for a comfortable night's sleep with rooms that are ensuite and facilities including a TV, radio and complimentary wifi.

Each day we'll provide meeting times for tours, meals and evening activities, leaving you with time to enjoy your hotel or explore locally.  
 

Your booking includes:

  • Ensuite room with tea & coffee facilities and wifi
  • Breakfast and a two course dinner

There are extra charges for all food outside of breakfast and dinner.
 

Transfers during your tour

For transfers between all tour destinations we use executive minibuses. Our drivers are friendly, smart, professional and punctual, so you are always in safe hands. 
 

Solo travellers welcome

Our tours are perfect for solo travellers who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of a subject, and prefer the choice of being as solitary or social as you like. Each tour is a journey of an independent mind – fellow travellers will be intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable and like-minded people, and a mutual interest in a particular topic can lead to life-long friendships.

Read more about our welcome for solo travellers here >>
 

Options for non-touring partners

If you have a partner who would like to explore Herefordshire but doesn’t share your interest in churches, they are welcome to book a place without taking part in the daily tours. 

They'll be welcomed to our group breakfasts, and evening meals and activities, and can spend their days exploring the incredible sights of Herefordshire. 

Highlights include the small city of Hereford, with an imposing cathedral and an exciting restaurant scene, and the gorgeous towns of Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury, Bromyard and Leominster, all of which are perfect for a potter with independent shops and thriving high streets, charming architecture and a delicious array of cafes and restaurants. 

Symonds Yat is a popular village which straddles the River Wye and is famed for its river scenery. Symonds Yat Rock, 500 feet above the River Wye, is well known for its stunning views and there are several walking trails nearby. 

The countryside along the border of England and Wales is superb and there are footpaths through ancient woods and orchards, reaching as far as the Malvern Hills. 

Below is our daily itinerary for the tour.

Tour Dates

20/04/2022 - 23/04/2022 Book
05/10/2022 - 08/10/2022 Book

Itinerary

Day 1

The best place to view All Saints Church, in Hereford, is from a table in a coffee shop at the west end of the church. This 13th century church will provide the ideal backdrop for a brief overview of the tour, as we look ahead to the sites we will visit.

After this introduction, we head to Hereford Cathedral for our first tour.

Day 2

Belmont Abbey is a community of monks, founded in 1859, following the Rule of St Benedict. Benedictine monasticism was part of the landscape of Mediaeval Britain, but the Reformation in England and the Dissolution of the Monasteries brought an end to the monastic life in England and Wales. Belmont Abbey will give us a context into which to set religious life of Pre-Reformation England.

We then head to Abbeydore, which was founded in 1147 by French Cistercian Monks from Morimond, though most of what remains dates from 1180. The architecture here reflects the change in fashion at this time, from Romanesque and Norman to Early Gothic.

After lunch, we go to St Michael’s Church and Garway Church. St Michael’s is an intriguing 13th century church on a rectangular plan, created from an earlier 12th century round church built by the Knights Templar. St Michael is composed of a nave, chancel, and south chapel, joined to a detached 70 foot high tower by a 17th century passage. The Templars built their churches on a circular foundation, in emulation of the Temple of Solomon (Al Aqsa Mosque) in Jerusalem.

At the time of its foundation, Garway was the most powerful Templar church in the Welsh Marches and today is only one of six Knights Templar churches left in England. The chancel arch of the round Templar church was used as the chancel arch for the 13th century building. The rounded foundations of the earlier Templar church were uncovered by excavations in the 20th century, and can be viewed to the north of the current nave.

Our final stop for the day is Kilpeck Church, which is probably the most famous church in Herefordshire thanks to the quality of its exquisite, intricate and wonderfully preserved Herefordshire School of Romanesque carvings. The Book of Llandaff, the Chartulary of the church of Llandaff, suggests a church existed at Kilpeck in the 8th century. The present church was built perhaps in 1134 when a priory cell of Benedictines was established.

Day 3

We start with a visit to Ledbury Church to view the intriguing mix of architecture. Ledbury has a Norman west front, a 12th century chancel and sanctuary, a 14th century chapter house and 15th century aisles – a true church of all periods.

Next is St. Bartholomew’s Church in Much Marcle, probably most famous as the home of the ‘sleeping beauty’ effigy of Blanche Mortimer, daughter of the 1st earl of March, who died in the 14th century. Another tomb from the period depicts a gentleman in civilian dress, and is a rare wooden survivor of the period. Other tombs are to be found north of the chancel in the Kyrie Chapel.

After lunch, we take a 40 minute cruise along the River Wye to visit Whitchurch (St. Dubricius) Church. The parish church of St Dubricius is one of the oldest in the Deanery of Ross and Archenfield and the list of incumbents date from 1289. This beautiful church is situated on the banks of the River Wye near to Symonds Yat East.

Our final visit of the day is to Monmonth Castle, which was originally built by the Normans in the late 11th century, as one part of a system of fortifications to help establish their dominance of the Welsh Marches, and as a base for extending their control into Wales itself. The castle, which overlooked the confluence of the rivers Wye and Monnow in a strategically important border area, was initially a modest motte and bailey structure, rebuilt in stone by 1150. A small market town developed around the castle and, in 1267, it passed into the hands of Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster and son of Henry III. In turn, it passed to his own son Henry de Lancastre. On 27 August 1297, he petitioned his uncle, Edward I, to issue a murage grant for the town. The 1297 grant was issued for five years and the funds collected allowed for the construction of the medieval town walls and gates.

Day 4

You have the option of joining the group for a walking tour of Medieval Hereford. We’ll visit the site where Hereford Castle once stood, explore parts of the existing medieval city walls and discover the execution site of Owen Tudor after his capture at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.

The tour will then go to St John Medieval Museum & Coningsby Hospital, which is just a short walk from the city centre and adjacent to the Blackfriars Rose Garden and the ruins of the Dominican Monastery.

On the visit we can find out about the foundation of the Coningsby Red Coat Hospital, probably the model for The Chelsea Hospital in London, as well as exploring the 13th century Chapel, still used today by the Order of St John, and the Museum, which explains the links between the Crusades, the Knights Templar and The Hospitaller Knights.

The remains of Blackfriars Monastery are directly beside the museum and set within the Rose Garden is one of the last surviving examples of a stone Preaching Cross.

*Our visits are all subject to the latest COVID-19 situation and regulations at the time of the tour.