The Church of St James The Apostle, Wigmore, is an early Norman Collegiate church built soon after the conquest (1066) and improved by the Mortimer family in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The church itself consists of a mid-14th century four stage West tower, a Norman three-bay nave with a north chapel (once double – you can still see the outline outside in the north wall), a 14th century south aisle, and a two-bay chancel that may originally have been an apse. In the churchyard is a 14th C pedestal with niche for the Host in Holy Week (a feature peculiar to the Marches). The Cross that sits on it is much restored. The church porch was restored and rebuilt in Victorian times by Bodley (1864).
The most impressive craftsmanship surviving is the magnificent early 15th century hammer-beam roof with arch-braced collars forming segmental arches and with cusped wind-braces that form a row of lozenge-shaped panels. Beneath this, early Norman herringbone masonry is clearly visible in the exterior and interior walls of the nave.
The church has four medieval piscinae. A piscina is a small bowl cut into the stone, usually in a niche in the wall on the south side of the altar. It is used for the ablutions of the priest's hands and church plate at Mass. One piscina is high up in the south east wall of the nave. This is at rood loft level, indicating there was once a rood screen supporting a loft with an altar to one side so the priest could use this piscina. Another piscina, with cusped head, is in the south aisle, a third is in the chancel by the altar and there is yet another outside in the north wall where once there was a chapel.There is also a holy water stoop by the entrance.
A 19th century double sedilia with a central 14th century stone arm lies beneath the south-east window in the chancel. The octagonal stone font in the south aisle is medieval on a Victorian base.
The Victorian floor includes encaustic tiles made using a medieval technique re-invented by Herbert Minton, which involved inlaying layers of different coloured clays to create a design. Encaustic tiles were mostly two-colour with the body of one colour say red, impressed with a design filled with a different colour - often buff. Basil Stallybrass, L.R.I.B.A., who quoted for remedial work on the church in about 1910, said the floor was ‘bad in colour and in arrangement’.
The decagonal timber pulpit with seven linenfold panelled sides and a central octagonal post is 16th century. It is thought that this linenfold panelling was once on the walls somewhere in the church.
Behind the altar lies the last resting place of Alexander Clogie, Vicar (1614 - 1698) and author of the sermon ‘Vox Corvi’ which is still in print today. Sir Edward Harley, a Puritan, had patronage rights in Leintwardine, Brampton Bryan and Wigmore. He appointed Clogie Vicar in 1648 where he remained until his death in 1698. He was Wigmore’s real ‘Vicar of Bray’.
The east widow in the south aisle has fragments of 14th century glass whilst the colourful window behind the altar in the chancel is 19th century and made by D Evans of Shrewsbury.
There are many memorials to the local aristocracy and landed gentry – notably the Davies and Kevill Davies families of Croft Castle and Wigmore Hall.
There is an unique World War I memorial on the south wall of the south aisle sculpted by William Storr Barber (1876-1934). He studied in Birmingham, fought in the first World War and served a long apprenticeship with a highly regarded firm in Cheltenham, R L Boulton & Sons (who at one time were the favoured stonemasons of Edward W Pugin, son of the famous architect). His memorials are listed in the Imperial War Museum and the one in St James is believed to be the only half life-size figure that he produced and also the only one that is indoors.
The church also houses the Parish Records; Marriages 1754 to 1837 and Burials 1813 to 1905. Of course, you can find more at Hereford Archives and Record Centre which is a fantastic free resource. www.herefordshire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/local-history-and-heritage/herefordshire-archives-and-records-centre
There are two hatchments (diamond shaped panels) on the west wall of the nave. Inside the tower, in the vestry (tower access is by previous appointment) is a 17th century paneled cupboard and a medieval altar slab with incised crosses re-used as the west window sill. The stair door is 17th century. This leads up the spiral stone stairs to the first stage where the bell ringers’ room houses the bell pulls. Up on the next floor is an empty space with a floor of squared off oak tree trunks to deaden the noise from the chamber above - the bell chamber.
The ring of six bells was donated by the Harley family in 1721 and still rings out today. Some of the bells are hung for full-circle ringing
The bell chamber also houses a single bell with mechanical hammer that chimes the hours with the clock on the east face of the tower. The clock mechanism is a very old and rare wrought-iron side by side birdcage clock, circa 1670-1790 which has been recently restored to full working order.
None of these treasures will be affected by the reordering although certain items may be moved to make them more accessible than they are today.
The Wigmore Centre CIC has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to commence the development phase of the transformation of St James’ Church into an Interpretive, Heritage and Community Centre.