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Shobdon Arches - When A Folly Isn't Fake

Shobdon Arches is a rather unique structure that stands on a Herefordshire hill within the Shobdon Court estate. What on earth is it? It's a folly - but there's nothing fake about it.

These arches and surrounding carvings were part of the old Church of St John, an early Norman building decorated extensively with incredible Romanesque carvings. If you've ever seen the church at Kilpeck a few miles away you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, mystical symbolism that takes in Saxon, Scandinavian and Celtic influences.

Viscount Bateman demolished most of the church during the mid-1700s, rebuilding it in a strange neo-gothic style - the interior is just bizarre - but he saved the old arches. They were set up together as part of a folly to display them in all their glory, but unfortunately 270 years of the elements, vandalism and a lack of maintenance have worn much of the details of the carvings away. Warriors and dragons are surrounded by symbolic spirals and knots, just as at Kilpeck, but they are in danger of being lost altogether if some sort of restoration work is not carried out soon. Detailed sketches were made before the reconstruction of the church so this is a very doable undertaking - if someone pays for it.

A reminder of just how soaked in symbolism the early churches of Herefordshire once were - well worth the walk up the hill!

I take a journey around some of Herefordshire's stranger places in my book The Mystery Of Mercia II - available at

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