From Bromyard take the A44 east and then turn south along the B4220.
Take the turning on the right signposted Stanford Bishop and the church is up a little lane on the left. There is room for a couple of cars to park outside the church gates.
A typical pretty medieval church in a typical rural location – or so I thought.
But there was more to this church than meets the eye.
Firstly it has a possible prehistoric standing stone built into the graveyard wall.
I circled the graveyard twice before discovering I had walked right past the stone!
The stone is immediately to the right of the gate – under the lamp post.
It is hard to spot from the inside as it is covered in ivy but from outside the church yard it is obvious. The stone is about 1m high and has some moss growing on it.
Secondly, in the churchyard next to the path is a large healthy looking yew tree.
The certificate inside the church states the yew is approximately 1,200 years old!
Thirdly, whilst looking around inside the church I noticed a chair in the corner, next to the alter. Not the usual place to find a chair I thought? It had a slightly odd design and looked old so I had a closer look. I then noticed a brass plaque attached to the chair that stated the chair was known as St Augustine’s Chair. The plaque is inscribed: ‘The traditional chair upon which St. Augustine was seated at the historic conference with the British Bishops at the Second Synod AD 603?
WOW, a 1,400 year old chair! I of course just had to sit on in and quietly ponder the meaning of life for a few minutes in the calming silence of the church.
How cool is that? (Well, I thought it was good anyway!)
I enjoy visiting old churches. Not than I am religious but I do like old buildings and admire the workmanship which has passed the test of time. Living in a city as I do, it is easy to get a bit despondent with the world when you see the litter, graffiti and crime which take place. Getting out into the countryside and knowing there are still parts of the country where churches can be left open without fear of vandalism and ‘honesty tables’ can be left outside selling eggs, jams, vegetables etc certainly does restore my faith in humanity.
I know things are not as straight forward as that but you know what I mean.
Needles to say I would strongly recommend a Visit to St James’ if you are ever in the area. Not a typical church at all.
"Stanford Bishop was probably named after the 'stone ford' at Jumpers Hole on the ancient trackway through the parish. Jumpers Hole in turn was named after a curious stone in the bed of the stream there, and the legend attached to it.
The stone at Jumpers Hole is on the north-west side of the crossing place, and it bears three very clear horseshoe-shaped dents, each about 7" long, and an oval hollow. The legend is that a witch stole a loaf of bread and fled on horseback*. As the horse jumped the brook, the loaf fell onto a stone; the impressions of the loaf and horse's feet are miraculously preserved in the stone.
One version of the tale is that the bread was stolen from Stanford Bishop: presumably from the church, hence the miracle. Another says that the witch went to a cottage at the Dovehills to beg a loaf; when the cottager refused she stole the loaf, and cursed both the farm and (oddly) the gate near the brook"
As told in "Stone Spotting in Herefordshire" - Jonathan Sant (2000) Moondial.
*What self-respecting witch uses a horse. Surely a broomstick or simply disappearing in a flash of smoke would be more suitable if wanting to make a quick exit?