Even when you know what you are about to see, there are some churches that still induce a shock when you encounter them for the first time. Hoarwithy is one of these. I almost did a double-take when confronted by the end-on view of the church with its Italianate campanile. The Italian feeling is reinforced when you walk through the loggia that runs along the length of the south side of the church, before entering the south door.

Hoarwithy church is the product of a rich and autocratic Victorian parson, the Revd William Poole, who was vicar from 1854 to 1901. Like Baumber in Lincolnshire (ND, June 2010) but in a different age and totally different style, the church today is an encasement of an earlier building, with additions like the bell-tower and triple apses. Prebendary Poole called in his friend J.P. Seddon (1827–1906), a prodigiously versatile architect and craftsman. Seddon was a close friend of Ford Madox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but his vision for Hoarwithy went far beyond Arts and Crafts, with a marble pulpit from an original in Fiesole Cathedral and hanging lamps copied from Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Venice. Seddon enlisted a galaxy of talent in his vision. A mosaic in the ceiling over the altar depicts Christ Pantocrator, executed by James Powell and Sons, designed by Ada Currey, while the sanctuary stalls were carved by Harry Hems. High up in the roof is the Angel of Doom window by Burne-Jones and William Morris. The stained glass windows in the apse, designed by Seddon, are a memorial to Prebendary Poole.

If you are a British film director and do not want to go all the way to Tuscany to do your shoot, go to St Catherine, Hoarwithy – Italy transported to the Wye Valley.

Map reference SO 545 294

Simon Cotton