St Mary’s Church
The Middle Marches Benefice – Bedstone
St Mary’s Church Bedstone has the perfect setting for a country church. It nestles among pretty cottages, their varied black and white, stone or brick walls and tiled or thatched roofs contrasting with the warm red sandstone walls of the church. Its proud little shingled spire is a local landmark, visible from many, unexpected angles. It reminds us that people have come to this place for many centuries to worship God, and to seek his help in their lives.
St Mary’s Bedstone (1877 – 1879) ground plan
created by Frederick Robertson Kempson (1838-1923 of Cardiff)
St Mary’s Church Bedstone c1910
The walls of the present church have stood there for some eight hundred years, and the plan of the church is that of a typical Norman church, with a Nave and a smaller Chancel, divided by a wall pierced by a rounded Chancel Arch. This plain arch dates from the 12th century, as do the round-headed windows at the east end of the north wall of the Chancel, and at the east end of the south wall of the Nave. Windows like them were the largest the church had in those early days, which must have made the interior very dark and mysterious.
Interior of St Mary’s Church, Bedstone
A semi-circle of stones visible on the outside of the south wall of the chancel indicates where a door for the priest existed in the earliest building.
The plain, tub-shaped Font is also of the 12th century, though it stands on a newer, 19th century base. It has a simple semi-circular band of decoration round its middle, and you can see where a lock was fitted to close the lid so that water which had been blessed for Baptisms could not be taken away.
Extensive repairs took place in 1851, and Kempson’s of Hereford restored the entire church in 1879 at a cost of around £1,200. The round-headed west door, and all the windows in the building, apart from the old ones already mentioned, were built into the ancient walls then. The shape of the arches and the zig-zag ornament are copied from genuine Norman work. The roofs were also rebuilt at this time. A new pulpit was made, and a new piscina, where the Communion vessels can be washed, was inserted to the right of the altar.
The four windows in the north wall of the Nave are by Kempe, and commemorate the Reverend Joseph Henry Brown, who was rector here for 21 years, 1877-99. Mr Brown also installed the East Window around the time the church was restored in 1879. in memory of his wife, Annie, who died in 1872 when he was Curate at nearby Aymestrey.
There are two plain 19th century memorials over the Chancel Arch, and several to members of the Ripley family in the Nave. The memorial paid for by the officers of HMS Royal Oak was originally erected in Lightcliffe near Halifax. When the family moved to Bedstone, South Shropshire in 1879 the memorial was taken with them and erected in Bedstone Church at the east end of the south wall of the Nave:
“Alfred Ripley, midshipman R.N who was drowned in the 18th year of his age in H.M.S. Captain when that ship capsized in the Bay of Biscay on the night of Septr. 6 1870. This monument is erected as an expression of affectionate regret by the officers of H.M.S. Royal Oak in which he had served for 2½ years & from which he had exchanged four days before his death.”
Alfred was the sixth son (of eleven children) of the Yorkshire wool dyer and politician, Sir Henry William Ripley.
Originally on HMS Royal Oak, Alfred transferred to HMS Captain just three days before she foundered. First news of his loss was in a telegram from Gibraltar to the Admiralty dated 10th September and reproduced in The Times on 12th September 1870.
His mother, wife of the First Baronet, had travelled to the docks (thought to be Plymouth) to meet the ship several days beforehand – but of course he never returned.