Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Lost and found
Saxon churches are rare, but in the village of Deerhurst, not far from the River Severn, there are two. This is the smaller, Odda’s Chapel, a very simple stone building now attached to a timber-framed farmhouse. For years – indeed centuries – it vanished from view, incorporated into the house, the stone nave serving as a kitchen, the small chancel divided into upstairs and downstairs rooms. No one knew that it was anything other than an old part of the house.
In 1675, a stone with a Latin inscription was discovered nearby. The text says that ‘Earl Odda ordered this royal chapel to be built and dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity, for the soul of his brother Aelfric who left his body in this place,’ and goes on to date the building’s dedication to 12 April 1056. A dated foundation stone like this for such an early building is very unusual, but back in 1675 when it was found, no one knew the whereabouts of the building to which it referred.
Then in 1885 someone doing some repair work to the farmhouse discovered an old window and the truth began to dawn. Archaeologists unpicked the two buildings in the 1960s, restoring the chapel’s separate entrance and repairing the roof. The small, bare space inside is lit by tiny, narrow windows, the chancel arch is a simple stone horseshoe design, details that would be familiar to masons and worshippers almost a thousand years ago.