Saturday, May 5, 2012

Peterchurch, Herefordshire

Fishy, or, Odd things in churches (7)

The church of St Peter, Peterchurch is one of Herefordshire's outstanding Norman buildings. I hope to return to its architecture in a later post, but before I do, I would like to share something odd about this place. High on the south wall of the nave is this panel, apparently a plaster relief of a fish with a gold chain around its neck to which are added the names of some churchwardens and the date 1828.

There were quite a few people in the church when I visited it - parents collecting children who had been doing Saturday-morning activities, borrowers using the library in the bell tower - for this is a very well used building, clearly a church at the heart of its community. But no one that I asked could account for the relief.

Is it the portrait of a fish caught in the nearby River Dore? Is the golden chain a pun on the name of the river (d'or being French for 'of gold'?). Is it perhaps as P. Thoresby Jones speculates in Welsh Border Country, the only book I have that mentions the relief, 'a figure dedicated in gratitude after the ancient Greek fashion by some pious angler'? Or something to do with St Peter's trade of fisherman? Perhaps one of my readers can provide the answer.

* * *
Since I posted this I've had several interesting comments about the fish. I'd assumed it was a carp, mainly because that was what Thoresby Jones called it in the book to which I referred. But a commenter on my post suggests that the relief represents a huge trout caught locally.  Follow the Comments link below for more details.


bazza said...

Ah, I think I can solve this Philip.
You have to push a hidden switch and the carp's head turns towards you and starts singing!
On a slightly more serious note, a fish is a powerful Christian symbol based on the ancient Greek word ΙΧΘΥΣ which is an acronym for the church's message.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Anonymous said...

The golden chain represents the link between heaven and earth.

bookhound said...

on looking at the fish I can see an adipose fin, the small fin on top just bfore the tail. This fin, I am sure, can only be found on game fish ie salmon, and the trout family.
It is unlikely to be a carp.
Best wishes.

bookhound said...

Hello again
I have just checked the location of the Church. It is near the River Wye, an historically important salmon river. I have documentation of huge fish around 50 lb being captured in the area. These fish would have been netted using coracles and would have been a great source of income locally.
I will research the chain connection further.

bookhound said...

Hello again
Peterschurch School has a logo showing a trout with golden chain.
The story goes that a fisherman caught a TROUT in The Golden Well which is in Dorstone, 5 miles from the Church.Keys are also featured which gives a link with St. Peter and the gates of heaven.
Thats my lot.
Best wishes

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bookhound: Many thanks for your comments and research. Of course, it makes much more sense as a trout. After all, carp usually live in lakes, don't they? And trout in rivers.

I'll edit my post to reflect this information – but that will have to wait until tomorrow as I'm in the middle of something else right now.