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VISIT | Remembering Frances Horovitz at the Poets Church in Orcop | Herefordshire

The Farmland Surrounding Orcop Church
The Farmland Surrounding Orcop Church

A Connection Between Poetry and Landscape

Discover the Poets Church set in the hills of the south Herefordshire countryside at Orcop

Reflect upon the life of a gifted poet - Frances Horovitz

A beautiful place where language, literature and life meet

Found inside the Church, the words of Frances Horovitz
Found inside the Church, the words of Frances Horovitz

"...this wild church with its lingering romantic spirit..."

Description |

What makes St John the Baptist church in Orcop, Herefordshire so special? It is not simply because is a 12th century building saved from ruin by Victorian renovation and the striking weather-boarded 16th century tower. Neither is it because of its picturesque setting, close to an ancient motte and bailey castle, with its panoramic views of the south Herefordshire unique landscape.

The church at Orcop has become known as the ‘Poets Church’. This is because the poet Frances Horovitz is buried there. She died on the 2nd October 1983 aged 45 years. She remains a little known and neglected poet. Poets are often associated with and influenced by where they know and live in Britain. Frances Horovitz was a poet of place and landscape. Her poems were inspired by the remote Cotswold valley near Slad where she lived for ten years; others by the border country of Cumbria – ‘Rain - Birdoswald.’

But she had a special relationship with the Welsh Marches and in particular, the area of south Herefordshire around Orcop. She visited the area many times over her life and stayed around Orcop with her son Adam and her second husband Roger Garfitt in the years before her death. Her poems that are influenced by this area, including ‘Orcop Haiku’ are still in print. Her poetry is concerned with landscape and its interaction with the natural elements. It is said she could see Garway Hill through the window of her bedroom, but in 'Orcop Haiku' it is viewed through autumnal rain, 'glass beads flung on glass'. 

Her impact and legacy at Orcop lives on. There is a unique headstone which marks her place of rest in the graveyard. There is a glass memorial to her inside the church. But more fittingly Orcop church has become not only a place of memorial to Frances Horovitz but a place to celebrate poetry and music. On the major anniversaries of death there have celebrations of her work by other contemporary poets. There is now a tradition of an annual poetry and music event held at the church every October to coincide with National Poetry Day.

For me though the true legacy of Frances Horovitz can be found by standing in the churchyard at Orcop. You can reflect on a creative life taken before its time. But you can also observe and reflect on the panoramic views of the unique Herefordshire landscape which inspired much of her poetry – Garway Hill, Orcop Common, Rowlestone and the Black Mountains. The poetry lives on in the place.

Directions and Map |

Find Orcop church in the tiny village of Orcop in west Herefordshire

Longitude: -2.766665

Latitude: 51.932208

what3words: ///porch.slower.diverting