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Eaton Bishop is a small rural Parish lying approximately 6 miles to the west of the city of Hereford. The Parish, which extends to over 672 hectares, had 414 residents in 173 households in 2011 (Census 20113).
The Parish of Eaton Bishop has a history dating back to settlements during the bronze and iron ages through to modern conversions of historic buildings.
During the Roman period, a road was constructed to cross the river via a bridge or ford leading towards the Roman regional town of Kenchester on the north side of the River Wye. The area is rich in Roman features and includes numerous undated and unexcavated crop marks which may represent sites of houses or temporary army camps. Eaton Bishop is described in historical documents, including amongst others, the Doomsday Survey (1086), associated with the Bishop’s Palace at Sugwas, a Bishop’s rental roll (c.1250), a Henry VIII survey (1537) and detailed accounts of the rent rolls of the Bishop’s Manors from the 15th to 17th centuries. This historic land usage informs the features of the landscape and some agricultural activity in the present day.
The settlement of Eaton Bishop was originally built around the church in a traditional cluster village form. The juxtaposition of the church within its enclosure on a circular mound, and the Iron Age Camp in Ruckhall, both on higher ground, suggest an ancient connection between pre-Christian times and the Christian era. The church of St Michael and All Angels, some parts of which date back to at least the 11th century, is Grade I Listed and is particularly notable for the exceptional 14th century stained glass in the east window. The glass is noted by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as being “the finest Decorated glass in the county”, praise indeed for a small Parish church. The original graveyard surrounds the church and dates from at least 1285 but is likely to be considerably older (c.7th century), and there is a separate, later extension.
The Historic England record for the Iron Age Camp in Ruckhall advises that despite excavation, site clearance, partial ploughing and the crossing of pathways and fences, the promontory hill fort survives comparatively well. Excavations in 2012 and 2013 confirmed that the Camp dates back to the early Iron Age between 500 and 700 BC.
Two ditches within the fort were excavated. The ditch separating the promontory from the main fort contained fragments of decorated pottery, burnt bone and fire cracked pebbles as well as an apparent ritual deposit of animal bone. The best example of a circular building discovered so far from within a Herefordshire hill fort was found during the second season of excavation in 2013. Evidence of a permanent hearth was found inside the hut. A large shaft was also found at Eaton Camp adding further weight to the hypothesis that the eastern end of the hill fort may have been used for ritual or ceremonial purposes.