The association between Robert Francis Kilvert and Bredwardine was all too short. He ministered at St Andrew's Bredwardine from November 1877 until his untimely death on September 23rd 1879. From what he wrote in his diary, he appeared to have been enjoying his "living" in Bredwardine with its ancient church and comfortable vicarage overlooking the River Wye, but he died at the age of only 38 years from peritonitis, just a week after returning to Bredwardine from his honeymoon with his wife Elizabeth Ann (nee Rowland).
Kilvert had been attracted to St. Andrew's when one day in April 1876 he walked over from Monnington where he was visiting his sister and brother-in-law. He wrote `the lovely valley gleaming bright in the clear shining after rain.......when the evening sun struck out jewels of gold where he lit upon the upland slopes and hill meadows ....and the river blazed below the grey bridge with a sparkle of a million diamonds`.
Kilvert started his Diary in his thirtieth year on 1st January 1870, five years into a stint as curate with his father at Clyro, north of Hay-on-Wye. In 1872 he returned to Wiltshire, again as curate to his father, until 1876 when he came back to Wales and the Welsh Borders, first to the living of St. Harmon near Rhayader, Powys, and from there he moved in November 1877 to Bredwardine. He was obviously fascinated by his parishioners, including those attracted to Bredwardine by the possibilities offered through the Jarvis Charity, and was truly interested in their welfare. Everywhere he ministered, he walked prodigious distances in all weathers to visit his parishioners rich and poor, however isolated their homes. His diary was not published until 60 years after his death, and unfortunately it was not presented in its entirety because his wife had destroyed certain sections. Three volumes of Kilvert's Diary, edited by William Plomer and published by Jonathan Cape, were published in 1938-40 to give a unique picture of life in this period of the Victorian era, together with vivid descriptions of the area. His grave is to be found to the north of the church.
The Kilvert Society was formed in Hereford in 1948 'to foster an interest in the Rev Francis Kilvert, his work, his diary, and the countryside he loved'. (Membership Secretary, Barry Smith , 25 Prospect Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 5DU; tel 01873 857520; see "Links Page" for website details.