There has been evidence of a religious settlement in Marstow since the 6th Century. In 1130 Marstow was written as Llan Martin and in 1291 as Martinstow. The name derives from the saint's name Martin. There has been a church in Marstow from at least the 14th Century. The original church of St. Martin's was described as "an ancient stone structure, with a small tower containing two bells who's churchyard is frequently inundated by the overflowing of the river". In 1831 St.Martin's was a perpetual currecy annexed to the vicarage of Sellack. This church was demolished in 1855 and the new church of St. Matthew's was built at Brelston Green, in the same year, for a cost of £750.
The new church of St. Matthew's was built on higher ground to avoid being flooded by the Garron Brook and is a Grade II listed building designed by Thomas Nicholson. It is a pretty country church with a four-bay nave with bellcote, two-bay chancel, vestry and South porch and is constructed of coursed sandstone rubble with limestone dressings and plain tile pitched roofs. It is set in an eye-catching site which is within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From the churchyard there are wonderful south facing views overlooking cottages, farms and streams towards Goodrich, Symonds Yat and the Forest of Dean. The churchyard and church are surrounded by stone boundary walls and gates. The base of the old churchyard cross from the old church can also be found near the yew tree.
The bellcote contains two bells within arched openings and these are a vital link to the original church with the oldest bell cast in Gloucester in 1320 and attributed to "Sandre" and the other dating from 1717 is by Abraham Rudhall.
The 1320 medieval plain octagonal bowl of the font was also moved from the original church and placed on a modern stem. It has a carved Victorian lid with the motto "Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me For Of Such Is The Kingdom Of God".
Behind the altar is a magnificent carved alabaster reredos of the Last Supper which was designed and made by R.L. Boulton of Cheltenham. This was presented to the church in the late 19th Century by a London Stockbroker, Alfred Shafto Barthropp in memory of his first wife Edith Mary Holt Beever who died aged 30 during or following the birth of their first child.
The very fine stained glass window at the East end of the chancel entitled "The Raising of Jairus's Daughter" is believed to be by William Wailes. Five smaller stained glass windows are to be seen in the nave. East window on north side has stained glass with St. Mary and St. Joseph for William Holt Beever who died in 1896. In next window to west is stained glass, probably early C20 for William Shuttleworth-Clarke with figures of Christ and St. Martin. East window on south side of the nave has stained glass window of Elizabeth and Zacharias for William Holt Beever matching the one on the opposite side. West window has stained glass in quatrefoil tracery with inscription EN DIEU MA FOI.
In 1857 the church was presented with a 'very handsome service of Communion Plate' (The Hereford Journal, Hereford, Wednesday 10 June 1857, p.6c) by Stephen Allaway (1808-1878), a son of William Allaway (d. 1849), ironmaster of Lydney and a partner in William Allaway & Sons, tin plate manufacturers. Mr and Mrs Allaway were living at Pencraig Court in Marstow Parish. The maker's mark on the Communion Plate is that of Joseph Angell (1815-1891) who at the time of the 1851 Census was employing 35 men and boys in Clerkenwell, London.
There are memorials in the church to three men from Marstow who died in the 1914-18 war:
Alfred Bubb - A Lance Corporal in the 1st Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Killed in action 29th May 1917, aged 20. He is buried in Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingrabe, France. Plot 1, Row Q, Grave 23. Born in Glewstone.
Thomas Turbill - A Private in the Herefordshire Regiment attached to 1st Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Killed in action 13th August 1918, Aged 36. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 54, Tyn Cot memorial Belgium. He was the husband of Alice Kate Turbill of Ross-on-Wye and son of William Turbill from Bromyard.
Robert Shuttleworth-Clarke - Captain, 5th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Killed in action 25th September 1915, Aged 25. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium, Panel 47 and 49. Born in Marstow, son of Rev. William Suttleworth-Clarke, Vicar of Marstow. (He was taking two lines of trenches with eight men when he and his Lance Corporal were hit by a bursting shell. Captain Clarke had his flask with him and gave his Lance Corporal a drink saying 'Cheer up lad'. He later died from loss of blood. His sergeant said of him 'From the men who came out of the charge and were near him at the time, I know how magnificently he fought, and without cant he died a hero. That is how he is revered in this battalion').
A further plaque was presented by the people of Marstow and friends of the Shuttleworth-Clarke family in memory of Robert Shuttleworth-Clarke.
The church is in the deanery of Ross & Archenfield of the Diocese of Hereford and in 2017 was put on the Heritage at Risk register of Historic England. With the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant of £105,000 and additional grants by charities and donors, £179,000 was raised to carry out urgent structural repairs. At the same time a community space was created at the back of the nave and a portable WC was installed. This is a great achievement which is proving a real bonus to the life of the church.
Two leaflets are available in the church:
Marstow Civil War Trail
History of St. Matthew's, Marstow
The church continues to be the focal point of many of the most significant moments in the lives of the community of Marstow. Apart from births, marriages, deaths and regular worship there have been special acts of remembrance and dedication in respect of national and international events.