The Good Priest of Geddington

Not a Welsh tomb – but a tomb, and a lovely example of the way that folk traditions can develop around tomb carvings (crossed legs and Crusaders, ‘pirate’ tombs with skulls and crossbones, effigies of ‘giants’  …)

I’ve been working with Howard Williams on a carved slab which has turned up in Llangollen and which very probably depicts a c 1300 abbot of Valle Crucis (see https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/smiling-abbot-part-3/ and the links from that). He seems to be shown carrying a book (quite common for priestly effigies) and something we can only identify as a paten.

So I was very excited when an old colleague sent me a link to this http://geddingtonchurch.org.uk/the-shrine-of-hagius/ with a photograph of another priest. The wonderful @Stiffleaf  has a better photo of it at http://www.ipernity.com/doc/stiffleaf/44753570/in/keyword/4985488/self and the priest is clearly carrying a paten. He has the chalice in his right hand and a book in his left, so the paten is tucked rather awkwardly under his right arm. There’s also a suggestion of something hanging from his right wrist – it could be a maniple, though that would normally be on the left. He is vested for Mass, with a chasuble over his alb. The folds of the chasuble have muddled many attempts to describe the effigy. The Northamptonshire Pevsner says he is covered by a shield, and Bailey’s Northamptonshire in the Early Eighteenth Century: the drawings of Peter Tillemans and others describes it as a semi-effigy withy the lower part of the body covered.  The effigy is badly worn, especially around the face and hands, though oddly the chasuble is still quite clearly carved.

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The Geddington priest: photo (c) Norman Hammond

So far, so good: a standard early C14 effigy of a priest, with the interesting (though not unique) feature that he is carrying a paten as well as chalice and book. Brian and Moira Gittos have sent me references to similar effigies at Barnard’s Castle and Ledbury. There is also a cross slab at Sproatley with chalice and paten touched by a disembodied hand. All this is very helpful in our efforts to elucidate the Llangollen stone.

I was more concerned, though, by some of the other material on the web site. It gives him the name Hagius, which it says is recorded on an inscription on the effigy (now said to be below floor level and invisible) and in a document in the archives of the nearby Boughton Castle. The web site further claims that Hagius ‘died whilst celebrating the Eucharist. This is often considered as a significant and saintly way for God to call a person home to Him, and so it is not wonder that Hagius quickly became considered locally as a saintly individual … In this effigy, Hagius’ priestly credentials are evidenced by the chalice, paten and bible which are placed lovingly in his hands. His saintly credentials evidenced by his long neck and tonsure – signs of devout holiness.’

The idea that this was a priest who died while celebrating the Eucharist seems to be a local tradition invented to explain the chalice and vestments. The eighteenth-century antiquarian Bridges mentions the tradition in his History of Northamptonshire only to dismiss it. Apart from anything else, there are far too many priestly effigies with chalices – they can’t all have died at the altar. In fact, the only record of one that I could find was an anti-Wyclif text by Thomas Gascoigne who says Wycliffe had a stroke at the elevation and implies it was a divine punishment for his errors about the Eucharist. (I owe this one to Thomas Izbicki on the medieval-religion jiscmail group: he says see Andrew Larsen’s article in A Companion to John Wyclif (2006).) There are plenty of texts telling you how to cope if a priest dies while celebrating – at what point you take over, what you do if the bread or wine is spilled – but nothing on the fate of his soul. There is also a well-evidenced medieval belief that if you died while watching Mass you would go straight to Heaven – that one is in the Lay Folks’ Mass Book and its Welsh equivalent, ‘Rhinweddau Gwrando Offeren’ (for a Welsh article on that see https://cylchgronau.llyfrgell.cymru/view/1229967/1233814/35#?xywh=-673%2C1388%2C4153%2C2054 – thanks to Ann Parry Owen for those references). But again nothing about exceptional holiness.

The tonsure and the long neck, too, proved misleading. The tonsure simply shows he was a priest. The long neck was the style of the early fourteenth century: nothing to do with holiness.

That made me wonder about some of the other material on the web site. There is a little bit of late Saxon stonework in the fabric of the church. The web site says ‘Bones from a Saxon grave were discovered while the floor was being repaired in 1990, and it is thought that these were most likely from a Saxon priest/monk who will have served this church dutifully over 1000 years ago.’ I contacted the county archaeologist. She sent me a brief report of the 1990 excavation from South Midlands Archaeology for 1991. That said there was ‘a burial oriented east-west and located at the south-east corner of the easternmost pillar base [of the south aisle] – though no relationship could be determined. About half of the oval grave was uncovered, including the head and top left side of the body. Three limestone fragments supported the skull. The grave was a minimum of 0.14m. deep and vertically sided. No datable finds were found in its fill.’

In Requiem: the medieval monastic cemetery in Britain, Gilchrist and Sloane say stones as head supports (with and without coffins) are found across southern and western England and from C11-C16 but are more common in C11 and C12 (this is on pp 137-8 of Requiem). This burial is presumably the one referred to as ‘Saxon’ in the church web site. It could be very late Saxon but is possibly later. Traditionally, alignment with the head to the east was held to denote a priest. The idea was that at the Day of Judgement, when we would all rise out of our graves, the priest would rise facing his people and would be able to guide them. There is nothing in the grave, though, to suggest it was that of a priest. Depending on the date, it was probably someone of importance,  but burial in church became increasingly common in the later middle ages.

The web site goes on to say ‘The shrine of Hagius  would have been a place of significant pilgrimage for centuries, as the Holy Water stoup to the left of the priest’s head signifies’.

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The head of the effigy and the ‘stoup’: photo (c) Norman Hammond

Holy water stoup? None of my contacts in the Church Monument Society had ever seen a stoup as part of an effigy. They all thought it much more likely that the very worn feature to the left of the priest’s head was an angel supporting his pillow. The whole slab with the effigy on it was clearly wedge-shaped at one time and it has been trimmed down, possibly for use in building.

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Damage to the side of the effigy and slab: photo (c) Norman Hammond

There was probably another angel to the right of the priest’s head. A rough sketch of the monument by the Dutch artist Peter Tillemans in 1719 shows the surviving angel quite clearly. (The drawing is in British Library Additional MS 32467, no. 106, and it’s reproduced in Bailey’s Northamptonshire in the Early Eighteenth Century.) There is another drawing by Sir Henry Dryden in 1843 in the Northampton Central Library (https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=30721&sos=0). That shows features on the effigy; the supporting angel is much less detailed but the hands on the pillow are quite clear.

The effigy is now in the lady chapel but it may have been moved at least once. The church web site points to an illustration in Bridges, but this is clearly a confusion with the Tillemans sketch. The note on the back of the sketch says the effigy is ‘In the N Isle at ye upper end  under the N. wall’, but Bridges says it is adjacent to an inscription at the upper end of the south chancel. According to Bailey, the note on the back of the sketch is not in Tillemans’ hand and may be inaccurate.

And what about the inscription: Hagius ecclesiae capellanus, Hagius, priest of the church. The only record of that was in the document in the published edition of the Boughton Castle archive. This was an unsigned letter to Charles Lamotte, rector of Warkton, in about 1736. Lamotte had worked as steward for the 2nd Duke of Montagu, owner of Boughton, and seems to have passed the letter on to him. None of the antiquarians who visited the church seemed to have noticed the writing on the effigy. They made various attempts at transcribing the inscriptions in Lombardic capitals recording the priests who contributed to the rebuilding of the chancel. These inscriptions once formed the chancel steps and are now rearranged around the chancel. Bridges didn’t seem to have noticed anything on the tomb: but in what he said about the effigy there was a cross-reference to an earlier part of the book. I followed that up and found that, under the nearby parish of Lamport, he described a burial with a key and a candlestick which he thought was an acolyte. Then he compared it with effigies of priests like the one at Geddington, with the inscription ‘Hujus ecclesiae capellanus’.Not Hagius but Hujus – ‘ priest of this church’.

Much of the ‘letter’ in the Boughton archive was actually copied out of Bridges, including the bit about the candlestick and the acolyte. Clearly, it couldn’t have been copied from the printed book. Bridges died in 1724 but the book wasn’t published until 1791. So it must have been done by someone who had access to his notes and drafts. And looking at the original document in the Boughton Castle archives, it’s clear that that too says not ‘hagius’ but ‘hujus’, It was a simple mistranscription by someone unfamiliar with medieval Latin.

So what we can say is that we have in Geddington  the effigy of a priest, but that we do not know his name. He probably was a person of local repute: he was buried in the church, at a date when that was still an unusual privilege, with an elaborate tomb when most people went to the grave with only a shroud. But that is all.

There are still problems. Who copied the material from Bridges’ MSS and sent it to Lamotte? If there was ever an inscription, where was it? Jean Wilson of the Church Monuments Society has examined the effigy slab carefully and thinks it is all still visible. There is now no trace of any inscription. The lower part of the effigy is missing, as well as the angel to the right of the priest’s head. Tillemans’ drawing has only one angel. It does look as though the lower part of the slab is still there, but to be honest the drawing is so sketchy that it’s difficult to be sure. The lower part had clearly gone by the time Dryden drew the carving in 1843. So was the inscription there, or is it a confusion with an inscription elsewhere? The fact that Bridges does not mention it in the chapter on Geddington does suggest that there is something dubious about it. More work on the MSS may elucidate this as well.

And how can we explain the wear on the face and hands of the effigy, and the difference between the upper part of the body and the chasuble? Bridges said the effigy was at the upper end of the south chancel. The chancel was virtually derelict in the early nineteenth century and it is possible that the upper part of the effigy was exposed to water dripping from the roof but that the lower part was protected in some way. Alternatively, it is possible that a local cult had developed around the effigy, based on the tradition that he was carrying the vessels for Mass because of his exceptional holiness. There are plenty of other examples of post-Reformation cults forming around gravestones and effigies. The effigy of a C13 bishop in Llandaff Cathedral was believed to be that of St Teilo, founder saint of the cathedral, and his tomb was in the C18 a place for striking business deals. There is considerable hand wear around the feet of the effigy, which people touched to seal the agreement. The incised effigial slab of a local couple on the parish church of Christchurch near Newport in Gwent was widely believed to have healing powers and people laid their children on it in the hope of a cure. As a result, it has been almost completely worn away. However, hand wear does look different from weathering. It depends to some extent on the stone type, and it would need close examination, but from photographs the wear on the Geddington effigy looks more like weathering.

The sad thing is that there is of course a very interesting story at Geddington. It just isn’t the story that is on the church web site. What we have is, if you like, the Grave of the Unknown Priest. He may have been one of the men who organised the building work in the church, or he may have been another whose name is known only to God. He served the parish, out in all weathers baptising sickly babies and taking the last rites to dying parishioners. His was not the heroism of sanctity but the day-to-day heroism of a man doing his job. He said the prayers in church, even when there was no-one else to say them with him. Because of his ministry, and that of people like him, the church is still a place where prayer has been valid.

But his name wasn’t Hagius.

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Llangwm

The Monmouthshire Antiquarians and the Gwent County History Association spent Saturday in Llangwm at the invitation of the local history society. Llangwm is not so much a village as a scatter of houses, but with a much-used village hall, two churches and a chapel. It was the heartland of early Puritanism in Wales, and the great Walter Cradock was minister there under the Commonwealth.

We started the day in the village hall with a talk from the Gwent archivist, Tony Hopkins, on the commonplace book kept by a seventeenth-century landowner of the parish, John Gwyn. He was Cradock’s brother-in-law, an enthusiast for new methods of farming and fruit growing and an inveterate collector of medical recipes and snippets of local and family knowledge.

We then wandered down to the furthest of the churches, Llangwm Uchaf, now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Its great glory is its rood screen –

and detail of the carving –

some of this is medieval, some dates to John Seddon’s restoration of the church in c.1870.

And in the churchyard is this delightfully crude eighteenth-century carving of Adam and Eve on the grave of a local farming couple.

The tree is beautifully detailed and the serpent is curved around it but the two figures are hardly differentiated at all and are both wearing little loincloths of leaves.

The inscription reads

In Memory
of Anne the wife of James Thomas
of this Parish who Died Decr the 23rd
1796 Aged 50 years

To Faith and Charity her heart inclind
Gentle prudent and of an easy mind.
Ready to forgive fearfull to offend
Faithfull to her husband, true to her friend.
Her course she finished & resigned her breath
In pursuit of Heaven through ye val of Death.

Also in Memory of James Thomas
Who died Decr ye 13th 1808 Aged 83 Years.

 

The church is now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches (http://friendsoffriendlesschurches.org.uk/). Digging around the outside of the building to deal with drainage problems, they found another tombstone commemorating some of John Gwyn’s family and recording a gruesome local murder.

What they could decipher of it read

Here lyeth the body of Joan Gwyn
The wife of John Gwyn of the parish
[this is Joan sister of Walter Cradock and wife of the John Gwyn who kept the commonplace book]
Who departed this life in the year 1690
Here lyeth the body of Craddock
Gwyn of this parish who departed this
life … 1725
[this is John and Joan’s son, named after his uncle]
Here lyeth the body of Elizabeth
Gwyn, the wife of Craddock Gwyn of this
Parish, who was murdered in her own home …
of … 1743
Aged 31 years
… body that
Bloody villain
Who coveted both gold and hand  … only be.

This event took place at the Gwyn family home, Pwll Farm, and according to local folklore you can still see the bloodstains at the bottom of the stairs. There are more Gwyn family tombs in the churchyard.

Bull Cliff Marble

This is a preliminary posting while it’s fresh in my mind – more to come when Mike Statham and Tim Palmer do a proper write-up of the lithology. Iolo Morgannwg, stonemason, antiquarian, imaginative inventor of Welsh history and general polymath, identified something he called ‘Bull Clifft marble’ in the cliffs between Barry and Porthkerry, at the mouth of the Nant Cidi.

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He was keen to promote the use of local decorative stones as an alternative to marble (Italian marble being difficult to get hold of during the Napoleonic wars) and identified a number of earlier memorials made in what he described as Bull Cliff marble in local churches. At St Andrews Major he reported:

In the East part of the North Aisle of St. Andrew’s Church on a black marble ledger (Bull clifft), well polished, is the following remarkable inscription, the ledger is also of the following form, and is the oldest that I ever saw in Glamorgan without a cross on it.

He then drew the stone with an inscription commemorating

John Gibbon James buried the 14 of August 1601 and Margaret Mathew his wife buried the 8 of January An Do 1631. He aged 99 she aged 124.

(Iolo was particularly interested in tombstones recording people who died at an advanced age.)

Iolo’s ‘Bull Clifft marble’ seems to be dark grey or even black, but there are monuments in other local churches described in guides as ‘Bull Cliff stone’ but made of a much paler blue-grey stone.

So we assembled a group from the Welsh Stone Forum and went off to have a look. Here we are heading towards the actual Bull Cliff

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and looking at what seems to be the stone Iolo was describing.

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It’s a liassic limestone with very characteristic small flat oyster shells (Liostrea hisingeri) which would clearly polish up very nicely.

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We had with us Mike Statham’s brother Ian who is a retired geological engineer and was pretty confident that we were looking at evidence of quarrying. What we had assumed was erosion by the sea, he suggested was deliberate removal of mudstone and shaly overburden to get at good building stone and the shelly ‘marble’. Once that had been taken away we were left with a flat pavement, with too many fissures to make it useful.

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Well, once he said it, we could see it quite clearly!

So on we went to Cadoxton church. Mike and I had been there already looking for this (now on the south wall but from the wording clearly a ledgerstone)

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which Geoff Orrin in his Medieval Churches of the Vale of Glamorgan describes as being Bull Cliff marble. It looks quite different from the stone on the beach but Tim Palmer said it was the same stone on the basis of the small oyster shells (difficult to see because of weathering of the stone but he had his magnifying glass and could identify them quite clearly). There is another ledgerstone in the same stone mounted on the south wall

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and this one at the back of the church

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which looks similar but doesn’t seem to have the same fossils.

Apparently there were ledgerstones under the carpet. We didn’t have time to move the carpet as we had to get on to St Andrews, but Mike and I went back a few days later and found these in the chancel

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and these just west of the nave steps.

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Most but clearly not all are Bull Cliff stone. Lovely little cherubs (the one on the Rosser ledgerstone looks as though it’s wearing glasses)

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and copybook commemorative poems.

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There’s a lot of local gossip about the families in the wonderful diary of William Thomas (published by the South Wales Record Society, http://www.southwalesrecordsociety.co.uk/11.htm). For example: he records George Rosser’s death on 28th May, 1764

of about 70 yrs. of age from a very sudden death. He rose the 27th in the morning and Eated his Breakfast and went about the fields, and soon after his return some reaches took him tht in a few hours he Expired. Some sort of a Merry man, had his Life inthat House and land in Eley after his mother which was daughter of late Thomas Howel of Eley decease, which his mother and he had run in debt, to the Lord of the mannor, and the Land rented out to Tho. Collins senr. Deceased to pay it, he went to the great house in Swanbridge to keep an alehouse and a Shop where about this 20 yrs. past he broke, and had £15 of the poor’s money of St. Andrews on use, the Lease of the parishioners, and went to Pencotre where he kept an alehouse, till this 10 or 11 yrs. past that the land in Eley came free and he went there and paid the money to St. Andrews parish, and came well up, but these few years past he rented Barry Island of Sir Edm Tho (which he had given up to Biss of the Holms last Candlemas) and made not much gains of that – the house and Land in Eley after his life went from the family, he Left behind him two sons and two daughters.

There’s also a lot of roughly finished Bull Cliff stone in the actual fabric of the church – sanctuary steps, tower steps – and a wedge-shaped stone in the north side of the chancel which could be a medieval coffin lid. Also mooching around the churchyard I spotted this,

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the design a copy of a medieval four-circle or bracelet cross. I’ve not seen anything like this on a modern gravestone but then I probably wasn’t looking.

On to St Andrews – where Iolo’s stone is nowhere to be seen inside the church. There is however a stone against the outside north wall which could be it – very much weathered and doesn’t look like Bull Cliff at all but Tim says the change in colour is lichen. The inscription is totally illegible by daylight so we plan to go back one evening and see what we can do with a raking light.

More on that again.

 

 

The Rattleskull Genius and the Storeyed Urn

The church of Llanilltud Fawr in the Vale of Glamorgan (Llantwit Major to the English – St Twit, who he? Is that where Roald Dahl got the idea?) has an outstanding collection of what we now call Early Medieval Inscribed Stones – ‘Celtic’ crosses, carved pillars and inscriptions commemorating the great and the good of early medieval Glamorgan. As if that wasn’t enough, there are medieval tombs, a number of post-Reformation cross slabs, wall paintings, a Jesse tree and a stunning late medieval reredos with niches for all the saints you can think of.

Given this wealth of artistic heritage, it seems strange to get excited about this rather ordinary marble wall monument.

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It commemorates Anthony Jones, who died on 29 September 1755 aged 24 and was buried ‘in the belfry under the third bell’. But the monument also mentions his sons Anthony Jones, clerk, and Daniel Jones, esq., and Daniel’s wife Louisa, all of whom are buried with Anthony and Daniel’s mother Mary in the nearby village of Llandow.

These details suggest a date of about 1800 for the actual monument. But why is it so interesting? True, Gunnis’s Dictionary of British Sculptors describes it as ‘exactly like the contemporary work of T. King of Bath’, and King was one of the best of the provincial marble-masons. But the exciting thing about this wall monument is at the bottom, the name of the mason.

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E. Williams, Cowbridge, was also known as Iolo Morganwg, antiquarian, forger, inventor of the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards and the whole Eisteddfod ceremonial, and self-styled ‘rattleskull genius’. His activities as historian, poet and inventor of much of Welsh tradition and culture have been covered by the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in their ‘Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Tradition in Wales’ project – http://www.iolomorganwg.wales.ac.uk/ . But for most of his working life he was also Williams the stonecutter. It was his work as a stonemason that supported his research and his writing (though they didn’t support it very well – he was always in debt and even spent time in prison).

Because of Iolo’s fame as a poet and cultural figure, the account books and papers of his stonemason’s business have been kept and are now in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. In his chapter ‘Iolo Morganwg: Stonecutter, Builder and Antiquary’ in Geraint Jenkins’s A Rattleskull Genius: the many faces of Iolo Margannwg, Richard Suggett uses these papers to give us an insight into the life and work of an ordinary jobbing mason. He and his brothers were trained by their father, a master mason whose business included limewashing and plastering as well as new building, repairs and making and inscribing tombstones. The Wathen monument on the outside of Llanilltud church is probably one of his

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and there is another wall monument inside the church at Gileston which may be by him (http://www.iolomorganwg.wales.ac.uk/bro-silstwn.php ).

Iolo worked in London and the West Country, gaining experience and developing his intellectual interests, then returned to Glamorgan where he tried to set up as a high-quality marble mason. His business advertisements claimed that he could produce ‘all sorts of chimney-pieces, monuments, tombs, headstones  …’ in marble and freestone, ‘in the newest and neatest manner’, as well as cleaning and polishing old marble tables and cutting inscriptions on old monuments. As well as the Llanilltud wall monument, there is a ledgerstone by him at St Mary Church (http://www.iolomorganwg.wales.ac.uk/bro-llanfair.php ) and possibly a chest tomb in the churchyard at Gileston (http://www.iolomorganwg.wales.ac.uk/bro-silstwn.php ). His prices were moderate: words cost 2d per letter, edge mouldings were 1s. a foot and some sculptured ornaments cost a guinea. But the business did not prosper and in 1786 he was imprisoned as an insolvent debtor. The inventory of the tools in his workshop – grits, polishers, marble carving tools, freestone firmers, saws, compasses and rules – came to just under £2. This included 3s. 6d. for his copy of Darley’s Book of Ornaments for Carvers (a book which I can’t now trace – not online, not in the British Library catalogue).

Iolo was critical of the vernacular poetry on many of the tombs he produced: ‘on how many grave-stones I have inscribed vile doggerel’, he said. His interest in landscape and the natural world led him to explore the potential of the workable stones in Glamorgan and elsewhere in Wales. When it became difficult to import marble from elsewhere in Europe during the Napoleonic wars, he suggested using the limestones of the Glamorgan coast. He was particularly taken with the Bull Cliff liassic stones. We found some tomb carvings using those at Cadoxton and Merthyr Dyfan and we need to do more work on them – that will need another blog post after our field visit at the end of the month.

 

Llanfrynach: multum in parvo

Llanfrynach is a little church in the fields just west of Cowbridge. Access is down a narrow, rutted lane; there is no parking space, no electricity, no loos. It was clearly the centre of a dispersed settlement but by the seventeenth century most people were living to the north in Penllyn. The journey they had to make across the fields for funerals is marked by a line of coffin stiles, double stiles with a central support to rest the coffin while the bearers clambered over. A church was built in Penllyn in the nineteenth century and Llanfrynach is little used now, but it is still clearly much loved.  There are recent burials and flowers in the graveyard. While we were measuring up the medieval carvings, two lots of visitors arrived, both with families from the area.

Llanfrynach is one of those churches you keep coming back to. I went there first in the mid 1990s when I was working on churches in the landscape. There was a suggestion of a Roman site just to the north of the church, so this could have been an example of an early church deriving from a late Roman house or estate church. There were Welsh poems on some of the gravestones in the churchyard so Gwen Awbrey came there with me. Our daughters were in the Welsh primary school together, so while Gwen deciphered the poems and I looked at the surrounding fields the girls made rubbings of tomb carvings. Apparently they were designing tombstones for their friends in school the next week. Gwen and I waited in some trepidation for a call from the headmaster, and planned to blame each other.

The church itself is a fascinating building. Much of the original 12th century building survives. There is a narrow chancel arch and a stone bench all round the nave. There are faint traces of medieval wall paintings to the south of the altar – a crown of thorns or a vine trail, with bunches of grapes. But it was not until my third visit, with a young French student who was working on Welsh wall paintings, that I realised that the east end of the church is virtually paved with medieval tombstones.

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Even the doorstep is a late 13th century cross slab.

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There are also some of those enigmatic post-Reformation cross slabs so typical of south-east Wales and so rare elsewhere. To complicate the picture still further, some of the medieval stones have lettering suggesting they were reused in the seventeenth century, and others are so battered it’s difficult to put a date to them.

Planning out and analysing this jumble of medieval and post-medieval slabs was clearly going to take some doing. My French cousin Amy is here for Christmas and happy to spend a day on her knees with tape measure and note pad. The church key lives in the Cross Inn, just up the road. Yes, they could do lunch for a vegan. We were in business.

The cross slabs date from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Probably the oldest is this one

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If you saw it in Yorkshire you would probably say 12th century but in north Wales it could be as late as 1300. The lettering MT 1670 is a later addition.

Then there are a number of floriated crosses in circles and quatrefoils. As well as the doorstep, there is one built into the roof of the rood loft stairs

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a tiny cross head, 30 x 26 cm, which may have covered a heart burial

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and this splendid one,

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137 x 70 cm, with an elaborate head

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and lovely detailed oak leaves springing from the shaft.

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There are traces of writing incised round the border but all we could identify was a capital G. It looked Lombardic in style, so it may have been contemporary with the cross.

This very plain cross set in the chancel floor

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is probably late medieval, and this stumpy base

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could also be early 16th century. We thought long and hard about the two very plain crosses in the sanctuary floor. Both are in the very simple four-line style of the post-medieval crosses in Llantwit Major and elsewhere in the Vale of Glamorgan. We thought this one

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might be pre-Reformation. The wedge shape would mean an even earlier date in England but you still find this coffin-lid shape in Wales in the seventeenth century. But the absence of any inscription seems to suggest earlier rather than later. This one on the other hand

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is so very crudely carved, with space for a lengthy inscription below the cross, that we eventually decided it was post-medieval. It could even be as late as the date carved on it, the letter M and a date beginning 16… .

Then there are the clearly dated post-medieval stones. A little cross slab which has clearly been repositioned (it now forms part of the southern sanctuary step)

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commemorates

WILLIAM THE SONNE OF CHRISTOR TURBERVILL AND ELINOURE HIS WIFE AO DNI 1613

(Orrin has transcribed this as commemorating William and Elinor but the reading above is quite clear.)

Against the south wall of the sanctuary, and possibly in its original position, is a sizeable slab

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with a cross whose design I have not seen elsewhere. Orrin describes it as ‘a cross moliné with fishtail base’ but the base seems feathered like wings.

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What the symbolism could be, either the fish or the wings, we can only guess.

llanfrynach11lettering_compressed

The cross commemorates two more members of the Turberville clan:

HERE LYETH THE BODY OF
ANTHONY TURBERVILL
ESQR DECESSED THE 18TH DAY
OF MARCH AO DNI 1678

REQUIESCAT IN PACE
AMEN

HERE ALSOE LYETHE BODY
OF CHRISTOPHER TURBERVILL
ESQR DECEASED THE 5TH DAY
OF DECEMBER AO DNI 1700

The Turbervilles held the Penllyn estate in the seventeenth century and were connected to the Turbervilles of Sker. Both families were at one time defiantly Catholic: the Jesuit priest St Philip Evans was arrested at Sker in 1678 and it was at the Turberville house in Penllyn that St John Lloyd was arrested in the same year. Both men suffered the horrific death of hanging, drawing and quartering the following year. In this case, then, the crosses and the Latin on the second slab could reflect the family’s religious standpoint. On the other hand, the older Christopher (husband of Elinor and father of William) was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1616, and there are plenty of examples of post-Reformation cross slabs from impeccably orthodox families.

Oh, and the coffin stile in the churchyard.

stile1_compressed

Could the coping stone on the western pillar

stile2_compressed

be part of a medieval coped  grave cover?