‘My sledge and hammer lies reclined …’

Off to north Gwent, ostensibly to scamper around lots of churches checking tomb carvings I had photographed but not measured. We started at Llanfair Cilgedin, a lovely remote church on the banks of the Usk near Abergavenny, now looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches.

It is most famous for its stunning Arts and Crafts style sgraffito work, mainly depicting the Benedicite (O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord – we don’t seem to sing that any more. Pity – I particularly like the stuff about the whales and all that moves in the waters.)

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But we were there to look at the tomb of a medieval priest.

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Tucked discreetly to the north of the altar, no-one knew it was there – not the Friends’ key-keeper, not even the amazingly knowledgeable Matthew Saunders, the Friends’ director.

Then we realised there was something we hadn’t spotted on the previous visit – could this be medieval stained glass high up in the west wall?

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Nothing on the Stained Glass in Wales site, which just covers the (relatively) modern glass in the chancel – http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/site/112

Then on to Llanover to measure the doorstep in the house of the Lord.

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Then we got sidetracked – the weather was surprisingly good so we headed north to Llanthony to look at the only surviving tombstone in the priory church. It’s a strange and intricate design, with a saltire cross, several different designs of decorative rosettes and an intricate arrangement of stiff branches around the shaft.

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We had tea in the pub and watched the sparrows squabbling for cake crumbs then came home via Llanfihangel Crucornau. The church here has been substantially rebuilt so that the west end can house kitchen and toilet facilities and a meeting room. It still has in pride of place a seventeenth-century memorial with endearingly crude figures on either side of a cross.

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In the porch, two more memorials. The local blacksmith and his family, with a wonderful poem:

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And the cherubs and cartouche on this one made me think it might be the work of the Brute family of stonemasons, though the signature has all but gone.Image

It’s spalling dreadfully and needs conservation – but so does a lot else these days.

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