Off to Llangatwg Dyffryn Wysg (Llangattock-near-Usk for the English – it’s between Monmouth and Abergavenny) to look at this massive medieval coffin lid – intricate interlaced cross, inscription now illegible but was once read as ‘David …’, and you can just see an axe on the left side.
So was this a woodman, an axe fighter, or what? Occupational symbols are quite common on medieval grave slabs in the north of England but rare in Wales. The local tradition calls him ‘David the Warrior’. He has been variously identified as David ab Ieuan Lloyd, who lived in the area in the sixteenth century, and David ap Hywl, of the family of Ynyr Gwent, who could have fought at the battle of Banbury in 1459. But both of these are far too late – from the style of the lettering, the design of the cross and the huge stone, this must be late thirteenth century at the latest.
But while we were there, much more exciting to find half a dozen of those intriguing seventeenth-century cross slabs. No IHS emblems this time – but this one commemorates a William John who died in the summer of 1645. At that time Charles I was in south Wales raising troops, and there was local agitation against the fighting.
This one was first cut in 1622 then reused in the 1650s.
Steve thinks it’s two stones but I think they may belong together. The inscription is badly worn but you can read part of a little poem
‘Here we lie being free from woes / Following the hope wheare …’
And this wonderfully naïve effigy commemorates the Rev Herbert Jones, who was rector from 1614 to his death in 1644 and very daringly had an inscription in Latin, recording his hope in the Resurrection and his loyalty to God, king and country (the inscription is hidden under the altar table).
They are all laid in the floor – another conservation nightmare! There is another cross slab and fragments of two or three more (two may be part of the same stone). The church has a loyal congregation and one service a fortnight.