Painted knights and triple crosses

After lunch on Tuesday (the White Hart, Llantwit, excellent vegan curry) we went back to St Athan – where I had been with the Church Monuments Society in 2012. A stunning example of what not to do with a pot of paint.

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(This well-meaning attempt to replicate medieval colouring dates from 1934 and it would be too difficult and dangerous to remove it.) Under all that are two good effigy chest tombs, both from the fourteenth century. The earlier one commemorates Sir William de Berkerolles (d.1327) and his wife Phelice de Vere.

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This one is Sir Roger de Berkerolles (d.1351) and Katherine de Turbeville.

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Rhianydd Biebrach has discussed them in great detail in her Ph D thesis so I’m not going into detail here. The church also has some good wall monuments and ledgerstones including this record of family tragedy

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and a fragment of another post-Reformation cross slab built into the chapel steps.

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St Mary Hill was supposed to be a quick postscript. Geoffrey Orrin said in Medieval Churches of the Vale of Glamorgan  ‘In the base of the tower are stored two tombstones with foliated crosses. One of them has been turned upside down and used a second time and thus bears two inscriptions with widely-separated dates’. We thought  this would be a quick in, photograph, out, but we found it was rather more complicated.

There were no foliated crosses that we could see. In the tower, fastened to the west wall and behind a lot of clutter, were two slabs with C18 inscriptions and no evidence of earlier carving (we did look hard, with a good raking light that picks up all sorts of things).

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Then, in the corner, behind the fixed  ladder to the belfry and virtually unphotographable, not a foliated cross but a triple cross,

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all 3 very plain with thick arms

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and multi-step calvary base,

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very similar to the ones in Laleston and Llangynwyd. This stone has been recut twice, with C17 and C18 inscriptions to the local Hopkin and Watkin families –

HERE : LYETH : IN : GRAVE : THE : BODY : OF : HOPKIN : WATKIN : OF : ST : MARY : HILL : DECEASED : THE : 22 : DAY : OF : AUGUST : ANNO (the rest of the date is frustratingly along the floor edge and illegible); and

Nest Hopkin dyed Feb ye 4th 1722 Aged 76

(the church has several more nice wall memorials to the Hopkin and Watkin families)

This discovery is both exciting and frustrating – not least because I’ve already written something on the Llangynwyd and Laleston triple crosses and a slightly different one in Margam suggesting they relate to the design of the famous rood at Llangynwyd (in theWelsh Journal of Religious History  vols 7 and 8, 2102-13). . But I can’t see how that would connect to St Mary Hill which seems to be on the road to nowhere in particular. On the other hand, it’s quite possible that someone from St Mary Hill went on pilgrimage to Llangynwyd and was inspired to ask for a triple cross slab, for themselves or for a family member.
But what about the floriated crosses – was Orrin wool-gathering? Or have they been moved? A previous rector says the ladder is fairly recent: a lot of work was done on the tower when the bells were rehung as part of the celebration of the millennium. The local bellringers may know more – we shall see.

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