Wimpled ladies and defiant clergy

An unexpectedly exciting day going round churches in the Vale of Glamorgan. We started in Flemingston, where I’d looked at the effigy tombs before but wanted to rephotograph them and look again at the inscriptions. There’s an early 14th century incised effigy slab in a niche in the north wall commemorating an ‘Elizabet’, possibly one of the local de Fleming family.


The body of the slab is just incised lines


but there’s a hollow where the head would have been,


suggesting it was a separate piece of inlaid stone. Sally Badham thought the slab might not be in its original location but from the inscription it seems to have been designed to sit somewhere against the north wall.

In the south chapel is a much more accomplished piece of carving, an early 14th century effigy to Joan le Fleming.


She is wearing a wimple and an elegantly flowing dress.


The effigy is in a niche in the south wall – clearly not its original location as the inscription is on the dexter side (into the wall) and as a result requires some quite tricky contortions to read it. But here it is



(quite a good offer. I did pray.)

The south chapel was built on by the Fleming family in the early 14th century but the niche looks a bit earlier and may be recycled.

But where did the effigy sit if not there (and it clearly wasn’t there – apart from the inscription, the slab doesn’t fit in the alcove). There’s no north wall in the chapel for it to lie against. Was it originally in the main body of the church – or although there’s no inscription on the sinister side, was it originally on a chest tomb?

Mulling this over we went on to Llanmaes. The Llanilltud rectorial benefice is doing a sterling job in keeping these little village churches open, for visitors during the week and services at the weekends. We were there mainly to check up on a slab which T. H. Thomas drew over 100 years ago. Orrin thought it was medieval but from Thomas’s drawing it’s one of those very characteristic post-Reformation Glamorgan cross slabs with heavy plain crosses and billets down the side, and plenty of space at the bottom for an inscription.

OK, so we found that one in two pieces and hiding under several layers of carpet at the back.

llanmaes_thomas1 llanmaes_thomas2

We had a look around and found another, on the north side of the chancel.


This is an unusually large slab for the post-Reformation period but very plain in style. From this I think it is of the same date as the first inscription, which commemorates ‘DNS ALEXANDER PHELEP RECTOR H[UIU]S ECCLESIE’ in an inscription which starts above the cross and finishes on the base.



According to the list of incumbents in the parish guidebook, Alexander Philip was rector in 1530 and he was still there in 1563 when the aged bishop Anthony Kitchin sent in a report on his diocese to the Privy Council. He had however moved on – presumably to Higher Service – by 1581 when a son of William ap Rees Lloyd was appointed.  Like his bishop, Alexander Philip had served through all the religious turmoil of the sixteenth century. I have no idea what the evidence for his being there in 1530 was. The date was recorded by a local antiquarian Augusta Rayer-Jenkins in her list of clergy in the old diocese of Llandaff but without references. He was definitely there in 1536 when he was one of the trustees of the Carne estate (this is in a deed in G. T. Clark’s Cartae pp. 1896-1901). He must have been fairly new in post in 1530. This was before the Acts of Union and people were probably just becoming aware of Henry VIII’s marital problems but with no way of predicting where they would lead. Alexander would have had to take the oaths of Supremacy and Succession, would have seen the great wall painting of St George and all the other decorations of his church painted out, the rood figures removed and the rood screen taken down to the bressumer beam, services in English rather than Latin – and would then have had to get the parish organised to put back as much as they could when Mary came to the throne, only to see it all undone again after 1558. Turbulent times. It’s easy to criticise clergy who served under such conflicting instructions but really what were they to do? Would it have done any good to leave and let their parish be taken over by someone more hard-line?

Alexander Philip was presumably dead by 1581 when his replacement was appointed so the slab must date from about then. It was then  recut in the early seventeenth century to commemorate some members of the Jones family and again in about 1668 to commemorate Richard Swinglehurst, who had been rector since 1642. More resolute than Alexander Philip, he was kicked out by Parliament in 1645 but restored in 1660.

The top of the slab was cut across by the altar rails and hidden under the kneelers. I moved the kneeler and found this – medieval, probably early C14 if the Conwy examples are a guide.


like the C16 slab it’s cut across by the altar rails – here’s the other side (with a rather nice heraldic tomb)


Or is the cross slab a copy – but if so, why no inscription?

Also the church has the remains of a fine wall painting of St George. Much of the paint has faded but you can just make out the princess, the dragon’s head and the horse’s trappings.


After all that excitement we went for lunch. The afternoon’s finds really need a separate blog post.





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