The great referendum result seem to be that we are leaving Europe.
‘Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles, it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporalty, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience: he being also institute and furnished, by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God, with plenary, whole, and entire power, pre-eminence, authority, …’
(the beginning bit was a lie, but what the hey, let’s call it a mistake and move on)
So we Googled for Hardy’s ‘At the Breaking of Nations’ and decided to go off looking for tombstones instead.
First up was Llantrithyd. I just wanted to measure the effigy in the nave – slightly less than life size, rather crudely carved but full of character.
I knew there were what the 1897 architect described as ‘ancient memorial stone slabs’ in the sanctuary floor but they were covered by the carpet. To our great delight the carpet had been taken up in preparation for restoration work on this seriously hulking late C16 monument to members of the Basset and Mansell families of Llantrithyd Place.
The sanctuary floor is covered with cross slabs, none of them medieval, mostly late C16 and several implicitly or explicitly asking for prayer for the souls of the deceased. This was of course quite non-PC in the late sixteenth century, and the more so after the bull Regnans in Excelsis which excommunicated Elizabeth and declared open season on her.
The crosses are in a characteristic style, with short thick splayed arms, stepped bases, the inscription round the border and dates on the base. Most commemorate identifiable members of the Bassett, Mansell and Aubrey families who owned the manor of Llantrithyd and lived in the big house whose ruins you can still see next door to the church. Anthony Mansell was the younger son of the great Sir Rhys Mansell of Penrice and Margam: the family had Catholic sympathies but there’s nothing to suggest that any of the people who commissioned these memorials saw themselves as anything other than loyal members of the Established Church.
It’s another example of that combination of traditionalism and loyalism that characterises the Welsh response to the religious changes of the sixteenth century, but a bit more high-profile than most: the idea of the family in the big house asking for prayer for the souls of their children in Armada year is striking to say the least.
It also throws light on the old debate over people’s feelings for their children. The open requests for prayer for the soul are on the memorials of children. On the one hand even babies were seen as in need of prayer. On the other hand the willingness of the parents to make such public and challenging requests, defying church teaching, suggests really deep grief and a determination to commemorate the children in the way they felt was appropriate.
From the south the inscriptions read
- HERE ∙ LIETH ∙ IN ∙ GRAVE ∙ THE ∙ BODY ∙ OF ∙ … OF ∙JOHN ∙ BAISET ∙ DECESED ∙ A … 1596 /THE ∙ SOULE ∙ GOD … TO ∙ HIS ∙ MERCIE
(with a design which could be a very worn coat of arms)
This is presumably Elizabeth Norton, second wife of John Thomas Bassett: see Arch. Camb.
13, 1867, though she is also commemorated on the great monument in the north of the chancel.
- … GRAVE ∙ THE ∙ BODY ∙ OF ∙ … 1586 ∙ GOD ∙ HATH ∙ HIS ∙ SOULE ∙ TO ∙ H…
(According to an article by T. M. Price of Boverton in the Glamorgan Gazette for Friday 28 May 1915 this could then be read as ‘God hath his soul to his mercy the body of John Bassett’ and the date 1586: http://cymru1914.org/en/view/newspaper/3886118/5 . This is presumably the John William Bassett who was buried on 10 January of that year, still 1585 in the old-style dating of the register: https://archive.org/stream/registersofllant00llan/registersofllant00llan_djvu.txt . Not sure where he fits in with the family pedigree – a bit more work needed here)
- HERE ∙ LI
ETH ∙ IN ∙ GR
AVE ∙ THE
BODY ∙ OF
RYCE ∙ HAW
ARD ∙ WHO ∙ SO
(according to the Glamorgan Gazette and Camb. 1867 this then had a date of 1580 or possibly 1680. Nothing for that date in the parish registers but a Rice Havard was buried on 8 March 1571/2)
- Under the altar table:
PRAY FOR … ET
(A small stone: this could commemorate either Edward or William Mansell, sons of Elizabeth Bassett and Anthony Mansell, who both died in that year: https://archive.org/stream/registersofllant00llan/registersofllant00llan_djvu.txt )
(I need to look at this one again – I can’t find a name anything like that in any of the family pedigrees and it’s too early for the parish registers)
- …?AUBREY … 1594
(another small stone. According to the 1915 Glamorgan Gazette article this could then be read as Willeford Aubrey. The parish registers record the burial of Wilsiford daughter of Mr Thomas Aubrey on Tuesday 2 July: https://archive.org/stream/registersofllant00llan/registersofllant00llan_djvu.txt .)
- PRAY ∙ FOR ∙ THE ∙ SOULE ∙ OF ∙ RYCE ∙ MANSELL ∙ HERE ∙ IN ∙ GRAVE ∙ AETAT … ANNO ∙ DOMINI ∙ 1583
(this is Rice, oldest son of Elizabeth Bassett and Anthony Mansell. Like most of their children he predeceased his parents and the estate went to his sister Mary and her husband Thomas Aubrey, ancestors of the Aubreys of Llantrithyd. His memorial has the arms of Mansell impaling Bassett.)
The Glamorgan Gazette article records other wall monuments to children of the Aubrey family which do not seem to have survived.
Well, that was all very exciting. We had a good lunch in the White Hart at Llanilltud and ploughed on to Llanmihangel via Wick, where we had to collect the key from the vicar.
Main purpose of visit to Llanmihangel was this
the late C16 monument to Griffith Grant. It shows him in semi-effigy with the lower part of his body covered by a cross very similar in design to those at Llantrithyd – this effigy was clearly the work of the same firm of stonemasons, probably working a bit above their level of skill. The complicated inscription runs in two lines round the chamfer and along the edges:
‘Heare lyeth in grave the body of Grifithe Grante, sone to Richard Grant & Marget Vch Rees Ab John deceased the X4 Daye of May, Anno Domini 1591. He lyved 67 Yeares in the end thereof departed his life and so departing left his wedded wife Blainch’
Then round the actual cross ‘+DEUS RESIPIT ANNIMOS ILLORUM IN MISERICORDIAM +’
(difficult to translate – Orrin says ‘God renews the souls of those in his mercy’ but I think it’s more likely that resipit is a mis-spelling for recipit and it’s ’God accepts (or regains) their souls in mercy’ – this has a hint of a concealed prayer for their souls)
But the real excitement was this
found under a cupboard in the tower by my clever French cousin Amy. It doesn’t seem to be recorded anywhere. We had to do some serious furniture removing and it was still very difficult to photograph but it’s another early C14 floriated cross.
And is that a scallop shell at the top?
My friend Sara said ‘Weithie ma angen perspectif ewropeaidd arnom ni i weld be sy dan ein trwyne 😉 ‘