More cross slabs

Having written up those post-medieval cross slabs (‘Post-medieval cross slabs: closet Catholics or stubborn traditionalists?’ in The Antiquaries’ Journal 96 (2016), 207-40, on my university research web site at https://pure.southwales.ac.uk/en/publications/postmedieval-cross-slabs(39f0b31f-d6e5-4bc6-b255-2750950fe7ee).html ), I keep finding more of them. Most exciting were the ones at Llantriddyd asking for prayer for the souls of children of the Mansel and Aubrey families (https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/cross-slabs-under-the-carpet-under-the-altar-under-the-cupboards/ ) and there were more at Llanmaes and Porthkerry (thanks to Gwen Awbery for spotting this one – https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/portrey-and-deere/ ).

They are all interesting but the best ones are the ones that tell a family or community story. The stone at Llanmaes commemorates three rectors of the parish, one who served through all the religious turmoil of the sixteenth century and one who lost his job in the civil wars of the seventeenth century but regained it at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. (It’s useful to be reminded that we have a long history of violence in the service of religion.) The Porthkerry stone has several generations of the local Portrey and Deere families which took a bit of disentangling.

When John Rodger visited Llandough near Penarth at the beginning of the twentieth century, he saw and drew this

llandough_rodger

a very simple cross on a coffin-shaped slab, similar to those blue lias stones at Llanilltud Fawr and Llancarfan. I have a very vague memory of seeing it there on a difficult student field trip. People kept getting lost and we were running way behind time, so I didn’t make a note or photograph it – and now it is nowhere to be found. Did I really see it, did I imagine it, did I confuse it with another stone at Llanilltud and on another day?

Visiting Llandough with the great Ian Fell so that he could photograph the St Armel window

st-armel-llandough-1_compressed

(another puzzle – why a mid-C20 window depicting a saint who was so fashionable in the early Tudor period but virtually forgotten since?) I had another look with the churchwarden. We have reluctantly concluded that it is under the carpet and that yes, I was mistaken. But she then remembered reading about another stone by the organ. We clambered round all sorts of paraphernalia in the south chapel, pulled up the carpet – and there it was.

llandough-cross-slab-1_compressed

joined-slab-images-llandough_compressed

(Ian Fell’s photos – one stitched together to show the detail.) The lettering is easier to read in this

llandough-cross-slab

from the church notebook. The church has details of a survey which I thought was done by NADFAS but it isn’t on their web site. Was it the GGAT survey from the 1990s? – but I didn’t think they did tomb carvings. More work needed.

Anyway, it’s a lovely carving, commemorating members of the Jones and Morgan families. It starts with an early version of tombstone poetry:

UNDERNEATH ∙ THIS ∙ TOMBE ∙ OF ∙ STONES ∙
DOTH ∙ LIE ∙ THE ∙ BODY ∙ OF ∙ MARGERY ∙ IOHNES ∙
IN ∙ TIME ∙ AS ∙ SHEE ∙ DID ∙ LEAD ∙ THIS ∙ LIFE ∙
TO ∙ NICHOLAS ∙ MORGAN ∙ SHEE ∙ WAS ∙ WIFE ∙
AND ∙ HAD ∙ OF ∙ SONES ∙ AND ∙DAVGHTERS ∙  X∙
THE ∙ LORDE ∙ BE ∙ WITH ∙ HER ∙ SOVLE ∙ AMEN

DECESED ∙ THE 3 ∙ OF ∙ AVGVST ∙ 1619

Interesting to note that she doesn’t seem to have changed her name on marriage – we may still be in the era of patronymics but concealed and used as surnames. The final line of the poem could just be read as an implicit prayer for her soul.

This would have been just about acceptable in the early years of the seventeenth century when many in the established church were softening their attitude to visual decoration and the ‘beauty of holiness’. But the slab has been reused to commemorate another Nicholas, described as ‘of Walston’,  presumably Margery and Nicholas’s son, who died in 1657 at the height of the Commonwealth reforms of religion. Crosses on gravestones were being attacked and destroyed along with a lot else in the way of visual decoration. Reusing the family tombstone might have been an attempt to protect it, but the Morgans clearly felt no need to hide the decoration (they could just have turned the slab over).

The style of the cross is interesting, too. I haven’t seen another quite like it. It’s basically along the same lines as the crosses at Llantriddyd, Llanmaes, Porthkerry and Llanmihangel but with pointed finials and a much smaller base. The lettering is honestly rather poor – irregular and badly spaced. This really does seem to have been a one-off by a local stonemason who wasn’t quite up to the task.

So far I haven’t found out much about the Morgan family. In vol 3 of Cardiff Records John Hobson Matthews transcribed a fragment of a headstone in the churchyard at Llandough commemorating a Mary daughter of Nicholas Morgan, c. 1630, followed by members of the local Vaughan and Matthew families from the 18th and 19th centuries (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cardiff-records/vol3/pp580-583 ). But this was published in 1901 – goodness knows where the stone is now. This Mary was presumably the daughter of the Nicholas who died in 1657. There was a Walston in the nearby parish of Wenvoe, a substantial Tudor farmhouse to the north-west of the village (sometimes confused with Wenvoe Castle which was actually some way south of the village). Did Nicholas Morgan move there? Did his wife have connections there? Will I ever get round to finding out?

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