The Monmouthshire Antiquarians and the Gwent County History Association spent Saturday in Llangwm at the invitation of the local history society. Llangwm is not so much a village as a scatter of houses, but with a much-used village hall, two churches and a chapel. It was the heartland of early Puritanism in Wales, and the great Walter Cradock was minister there under the Commonwealth.
We started the day in the village hall with a talk from the Gwent archivist, Tony Hopkins, on the commonplace book kept by a seventeenth-century landowner of the parish, John Gwyn. He was Cradock’s brother-in-law, an enthusiast for new methods of farming and fruit growing and an inveterate collector of medical recipes and snippets of local and family knowledge.
We then wandered down to the furthest of the churches, Llangwm Uchaf, now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Its great glory is its rood screen –
and detail of the carving –
some of this is medieval, some dates to John Seddon’s restoration of the church in c.1870.
And in the churchyard is this delightfully crude eighteenth-century carving of Adam and Eve on the grave of a local farming couple.
The tree is beautifully detailed and the serpent is curved around it but the two figures are hardly differentiated at all and are both wearing little loincloths of leaves.
The inscription reads
of Anne the wife of James Thomas
of this Parish who Died Decr the 23rd
1796 Aged 50 years
To Faith and Charity her heart inclind
Gentle prudent and of an easy mind.
Ready to forgive fearfull to offend
Faithfull to her husband, true to her friend.
Her course she finished & resigned her breath
In pursuit of Heaven through ye val of Death.
Also in Memory of James Thomas
Who died Decr ye 13th 1808 Aged 83 Years.
The church is now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches (http://friendsoffriendlesschurches.org.uk/). Digging around the outside of the building to deal with drainage problems, they found another tombstone commemorating some of John Gwyn’s family and recording a gruesome local murder.
What they could decipher of it read
Here lyeth the body of Joan Gwyn
The wife of John Gwyn of the parish
[this is Joan sister of Walter Cradock and wife of the John Gwyn who kept the commonplace book]
Who departed this life in the year 1690
Here lyeth the body of Craddock
Gwyn of this parish who departed this
life … 1725
[this is John and Joan’s son, named after his uncle]
Here lyeth the body of Elizabeth
Gwyn, the wife of Craddock Gwyn of this
Parish, who was murdered in her own home …
of … 1743
Aged 31 years
… body that
Who coveted both gold and hand … only be.
This event took place at the Gwyn family home, Pwll Farm, and according to local folklore you can still see the bloodstains at the bottom of the stairs. There are more Gwyn family tombs in the churchyard.