A Post-Reformation cross slab in the Vale of Glamorgan

I could have sworn I’d done a blog post somewhere on this one but I can’t find it. The whole subject of reuse of medieval and post-medieval tombstones has been doing the rounds on Twitter so here is this contribution (again).

The churches of the Vale of Glamorgan are full of interest (as well as reminders of past mistakes). Cross slabs hidden in fonts and staircases, garishly repainted effigy tombs, and any number of those enigmatic post-Reformation cross slabs that might commemorate Catholics but more probably exemplify the typical Welsh combination of traditionalism and loyalism.[1] One such stone, in Llanmaes (between Cowbridge and Llantwit Major), is a particularly good example of the continuity of this tradition and the extent to which it was embedded in local society. In the north of the chancel floor and overlaid by the communion rails, it is a large slab of local limestone with a plain cross on a three-step calvary base.


The style of the cross – very plain, with short thick arms and heavy plain shaft – is comparable with others in the area which can be dated to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The inscription is crudely carved in a combination of Roman, Lombardic and uncial capitals and seems to be integral to the design: it starts on a panel above the head of the cross and continues on the base. It reads DNS (the N is actually an inverted V] ALEXANDER / PHELEP / RECTOR / H[UIU]S ECCLESIE [Huius is written H, inverted V with a line over it, S].



The stone has then been reappropriated by two of his successors in the rectory and inscribed + HERE : LIETH : THE : BODY : OF : Dr : MORGAN : JONE[S : A]ETAT : 58 / &: HERE : LIETH : THE : BODY : OF : MARIE : 1624 / JONES : THE : WIFE : OF : D : JONES / DECEASED : THE : 5 : OF : DECEMBER : AN : DN : [the year is concealed by the altar rail] / ANo : AETATIS : 64 : HEERE : LYETH : THE : B[ODY [: OF / MR : RICHARD : SWINGLEH[URS]T : MR / OF : ARTES : AND : RECTO[R OF] / LA[N]MASE : WHO : DECEAS[ED] : MAR / CH : THE : [the date is difficult to decipher but according to the parish records he died on 25 March 1668].

These inscriptions neatly encapsulate the experiences of the parish and its clergy in the political and religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. According to Augusta Rayer-Jenkins’s list of clergy in the old diocese of Llandaff, Alexander Philip was in Llanmaes by 1530, though she gives no reference for this.[2] He was certainly there by 1536, when he was named as one of the trustees of the Carne estate.[3] He was still there in 1563 when the aged bishop Anthony Kitchin sent in a report on his diocese to the Privy Council. Llanmaes is of course in Wales and 1530 was before the Acts of Union. Local 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. While it is easy to criticise clergy who served under such conflicting instructions, we have to consider the alternatives. What good would it have done 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. Morgan Jones D. D. was rector of Llanmaes from 1608 to 1624 and treasurer of the diocese of Llandaff . He was followed in 1624 by Richard Swinglehurst, who was also his son-in-law. Swinglehurst seems to have been made of tougher stuff than Philip – or perhaps it was the Commissioners for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales who were more tough-minded than the gentle and pliable Bishop Kitchin. In 1650, Swinglehurst was deprived of his living for ‘delinquency’ (support for the royalist cause) and refusing to sign the ‘engagement’, a statement of loyalty to the Commonwealth. According to Francis Davies’s account, Swinglehurst

was sequestered and made a delinquent by Col. Jones and
his agents, and had the fifths of his living for one
year, but afterwards was obliged to take what the rulers
pleased, sometimes a small sum at their pleasure, some-
times nothing at all, for he was a rich man as the
commissioners told him, and did not want, and therefore
they thought fit to prevent the exuberancy of his
treasure, to cut him short of his fifths. And they were
as good as their words, for he had nothing out of his
good living for four years, but lived to enjoy it after
the Restoration.[4]


It is difficult to find a connection between Alexander Philip and Morgan Jones, but Jones’s family remained in the rectory for a further generation. The next stone to the south commemorates Swinglehurst’s daughter Elizabeth, whose husband Thomas Wilkins succeeded Swinglehurst as rector, but her memorial has heraldry rather than a cross.


The traditional explanation that these cross slabs commemorate Catholics clearly does not work: there are other examples of crosses on the graves of clerical families. It is nevertheless tempting to assume that Swinglehurst’s Royalism implies that he was on the ‘Arminian’ wing of the Established Church. However, the vicar of the neighbouring parish of Llantwit Major, Stephen Slugge, chose a cross slab to commemorate his first wife, who died in 1626. Slugge held on to his parish through the Commonwealth and was described by Davies as ‘a trimmer and a favourite of the times’. There are no easy answers here. The persistent popularity of cross slabs in south-east Wales in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries owes something to the distinctive Welsh blend of traditionalism and loyalism, and possibly rather more to local fashion.

The church has plenty else of interest. A simple wheel cross, probably later 13th century, built into the chancel steps


another post-medieval cross slab, in two pieces



and the very faded remains of a wall painting of St George.


Also a final puzzle. We have three surviving wall paintings of St George in south Wales – at Llancarfan, Llangattock Lingoed and Llanmaes. All three churches are dedicated to St Cadoc. Coincidence – or connection?


[1] For a more detailed study of these stones see M. Gray, ‘Post-medieval cross slabs in south-east Wales’, The Antiquaries’ Journal 96 (2016).

[2] Cardiff Library MS 4.1224 f. 77.

[3] G. T. Clark, Cartae et alia munimenta quae ad dominium de Glamorgancia pertinenent vol 5 (Cardiff: William Lewis, 1910), pp. 1896-1901

[4] Philip Jenkins, ‘ “The Sufferings of the Clergy”: the church in Glamorgan during the Interregnum. Part 2: the account of Francis Davies’, Journal of Welsh Ecclesiastical History 4 (1987), 9-41.

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