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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Portrey and Deere

The little parish church of Porthkerry in the Vale of Glamorgan sits under the flight path of Cardiff Rhoose Airport. The church has a simple medieval rood screen, the battered remains of the head of its churchyard cross – and on the north wall of the nave, this

portrey_compressed

another of those puzzling post-medieval cross slabs. My old friend and colleague Gwen Awbery has been recording Welsh poetry on tomb carvings and is currently working on poetry on war memorials. Having heard me talking about cross slabs, she spotted this one in Porthkerry and we have at last managed to organise ourselves to have a look at it.

It’s a hefty sandstone slab. The differential wear patterns suggest that like the similar crosses in other Vale churches it was originally in the floor of the church. It was apparently placed on the wall for preservation but suffered further damage from lamination because of damp in the wall – there are no easy answers to the conservation and protection of these stones. In 2014 the parish raised money for extensive conservation work on this one, including reattaching a detached fragment of text from the lower right edge.

The shape of the cross, with its short thick splayed arms, is similar to those in Llantrithyd and Llanmihangel. However, Porthkerry stone also has the shafts at either side (what John Rodger and T. H. Thomas called ‘billets) which are found on slightly smaller slabs elsewhere in the Vale, and a large base with space for an inscription. In the case of this stone, though, the inscription is so lengthy that it spills into the shaft of the cross and the billets.

The first inscription, in well set out incised capitals, commemorates Reynold Portrey:

HEERE LIETH THE BODIE OF

REYNOLDE PORTREY ESQUIER DECESSED THE

24 DAY OF FEBRUARII IN AO 1629 HAVINGE

LYVED 63 YERRES WHO IN HIS

LIEFE TIME CURED MANY OF SE

VERALLE INFIRMITIES WITHOUT REWARDE.

HE LEAFT LIVINGE IOHAN HIS LOVING

WIEFFE WHO CAUSED THIS MONUMENT OF

HER AFFECCON OF SOE LOV[EING]

A HUSBANDE TO BE SET UP AND

DESIRES TO BE HEIRE ALSO INTERRED WHEN

SHE DIETH. THEY HAD YSSUE ON SON

ALEXANDUR AND TWO DOUGHTERS.

(some of this transcription was done before the stone was damaged.)

Joan is commemorated by an inscription across the head of the cross, in less well-carved letters:

HERE LYETH THE BODY OF IOAN WIFE

TO REYNOLD PORTEREY MARCH 22

1659

Other inscriptions have then been added. Along the upper border is

…BODY OF WILLIAM DEARE HUSBAND UNTO CISSILL PORTREY AGED …

On the lower arm of the cross is

CISEL DERE

between the shaft of the cross and the lower billet is

CISEL HARY WIFE TO RO DEERE

And below the lower billet is

[?CISSIL] PORTREY WIFE TO WILL[IAM]

There are some other traces of writing but they are too worn to decipher. It is clear, though, that we have several generations of family history.

Reynold Portrey, acc to http://www.ancestry.co.uk/genealogy/records/results?firstName=reynold&lastName=portrey, was the son of Nicholas and Cecil Portrey. He was born in Llanmaes but the Portreys are an old Llantwit Major family. In 1620s he was sub-tenant of Fonmon Castle from Anthony St John. The castle was not at that time in particularly good condition: a survey in 1608 found one of the lofts to be ruined and decayed, and elsewhere there were missing floorboards. (All this is in the RCAHM inventory at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mhnYtVAUhQEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.)  He was still there when he died in 1630. The castle subsequently passed into other hands.

Reynold married Joan Nicholl (daughter of John Illtyd Nicholl and Margaret, another old Llantwit Major family) in about 1600. According to the tombstone they had three children, Alexander, Ann and Cecil (the names are from http://www.ancestry.co.uk/genealogy/records/results?lastName=portrey&geo_a=r&o_iid=41013&o_lid=41013&o_sch=Web+Property ).

Cecil was born in 1604 and married William Deere of St Mary Church in 1631. The Deeres are another of the great families of the Vale of Glamorgan. Both Cecil and William are commemorated on the family tombstone. According to http://www.ancestry.co.uk/genealogy/records/cecil-portrey_94131310 they had eight children:

  • William (b. 1632)
  • Reynold (1633-99)
  • John (b. 1635)
  • Catherine (1636-1700)
  • Robert (1638-80)
  • Matthew (1640-1717)
  • Cecil (b. 1640, probably the Cisil Dere whose name appears on the arm of the cross)
  • Ann (b. 1645)

(according to https://www.myheritage.com/names/cecil_portrey Catherine was later Catherine Love )

Cecil died in 1668 aged 64.

Her son Robert may be the one who was married to Cecil Harry, whose name appears on the family tombstone.

The church also has ledgerstones in the sanctuary commemorating the family of an eighteenth-century rector with what one can only describe as ostentatious humility:

We went on to Merthyr Dyfan in pursuit of Mike Statham’s new enthusiasm, Bull Cliff marble, but that needs another posting.

Canwyll y Cymry

(the Candle of the Welsh)

The Welsh Stone Forum is a loose-knit association of people with an interest in – yes – stone in Wales. Any kind of stone, any kind of interest – geologists, architects, builders, stone wallers, quarry workers. They nobly accommodate historians like me, who can’t tell Doulting from Dundry but are interested in how the stone ends up, in sculpture and tombstones. Their field visits are informal and highly informative.

We had a day looking at stone in some of the churches west of Cardiff: St Fagan’s, Sully and Michaelston-le-pit. All are complex buildings with a range of local stones and a lot of Victorian restoration using stones brought from outside (Bath stone, Doulting, Ham Hill, all quarries with railway access).  There was also some interesting use of varied decorative stones, especially in things like war memorials.

By the time we got to Sully the discussion of the different features of Jurassic, Triassic and Liassic limestone had gone some way above my head and I did wander off to look at the tombstones in the graveyard. It’s a very Anglicised area but there were a couple with Welsh inscriptions. The first I spotted was this

dsc_1675

– virtually indecipherable though you can make out in the first line

…mae dyn … (‘Man is …’)

And a bit further on

… O’r carchar  (‘from the grave …’)

And at the end

Dan erlyn trwy …  (under prosecution …)

… yn dull draw’r bedd  (on the way to the grave)

– cheerful stuff! A good Welsh speaker could probably read more – in fact, Gwen Awbery has probably got the whole thing in her database.

Now adjoining the south wall of the church is a very odd slab.

dsc_1670

It’s slate (not a local stone) with a lovely death’s head and hour glass.

sully_deathshead

In the scroll is a badly-written inscription in mixed upper and lower case … DEAth is GON Ye LIFE IS DUN

It commemorates a Mary Tanner wife of Walter who died in 1694 aged 74. There are other names lower down the stone but I couldn’t make them out.

Just west of this is another with a Welsh inscription.

dsc_1669

It’s badly worn but a bit of googling when I got home identified it as a quote from Canwyll y Cymry, the Welshman’s Candle.

Nyn dy lamp, a gwisg dy drwsiad,
Cyn del angeu’n agos attad ;
Gwna dy gownt a’th gyfri’n barod,
Cyn dy alw o flaen y Drindod

(another warning – Trim your lamp and dress before death comes near to you;  make your account ready before you are called before the Trinity)

Canwyll y Cymry  was a collection of simple poems on religion and morality by the famous Rhys Prichard (c 1579-1644), vicar of Llandovery. The slab commemorates William Thomas, who died 21 March 1777 aged 61. It’s interesting to find that Canwyll y Cymry was sufficiently well-known in south-east Glamorgan at that date to feature on a tombstone. Inscribed round the bottom of the slab is

sully_udgorn

Yr udgorn a gân a’r meirw yng Ngrist gyfodant yn gyntaf

( a mixture of 1 Corinthians 15, ‘The trumpet shall sound’, and 1 Thessalonians 4, ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first’). These rather mixed-up Bible quotes also crop up in wall paintings and make one wonder about the design process. Did people ask for something they could remember, and did they remember it wrong, or did they deliberately mesh two or more quotes to get the exact message they wanted?

We had a good dither about this one near the priest’s door – might it be medieval?

dsc_1674

No inscription – but it’s clearly made of 3 slabs, so we decided it was Victorian, presumably part of a bigger monument with the inscription on the headstone.

The south door is medieval, made of rough Sutton stone, with a lot of crosses scratched in it.

dsc_1662

And there were some cute cherubs at Michaelston. This one

michaelston_child

inside the church, on a wall memorial to a small child and this one with huge fairy-like wings

michaelston_cherub

outside, also one a wall memorial.

All in all, a good day. And I am starting to get the hang of the simpler aspects of lithology as well.

 

A doorstep in the house of God

Continuing to work our way round the churches of the Vale of Glamorgan, photographing and measuring as we go. I thought I knew all about Colwinston,  Rhianydd Biebrach has written in detail about the effigy there, I’ve written about the wall paintings,

colwinstonwallpaintings_compressed

10 years ago I made a television programme there with Trevor Fishlock …

And when we got to the door, there was this,

colwinston2_compressed

colwinston2frominside_compressed
bit more detail

colwinston2head_compressed

colwinston2foot_compressed
clearly a medieval tombstone, those double branches near the foot suggest earlier rather than later, probably late 13th century. Not in its original location. People did ask for burial in the porch and in other places where they would be walked over, partly as a gesture of humility and partly so people would actually notice their tombs and pray for them. But this one has clearly been relocated because the head is to the east. Gravestones just make good doorsteps – there are similar examples at nearby Llanfrynach and at Llanover in north Monmouthshire.

And the effigy:

colwinston1general_compressed

possibly a priest but more likely a civilian. It’s so worn it’s hard to tell, and it could even have been placed outside, as a monument to someone whose family had aspirations but weren’t sufficiently eminent to qualify for burial inside.

Then on to Marcross, where there is a nice 14th century floriated cross in a niche –

marcross2_compressed

again, I don’t think this is the original location, and I think this is the base

marcross2detail_compressed

– and the grave of a priest in the chancel.

marcrosspriest_compressed

‘War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die’

Cross slabs under the carpet, under the altar, under the cupboards …

The great referendum result seem to be that we are leaving Europe.

Again.

‘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.

llantriddyd2_above

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.

bassett_compressed

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

    1. 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.postmed1+2_compressed
    2. … 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)
    3. HERE ∙ LI
      ETH ∙ IN ∙ GR
      AVE ∙ THE
      BODY ∙ OF
      RYCE ∙ HAW
      ARD ∙ WHO ∙ SO
      LE …
      (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)postmed3_compressed
    4. Under the altar table:
      PRAY FOR … ET
      O 1573
      (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 )postmed4_compressed
    5. ?RSWIE
      DOUGHTER
      OF IOHN
      BASSED
      DESESED
      AETATIS 48
      ANNO 1552
      (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)
    6. postmed5_compressed

 

  1. …?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 .)postmed7_compressed
  2. 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.)postmed8_compressedpostmed8detail_compressed

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

llanmihangel_grant_compressed

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

llanmihangel01_compressed

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 😉 ‘