Brecon study weekend (2)

Inspired by Gwen Awbery’s lecture on the Saturday, we spotted some more Welsh poems on tombstones. This one was at Llanhamlach.

Eich cryfder ir, a’ch glendid hardd,
Fel llysiau gwiw a blodau gardd
Ar fyr a dorir oll i lawr
Gan gystudd hir neu glefyd mawr

Your fresh strength and your lovely beauty
Are like plants and garden flowers
And will soon be cut down
With long tribulation or great sickness.

Believe it or not, this is a verse from a collection of children’s hymns, Casglidu o Hymnau Dewisiol, sef, Gwobr i Blant Da. The hymn begins ‘Ystyriwch ie’ngctyd gwych eich gwedd, Yr ewch chi bawb i rych y bedd’, ‘Remember well, young ones, you are all going to the grave’. You can read the whole thing at .

The tombstone didn’t commemorate a child, though, but a man who died in the prime of life, Watkin Davies of Llechfaen, who died in 1841 aged 38.

This clearly put us in the mood to try out some re-enactment. The parish church at Llanthony seems to have been built out of part of the monastic buildings, probably the infirmary. It has a good collection of 18th and 19th century wall monuments, though oddly none by the Brutes. There is only one tomb slab in the priory ruins, this rather idiosyncratic design

with saltire cross, stylised flowers and fleurs-de-lys pointing inwards from the border.

It didn’t look big enough for a coffin lid. I tried it out. It is big enough.

(Photos are Chris Jones-Jenkin’s.)


Brecon study weekend (1)

The Church Monuments Society study weekend in Breconshire was both informative and fun – as good study weekends should be. Heather James has kindly promised a full report for the CMS Newsletter: meanwhile here are some photos.

Lectures in the morning looked mainly at Welsh commemorative poetry. Here we are in the Cathedral deciphering one of the poems that Gwen Awbery talked about

(photo: Heather James)

The poem reads

Cofia DDyn wrth fyned heibio; Fel ty, di y finau fuo
Fel r’wyf fi tithau ddeui. Ystyr hyn mae marw wnadi

(This is the Welsh equivalent of
Remember man as you pass by
As you are so once was I
As I am so you will be
Remember Death will come to thee

but Gwen Awbery suggests that English and Welsh variants developed separately from the Latin original.)

And here we are discussing the absence of animals under the feet of post-Reformation effigies

(photo Heather James again)

Brecon has a magnificent collection of those idiosyncratic post-Reformation cross slabs: Paul Jones’s photos

Sunday was a bit more free-form: the main focus was the brightly-coloured wall memorials of the Brute family of masons at Llangattock, Partrishow and Cwm-iou

(Paul Jones’s photos again)

and this slightly different one at Llanthony.

Heather James’s photo: she wonders if the angel at the top, sounding the Last Trump, is a play on the name Trumper?

More on the Sunday field trip at .

‘My sledge and hammer lies reclined …’

Off to north Gwent, ostensibly to scamper around lots of churches checking tomb carvings I had photographed but not measured. We started at Llanfair Cilgedin, a lovely remote church on the banks of the Usk near Abergavenny, now looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches.

It is most famous for its stunning Arts and Crafts style sgraffito work, mainly depicting the Benedicite (O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord – we don’t seem to sing that any more. Pity – I particularly like the stuff about the whales and all that moves in the waters.)


But we were there to look at the tomb of a medieval priest.


Tucked discreetly to the north of the altar, no-one knew it was there – not the Friends’ key-keeper, not even the amazingly knowledgeable Matthew Saunders, the Friends’ director.

Then we realised there was something we hadn’t spotted on the previous visit – could this be medieval stained glass high up in the west wall?



Nothing on the Stained Glass in Wales site, which just covers the (relatively) modern glass in the chancel –

Then on to Llanover to measure the doorstep in the house of the Lord.


Then we got sidetracked – the weather was surprisingly good so we headed north to Llanthony to look at the only surviving tombstone in the priory church. It’s a strange and intricate design, with a saltire cross, several different designs of decorative rosettes and an intricate arrangement of stiff branches around the shaft.


We had tea in the pub and watched the sparrows squabbling for cake crumbs then came home via Llanfihangel Crucornau. The church here has been substantially rebuilt so that the west end can house kitchen and toilet facilities and a meeting room. It still has in pride of place a seventeenth-century memorial with endearingly crude figures on either side of a cross.


In the porch, two more memorials. The local blacksmith and his family, with a wonderful poem:


And the cherubs and cartouche on this one made me think it might be the work of the Brute family of stonemasons, though the signature has all but gone.Image

It’s spalling dreadfully and needs conservation – but so does a lot else these days.