Saturday, 17 January 2015

Support your local Museum - part I, the Early Christian Monuments

On the way back from town yesterday, we called in at our local Museum, which is housed in what used to be the Bishop's Palace at Abergwili on the outskirts of Carmarthen.  I used to volunteer there, when my mum was still alive.  That seems such an age ago now.  Anyway, I wanted to see if there were any new exhibitions there.  It was much the same, although some displays had been moved around a bit, but my favourite things were still there.

One of the Early Christian Monuments in the grounds of the Museum.  You can just see the mark of half a wheel cross just under the middle of this stone.  Though it does bear a passing resemblance to a crossbow too!

I shall turn to Nancy Edwards ("A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales," Vol. II) to help me with the histories of these stones.

This stone (probably originally a standing stone, but then re-used in the early Christian period) was found at Cefn Cethin Farm, not far from the old Llandeilo - Llandybie road.  It was known locally as Maen Hir or more commonly, as Maen Llwyd (translates to menhir, and 2ndly, grey stone).  It may have functioned as a boundary marker or acted as a focus within a cemetery located near the routeway.  Dates from the 7th - 9th C.

The Voteporix stone is a famous local stone, originally incorporated into a stile at Castell Dwyran (St Teilo's) church - this around 1880 although it was subsequently removed to a field in fromt of Gwarmacwydd House, Llanfallteg, before being donated to Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society.

It was quite possibly originally associated with a Bronze Age barrow, and also positioned with reference to the Roman road west of Carmarthen.  A simple ring cross tops the inscription. 'The use of "memoria" and the layout of the cross and inscription suggest Christian contacts with the Continent or possibly North Africa'.  'Voteporix was "Demetarum tyranne Vortipori" - which translates to "Vortipor, tyrant of the Demetae" - the king of Dyfed castigated by Gildas.' (Carmarthenshire was part of the kingdom of Dyfed.)  However, the use of the Latin term "protictoris" suggests a title originally referring to a member of the Roman imperial bodyguard, and may be an hereditary title.  It dates to the late 5th or early 6th century.  Note remains of Ogham inscription along top left edge.

The Severini stone was near the highway in Llan Newydd parish, but by 1829 was used as a gateost and then moved again to Trawsmawr Farm.  The inscription translates to "Of Severinus, son of Severus".  Late 5th to early 6th C.

Much more impressive is this replica stone (the original being in the National Museum at Cardiff).  Originally standingon a cairn,  in a "field of stones" on the east bank of the River Sannan at Llanfynydd (our nearest village, about 3 miles away).  The sandstone it was made from would have been quarried some 6 km away.  Inscription is "Eiudon"  and was known locally as "Eidon's stone".  It was not in association with any ecclesiastical site, but may well have been a marker on the parish boundary between Llanfynydd and Llanegwad (our parish).  The design is similar to the crosses at Carew, Nevern and Llantwit Major (esp. the latter)  with plaitwork and interelace and fret patterns, including a ring-knot, T-frets and pelletes, normally considered to be Viking-age motifs.  Date: 2ne half of the 10th or early 11th C.

Still stone, but this time (above and below) wonderfully carved gargoyles which once adorned a large Carmarthen mansion.

More photos to follow.

I bet I have stunned you all into silence now!


  1. So much history.......we are so fortunate in the UK to be surrounded by it.
    I haven't been to a museum for such a long time, you have made me realise just how much I miss it.

    You obviously still miss your Mother. My father died two years ago now, and I still miss him very very much.
    Fortunately Mother is still with me.

    Have a lovely weekend.

  2. I often pass the museum and each time say I must go in there, one day when I have a bit of time I will pay it a visit, thanks for the insight.

  3. Not quite, that Eidon stone was beautifully carved, as for gargoyles, I have never understood why they are so ugly, but that first one takes the biscuit in ugliness....

  4. Great post - I found it all so interesting and lovely photos. It looks a wonderful museum to visit :)

  5. Beautiful :o) Loved all the history. What fantastic things.

  6. I went round this museum several years ago - I agree it is fascinating stuff BB. Thanks for the reminders.

  7. Ooh, that's good everyone enjoyed the post. More to come, but not ECM's, so watch this space.

  8. These stones are handsome and mystical. That intricately carved replica stone is a beauty. I live in California where anything over 100 years old is considered old. Years ago my husband and I rented a camper van and parked it on the side of the road at Stonehenge, so we saw it at sunrise and sunset. That was when Stonehenge was not so heavily protected and fenced, etc.

  9. Brixham has a great museum, which we still haven't visited.....shame on us! Your visit looks wonderful, I love all the stones.