Friday, 9 September 2011

The de Lacys, Llantony Priory and Welsh Characters

Around the year 1100, William de Lacy came upon the ruined chapel dedicated to St David, at this spot in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons and some seven miles north of Abergavenny. He decided to devote himself to solitary prayer and devotion and was subsequently joined by Ersinius, who had once been Chaplain to Queen Mathilda (wife of King Henry I.) They were joined by others who set to and built a church here dedicated to St John the Baptist and consecrated in 1108. Just over a century later, a priory was begun here, and in the 3rd quarter of the 12th C, Hugh de Lacy (the 5th Baron) left monies to rebuild the priory church, which was completed in 1217. The priory remains are all that are left of a once-great Norman and Gothic building, which had been added to in the 13th C and then fell foul to Henry VIII's rape of the monasteries at the dissolution. Painted by Turner, and written about by poets Landor and Southey, the buildings slipped into decline.

HERE is further information about the Priory and Father Ignatius, who was also bound up in its later history.

THIS SECTION is a repeat of a posting I made two years back, but as it had a few photographs of Llanthony Priory, I thought it worth repeating, because of the de Lacy link between today's posting about St Mary's Church at Kempley, and the Priory, which was also founded by the same family.

This is a little extract from one of the books garnered at Hay-on-Wye last week -" Welsh Country Upbringing" by D Parry-Jones, printed 1948. He is writing of his childhood at the turn of the century . . . The view above was taken from the car park at Hay.

Below - on the top of Hay Bluff, driving towards the Priory.

"Round the farms came at regular intervals the stocking woman, a small, frail, gossipy little body, much under the influence of religion and, especially, of the revival then raging through Wales. She moreover undertook, as part and proof of her renewed faith, work on behalf of a temperance society in which she was quite as successful as in her legitimate business. There were many feet to cover and many drinkers to reform. As a potential member of this latter class, I was myself, with all my brothers and sisters, rescued at the tender age of twelve. Well do I remember my very determined resolution to abjure this form of wickedness and, in proof of my enthusiasm and conviction, did, again in the company with my brothers and sisters, some missionary work in that direction by learning one or two temperance pieces and reciting them in the Penny Readings. She was assured always of a good long rest at our home and a cup of tea, for my mother dearly loved to talk about religion. As to the attitude of my father towards her I think he liked her well enough when she confined herself to her primary business, but he became very impatient when the sideline was being pushed, possibly regarding it as a dig at him for he had his glass of beer - and enjoyed it."

Kilvert always said the little chapel at Capel-y-Ffin, with its squat proportions and leaning tower reminded him of an owl . . .

'Sally'r Sannau' (Sally of the stockings, for that is the name she went by), was the last in our parish to ply that trade. Like the bidder, she too, has gone! She belonged to a fraternity that at one time walked far into the counties of England, following their trade - even as far as Oxford. Two hundred years ago they carried messages from one home in the district to a son who was at the time a minister near that city. I often try to picture what the lot of these poor women must have been, for they were exposed to terrible hardships and dangers. It rained, I suppose, in those days as it does now. Where did they get their clothes dried, where did they put at night, or were there kind people in those days that took pity on the poor? Sally, the last of them, has passed out of sight round the corner of the road, she walked alone, none came after her; light and frail of body she was eminently fitted to be the ghost of all her sisters that had pilgrimaged before her."

The winding road . . .

As for me, I never signed the pledge and will have a little glass of wine tonight. Purely medicinal you understand . . .


  1. I used to pass this way a lot when I lived in the Midlands and holidayed in Wales. I am a great fan of Kilvert and we always stopped for a picnic lunch at Clyro. Loved the photos - it brought the region back into my memory.

  2. Never quite made it to Llanthony, or Bible Pass for that matter. One day.

    And as for the pledge - how can you even mention it when the hedgerows are heavy with sloes, ripe for processing. Picked the first punnet full on Wednesday, now in the freezer waiting for some more to make the first jar full.