Saturday 29 May 2021

The case of the missing church . . .


Tam and I have been intrigued by this roadside sign as we head towards Brecon on the old road (it was the Turnpike road apparently).  Thursday was a lovely sunny day, and before tea we decided to head out to check out the site of this church.

We crossed a field of sheep, with a dewpond from all the recent rain (only one day without rain in the entire month!) and crossed a little stream.  On the left was a pile of rubble, which we thought looked like it might be stone from the demolished church.  This was on our right, with quite a lot of tree growing up through the walls, but it was TINY.  The rendered walls had lines drawn on them to suggest stonework. We decided this couldn't possibly have been it, but was perhaps a tiny Sunday School back in the day?  

Beyond the rubble was a circular graveyard wall, made of dressed stone. We headed towards it past the rubble - obvious huge stone flags there and old oak beams.  

The graveyard was still a place of death - a fairly recently-deceased sheep . . .  Nearby was a dead Magpie (that's a first for me to see).

The original Church dated from the late medieval or late 18th C using local stone and a slate roof. was rebuilt in 1882 and is described on one site as "an ancient, mean edifice, possessing no claim to architectural notice . . . in a very bleak situation . . . It is a remarkably small church, measuring only thirty-one feet and a half by seventeen feet." (I would credit this if I hadn't just copied and pasted bits from half a dozen different sites, Genuki included). This alter was built after the church was demolished in 1964, although it was closed for divine service in 1916 and finally deconsecrated in 1963.

There were a few gravestones still remaining in situ, but not many - others were propped up or laid flat.  Poor Phillip Pitchford either died aged 14 years or 1 1/4 years.

Propped up against the single (old) Yew tree in the graveyard was the Vicar's own gravestone.  Sadly the year of his death does not appear to have survived and I have had no success in trying to find out more about him (though I spent a happy afternoon trying!)   It reads: Here lieth the Body of the Rev. Thomas Davies, the Minister of Gwenddwr, Alltmaur, Llangunten and Llangynog and who departed this life Suddenly ye 14th Day of  September ????? in the 66th Year of his AGE. I imagine from the use of "ye" it was the late 1700s, early 1800s.  Blowing it up I can possibly make out 1 7 ? possibly 8?

Either his parishioners or his family thought a lot of him as there is a long (expensive!) verse on the bottom half of the stone.

His Morals were untainted he had an
Utter Detestation to Vice.  The Tenour
Of his Conduct was one continued
Series of Virtue so prepared.  He had
Little reason to be afraid of a sudden
Death every day of his Life was
A preparation for Heaven.

The long "s" was used in this headstone, but was out of fashion by the 18thC and stopped being used in printed texts in 1782, so it would appear that Thomas Davies was extant in the 18th C.  (Further investigation whilst photos loading - noticed I had his dad's headstone too - 

In Memory of David Davies, late of this parish, Gent.  He died ye 11th June 1801 aged 84 years.  So he was born in 1717 and I found him born in Carmarthen, where he was also married to a Mary Howell on 20/11/1742.  They had only one child, a son Thomas, born in 1743.  Which would put Thomas's death in 1809.  It would appear that the long S stayed around a lot longer in rural Welsh areas . . .

I did some census lookups on Ancestry, and found a farmer Thomas Davies (Minister too perchance?) living at Pengarreg, and amongst the people under his roof were David James, Boarder, Unmarried, 57, Pauper, b. Llanafan.  Note in margin: Blind from Smallpox from 14 years of age.  Poor soul.  Pleased that he was taken in and cared for.

Ann, wife of David Phillips, died 1801 aged 37 years.

Love the address - Harp Cottage, but it no longer exists on the map, sadly.  I've looked up John Bevan, and he was a wheelwright.

The Yew tree was pretty ancient and still regenerating . . .

Oh, lastly (and I could go on and on here), the little wee church was dedicated to St Cynog, one of Brychan's fruitful loins.  He had an interesting life, and can be read about HERE.  

Even Gerald of Wales knew of him:  "Moreover I must not be silent concerning the collar which they call St. Canauc's; for it is most like to gold in weight, nature, and colour; it is in four pieces wrought round, joined together artificially, and clefted as it were in the middle, with a dog's head, the teeth standing outward; it is esteemed by the inhabitants so powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely when it is laid before him it bears the marks of some severe blows, as if made with an iron hammer; for a certain man, as is is said, endeavouring to break the collar for the sake of the gold, experienced the divine vengeance, was deprived of his eyesight, and lingered the remainder of his days in darkness." (From Wikipedia on Gerald of Wales: St Cynog.)

So, amazingly, for a heap of rubble, a scarcely remembered extinct church, and a couple of gravestones, we have an intriguing bit of Welsh social history and a Saint who made quite an impression  . . .

Friday 28 May 2021

How's THIS for good walking country?

 The header photo shows Banc y Celyn, as the crow flies about 5 miles (or less) from our new home.  We can walk from home - if we don't mind a pretty steep climb.  Or we can cheat, drive, and park up so we are already on the top.  Here are some photos to give you an idea of the stupendous views - and the photos are a very poor substitute for the breathtaking scenery.  Few words tonight, just photos.

There will be a post about a church site which we visited yesterday evening, but views first.  From the churchyard we could see this road - turns out it is the one "over the top" to Erwood.  I was dubious at first as it went right through a farmyard - as some roads are wont to do in Wales - but indeed, it was the correct road and not a dead end.

We stopped up on the top of the first hill just to drink in the view in every direction.  Above and below, looking in the direction of home - which is about 5 miles away by minor road.

Then we climbed back in the car and drove higher still and then, W.O.W.  360 degree views AND some!  Brecon Beacons below.

Black Mountains running into Hay Bluff.

Below the road ahead - very single track, but fortunately we didn't meet anyone coming the other way.

These photos are all an area known as Banc y Celyn, and the ones below show where it ends with the River Wye in the bottom.  Hawthorns in bloom across the rocky hillsides.  Somewhere on this patch there is a stone circle, so Tam and I will have to go and check it out.  We can walk part of the Wye Valley Way too (it crosses the river just above Erwood village.)

As you can see, amazing walking country - now the sun has come out, fleetingly (back to grey skies and showery today).  I have had a bad night with my asthma.  As pollen levels are low, I can only assume that once again it is the compost (which has obvious mould in it).  I made sure I used a medical-grade mask when topping up planters 2 days ago, but obviously I cannot use it at all and will have to get Tam to pot plants up for me.  I will try a change of compost too.  The Miracle-Gro one won't do.  So, it's back on the steroids, much as I try to avoid a course because of them stopping me sleeping.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Crickhowell Castle

 I was awake at 4.30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep.  From the bathroom, the first light was just showing an eyelash gleam above the distant hills.  When I came down at 5, the gleam was more like white eye-liner.   Coming downstairs, I pulled back the door curtain (we have an old glazed Georgian door, no longer used, on one side of the kitchen) to let the early light in and noted that even the birds were still snoozing!  Since putting these photos up they are up and doing and a Blackbird is singing in the hedge outside.


Before our walk last week, Tam and I  had a walk around Crickhowell (and may just have been into a certain excellent beer and cider emporium!)  Tam hadn't been to the castle remains before, so we had a wander round.  Not that there is a great deal left but I imagine half the town has bits of castle holding up the roof!  Mind you, there's still a LOT more left than there is of the castle in Builth (which we've not been to yet) as that was totally demolished and robbed and only the Motte remains.

From the photo of the drawing below, you can see which bit of the castle this was - the tower on the right.  In its time it would have been quite imposing - the motte is still there (see photos further down) and a good view of the town and surrounding hills can be had through its mop of trees.

Isn't Grimbald a wonderful moniker?  Pauncefoot also invites investigation. There is a Pauncefoot Hill in Romsey, Hampshire and apparently the Pauncefoot family owned the manorial land there, and nearby Embley Park (where Florence Nightingale lived) and had other manorial lands in Hampshire too.  The original Pauncefoots were "Pance-volt" (big-belly!!) and came over with William the Conqueror.  But that is by-the-by and just me going off on an enquiring adventure.

Then there are the Turbervilles.  Well, anyone who has read this blog over any period of time will be acquainted with the fact that I love the novels and poetry of Thomas Hardy and that Tess of the D'Urbervilles is my favourite of his books.  The Turbervilles, I know, had Sker House, right on the Welsh coast near Kenfig Sands.  Coity Castle was built by St Payn ("the Devil") de Turberville, one of the legendary 12 Knights of Glamorgan, who conquered that area under the guidance of Robert Fitz Hamon, Lord of Gloucester  (he died 1107.)  I imagine these Welsh Turbervilles are the relations of their brave heiress Lady Sybil.

I nearly forgot, go to THIS LINK to a fabulous blog post to learn how Lady Sybil lost her hand (not mislaid it, but had it chopped off, and WHY).  Many thanks to the author of "at home in the hills" blog.

This rather fancy-pants piece of artwork tells you all about the area and the castle and inhabitants.  I've enlarged all the little bits individually (I hope) but not the Welsh ones.

My old AA Castles in Wales book says that this was a castle of the Turbervilles so Grimbald sounds to have "married in".  The townsfolk were given aroyal grant towards the costs of walling the town in 1281 and it was made defensible against Owain Glyndwr in 1403. . .

Up on the motte, this slender pillar of stone is all that remains of a twin-towered gatehouse which once guarded it.  As we looked around us, we could here the beeping of a metal-detector as two blokes worked their way through rough ground at the bottom, looking a tad furtive . . .

Extensive views on all sides.

This is a busy through road from Brecon to Abergavenny.  Every time we've driven through, Keith has said, I'd love to live there - I think you can guess it's the old cream castellated building!

Last one, looking down the High Street towards the river.  It looked better from the human viewpoint than it does in a photo!  Anyway, we went into one of the shops there as we were interested in paper lamps they had in their window display, but they'd run out so we went on to their shop in Abergavenny, and bought this one, and a similar:

At just £3.50 we thought it was a snip.

Sunday 23 May 2021

More blissful bluebells and some decorating in the Library


More dreamy Usk hills.

We think this may have been a discarded nest dislodged from a tree or even one which had recent occupants as there was a just-fledged Robin nearby.  

The river Usk in the bottom of this one.

I had to use my zoom lens on max to get this house tucked away amongst the trees on a slope.

At the end of our walk, we came across this canine memorial, obviously to a black Labrador who loved his walks up here. What a lovely thing to do in memory of him (or her).  I guess the dog is perhaps buried here too (ashes).

The Library as it's been since we've been here, decorated "neutrally" by the previous owners.  I cannot WAIT to get rid of those Dunelm curtains and Roman blind.  I don't do grey-lilac check.  Keith's military and naval collection live in here.

You're thinking, WOW!  Lipstick pink, right?!  This is it with the sun on it (only a glimmer, as it's been another beastly Wintry day today, with yet more rain.)

But this is how it actually looks unless there is bright sunlight, and in the evening it gets a deeper rose pink still.  Anyway, it warms the room up no end.

I am looking forward to getting the curtain material I ordered and sewing up the curtains and Roman Blind.  I  can't finish the walls at the edge of the window until the Roman blind is down.