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St Mary the Virgin, Llanywern, Breconshire

Dedication: St Mary the Virgin

Denomination: Anglican

Built: 14th century
Minor rebuilding: 17th Century

Photography: John Ball
Date: 20 November 2019
Camera: Canon IXUS 115 H5 digital compact

  St Mary's Church, Llanywern
Above: southwestern aspect of St Mary's Church


[Text extracted from Wales's Best One Hundred Churches, by T. J. Hughes, Seren (Poetry Wales Press Ltd), Bridgend, 2006]

It says something for the territory when the names of two neighbouring villages Llangors and Llanywern, are variations on the phrase "the church in the bog". But while Llangors at its green village centre looks well-drained and comfortable, Llanywern, at least in the wetter months, is exactly what it says on the label.
   From here the line of the Black Mountains coming down towards the Wye looks like a high tide of falling waves. Small eddies of streams pour in along the lanesides, running into a spreading, reedy pond spiked with tall bulrushes, then out again to curl around the ancient churchyard, and ooze and squelch across it until saturation. Pools of damp seep up into the nave from under the flagstones. Services once held in the mire of an earthen floor – and burials here – can be only queasily imagined.
   Llanywern is as simple a rural church as survives in Wales. Its pleasures are of atmosphere, of ancient community and irregular vernacular, in which it is still totally immersed. It harks back to sixth century St Cynidr, and to four hundred years looked after by the monks of Brecon, whose sub-prior had a house here. A cluster of four farms immediately around it seem unchanged over centuries, their traditional stone barns the homes of small gatherings of jackdaws and collared doves. It is a church filled with birdsong... [read full text here]

St Mary's Church, Llanywern
Church of St Mary the Virgin: southern aspect (above); western aspect (below).
St Mary's Church, Llanywern
  St Mary's Church, Llanywern

Note 1: The Church Bells of Breconshire, by John C Eisel, Logaston Press, Almeley, Herefordshire, 2002
"An enclosed west bell-turret. No means of access is provided through the nave roof or the exterior of the turret, which is slated. Despite several visits the bell remains unexamined (3 Jul 1976 - 17 Nov 2000)."

Note 2: The Old Parish Churches of Mid Wales by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, Malvern, Worcestershire, 2003
"A west porch admits to a 14th century single chamber with a scissor-truss roof and a ribbed east end canopy of circa 1500. The church still has oil lamps and is almost unrestored. It has an old stoup and a 13th century circular font."

Right: The plan shows the long axis of St Mary's Church aligned roughly southwest-northeast rather than west-east [adapted from Salter 2003]. The Google satellite image at the bottom of the page confirms this unusual orientation.

St Mary's Church, LlanywernSt Mary's Church, Llanywern

Above: Entrance porch (left) and porch window (right).

Below: Nave, chancel, and sanctuary.
St Mary's Church, Llanywern

Note 3: The Buildings of Wales: Powys, by Robert Scourfield and Richard Haslam, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2013
"Very small and scarcely touched in the 19th Century, the interior still lit by oil lamps (shown above), west porch, 14th century nave and short chancel. Slated bellcote. Chancel south window a 14th century ogee trefoiled lancet; nave south window a simple square with chamfered jambs, 17th century. Otherwise simple windows of 1882. The porch is 17th or 18th century, with round-headed voussoired doorway. Flagged floors. The nave has a scissor-rafter roof perhaps 14th century. The chancel has a ribbed canopy of circa 1500 (see below); traces of red paint overthe site of thew rood. 17th century penelling at the east end, dated 1657. FONT: circular and rounded; 13th century. MONUMENTS: 17th century slabs in the chancel, with typical carved crosses, elaborate heraldry and marginal inscriptions. Charles Havard d.1774, by Powell of Talgarth. Trumpeting angel: Margaret Price d.1777. Shaped tablet. Morgan Jenkins d.1785, by Hughes. Crude urn and the usual rustic droplets and scrolls. Thomas Williams d. 1828, also by Hughes."

St Mary's Church, Llanywern
Above: Ceiling above sanctuary.

Below: Sanctuary and altar.
St Mary's Church, Llanywern
St Mary's Church, LlanywernSt Mary's Church, Llanywern

Above: One of several 17th century memorial slabs under the altar table. This slab includes the inscription:

Owen William ap Richard Gunter, knight, paternally descended of Sir Peter Gunter, knight, who married Gwervil, daughter of Meredith John Jenkin, they had issue ten children living, viz Lewis, John, Meredith, William, Thomas, Richard Mallt, Juan, Lleici and Gwenllian
Above: Wall-mounted memorial to Thomas Price.

UNDERNEATH / lie / the Remains of THOMAS Son / of THOMAS PRICE of Ty-mawr in / this VILLAGE, who / died Janry the 7th 1801 Aged 2 Years / and 7 Months.

JESUS said suffer little Children and / forbid them not to come unto me: for of / such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Note 4: A History of the County of Brecknock, by Theophilus Jones; Glanusk Edition, Volume IV, published by the Brecknock Society, 1930
"The church-yard is so wet that frequently in winter the graves are filled with water soon after they are dug up; this many of the inhabitants complain of as a dreadful grievance, and seem to feel a chill at the mention of it, and to apprehend consequences injurious to their bodies deposited here, whereasif they would only take the trouble of digging a trench or gutter of the depth of two or three yards at furthest round the upper or western side of the churchyard, they might all moulder dryly, comfortably and snugly together!"

St Mary's Church, LlanywernSt Mary's Church, Llanywern

Above: Ancient flagstones on floor of nave. Above: 13th Century font.

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