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LLANDEILO ABERCYWYN PARISH

(Now in Ruins)

Ordnance Survey Map Reference   : SN309130

 

Parish Registers  :   Carmarthenshire Record Office

 

Baptisms       1707 - 1806 with gaps

Marriages     1707 - 1784 with gaps

Burials          1707 - 1806 with gaps

 

Bishops Transcripts   :   National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

1672-73, 1675, 1677-79, 1681-82, 1691-92, 1695-97, 1699-1700, 1702-03,

1715-19, 1721-22, 1724-26, 1728-30, 1732, 1734, 1736-38, 1740-45, 1748-54,

1757-58, 1761-62, 1764, 1766-71, 1773-79, 1781-1800, 1803-06, 1808-09,

1811, 1813-19, 1821-26, 1836, 1844-47, 1865-66, 1871, 1881.

IGI: chr, 1736-1826, 1836-47, 1865-66



Llandeilo Abercywyn Parish Register Images

1707-1895-Burials
1707-1888-Baptisms-BMBs
1813-1874-Marriages


1841-1901 Census Images

The Old Mansion of  Llandeilo Abercywyn
The Cistercion Way

Gatehouse Collection
Genuki

 

The Pilgrims Church

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The ruined church at Llandeilo Abercowyn
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THE OLD MANSION OF LLANDEILO ABERCYWYN
TWO churches and two manor houses bid farewell to the serpentine
windings of the Cywyn where it loses its identity in the embrace of
the river Taf, about a mile and a half northwards from the township of
Laugharne. Above the western bank of the Cywyn, within the commote of
Ystlwyf, are the remains of the parish church of Llanfihangel Abercywyn, a
short distance from the imposing farmstead of Trefenty, while nearby the parish
church of Llandeilo Abercywyn is flanked by an ancient residence used latterly
as a farm outbuilding, but recently transformed into a dwelling-house again,
fortunately retaining many of its earlier features. It is this latter site that now
forms the subject of our enquiries, but first let us consider, briefly, the parish
and the church.
Among the smallest of Carmarthenshire parishes, the Tithe Commutation
Schedule of 1840-1 gives the acreage of Llandeilo Abercywyn, 'by estimation'
as 945; the Land Commission of 1896 gives a total of 842; while a list of county
parishes compiled in 1913 gives 820, to which are added foreshore, water, and
marsh, bringing the total to 902. In 1841 the properties within its boundaries
were listed as follows (the owner's name being followed by that of the tenant
and the number of acres):
Llandeilo Abercywyn farm Thomas Lloyd. Ann Meyler. 410.
Pentre Jeremiah Lear. David Bowen. 130.
Trerhos do Samuel Howell. 115.
Gelli do David Bowen. 187.
Talybont (part) Chas. Croft Williams. Morgan George. 14.
Park Eithin Jane Williams. David Howel. 8.
The church and yard. 1.
These amount to some 859 acres, to which were added 87 acres of marsh,
foreshore, and water, making in all, 946. The only field-names in the schedule
denoting antiquity are Twmpath on Pentre farm, and Parc Cerrig Llwydion on
Trerhos farm, the latter being noted in R.C.A.M. Carms, 1917, as containing
three megaliths.
A remote agricultural area on the lower slopes of the highland of Penrhyn,
Llandeilo enjoyed a rural peace and serenity, occasionally enlivened by the
'llongau bach' allowed by the tidal Taf to sail so far northwards as the wharf of
Lower St Clears. The western boundary follows the Cywyn's course from a
point near Talybont farm, till it merges with the Taf below Llandeilo, then
follows that river to a point east of a small wood where the boundary turns
inland, past the farms of Pentre and Gelli, then, turning sharply westwards
towards Park Eithin, passes by Talybont to reach the banks of the Cywyn
opposite Lower Court. Today, this boundary has less significance for
parishioners, as the parish has been united to that of Llangynog for ecclesiastic
and administrative purposes.
The church is the oldest building in Llandeilo Abercywyn, as is usual in a
Welsh parish. Like so many others the church has seen structural changes
along the centuries, although its present form retains certain medieval features.
No evidence of the earliest fabric has survived, but on its site a new one was
built about 1270 by Richard Laundre, to which alterations and additions were
made later. The Laundre family had held land in this district before 1130 when
Llandeilo Abercywyn was a small Norman lordship, of which John Laundre was
lord during the latter half of the thirteenth century. 2 Afterwards the church
became part of the possessions of the Priory of St John, Carmarthen.3 During
the seventeenth century we learn that the fabric required attention, and in
1684 the Churchwardens presented 'the roof to be out of repair.' In 1711 the Rev
Griffith Jones was appointed rector of Llandeilo, a living he continued to hold
with that of Llanddowror till his death in 1761.4 Another cleric, the Rev Howell
Davies, served as curate at Llandeilo under Griffith Jones, but in 1741 moved to
Pembrokeshire where he became an eminent Methodist. During the nineteenth
century the fortunes of the little church took a downward turn. In 1811
the topographer Nicholas Carlisle had nothing to say about the edifice, but
mentions one of the nearby farm buildings, 'Here is an ancient Hospital called
the Pilgrim's Lodge adjoining the Church-yard, but which is now rented by a
person for a store-house' the earliest-known reference to an association with
the term 'Pilgrim', and, as we shall see, Carlisle's 'store-house' represented the
old mansion converted into an outbuilding. Similarly, Samuel Lewis in his
topographical work tells us little, apart from 'The church is not remarkable for
any architectural details,' and that John Popkin had made a bequest to the parish
poor in 1713.
In 1865 the antiquary John Rowlands made a visit and had this to say:
Llandeilo Abercowin, a small Country Church without anything interesting
in it, there are no monuments, neither could I see the Registers. The Clergyman,
a very eccentric old gentleman who died a few days ago, one of the old school of
Clergymen who were numerous in Wales some 60 years ago, could give me no
account of anything respecting families who might have resided in the parish. All
the gates and doors leading to his house were locked and the conversation was
carried on between us over a wall.
The next visitor, Mary Curtis, who seems to have received a warmer welcome,
recorded:
The Book of Llandaff says it [the church] was given to St Teilo who died
in 563 or 566 AD: it is therefore very old. Spurrell in his magazine 'Haul', in an
inventory he gives of church goods in Carmarthenshire, quotes, in this church
are 'In primis, a chalyce; item, a bell'. The church is not included in the taxation
of Nicholas IV, 1288. This church is a plain structure, built in the stone of the
country. A low arch, not purely round, gives entrance into the church, where
immediately on the right is a stoup. There was an entrance at the west end, for
you see there the mark of a similar arch very low down, blocked up with stones;
it has the appearance of the ground being now higher than it was anciently,
or of the church having sunk. There is no church arch; no division of nave and
chancel. The flooring is of common stone, the walls white-washed, the whole
building pewless; common moveable benches with backs serve for seats. The
upper part of the baptismal font seems new, the bottom may be ancient; no
carving on it. The ancient wood ones serve instead. A small table of common
wood painted, supplies the loss of the ancient altar; a chair of the same material
at its side, enclosed within an equally common wooden railing, flanked on each
side by five stone steps white-washed, rising half way up the wall. What was
their purpose? The windows bear marks of great age Llandeilo Abercywyn is
a rectory; the church is served by the Rev. Thomas William Jones who holds the
perpetual curacy of Llanybri. 8
By the end of the nineteenth century church services were poorly attended,
due partly to the remote situation and sparse population, many of whom were
Nonconformists. A tale is told of the rector, who having no congregation to
address, used to call at the adjoining farmhouse on Mr Thomas Harries, a pious
Methodist, requesting his company to the Sunday morning service, 'to have
little blessing whatever'. Mr Harries always obliged, and, attended by his
faithful sheepdog, took his place on one of the benches. Clearly a realist, the
rector then uttered the following prayer,9
Arglwydd trugarog bendithia ni'n tri,
Harries Llandeilo a finne a'r ci.
(Merciful Lord, may a blessing be found
For Harries Llandeilo, myself, and the hound.)
The next visitors, Royal Commissioners on Ancient Monuments, came in
1912. Having noted that the church building, consisting of a single undivided
chamber, measured externally 60 feet by 27 feet, they proceed:
There are indications that the east end has been added to, probably about the
year 1500. A south porch may also have been erected, and the doorway in the
west wall closed. On either side of the communion table are two masses of rough
masonry, built in the style of rude and steep steps: these were probably intended
as buttresses to the east wall, against the exterior of which is heaped a heavy
earthen mount. The only window that is possibly original is a small double lancet
in the western gable above the closed door; the other windows are negligible; all
have wooden frames. The floor is flagged, except a few yards at the east end
which has been concreted. The sacrarium is a small space between the stepped
buttresses, the lowest step of the buttresses being as the altar pace. The altar
rails are quite plain. The font is a plain circular vessel of no definable date. There
is a small stoup near the south door. The pulpit is a three-decker of rude
construction, but of highly interesting arrangement. The benches are extremely
primitive.10
At that time the building was still roofed, windows intact, and the conduct of
services possible. But when the next caller, an educated layman, arrived, forty-
three years after the Commissioners, there had been a tragic deterioration. He
was the late Mr Aneurin Talfan Davies who in 1955, wrote a spendid book
recording the sights that met his gaze during wanderings through Carmarthen-
shire.11 Written in Welsh, I translated the relevant passage where the author,
having asked the farmer where the church was, learnt:
There it is (said he) pointing to the further end of the farmyard at a building
surrounded by disorderly trees. This was the saddest sight that greeted me
during travels through the shire. The edifice still stood, but was nothing more
than a soiled shelter for all kinds of animals. On the old three-tier pupit wherein
Gruffydd Jones had proclaimed the Word of God, a host of clamorous fowls
roosted; the font, lonely, neglected, loathsome; where formerly stood the altar
where the priest had proclaimed the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, swine now made their muddy resting-place. Are we so unmindful
of Gruffydd Jones's memory that we have no wish to rescue, at least, his pulpit
and font? Heavy in spirit I turned from Llandeilo Abercywyn.
Alas, such sadness has been experienced by several others. The final chapter
in its history is contained in the records of the little church compiled in 1965 by
the Revd J. S. Marcus Davies, Vicar of Llanstephan, which I have summarized
as follows: in 1945-6 the church was in very poor condition, in 1956-7 the
roof was dismantled; when Archdeacon Pugh and the rector of Llanfihangel
Abercywyn paid a visit they were unable to enter the church because it was full
of hay and straw; by 1968 the building was in a dangerous condition; in the
graveyard were three tombstones bearing dates 1489, 1790, and 1837.
Today the church is a roofless, windowless ruin. Marauding Vikings still
survive in spirit, it seems.
Families and Residence of Llandeilo Abercywyn.
Among the most influential of West Wales medieval families was that of
Wogan, descended from the Breconshire chieftain Gwgan ap Bleddyn.13 As
well as holding important offices under the Crown, members of the family took
an active part in the subjugation of Ireland where they filled judicial and
administrative posts and were rewarded with estates and residences in that
land
 
 
 
 


St Teilo’s is a simple thirteenth-century building, though the chancel was extended in the fifteenth century, possibly to meet the needs of an increasing number of worshippers. For the farmhouse adjoining St Teilo’s Church is known as ‘Pilgrims’ Rest’: you are now on the traditional medieval route to St David’s. This is one of the sections of the route which earned the pilgrimage its high status. Twice to St David’s was the equivalent of once to Rome; three times equalled the Holy Land itself. This is easier to understand when you consider that pilgrims traditionally forded the Cywyn estuary here on foot, to reach the church of Llanfihangel Abercywyn on the far bank.