St.Cadoc's Church - Llangattock Lingoed
Llangattock Lingoed is a superb example of a pre-Norman settlement. The site is a secluded hilltop overlooking a fertile valley all the traditional features of a Celtic monastic outpost. In the 6th to 8th centuries, it lay across routes to Dyfrig's monasteries at Erging / Archenfield and Henllan (Herefordshire) and another monastic house at Welsh Bicknor. The first church on this site may have been of timber, wattle and daub and thatch. The cell would have been very small and exclusively for the use of the resident monk's monastic duties. Services would have been in the open and Baptisms in the nearby stream. Later, the building may have been stone. The church is dedicated to St. Cadoc, from whom the parish derives its name.
The early medieval church
By the year 1100, the Normans had conquered this part of Wales and Llangattock Lingoed was under Marcher lordship. Between 1150 and 1200 the boom in church building started and a new style of architecture began to evolve. We know from ancient documents that the rents from the "vicarage" (vicar's acres) and the manor of Llangattock Lingoed were given to the Priory at Abergavenny when it was founded in 1090 and a "modern" church was here by 1254. The locally quarried stonework was originally rendered and lime-washed to preserve it. This had fallen into disrepair when the Victorians removed the last vestiges in 1878. Restoring the exterior finish in 2003 means that the church you see today is as it was for possibly 600 years.
Our present nave may originally have been a pre-Norman single-cell church. Some of the masonry is undateable, but the ancient Piscina for washing vessels at Mass (situated to the right of the chancel arch) indicates that the chancel may have been added later. The internal arches (13th or 14th century) also suggest that the chancel and tower were later. When the chancel was added, an altar for saying Masses for the dead (a chantry) may have stood to the right of the arch with another altar on the left of the arch. This has a squint (hagioscope) for the chantry priest to see the movements of the priest at the High Altar.
The Normans also introduced the parish system and a reformed monasticism, under which St. Cadoc's Church became affiliated to the Benedictine Priory at Abergavenny. By the 12th century it was close to the route between Abbey Dore (Cistercian) and its daughter house at Llantarnam. Llanfair Chantry, which was attached to Abbey Dore, stood a mile away. The church from the 1200s to the 1500s was decorated throughout in strong colours depicting Biblical and moralistic scenes. A fragment of the decoration, which would have covered the walls, can be seen to the right of the main door. The red and yellow ochre colours are typical of early medieval wall painting. The overlife-size figure of St. George on a horse, killing the dragon, can be dated to the mid 1400s by the style of armour. Traces of red paint can be seen on the stonework of the Chancel arch and elsewhere. In the 1600s some windows were enlarged and new windows inserted.
The later medieval church
As well as highly coloured walls, the church had brilliantly coloured glass throughout. The oldest window is on the north side of the nave. The windows in the east and south walls have evidence of five glazing schemes in different patterns of leading and coloured glass. The window by the font is Victorian (1878).
Earliest glass: The earliest glass was found loose about the church and is probably 13th century. The small squares, painted with one or two colours, are from a "grissaille window" which typically shows the Tree of Life running through a multitude of small panes with geometric floral motifs.
Early medieval glass: Once the technique for silver staining was discovered (c.1320) it was widely used. This can be seen in the fragments of glass in the window to the right of the chancel arch, representing the remains of a canopy. The silver staining and rudimentary design point towards a 14th century origin.
Middle medieval glass: The third medieval period is shown by the painted fragments leaded into the traceries of the window above the altar. The flamboyant style of painting over large sections of glass and a section depicting part of a chequered floor suggests a later 1400s or 1500s origin.
Plain medieval crown glass: This was used in the smallest of the traceries and clearly shows the outer edge of the spun circle, which would have been about 5ft in diameter. ·
Green cylinder glass: Various green cylinder glasses, which make up the bulk of the diamond windows, date from the mid 1600s when the earlier pictorial windows were smashed out. The sometimes erratic lead lines and melange of poor quality glass is probably due to the countrywide shortages of glass after the destruction by Cromwell's soldiers. These windows have been repaired with finer crown, cylinder and sheet glasses and re-leaded. The last reglazing was possibly in 1871 by a "Mr. H. Powell", shown by the signature on glass in the south aisle. It was James Powell of the famous Whitefriars glassworks of London who perfected the art of replicating the tones of medieval glass. Co-incidentally, his grandson, H. Powell, was manager of the company at this time. As manager it is unlikely that he reglazed the church himself, even though he did come from the West Country. It is possible that he had his name and the year put on the crowns of glass the factory produced.
The great Rood Screen and loft ran across the church separating the chancel from the nave and separating the clergy from the people. Until Protestantism replaced the Roman Catholic faith, lay people did not go beyond this division. They would receive Holy Communion at Christmas. Easter and Whitsun through the screen standing in strict social order, starting with the gentry. The great bressumer beam (late 1400s) that supported the Rood loft with its Crucifix and figures of St. Mary and St. John on either side is still in place. The doorway and stairwell leading to the Rood loft can be seen by the organ.
The Gentry's Church (1560 - 1800)
The Reformation ordered by Henry VIII and consolidated by Queen Elizabeth I dramatically changed the liturgy and services of the Old Church. Church buildings also changed to reflect the new theology. The Rood screen and loft were removed and over the next 100 years the wall paintings were covered and much of the stained glass destroyed.
By the 17th century, Edward Morgan, Gent. of Ty Mawr (Great House) was the most important man in the parish his family pew can been seen near the organ. When he died without issue the estate passed to James Tudor, on condition that he took the name Morgan. His signature appears on the church accounts throughout the early 1700s. The other box pew dated 1634 near the altar probably belonged to the Prichard family of Gelli-uchaf (Upper Kellye).
Llangattock Lingoed had other wealthy and influential landowners, including the Marquis of Abergavenny and Sir Thomas Morgan, Baronet of Llangattock Lingoed. Sir Thomas, a famous general in the Civil Wars, commanded the Parliamentary force which took Chepstow and Hereford (1645) and reduced Raglan Castle the following year. He changed sides when popular feeling led to the restoration of Charles II and continued as Major General in Scotland, subsequently becoming Governor of Jersey where he died in 1670. His brother is thought to have been Sir Henry Morgan, leader of the infamous Buccaneers. Llangattock Court remained in the family until the death of Sir John Morgan in 1767. It then passed to David Lloyd, whose family were tenants of the estate. David Lloyd served as parish Overseer of the Poor for many years.
Up to this time the church had no pews apart perhaps from a few benches against the walls for the elderly and infirm everyone would stand or kneel. In 1820, 16 pews seating 4 people each were installed. The churchwarden's book records "how the new seats was settled at a Parish Meeting held at the Public house" (the Hunter's Moon). The gentry and farmers sat in strict social order:
1. Old Court
2. Lower Kellye
5. Pant and Penyrhoel
6. John Hughes and C... Hill
7. Public House
8. Little Kellye and Little Campstone
9. Pwllacca and Pheasants Park
12. John Powell and Abraham...
13. Upper Kellye
14. Great Porthall [Pool Hall]
15. Great House
Notice that children, labourers, trades people and paupers were not provided with seats.
The Coat of Arms of Queen Anne (1702-1714) was painted on the chancel arch on top of the Arms of Charles 11. Traces of the earlier Arms and of medieval wall painting beneath can be seen. The patronage belonged to the Crown from 1668 (until 1863 when it passed to the Bishop of Llandaff) so the appointment of a new Rector, the Rev. Rowland Parry. M.A. in 1711 may have prompted the over-painting of the earlier Arms.
The People's Church (1801 - the present)
During the 1800s the interior of the church again changed. A new set of three bells was installed in 1829, although the Church had bells from 1400. The bells were cast by N.R.WESTCOTT OF BRISTOL, who is not known for any other bells so these may be unique. The three bells: Tenor 10cwt, Treble 7cwt, and 2nd 9cwt proved a disappointment when the tenor bell cracked. Each bell was fitted with iron peg stays and latchet sliders, which are no longer used. The bells were repaired and re-hung in 2003 and the historical fittings preserved in the tower.
A vicarage was built in 1829 and endowed with 16 acres of Glebe land from which the parson derived his income. A new church school was built in 1848 with funds raised by James Davies, the Monmouthshire schoolmaster. A plaque honouring the achievements of this remarkable man is to the left of the altar.
By 1874 the church was again in need of major repair and this was started but came to a halt with the death of the Rector, the Rev. John Price. A new Rector, the Rev. Joseph Wheeler Osman, arrived in 1876 and energetically set to raising funds to finish repairs to the roof. The work soon evolved into a major re-ordering of the church. It was to be light and modern. The window by the font was installed and old pews taken out. 21 new pews made from red deal donated by the biggest Llangattock Lingoed landowner, Mr. Rolls of Monmouth, were installed with a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society. These seats were free for anyone to use, but in practice, people continued to sit in their usual places observing the social order. A screen from Llangattock-vibon-Avel was acquired and used to make an altar rail, pulpit and desk. The accounts show the cost of renovation and re-ordering to be £162.13s.3d.
Several benefactors, including Mr. Crawshay Bailey the Merthyr Tydfil Ironmaster, gave generously to complete the new look. The old harmonium was sold for £4.15s.0d and replaced with the pipe organ, described by the Rector as "a munificent gift", although it was not new. New lights, carpet and other fittings completed the transformation. The church re-opened in April 1878 with a special service and great rejoicing in the village.
Death in Llangattock Lingoed
The designation "llan" and the circular churchyard indicate a sacred burial site existing long before the present church.
From early medieval times burials were either inside the Church or in shallow graves on the south side of the churchyard. Unusually, the skeleton of a man thought to be from the Middle Ages, was found in the exterior south wall during the 2003 restoration. He may have been a monk or holy man. The bones may have been placed close to the churchyard cross to be taken out for veneration or other purposes. Important people were buried in the church from earliest times. Recent excavations found many burials under the floor of the chancel, including two young children and a woman buried in coffin dated 1738. She may be Susana Watkins, daughter of John Pritchard Gentleman of Upper Kellye who died aged 29. There is a wall memorial to her and her sister on the north Nave wall. There are memorials dating from 1660 and an unusual strap cross on a flagstone near the altar steps.
The parish bier dated 1711 is a rare survivor of the earlier practice of burials where the body was wrapped in a shroud without a coffin. A wooden framework called the hearse was placed over the body the holes can be seen on either side and a black cloth (pall) draped over. The bearer party carried the deceased to the church gate and was led in by the parson and sexton for a requiem Mass and burial service. After the Reformation (1553) the service was simplified but still retained words which are still used today. The bier, hearse and pall were then stored ready for the next burial. A new pall was purchased in 1878 so, although coffins were commonly in use elsewhere, it seems the parish continued in the old way.
The particularly finely lettered wall monuments commemorate the gentry and their families. The earliest memorials to Jane Prichard (d.1660) and to Anne Prichard (d.1731) are by T. Brute. The memorial to John Arnold (d.1765) is by T and P Brute. A memorial to James Davies, the founder of many schools in Monmouthshire including Llangattock Lingoed (1848) is to the left of the altar.
The earliest readable memorial in the churchyard is a box tomb to the east of the medieval Cross. It marks the graves of James Jones (d.1793) Mary Jenkins (d.1766) Henry Jenkins (d.1769) and William Jenkins (d.1771).
The impressive base of the medieval Cross to the south of the church is listed as an Ancient Monument. It probably lost its shaft in the Reformation of the 16th century. The Cross sanctified the churchyard and provided a memorial to those buried here in unmarked graves. It was a focal point for festivals, especially Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi when a large wooden Cross would have been carried from the church and around the building to the Churchyard Cross, while the clergy and people sang psalms.
The almost circular churchyard has many species of wild flowers and is a habitat for small mammals, insects and birds. The Tower is used by an important colony of Lesser Horseshoe bats (a European Protected Species). The bats roost each summer and produce their young. They hibernate away from the church and return again in March. Their feeding grounds include the yew trees near the path.
The churchyard and adjoining glebe land is part of a Bio-diversity Project. funded by Monmouthshire County Council under Agenda 21 funding. A survey of plants and animals will lead to a Management Plan, to be considered in consultation with the local community during 2004.
When the nave roof moved almost to the point of collapse in the summer of 2002 it was clear that "patching up and making do" would no longer suffice. The choice before the village was stark – either restore this Grade 1 church for at least the next 100 years or let it fall into ruin. With very little money (and some debts) the small congregation set about raising funds and grants firstly to save the building and then to make it the finest possible example of a quintessential country church in it’s largely unchanged setting.
As the roof was stripped the full extent of the movement of walls and roof was obvious. The nave timbers were ridden with Death Watch beetle and rot. The wallplates were badly out of line and the masonry unstable. The window stonework was very fragile and the glazing buckled and incomplete. The electric wiring was dangerous and the organ and bells unplayable. Access to the church was hazardous and difficult. Fifteen months later, skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques have restored the church. The bells are repaired and re-hung. The medieval wall painting and the 18th century Coat of Arms are conserved. Parking and disabled access is planned and the organ will be restored.
With generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cadw, the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, the Welsh Churches Fund and the Allchurches Trust, the parishioners and friends of Llangattock Lingoed have preserved a wonderful building and kept alive the tradition of worship in this sacred place.