Village Alive Trust
Village Alive Trust

The Church of St. Mary Llanfair Cilgoed....

St Marys Church
St Marys Church inside

Llanfair, ‘the Church of Mary’, is an ancient ecclesiastical site, although the present building was only opened in 1843. The Llanfair Green area lay in the parish of Llantilio Crossenny, but as the medieval chapel nearby was then in ruins, and Llantilio church lay several miles distant, land on the Llanfair Grange estate was given by Mrs M.E. George, and Mr J.G. George of Monmouth, for the erection of “this much needed edifice” as the Monmouthshire Merlin termed it. The architect was R.H. Evins (perhaps of the firm of Wyatt and Brandon, London), whilst the contractors were Messrs. Warr, Charles Lawrence and John Watkins, of Monmouth. The cost of £522 [roughly £24,000 in modern values] was met by voluntary subscriptions (James Davies, the Devauden schoolmaster, being among the benefactors), assisted by a grant from the Incorporated Church Building Society. A small surplus was invested as an endowment.

The church was licensed for public worship on 18 July 1843 and at the opening service on Wednesday 26 July that year, the Revd. William Crawley, shortly to become Archdeacon of Monmouth, preached the sermon, taking as his text: ‘To the poor the gospel is preached’ (St Luke 7, 22). The packed congregation gave an offering for the Building Fund of over £20 [around £900 in modern terms]. A weekly service with sermon was held here henceforth. On 27 May 1850, Bishop Ollivant of Llandaff signed the Deed of Consecration, removing the burial ground and the church from all profane purposes, and allowing the Eucharist to be celebrated there - hitherto it had not been so. The Revd. David Davies was incumbent, by virtue of being Vicar of Llantilio Crossenny, from 1847 until his death in 1891. In 1925, the Llanfair chapelry was transferred from the parish of Llantilio to that of Llangattock Lingoed.

Stone Front

Many baptisms have been performed at the stone font, gracefully carved by a local craftsman, Mr Arthur Gibbs of Cross Ash. Marriages were held here from 1852 to 1864, and again in 1895; as a chapel-ofease the propriety of this was questioned. In 1867, the Registrar-General of the diocese of Llandaff suggested a public act by the Bishop to remove all doubt as to the legality of those marriages. Archbishop Derrick Childs in 1982 formally licensed the church for the solemnisation of marriages. On 24 July 1956, Bishop Edwin Morris consecrated the new burial ground, the gift of Mr E. Evans. Of interest, just below the churchyard wall is the iron shed which once served for stabling the Vicar’s horse, and which still houses the wooden bier.

Time, and the elements take their toll, and so, about 1906, Lord Llangattock made necessary repairs, and also gave the oak choir-stalls and the sanctuary tiles. The present altar came from St Paul’s Church, Blaenavon, in 1969. In 1981 to 1982, a thorough restoration was accomplished, partly funded by charitable funds and individuals, by the Manpower Services Commission via the Community Enterprises Programme of Monmouth District Council. The opportunity was taken at this time to create a meeting room at the west end by inserting a timber and glass screen bought (by a grant from King George’s Fund) from a Presbyterian chapel which had closed in Sudbrook, near Portskewett. The church, parish room and east window, were blessed by Archbishop Childs on 2nd January 1983, at a service which included baptisms and confirmations. A parishioner made a new altar frontal. Together with further renovation in 1999 and re-opening by Archbishop Rowan Williams, the result is that the church is once again the "very handsome building" referred to by the Monmouthshire Merlin in 1843.

East Window

East Window

As part of the 1982 restoration, a new, three - light East Window was inserted. It depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the church, bathed in sunlight, the moon beneath her feet - an allegory of the heavenly existence, which she enjoys, and to which we hope to attain. She holds the Christ Child, his arms outstretched - as He would draw all people to Himself. Above her head is the ‘mystic rose’, an ancient symbol of Our Lady. The north light bears the arms of Morimond Abbey (the French mother - house of Abbey Dore, to which Llanfair Grange once belonged). The letters, MORS, are an abbreviation of the Latin ‘Morimundus’. The south light portrays the arms (seven lozenges) of Hubert de Burgh, Justiciar of England and Lord of the Three Castles: Whitecastle, Grosmont, and Skenfrith, who around 1230 gave this site to Abbey Dore. G.A.K. Robinson of Joseph Bell and Sons, Bristol designed the window. Various donations and efforts, the local children playing a significant part, funded it.

Llanfair Cilgoed is grateful to the Revd. Dr. David Williams, (Rector of Llangattock Lingoed with Llanfair Cilgoed Parochial Church Council 1980 - 1983) for this revision of the text of an earlier guide written by him.