Village Alive Trust
Village Alive Trust

Llanfair Cilgoed Grange....

St Marys Chapel
Reproduced by kind permission of the
Society of Antiquaries of London

The church built in 1843 replaced a medieval chapel which fell into ruin in the eighteenth century, and whose foundations can still be seen in the field below the churchyard. There, prior to the thirteenth century, stood a Celtic hermitage - hence the further description of “cil-goed” (‘the cell in the wood’). At intervals, between 1201 and 1243, Hubert de Burgh, referred to later, gave the hermitage and lands here to the Cistercian monks of Dore.

They transformed it into a farm, or ‘grange’ in Cistercian nomenclature, and that name of Llanfair Grange endures to this day. The hermitage chapel, enlarged or rebuilt, became a chantry chapel where, for many years, monks (and later perhaps chaplains) celebrated the Eucharist for the souls of the founders and benefactors of the chapel and grange.

In addition to the initial gift of Hubert de Burgh, Prince Edmund Crouchback (Lord of the Three Castles for much of the later thirteenth century) and other grantors gave or sold or exchanged other land to the monks, who thus consolidated and expanded the property.

Apart from the chapel site still visible, there can be seen the position of a series of medieval fish-ponds and cultivation terraces, whilst recent geophysical survey suggests the former presence of a substantial barn.

Documentary evidence tells of a heronry here. After the suppression of Abbey Dore (1536), the chapel continued to be used for public worship: Matins, the Eucharist and Evensong, were said here for some years on Sundays, Holydays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Indeed, a former monk of Dore, John Didbroke, lived here (as chaplain) in what he termed “the cloister chamber”, until his death in 1570.

Thereafter, the chapel was used for recusant worship continuously until 1679, when (at a time of persecution of Roman Catholics) it was partly demolished by order of the Government. At that time, a priest, Thomas Lloyd, administered the sacred rites here of baptism, marriage and burial.

The chapel was the ancestral burial place of the Croft family (who lived at the grange), and others buried here (perhaps in the early 1700s) included William Pritchard of Plas Ifor, and the children of Robert Andrews of Skenfrith. A Roman Catholic funeral was held here certainly as late as 1728. From 1673 to 1683, one Robert Needham, later of Hilston, occupied the grange house.

On the accession of William and Mary to the throne in 1688, Thomas Croft of Llanfair, twice refused to take the oath of allegiance and fidelity to them; in 1694, he was imprisoned until he found sufficient surety that he would appear at the next General Sessions.

Robert Needham, giving evidence to a Commission of the Exchequer in 1720, described Llanfair Chapel as lying “halfway between the top of the mountain called Severney and Trerhiw Cross”.

Today, the restored Victorian church proudly stands forth near the foot of “greig hill”, while “Trothy flows near it” – to adapt words used of Green-lane cottage by William Jones, ‘Nag’, in his contribution to the 1874 Abergavenny Eisteddfod.

The ruins of the old chapel on the site of the abbey grange have now been protected from the depredations of stock by the construction of a protective fence. Very little remains, but it is possible to see a step where there was once the door at the western end and the bases of door pillars in the southern wall.

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.