Penybont Local History Group Notes 1st February 2016 Local Churches and their Stained Glass Robert Bevan

Geraint welcomed another packed house to this the first session ot the New Year.
Jennifer was invited to advertise an event on the 18th February 2016 when Lloyd Lewis will give a talk on the Influence of Quakers emigrating from Radnorshire on the development of USA.
Marion then gave an update on an event to take place at 7.00 p.m. in New Radnor on 6th April 2016. This will be led by a Professor of Islamic Studies who will give a talk on Islamic Culture.
Geraint then told us the sad news of Marion’s loss. Her son has died aged just 43 years.
Main Topic: Geraint introduced Robert Bevan who is very well known to him as he served as a Church Warden during the time Geraint was at Holy Trinity.
Robert was very grateful for all the efforts that had gone into getting his presentation to work, and they were considerable, as he has a reputation for potentially being explosive around technology. He made a disclaimer that the photos he would be using were definitely not his, another dangerous area of technology, but they were taken by his wife.
Like the best of speakers Robert acknowledged that he intended to go off piece and he would in addition to covering stained glass also talk a bit about the stonework and woodwork , and what could be learned from each of these aspects of church design.
Introduction:
John Betjeman described himself as the doyenne of ‘church crawlers’. Robert sees himself as following in this great tradition. “There is no greater pleasure.” You meet many interesting people who harbour a great deal of invaluable information, and then of course there are the Rectors, not all of whom were complimentary. Robert remembers visiting a Church in Worcestershire. He asked the almost inevitable question: Do you get many visitors? The short reply came like a bullet out of a gun: Yes, but we shoot them on sight! Some people have a general interest in churches while others delve into single features. For example the prominence of towers draw people in to study this particular feature, but then some are drawn in by particular types of tower. The study of round tower churches has it’s own society.
Keeping close to his brief, Robert thought he would start with a local church – just down the road in Norfolk! You can see the many flint stone towers in Norfolk that show how some churches developed styles that were dictated by the materials available. Flint was difficult to shape for sharp corners so it was more natural to build round towers: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norfolkround.htm
Some of the cruciform churches, churches built in the shape of the cross, have their towers in the centre. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2086086
Both Yarpole and Pembridge, more locally, are examples of Church towers that are detached: http://places.wishful-thinking.org.uk/HEF/Yarpole/StLeonard.html and https://www.flickr.com/photos/peamasher/18623251249
Many churches were of medieval origin but were built within the precincts of more ancient Holy Ground. The Churchyard and Llandefalle is such a church. There is evidence of a pre-Norman round churchyard where the Holy Men or Monks would come together for meetings and worship. http://www.cpat.org.uk/ycom/breck/llandefalle.pdf
A very special church in Herefordshire is St Margaret’s with its extraordinary tower that resembles a hen-coop. http://www.visitherefordshirechurches.co.uk/st-margarets-st-margarets/
By way of an introduction to Church Glass, but finishing this section on towers is one of our own churches, Old Radnor, albeit it is in the Diocese of Hereford. There are so many treasures inside this church, the font, the glass, the organ case which is reputed to be the oldest in Britain. http://www.cpat.org.uk/ycom/radnor/oldradnor.pdf
i. Church Glass
Clear Glass
Radnorshire has never been a wealthy county and as such the funds available to embellish churches often meant that instead of commissioning stained glass they very often ‘made do’ with clear glass. WH Howse, our local chronicler expressed his particular preference for this ’radiant and unstained’ glass. Robert himself found many of these windows ‘agreeably clear’.
Sir Donald Sinden, the Actor, who also carried an interest in churches described himself as not being aa devotee of these coloured windows and went on to say that with regard to stained glass windows he was ‘colour-blind’.
Churches that are good examples of clear glass include:
Cwmdu: http://www.cwmdu-music.btck.co.uk/ ;
St Faith’s Church, Berrow, Worcestershire: http://churchdb.gukutils.org.uk/WOR15.php ;
Llanbister: http://www.cpat.demon.co.uk/projects/longer/churches/radnor/16816.htm These three churches are all examples of glass that dates back to 12th and 13th century.
Llanfiangel Helygen Church has glass from a little later in the 13th to 14th century: http://www.cpat.demon.co.uk/projects/longer/churches/radnor/16853.htm
There is a fine example of clear glass from 12th to 13th century in Bredwardine Church: http://greatenglishchurches.co.uk/html/bredwardine.html
Coloured or Stained Glass
When thinking about the introduction of stained glass into churches it is important to remember that churches before the Reformation were generally covered in decoration. The Reformation from about 1530 was a period of great destruction and aa second wave, during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, carried this a stage further. The decoration in the churches was removed and a lot of the sculptures attached to churches were also destroyed. Many widows were also torn out. Some were remade years later and some built out of the broken glass that had been ripped out.
One of the windows in Old Radnor Church, St Stephen’s, with glass dating back to the medieval period includes a ‘black figure’ and the rose emblem of the House of York. This would date put the glass as being from the reign of Edward 1V. This particular window in this church is the only medieval window left and it may have been repositioned in the Victorian era.
Llandefalle Church has a window that has been reassembled from its medieval glass. It was thanks to Geraint’s father, who had been Rector of the Parish, that this window has been restored and preserved.
Madley Church in Herefordshire has some outstanding stained glass. http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/Madley/Ew-Frame.htm
One of the windows in Banningham Church in Norfolk has an example of medieval humour, we will see more of this humour later when we look at carvings and sculpture.
Churches saw a great revival in the Victorian era. The country was prosperous and there was money available to commission new windows. A number of artistic schools sprang up that were specifically dedicated to stained glass windows.
A good example can be found in the church at Old Radnor. The East window or St Stephens Window and this like many windows is quite elaborate. The problem for stained glass artist is that their canvas is broken up in to small sections. This window, made in the Hardman School 1882 works very well in depicting scenes from the life of Christ. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/306985/images/ST+STEPHEN’S+CHURCH,+OLD+RADNOR/?&sort_typ=description&sort_ord=1&show=all
Buguildy Church has some good examples of 20th century stained glass windows by Celtic Studios in Swansea. There are three pieces with the middle as as Christ the Light of the World. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beguildy
Beulah Church of the Lamb of God has a number of excellent windows that were commissioned in the 20th century, a triple by Clayton and Bell, windows by a range of studios. http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/site/8 One of them was by Kemp from Newbridge who always marked his windows with a sheaf of corn.
Aberedw Church of St Cewydd has some good quality glass showing Christ with Simon: http://www.websites.welshhome.net/sidonbuilth/aberedw.htm St Cewydd is the Patron Saint of water.
All Saints Church Cwmbach, Glasbury has some very good glass depicting St George: http://www.jlb2011.co.uk/walespic/churches/glasbury3.htm
St Michael & All Angels, Lyonshall has some narrow slit windows that are stained very effectively. They were a contrast to some very beautiful narrow slit windows seen earlier in clear glass. http://lyonshall.net/nfHome.asp?Section=The%20Church&ButtonPressed=Sadmin7068
Church of St Mary, Abbey-cwm-hir, Powys has very high quality stained glass and is an example of how in a poor parish the patronage of a wealthy family impacted on the church. The Phillips family invested heavily in this church: http://stainedglass.llgc.org.uk/site/125
Holy Trinity Church has windows that were designed by Celtic Studios – one is of the Nativity and another of the Assentation – both Robert referred to as being sensitive in their use of colour. http://www.jlb2011.co.uk/walespic/churches/llandrindod1.htm
ii. Stone
Having talked about the periods of destruction that hit the churches during the Reformation and Oliver Cromwell period, Robert told us that there were three main periods when churches were built or indeed rebuilt. The Norman’s were responsible for the first of these in the late 11th and early 12th century. This was followed by ‘grand’ period of development from the 13th to the 15th century and referred to as the Perpendicular (Gothic) Period of architectural heritage that was characterised by slimmer stone mullions and allowed for more scope for stained glass windows.
The third period was the Victorian period which has meant that so many churches have survived. Some restoration during this time was sensitive but some was not.
In dating churches it is wise to be careful as one can easily be misled. Bredwardine Church has sometimes been referred to as having older Saxon origins but this may not be the case as the herring bone features, that are associated with a Saxon style, were taken on board by the Romans, or indeed they employed Saxon craftsmen. Tufa stone was used for the quoins and doorways. http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/site/252/
There is a spectacular multi-shafted west doorway in St German’s Priory in Cornwall. The decoration on the top rim of the doorway as a zig-zag pattern is very typical of Norman design: http://greatenglishchurches.co.uk/html/st_germans.html
The Priory Church of St Mary in Chepstow has a West Door that has similar 12th century Norman features that include the zig-zag pattern: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary’s_Church,_Chepstow the side arches remain but the sculptured figures are no longer present.
In the Church of the Lamb of God in Beulah there is a ‘modern’ font of 1878 but beside it is an ancient font that was found in the Rectory Garden where it had been used as a garden pot. http://imagingthebible.llgc.org.uk/site/8 Unfortunately this photo only show the Victorian version.
Old Radnor Font was roughly hewn out of a glacial erratic boulder possibly as early as the 8th century. It has been in continuous use from early times: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=a312&file=index&do=showpic&pid=42744
Beguildy Church has a Holy Water stoup of the 14th/15th Century, an early 15th century candle holder. Featyres are recorded at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beguildy
Robert referred to a grotesque carving on the church at Avebury as a good example of how the stone masons of antiquity enjoyed themselves. While I could not find an image of the one he showed from Avebury examples can be seen from around the world at: http://www.aspiremetro.com/2014/02/11/11-gargoyles-you-wont-believe-actually-exist/ or https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=grotesque+stone+church+carvings+pOWYS+carving&biw=1440&bih=766&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwja0qmTvuvKAhUGCBoKHRPPDysQ_AUIBigB
This was by way of introduction to Kilpeck Church, http://kilpeckchurch.org.uk/ , which Robert described as a Romanesque Church of national importance. Dating from about 1150 AD there is Saxon evidence of a site that was active by the mid-7th Century or earlier. Water plays an important The influences on this Church however are much more generic and within the stone carvings on the pillars of the South Door there is evidence of Norman, Viking, Celtic, Saxon and Middle Eastern cultures. The ouroboros ancient symbol of regeneration with the snake or serpent eating its own tail is featured along with many other contemporary and pre-Christian symbols including: green man; dog and rabbit; fiddler The official site, as above has within it an you off the necessity to see this Church for yourself.
iii. Wood Features and Carvings
The south porch of St. Andrews Church in Bredwardine is a 14th century wooden feature: http://www.bredwardine-brobury.org.uk/pages/church.htm
Berrow has a very fine Chancel door with iron work: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4634905
Buguildy Church has an ancient chest (13th century) that has 2 metal locks. This is unusual as thee would normally be 3. The keys would be held by the Rector and the two Church Wardens. All three would have to be present to gain access to the valuables within. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Beguildy+Church+chest&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_27XvhfzKAhWLWxQKHaL2DG4Q_AUICCgC&biw=1920&bih=946#imgrc=qJNnats92WbMoM%3A
Robert then turned his attention to the roof structures which are such a feature of so many churches. He chose llanfihangel helygen church to illustrate: http://www.stayinwales.co.uk/wales_picture.cfm?p=3177 This arched roof structure with collar beams owes a lot to a former curate who was responsible fo preserving and restoring the roof.
Robert however wanted to draw our attention to the church rood screens which are the most embellished feature of pre-reformation churches. Unfortunately, as with the stone carvings, many were destroyed during the reformation.
Buguildy is again a good place to start as it has a lovely screen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beguildy#/media/File:Beguildy_Church,_Radnorshire_01.JPG This screen has a mixture of the 2 schools that were making screens locally – the Welsh School and the School of Hereford and Gloucester. The mainbeam is original but other parts have been restored.
A particular favourite of Robert’s, and also John Betjeman is St Margaret’s near Abbeydore. Robert warned would be visitors that it very difficult to find, so go well prepared. The rood screen is of white wood with white decorations. http://www.visitherefordshirechurches.co.uk/st-margarets-st-margarets/
Rood screens gave protection to the choir, a sense of mystery to the crucifixion, and the miracle of transubstantiation. They started as Beams that were embellished, and often they had a loft for a minstrel gallery added later.
Locally the Church at Llananno: http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/llananno-rood/llananno-rood.htm is a very fine example.It was made by the Newtown School of Architecture. Most is original and shows Christ in the centre with the Apostles on one side and Patriarchs on the other side.
Robert finished his excellent talk by encouraging us all to visit churches locally and further afield. He recommended the Pevsner Library books as a must have Architectural guide to Churches. He also recommended the essential equipment you might need – a torch and an ordinance survey map. The challenge is to visit all 16000 of the churches in England and Wales.
Geraint thanked Robert for his excellent talk and reminded members that the next meeting would be an Open Meeting in the Village Hall at 7.00 p.m. on 15th February 2016 when he would be showing photographs of the area showing how the villages have changed over time – Changing Places. The next meeting at the Thomas Shop will be on Monday 7th March 2016 when Liz Watkins will give a talk on ‘The History of the WI’.

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