Penybont and District History Group Notes 5th March 2018 Meeting Main Topic: Local Gravestones and their Inscriptions – Freda Lacey

On the 5th December 2016 we had had a meeting about severe weather conditions and this meeting was held just after a similar bout of snowy weather to the ones described at that time. Geraint opened by congratulating the many members who made it through the snow to get to the Thomas Shop. It had been a severe period with intense cold followed by very heavy snow. Many members had been unable to make it. The A44 was still closed between Penybont and New Radnor, and many side roads remained impassable. The Mountain Rescue Team had been called out to an elderly woman with dementia living on the back road to Cefn Llys. Geraint said he was glad to see Derek as he had had a phone call from Neil who was worried about Derek disappearing into the Radnor Forest to feed his goats and sheep.

Geraint opened the meeting with a sad message.- Billy and Joy Davies, regular attenders at our meetings, lost their son recently at the age of just 42 years.

Main Topic: Geraint welcomed Freda to talk about the Local Gravestones and their Inscriptions, but asked her first to say something about herself.

Freda has a long term interest in gravestones and local history in general. She reflected on meeting a young man about 8 years ago who came into the Thomas Shop with a skate-board under his arm. He said he was Dutch and that he was ‘trespassing’ around Wales. Sometimes she sees herself as trespassing in Wales. She has now been in Radnorshire for 13 years, but comes originally from Waterford in Ireland where she spent the first 12 years of her life. She has lived in USA, accounting for shades in her accent, and for a time she lived as a bit of a wandering minstrel, living in France and Germany, before settling in Seattle for about 7 years. She feels a connection with Wales as her grand-mother and great grand-mother both came from Cardiff. However she did feel the need to apologise for the Irish rugby victory over Wales just a week ago!

An interest in both History and English underpins her interest in gravestones and epitaphs with their rich poetic links.

Freda wanted to start by thanking Patricia Munroe who had spent a whole afternoon helping Freda and giving of her enormous knowledge. Also she had a great deal of help from Mary and Richard Davies.

What immediately became evident was the huge nature of this task and Freda had to acknowledge that she would only be able to scratch the surface of the subject. She had also been struck by the dilapidated state of many gravestones. This was an issue that she would return to later in her talk.

Freda opened with a slide of a section of the poem by Linda Ellis:

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash.  What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”

“The epitaph, or inscription at a grave or memorial in memory of someone deceased, exists for a variety of reasons and in a multiplicity of forms. While the use of epitaphs predates the modern era, the French thanatologist Philippe Ariès states that “the practice of marking the exact site of a grave by means of an inscription did not become widespread until the end of the eighteenth century” (Ariès 1982, p.78).

Grave markings usually act to provide information about the deceased, to memorialize, and to relay a message to the living. In the twenty-first century most tombstones contain some sort of biographical information about the deceased, including the name of the decedent, the date of birth, and the date of death. In addition to this information, many markers include an inscription in verse or prose upon a marker. There is clearly a memorial aspect contained in some epitaphs.” See:  http://www.deathreference.com/En-Gh/Epitaphs.html#ixzz58pVdjRHD

Freda told us of some famous epitaphs that exemplify the tradition:

Spoke Milligan“I told you I was sick”

George Johnson (taken from a visit by Freda to Tombstone Arizona) – “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882, he was right, we was wrong, we strung him up, and now he’s gone

Herman Harband  1918– “My wife Eleanor Arthur of Queens, N.Y. lived like a princess for 20 years travelling the world with the best of everything. When I went blind she tried to poison me, took all my money and all my medication and left me in the dark. Alone and sick it is a miracle I escaped. I won’t see her in heaven because she is surely going to Hell.”

At this point Freda paused to ask the question of the members:

“What would you want as your epitaph?”

 

The Churches, Chapels, and Graveyards in our area are:

Rock Chapel, Pales, Corn Hill, Llandegley, Penybont, Cefn Llys, and Llanbadarn Fawr

Before going into the graveyards Freda felt it would be useful to examine who was living in the Parishes of Llandegley and Llanbadarn Fawr and this introduced to the group the concept of ‘middling people’ as one of the three classifications used in the census analysis of 1831.

The occupational statistics for Llanbadarn Fawr showed that:

Employers and professional were about 25%

Middling Sorts about 30%

Labourers and servants about 40%

Others about 5%

Whereas in Llandegley:

Employers and professional were about 15%

Middling Sorts about 45%

Labourers and servants about 30%

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O3InwwKnXA

There was an interesting discussion about who these middling sorts might be and why there should be more in Llandegley than in Llanbadarn Fawr. It was generally accepted that the middling sorts were self-employed, self-sufficient, professional people rather than yeomen. It is a term somewhat interchangeable with Middle Class. There is a reference to middling sorts in Wales as:

“When the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland took root from 1800, there was a very real likelihood that Wales would be swallowed up by this Leviathan and would never again emerge in a recognizable form. Once more, however, the Welsh displayed considerable stubbornness and ingenuity in finding a niche within the notion of Britishness. From the mod-eighteenth century onwards the Welsh literati (mostly middling sorts) established a variety of cultural institutions designed to highlight the distinctiveness of Wales and to inspire a new sense of nationality.”

See: A Concise History of Wales; Geraint H. Jenkins – Wither Wales https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sriBkaHhpREC&pg=PA303&lpg=PA303&dq=Middling+sorts+nineteenth+century+Wales&source=bl&ots=N_aMeRCKu4&sig=npeigmbykH-a4phyQZbcsr7UgSE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiug-a02t_ZAhVnKsAKHU7YBYQQ6AEIVTAF#v=onepage&q=Middling%20sorts%20nineteenth%20century%20Wales&f=false

In researching the statistics above a set of figures emerged that are particularly significant in the gravestones of the area. Infant mortality has been on the decline over the years but was very high in this area in times gone by.

Infant deaths in Powys in 1861  were 638; 1881 down to 424; 1891 saw a small rise to 435; 1911 down to 273; 1931 to 121; 1951 to 63; 1961 to 34; 1971 to 22; and in 2011 they were down to 3.

There was some discussion as to whether all child deaths were recorded. Geraint told us about the time the Council negotiated to have a sycamore tree removed from the Llanbadarn Fawr graveyard in order to straighten the road to Llandrindod Wells. Under the tree they found buried hundreds of child sized bones. He had arranged for them to be buried more respectfully, but there is no information about the circumstances of these children and a marker, or gravestone, for these children still does not exist.

Marion said that in times gone by baptisms would be carried out with 24 hours in case the child died.

  1. Rock Chapel

 

Freda’s visit to Rock Chapel in Crossgates highlighted the problem that would be repeated in all of the graveyards. The weathering of the stones has reached a point where the inscriptions have all but disappeared.  Geraint said that this was a serious problem for all of the custodians of graveyards and also that there were serious health and safety issues with stones that could fall on people.

Rock Baptist Chapel was built in 1770 and rebuilt in 1806, 1820 and again in 1867. The present chapel, dated 1867, is built in the Simple Round-Headed style with a gable-entry plan.

One of the Pastors was John Jones known as John the Rock who was instrumental in the development of the Tabernacle in Llandrindod Wells in1876.

Freda was drawn to the Gravestone of a John Bufton who was describes as a gardener in Penybont. She wondered if he was a gardener at Penybont Hall? There was reference on the stone to his wife who was ‘interred’ at Llanyre. Freda wondered if there was a difference between being buried or being interred. She wondered if the person might have been excommunicated? Geraint suggested that that might well fit with John Bufton one of our members present at the meeting.

Geraint said that it was not unusual for inscriptions to include people who were not buried at the site. This was particularly the case for people who died in the 1st World War who were buried in War Graves. An inscription was often put on the gravestone of their parents.

  1. The Pales, Quaker Meeting House, Society of Friends

 

Martin Williams has done a huge amount of work on all aspects of life at the Pales, including documentation of the gravestones. Traditionally gravestones in the Quaker tradition are uniform with the name, date of death, and the age at death. Freda did notice that some licence has been taken more recently with the addition of the name of the farm.

The graveyard is older than the Meeting House. The land was given for the purpose in 1673 at a time when Quakers were deprived of access to the Parish graveyards. The Meeting House followed in 1717.

The earliest burial record so far located is from 1692, that of Roger Hughes, the infant son of Roger and Catherine Hughes, of Llanfihangel Rhydithon. A somewhat tragic story then unfolds:

“The Burial Ground at the Pales is one of the oldest Quaker graveyards in Wales

1717, The Pales was built AFTER the burial ground!

Hughes, Mary

Died: 02/03/1900 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales150 Gravestone: No

Place: Rhayader workhouse

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/06/1696 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales178 Gravestone: Yes

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant. 5th son of Roger Hughes.     From National Archives, Kew

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/05/1692 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales176 Gravestone:

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant,Second son of Roger and Catherine Hughes , senior.    From National Archives, Kew

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/09/1695 Age at Death: 0 Burial ID: pales177 Gravestone: Yes

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant. 4th son of Roger Hughes.”    From National Archives, Kew

For more on the Pales see: http://thepales.org.uk/

 

  • Cornhill Methodist Chapel

 

Cornhill Chapel was built in 1843, in the Vernacular style of the long-wall entry type. It is the most modern of the cluster, but is now a only a ruin, ironically. On the A44 on the edge of the Radnor Forest it had a capacity for 70 people in this remote situation. Attendance does however show regular attendances of anything between 40 and 70 people. It closed in 1949, and 1990 the chapel had become a roofless ruin. The numbers of people relate to a different time and a different way of managing the land. Gwernargllydd Farm was over 2000 acres in the past and employed a large workforce who lived locally.

Simon Roberts who presided over Penybont Chapel also took services at Cornhill,           1857 – 1891.

Responsibility for the Chapel and Graveyard now rests with the Presbyterian Church of Wales (Headquarters in Cardiff). As such the graveyard is closed but they do carry out maintenance on the site a couple of times a year.

Many of the stones that appear in some of the older photographs are no longer on the site. They have probably been removed for safety reasons. The last burial was in 1945.

  1. Church of St Tecla, Llandegley

 

The Gravestones at Llandegley have been fully documented by the Women’s Institute. The folder with all of this invaluable information is however handwritten and therefore vulnerable. Freda highlighted the need to digitalise this information. (A project for someone?)

Freda was somewhat intrigued by descriptions of the village that described it as ‘affluent’, but the church as ‘tolerable’. (The affluence is probably more of a feature of the river than a comment on the wealth of the people!)

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales

(1870-72))

“LLANDEGLEY, a parish in Presteigne district, Radnor; on an affluent of the river Ithon, adjacent to Radnor forest, 3 miles SE of Penybont r. station, and 7 WNW of New Radnor. It contains the townships of Swydd, Graig, and Tynlan, and part of the township of Llanvihangel-Nantmellan; and its Post town is Penybont, Radnorshire. Acres, exclusive of the Llanvihangel portion, 3,729. Real property, not separately returned. Pop., 382. Houses, 70. The property is much subdivided. A strong sulphureous spring is here, and has many summer visitors for using its waters both internally and eternally; and an inn is adjacent. A remarkable range of rocks, rich in quartz crystals, is near the churchyard. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St. David’s. Valne, £1 22. * Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church is tolerable. There are a free school with £22 a year, and charities £11.

Acres, exclusive of the Llanvihangel portion, 3,729. Real property, not separately returned. Pop., 382. Houses, 70. The property is much subdivided. A strong sulphureous spring is here, and has many summer visitors for using its waters both internally and eternally; and an inn is adjacent. A remarkable range of rocks, rich in quartz crystals, is near the churchyard. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St. David’s. Valne, £1 22. * Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church is tolerable….”

For further information on the village see:

http://www.cpat.demon.co.uk/projects/longer/churches/radnor/16829.htm

Inside the church see was surprised to find that there were no plaques with inscriptions. She did however note the stained glass window with a dedication to Emily Whitehead who had given her time and money in supporting the poor of the Parish. The window itself depicts Elizabeth of Hungary who was canonised in 1225 for her charitable work, building a hospital and serving the sick.

“Elizabeth is perhaps best known for her miracle of the roses which says that whilst she was taking bread to the poor in secret, she met her husband Ludwig on a hunting party, who, in order to quell suspicions of the gentry that she was stealing treasure from the castle, asked her to reveal what was hidden under her cloak. In that moment, her cloak fell open and a vision of white and red roses could be seen, which proved to Ludwig that God’s protecting hand was at work.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_of_Hungary#Miracle_of_the_Roses

Freda made reference to Dr Evans who was associated with Llandrindod Hospital in the late19th century and is buried in Llandegley. Refer to our own Notes of September 2014 when Rosemary Hughes gives more details of Dr Evans and the beginnings of formal medical practice in the area. https://penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/2014/09/

There are a number of fine tombs in the Llandegley graveyard and this led to a discussion about the health and safely factors for these heavy stone pieces. Geraint mentioned having children crawling around alter stones which are hollow and can easily be knocked down accidently.

Richard remembered being involved in lowering a gravestone with others. The only way to get it to the ground safely was to count to 3 and jump back letting the stone fall.

The church was rebuilt in 1876 on the old foundations by S.W. Williams of Rhayader, who also rebuilt the screen, removing the singers’ gallery, and re-roofed the whole structure. It is generally thought that he added a chancel at this time although the church guide implies that there was a predecessor.  Following its collapse in 1947, the tower was rebuilt in 1953 using stone from Llwynbarried Hall, Nantmel.

Monuments: churchyard is densely packed with graves to the south of the porch and north of the church, but sparser to the east of the chancel. A couple of late 18thC (1796) tombstones lie between large yews on the southern boundary and one or two others are sited near the porch, but the majority of gravestones appear to be 19thC and many have flaking faces. There are numerous chest tombs with finely carved designs.

  1. Michael’s Church, Cefn Llys

 

The remote church of St Michael at Cefnllys, a little more than 2km to the east of Llandrindod Wells, is basically a medieval structure that has witnessed substantial post-medieval restoration. The 15thC screen is arguably its most interesting feature, while the font, piscina and aumbry can also be attributed to pre-Reformation times.

A piscina is a shallow basin placed near the altar of a church, or else in the vestry or sacristy, used for washing the communion vessels.

An ambry (or almery, aumbry; from the medieval form almarium, cf. Lat. armārium, “a place for keeping tools”; cf. O. Fr. aumoire and mod. armoire) is a recessed cabinet in the wall of a Christian church for storing sacred vessels and vestments.

After the Reformation and the Tridentine reforms, in the Roman Catholic Church the sacrament was no longer reserved in ambries; some ambries were used to house the oil for the Anointing of the Sick.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piscina   and

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambry

 

Freda was struck by the many different spellings she found associated with Cefn Llys and also that it was misplaced on many of the old maps. Geraint said that because of the bends in the river map makers often put it on the wrong side of the river.

Elements of church are believed to date to the 13th Century, primarily the outline plan and lower courses of some walls, including perhaps the tower base; the round-headed south doorway looks early and could well be of this date, though conceivably it could be 17th Century.

Freda found the following interesting inscription by Mr. Middleton James …who resided at “The Court, Penybont”  who wrote a curious epitaph (taken from Patricia’s book)…inscribed on a tomb in Cefnllys Churchyard, but it was erased by someone in later years.  It ran thus:

“As I was passing by one day

And came to this burial ground

I found the pales all torn away

And the wall all tumbling down

Say I to myself, my ancestor’s dear

Whom I have never seen but

Who I know lie prostrate here;

These pales I will raise

And these stones I will uprear

And long may they continue

to be kept in repair.

 

Why it was written, and why it was erased raise some interesting questions for which we may never know the answers.

Some reconstruction work was carried out in 16th Century, including construction of porch and by analogy, the priest’s door.

More drastic rebuilding was undertaken at the end of the 19th Century. This work included rebuilding walls including much of tower

  1. Penybont Chapel and Graveyard

 

For details on the Chapel see our Notes 2nd March 2015 when Mary Davies talked about the Chapel in some detail.

https://wordpress.com/post/penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/73

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Penybont like this:

PENYBONT, a village in Llanbadarn-fawr parish, Radnor; on the river Ithon, and on the Knighton and Central Wales railway, 7 miles W N W of New Radnor. It has a station on the railway, a post-office under Rhayader, an inn, a suspension bridge, a Calvinistic Methodist chapel, and fairs on 12 May, 27 Sept., and 26 Oct. P. Hall is the seat of J.Severn, Esq.

Mary told us about Captain Robert Millar whose bravery led to a change in the law. He was, at the age of 38, Captain of the Canadian Star, a Blue Line ship that was torpedoed in a U-boat battle, and sunk in 1943. Robert stayed on board until all of the crew had been rescued and lost his life in the process. So many Captains were risking their lives by staying on board their vessel that the experience of Captain Robert Millar led to Parliament softening the requirement for the Captain to be the last person on deck. His death is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, and on his parents gravestone in Penybont.  Robert had been married in Swansea and his son lived in Windyridge in Penybont.

The circumstances of Robert’s death triggered the memory of Mary’s mother’s cousin, Tudor Thomas, who was also lost at sea when for the second time, during the 2nd World War, he was in a vessel lost at sea. Tudor is mentioned on his parents gravestone.

Another 2nd World War death was Lance Corporal William Cox who was a cook. He died in 1944 and was buried in Germany. His wife Violet May, who he married in 1940, was buried in Penybont graveyard in 2003.

Mary then told us about the Canadian son of Mrs. Presley from Aylesbury who had come to the village to see if he could find any details about what happened to his mother. Mrs. Presley was evacuated to Penybont but died within a month of arriving in the village. Steve, the local Registrar, was able to look up his records and found that she had died of a brain haemorrhage.  It is thought that she was buried in an unmarked grave near the entrance to the graveyard. The area is full of snowdrops and daffodils so she has flowers every year.

Another visitor to the village, this time from Blushing Eagle, Tucson, Arizona, found his relatives gravestone and, poignantly, there was reference to 4 children who had been buried. His relative, Simon Roberts, had been a preacher in Penybont and had lived at the Manse.

Without grave inscriptions and indeed legible gravestones and a knowledge of who is buried where, people who have that lived history and/or knowledge, graveyards and their rich knowledge of who lived in the area, will be lost to the generations to come.

  • Parish Church of St. Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr

 

For details on the history of the Church see:

http://www.cpat.demon.co.uk/projects/longer/churches/radnor/16810.htm

There is an excellent article about the Romanesque Archway at:

https://rwromanesque.co.uk/pdf-2018/LLANBADARN%20FAWR%20paper%2022%20-%20Copy.pdf

The doorway is described within the Church:

“The present church was constructed in1878–79 on the site of what seems to  have been a simple medieval church of nave and continuous chancel. Reused fabric can be seen in the walls around the lower parts of the doorway, and may exist elsewhere: no stones of the pre-existing British church have been identified. A Roman centurial stone found during demolition in1878, now reset in the west wall ofthe  po rch   inside, may have been brought here from a Roman building in medieval times. At near by Capel Maelog, stone from the Roman site at Castell Collen is thought to have been reused for the medieval church: Llanbadarn itself is less than three miles from Castell Collen. The elaborate doorway is thus almost the only recognisable remnant of an entire twelfth-century church on this site. Its  sculptured tympanum is  one of only two that survive from this  period in Wales. The main part of  the tympanum is in a light pinkish sandstone whereas the capitals are yellowish: these were both sourced from the Old Red Sandstone”.

Within this document is the following interesting episode featuring Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales)

“With reference to the pattern  of  ecclesiastical control, Gerald of Wales, who became archdeacon of Brecon in the mid-1170s records a particularly illuminating incident. Shortly after his appointment, perhaps seeking to establish his authority, he journeyed through Elfael and Maelienydd to Llanbadarn, ‘where he had resolved to hold a chapter’. He   had, however, been warned, on behalf of the dean and chapter of the   region, that he ought not to visit their churches in person. Instead he  should take care to act ‘in accordance with the custom of his predecessors, namely through his messengers and officers, and above all through the dean, of whom they spoke amongst themselves as their archdeacon’. He was also told that an ancient feud between his family and ‘certain nobles of those parts’ had been remembered, and that an  ambush was being prepared for him. The story of feud was dismissed by  Gerald, who believed that it had been ‘devised by the cunning motive of  those clerks who feared his coming’.

As they approached Llanbadarn, Gerald and his party were indeed attacked, and he was obliged to seek Refuge in the   church. He was able to get a message to the ruler of  Maelienydd, Cadwallon ap Madog ab Idnrth, and this resulted in the retreat of his attackers, where upon six or seven clerks ‘who after the Welsh fashion shared the church between  them’ submitted to his authority. It is probable therefore that Llanbadarn was a clas, in which members of a community of clergy—and  sometimes laymen—had hereditary shares in  the revenues of their church. Certainly Llanbadarn’s significance is indicated by Gerald’s decision to hold a ‘chapter’ there. It is particularly noteworthy that the   clergy of Llanbadarn, in common with others in Elfael and Maelienydd—places referred to by Gerald as ‘certain remote parts on the borders of  his archdeaconry’—were apparently traditionally hostile to the interference in their affairs of representatives of (Anglo-Norman) episcopal authority.”

.Freda opened with an aerial photograph of the wailed enclosure around the Church and the graveyard. It showed clearly the yew trees and the straightened wall that Geriant had referred to in relation to finding the children’s bones, see above.

John Marius Wilson 1870 -72 wrote of Llanbadarn Fawr:

“LLANBADARN-FAWR, a parish in Rhayader district, Radnor; on the river Ithon, 7 miles NE of Newbridge-on-Wye r. station, and 8½ WNW of New Radnor. It is divided into the townships of Brinhyfedd and Cellws; and it contains the village of Penybont, which has a postoffice designated Penybont, Radnorshire. Acres, 3,646. Real property, £2,708. Pop., 475. Houses, 79. The property is much subdivided. Penybont Hall is the seat of J.Severn, Esq. The living is a rectory in the diocese of St. David’s. Value, £268. Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church has a S doorway of seemingly very early Norman work, with some curious carving in the tympanum; and is in good condition.”

http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/descriptions/736280

It is thought that a church existed on this site from early medieval times but dates do not become certain until about 1176 when the visit of Giraldus Cambrensis, as above, gives some certainly to its importance. The Church was described in 1818 by Williams as having a small edifice and a single aisle. The Victorian Church that we see today was rebuilt in 1876 by Stephen Williams of Rhayader. A modern Font was designed for the new church and the Norman Font was relegated to the graveyard, but this decision was reversed when the quality of the Norman Font was more appreciated. The Font Cover dates from 1678.

Freda told about an inscription for a John Thomas, a draper, who worked at the Thomas Shop. Mary said that he was a good Chapel man but he died before the graveyard had been established in Penybont, and so was buried in Llanbadarn Fawr graveyard.

There are now over 100 gravestones at Llanbadarn Fawr.

Another grave connected with Penybont was for a Thomas Daviesd who had been Head a Gamekeeper for J.P. Severn, living in Llwyhir Cottage.  He had been a gamekeeper for Mr. Severn for 63 years and his gravestone has been put up by Mr. Severn in his memory. . He died on 17th July,in 1903, aged 83  and his wife who was also interred in this grave died in 13th March, 1910, aged 87. Popular at that time were religious inscriptions – “ Prepare to meet thy God” and “Thy will be done”.

Patricia Munroe who helped Freda in preparing for this talk has hand recorded all of the inscriptions on the gravestones. Again this hand written record needs to be digitalised for posterity.

There are some beautiful poetic inscriptions on graves in the graveyard, one example Freda read, “A loving father, a tender mother too, our faithful friends they both lie mouldering here, our loss was great, we did sustain, but hope that Christ has made our loss, his gain”…

1864 featured a number of tragic deaths, these were all linked to the making of the railway line. These also included young children – Betsy Ann Hill died 20th January 1864, aged 7 months. This could reflect the conditions that the railwaymen and their families had to endure in our bleak winters.  Other deaths recorded were: 27 April, John Symmons, Railway worker, aged 30, 24 May, Thomas Sharrock, Navvy, aged 48, 13 July, Alice Blackman, Railway hut, 1 month, 20th July Railway hut, aged 22, 22 July, Thomas Brassey, Railway hut, aged 50, 6th July, and in 1865, 3 February, Thomas Smith, Railway hut, aged 22 years.

Inside the Church there is a plaque to Elinor Evans who died at the age of 41 years, likely from childbirth fever  in 1809. She had five children all of whom died very youngin their infancy and/or who didn’t live past 2 years of age. Almost in an attempt to defy this, one of the children was called ‘Fortunatae’. She only survived a few days.  Elinor died two days before her daughter, Fortunata was Christened.  The plaque/description in the Church (almost opposite where the baptismal font is), describes in detail the particulars of these tragic deaths.  However, it was only in matching this information with the Church register of deaths and baptisms, that some errors became evident in the dates.  Whilst gravestone inscriptions are important records of dates and information, masons (or inscibers) sometimes did not have the skill at reading and may have made mistakes sometimes, their craft was in masonry, not inscription writing.

Geraint mentioned the Severn Family vault which is in the Churchyard. If you wanted to visit it you would go down some steps and enter a sizable room. Freda mentioned that she had not focused on the Severns, or any of the other landed gentry in the area in terms of gravestone inscriptions as there was significant information or research done on these people already.

Reference was made to the imagery of farmers digging out sheep in the snow. In 1767 an incident occurred that still haunts people in the area when 2 brothers and a cousin from Dolau went off into the snow to find their sheep and all three died in the snow.

Elizabeth talked about a hugely successful school project that had taken place in the Vale of Evesham when children took on research in terms of gravestones and inscriptions. The children had gained so much from graves that went back to 1693.

One inscription had this memorable saying:

“Repent ye now

For as I am

You shall surely be”

 

Freda finished her talk by encouraging people to visit and take an interest in gravestones. Geraint echoed Freda’s sentiment and encouraged members  more generally to take on research and be prepared to bring findings to our sessions.

Richard talked about the concern over the future of the Graveyard in Penybont. A working group has recently been set up to try to raise the funds and help in the management. 21 people have so far expressed interest.

Mary mentioned that in the past hay was made from cutting the graveyard and the hay went to feed Tom Price’s donkey!

Thanks was expressed to Jenifer, who was not present, and the work of the Family History Group  for the work they have done in recording gravestone inscriptions.

Marion worried about lowering the tone of the occasion with a nice inscription to Ken Lloyd:

“Here lies a lover of sleep”

Concern was raised over the Victorian gravestones that are all disintegrating. Geraint said the only thing to do with the best of them is to bring them inside the church. Geraint had got some brownie points for doing just that.

There are very few gravestones with the inscriptions in Welsh. We believe there are only 2 in Radnorshire, both are recorded by WH Howse, Radnorshire (page 303) as being in Rhayader. Freda mentioned that a colleague of hers, who is a passionate Welsh speaker and nationalist, had mentioned to her that some of the poetry or inscriptions on Welsh graves was almost impossible to truly appreciate as the poetic content would be lost in translation.

Geraint thanked Freda for an excellent talk.

Next month Andrew is going to give a talk on Burton House. The meeting is on the second Monday in April – 9th.

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