Sunday, November 2, 2008

St Mary's Under the Wood -LLANFAIR DISCOED

"LLANVAIR-DISCOED, a parish in the upper division of the hundred of Caldicot, county Monmouth, 5 miles S.W. of Chepstow, its nearest town. It is situated near the forest of Wentwood, and on the road to Usk. The parish includes the hamlet of Dinham, and the remains of Dinham Castle, now a ruin overgrown with wood.The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as 'Lamecare'. The name means Mary's (Mair > Fair) church (llan) under (is) the wood (coed). The 'd' at the start of Discoed only appears in more recent versions of the name. The correct Welsh language name is Llanfair Is Coed or Llanfair-iscoed. The wood probably refers to Wentwood.

Llanfair Castle

The village contains a small ruined castle, believed to have been built by the FitzPayn family, as lords of Llanvair Discoed, in the 13th centuryLlanvair Discoed Castle - ST44579241

In the grounds of a house above the church are the overgrown fragments of a castle probably built by Sir Ralph Monthermer in the second half of the 13th century, on the site perhaps used in the 12th century by Marcher Baron Payn Fitz John.

Both the first earls of Hereford and Payn Fitz John had a great deal of wealth and ruled Gwent at a time when the stable rule of the Normans in Wales seemed inevitable.

The ancient castle, appears to have been erected in the earlier part of the 13th century by the noble family of Fitz-Pain, possibly on the site of an older building : the castle was subsequently held by the De Monthermers, and passed from them by marriage to the Montacutes, and afterwards descended to the noble families of Nevile and Pole.

Lady Margaret Pole, widow of Sir Richard Pole

This was the mother of the Blessed Reginald, Cardinal Pole, who had tried with as much diplomacy as possible at such a time, to restore the Catholic hierarchy under Mary I in the face of a noble families grown fat on the lands stolen from the church, and anxious about it ever regaining a foothold in Britain.

The castle was seized by Edward VI and the Protestant supporters of the crown who executed the aged Lady Margaret, wife of Sir Richard Pole,simply for being a Catholic as well as her Plantagenet birth
in 1541, and was sold to Edward Woodward in 1610.

Rhys Kemys

Having reverted to the Crown in the time of James I, the castle was granted in 1610 to Thomas Woodward, who conveyed it to Rhys Kemeys, ancestor of the present owner, Capt. Kemeys-Tynte. Two large round towers, some part of the keep and a small portion of the curtain walls remain.

A Manorial Church

The Church, therefore is a manorial church. The churchyard is square and not a llan.No doubt the numbers went down during the plague. The present church is a simple church with a tower. There is a porch at the side, very ancient with a small windhole.

On the other side of the interior of the porch is a humorous slab telling the reader that if they don't come to church on Sunday that the Devil will have you on Monday.

Inside the Church today

The church s delightful and looks renovated inside, carpeted and very much like a warm room and a Charles rennie Mackingtosh style stained glass window. As a manorial church (the castle would also have had an oratory) but the frisson of excitement is that Lady Margaret Pole would certainly have attended Mass here.She was the last surviving member of the House of Plantagenet.

Martyered: imprisoned in the Tower for two years and then beheaded "by a clumsy novice" 1541 at East Smithfield Green, EnglandBeatified 1886 by Pope Leo XIII

Commemorated May 28

The Story of Blessed Margaret Pole

After her husband's death and that of her brother, Lady Margaret was allowed to receive her husbands estate and became Countess of Salisbury.

There has always been a Catholic Mission at Havant. However, it is only through the dark days of penal times that the story of Havant's Catholic Community starts to come to life. Our story begins with the stubborn refusal of the people in this small corner of Hampshire to give up the old faith with the onset of the Reformation. The Reformation was in its infancy; before the minority of extreme Protestants had seized upon Henry VIII's split with Rome to sweep the church in England into a path that was to take it further away from the old beliefs and practices than Henry had ever wished or intended.

Warblington was a castle within sight of the sea, less than a mile from the centre of Havant.

In 1514 the Manor of Warblington passed into the hands of Margaret Pole who had been granted the title of Countess of Salisbury and permitted to succeed to her brother, Edward Earl of Warwick's estates in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Essex.

Margaret Pole was the last of the surviving members of the Royal House of Plantagenet and, as such, dangerously close to the throne ofEngland. Her father, the Duke of Clarence, had been murdered by his brother Edward IV and her brother had been put to death by Henry VII, probably because King Ferdinand of Spain had refused his daughter, Catherine of Aragon, to marry the Prince of Wales while this Plantagenet Prince lived to challenge the Tudor title to the throne. Margaret was Lady in Waiting to Catherine of Aragon and accompanied her into exile and staunchly supported the cast off queen. Margaret, in common with Cardinal Fisher, and St Thomas More refused to agree to the King taking over from the Pope as Head of the Church in England, because he wanted to marry his mistress. Margaret at the age of 68 was arrested, taken to the tower and 'questioned' After two years she was taken out and executed, at the age of 70 sadly ofr her, "by a clumsy novice" in 1541 at East Smithfield Green, England. She was beatified 1886 by Pope Leo XIII and Commemorated May 28th.Since she was 70 years of age, it wcould only have been spite and hatred which had this old lady executed, because no crime or treason, apart from having letters form the Pope in her castle could ever been attributed to her.

Regnald, Cardinal Pole

Her son, Reginald, Cardinal Pole, often in Rome returned when Mary I came to the throne. He and the Pope warned Mary to go carefully as the public were on her side. The nobles who had grown rich on church lands and the priests who had married were not so happy, but in face, only a handful of bishops including Cranmer, who had a big hand in her mother's depostion and performed the marriage and coronation of Anne Boleyn had to go. Unwisely, she made a Spanish match which was unhappy and broke her heart. When she died, Reginald did not survive long either, the Protestant faction at court deciding he had to go quickly during the regent's rule following her death. Reginald Pole was the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.

Llanfair Castle was seized by the throne following the persecution and executions and sold to the ancestor of the present owner, himself a descendednt of the old Norman Kemys Family. Whilst Reginald was born at Stourton Castle in Staffordshire, his mother's Margaret's childhood home, but no doubt spent much of his childhood in the woods around Llanfair his father's manor and probably attended Mass here at Llanfair and may have even been Christened in the font here, but there is no firm evidence of this. No doubt Margaret too spent some happy days here as a young woman and mother and it is fun to think of them all at Christmas Mass here before the shadows fell across the land.

The church is delightful, and very cosy. The village is small golden and off the beaten path from the A40 from Chepstow to Langstone.

It was certainly worth a visit, especially because of the magnificent Yew tree in the churchyard.

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