Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BRYNGWYN, An ancient Church on a White Hill and Cistercian Grange

< St Peter as Pope in Bryngwyn Church

Ancient Welsh Studies.co.uk points to two men of Gwent, the first born c. 1045 and the father of Sir Gwyn, and secondly, the father of Aeddan who was born around 1135 and AEDDAN ap Gwaethfod a King of Gwaethfod . These Gwaethfods lived originally in Tegeingl and identify the earliest Gwaethfoed of Gwent as "ap Gwyn ap Glyddien (Cloddien) ap Gwybedydd ap Gwrydr Hir ap Caradog ap Lles Llyddog “ and believe he (or an intermediate ancestor) took up residence on the family's paternal lands in south Powys when other branches of the family remained in Tegeingl. This is not quite the story given by Sir Joseph Bradney,of a marauding Cardiganshire raider but fits in better with the family history.

They  give the possibility that when his lands were overrun by Normans and incorporated into Shropshire, That KingGwaethfoed moved south looking for new lands.He appealed, the Ancient Welsh Studies site say, on  entering the north of Upper Gwent , to King Ynyr ap Cadwgan, and was given Merwydd ferch Ynyr as wife and lands where White Castle was later built. 

It is even possible Gwaethfoed came to Gwent as an invader/squatter and avoided armed conflict with its king by agreeing to marry Ynyr's daughter. Ynyr is dated  to c. 1030 and Merwydd to c. 1060 .The Theory that Merwydd married a Gwaithfoed of Gwent seems more reasonable, both as to geography and chronology.  His only known son is called Sir Gwyn, born c. 1075, builder of Gwyn's Castle now known as ‘White Castle’ (white also being the translation of ‘Gwyn’. )

So much for the genealogy of Gwyn. About the year 1100, Sir Drew de Baladon (or Balun) invaded upper Gwent as a retainer of the Marcher Lord Roger fitz William fitz Osbern. Ynyr and Gwaithfoed,confronted them but it apppears bloodshed was averted by both Welshmen for their sons to marry de Baladon's daughters. Sir Gwyn ap Gwaithfoed married Emma de Baladon. Sir Dryw ap Gwaithfoed was probably his son, who was father to Aeddan,  born around 1165.
Aeddan , seemingly by now seems to be living at Grysmwnt or Grosmont, grew up a pious and faithful youth. He is mentioned in the Journey through Wales by Gerald the Welshman. I have already blogged about the route that (Catholic) Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury took through Gwent from Llanthony, Patrishow (St Issui’s Shrine)Monmouth, Abergavenny, Usk, Newport etc. This Aeddan took the cross from Baldwin, becoming a Crusader knight. The ceremony was performed as Baldwin, accompanied by Gerald the Welshman, Archdeacon of St David’s was proceeding from Abergavenny to Usk.

.........a certain nobleman of those parts named Arthenus came to the Archbishop ,who was proceeding towards the castle of Usk and humbly begged pardon for having neglected to meet him sooner. Being questioned as to whether he would take the cross, he replied ‘That could not be done without the advice of his friends’, The Archbishop then asked him, ‘are you not going to consult your wife?’ He modestly answered, with a downcast look. ‘When the work of a man is to be undertaken, the counsel of a woman ought not to be asked’ and instantly received the cross from the Archbishop’.....(The itinery of Archbishop Baldwin(Third Crusade 1188)

It is recorded, that soon after this, fired by his commitment, Aeddan and his sons founded three new chapels (which may have been founded on more ancient sites)Aeddan’s Chapel in Clytha, Bettws Newydd Chapel (Bettws Fovour Aeddan)(Bettws is a corruption of Bet-Haus-ancient for House of Prayer) and Bryngwyn Chapel,  which he dedicated to St Peter.) (Cambria Triomphans by Percy Enderby 1661 p 250)He held the manor of Clytha by payment of a sparrow hawk and granted out his lands to his relatives to hold by suit of court and a red rose (which was his badge)The Papal charters were given for this by Pope Honorius II and given to Aeddan by Teilo.The family supported the church and its Holy Well (St Peter’s Well-300 yards SE from the Church)and the church and manor were administered by the abbot and Community of Llantarnam. The church was likely to have been served with priests from Llantarnam also.
Some of the possessions of the Abbey of Llantarnam in Bryngwyn descended to the co-heirs of the manor of Wentesland and Bryngwyn . Lower Ty Mynach House in 1845.The small farm called Brynhyfryd was part of Lower Ty mynach.(Monks' House) The house was built on the site of two original cottages.The Chapel Farm, so called because of the association with the monastery, descended with the manor.It is likely they appointed local men as parish priest.
Following the collapse of the rural economy with the Black Death, and depletion of priests and monks and finally the Reformation, Clytha, seems to have collapsed, and the other churches taken over by Henry VIII’s new church. The tithes were formerly paid to the priory at Abergavenny but now paid directly to the Crown’s commissioners.
The visit was taken at Christmas, and I did not get to see the well, which was hard to locate, but I am going back there later on a warmer brighter day. From the pictures you can see we church was visited at Christmastide. It was charmingly warm and inviting, with a definite sense there is a real community at the Church. At the altar is a lovely reredos carved in wood, and pride of place given to a beautifully carved crucifix next to a carving commemorating The other carvings are equally remarkable, and most wonderful was, that the church was actually open! These were carved in memory of a beloved Rector, William Crawley a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. This Anglican rector died at the age of 94, arranged for the building of a North aisle and a new chancel arch and in 1872 built the first parish school and the first bell of this school displayed in the church.The other figures on the reredos carvings are  St Peter, the disciple, Our Lady, John the Beloved Disciple and Peter shown as Pope. The carvings are of a beautiful quality.
The last three priests of the Catholic Church recorded who said Mass here were
Father GREGORY DE TREGRUG Both these priests are mentioned at the same year 1352. Possibly these were the first non monks  to become rectors following the plague, monks at Llantarnam having been reduced to a small number.
Priest's door into the Sanctuary
Fr Gregory seems to have survived as priest until 1399 when FATHER JOHN AP GRUFFYDD became the new priest. After that the records seem not to give subsequent names, but we must assume the Lord of Bergavenny appointed future priests. They seem to have all been Welshmen, because until Henry VIII ‘annexed and extirped Wales’ and the Welsh language .
this area still spoke Welsh (and possibly English as well!) the Language of the church always was Latin, as it had been from the beginning in Wales.
 The church has a long nave and simple chancel, which would have originally housed the sanctuary. The tower was probably added by Aeddan’s family in the thirteenth century. The Sanctuary (Chancel) was added in the fourteenth century.The Old West gallery had been removed before 1850.No tombstones in the graveyard are existant from before the 19thcentury. The church has been lovingly cared for by the Crawley family in recent centuriesand their crest is at the side of the reredos.

The original bell (Tenor) cast in Bristol about 1480 is inscribed AVE MARIA GRATIAE PLENA (Hail Mary, full of Grace) the second, commissioned in Anglican times was cast in Gloucester by John Palmer (Feare God, Honor the King-SOLI DEO DETUR GLORIA)1632 and the third bell cast in Chepstow by William Evans ‘ WM Henry Churchwarden ‘ is written on this 1766 bell. The writer of the Handbook of the Church, Mr C W Crawley also records that ropes were frequently purchased, so the bells were fully used at a time when parishioners did not have watches.
The church also possesses a silver chalice and patencover of the early Stuart Period.

< The Font
I plan to return to Bryngwyn to find the well and publish more informationon that, although I understand it is in much need of restoration.


asmith said...

Hello, I read your comment on Saint Winfred and want to tell you about a dream my daughter had last night. It concerns St. Winifred. My daughter was in a church with a pool in it, observing our dog swimming in it. Later, my daughter is walking outside and there are dead people walking around looking at her. Behind a tombstone, St. Winifred steps out. She asks my daughter if she has a question. My daughter says no and St. Winifred tells her her anniversary is in 4 years.

Perhaps, St. Winifred is telling us that the dates she was born or died are incorrect? We had never heard of St. Winifred and looked her up on the internet!

Mary in Monmouth said...

Hello A S Smith,
No-one really knows the dates of St Winifride but we know that she was contemporary with St Beuno, her Uncle who carried St David's Missionary zeal on to North Wales after the death of St David. St David died on March 1st and was later canonised by Pope Callixtus II and his feast day was kept by all the churches in the island of Britain until Henry VIII started his own new religion. St Winifride was therefore (since David died roughly at the end of the 6th century) the beginning of the seventh century. St Beuno was from North Wales but educated in Llanveynoe in Gwent (see my blog about him and about Winifride) St Winifride has been named by the pope, with St David as one of the two patron saints of Wales, as she is a great example of chastity and purity, although Winifride is the Ssaxon version of the Welsh 'Gwenfrewi'. There are pilgrimages to her shrine in Holywell all through the summer, when thousands come to pray for healing. I asked for healing for a friend with Aspergers and he seems to be much better ovver the last two years, but there are many other healings. In 2020, I think it is, is the anniversary of the canonisation of St David and there is to be a Wales wide pilgrimage in that year to St David's from all over Wales using the ancient pilgrimage routes.
It could be true your daughter saw people walking around, we don't believe they are dead but alive in Chrrist and it might well be they wanted to give a message. The only St Winifred sites which has tombstones is at Gwytherin, where the Holy woman was Abbess for many years.If her anniversary is in 2016,which may make her date of birth 616Anno Domini, although I would expect her apparition to give a more important message for the saving of souls than her anniversary. Large Welsh pilgrimages, such as those at Penrhys and Holywell plus the huge nighttime (9pm) candlelit May processions such as those at Belmont Abbey )prob May 9th) all finish with invocations to St David and St Winifred..I have covered Holywell in Mary and Monmouth and posted pictures of the well (although a dog would nnot get close). this is a large site called 'The Lourdes of Wales'.There are no tombsstones. I have covered Gwytherin and Woolston last year, where the holy woman's bones were laid after they were taken to Shrewsbury. After the persecution during the time of Henry VIII her bones were destroyed, but some were taken for safe keeping to Holywell, where they continue to be used by the bishop and Fr Salvatore for pilgrims .The other relic was returned after Catholic emancipation to Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral.The original shrine was in what is now Shrewsbury Cathedral, and previously St Peter's Benedictine Abbey.If your daughter has a specialconnection to St Winifred, I would suggest that she visit one of these sites and attends Mass, and a pilgrimage to see if there are any further revelations.We do believe there is no distinction in the church between the living and the dead, who live IN Christ, hence it is possible to ask for their help and prayers to God. Thank you for sharing this dream with me. Holywell is an interesting place and Ave Maria House has rooms for very low cost B and B for pilgrims. (Ensuite for £29 i think-lovely rooms withh breakfast) Her email is stwinifrides@bridgettine.org and the Superior's name is a lovely warm woman Mother Julia. This is by far the best site for her to view, and it is fascinating. There is also the museum.

Hope I have answered some of your questions!