Deserted farmsteads (again)

posted in: Uncategorized | 2

So is that farm just off the Heol Hir Ty Drav (as on the tithe map) or Ty Draw (which seems more likely)? And is it actually below the track leading to Wern Ddu woods?

The lower track doesn’t seem to be on the tithe plan but it’s difficult to be sure because we are on the edge of 3 parishes (Ty Draw is in the Van hamlet of Bedwas, but immediately to the south is Llanishen, and to the west is Eglwysilan) and the plans don’t exactly line up. Copyright restrictions mean I’m reluctant to post a screenshot of the tithe map, but here’s a sketch plan based on it.

Field boundaries in green, buildings in brown. The red line marks the southern extent of the farm and looks suspiciously like the rather odd little angle of a field boundary just south of the lower track on the early OS map (it’s still just visible on the modern 1:25,000). Also, intriguingly, that  zigzag line is marked as the parish boundary on the early OS map.

So is the farm below this lane, leading down from the gate?

All that can be seen now is some tumbled stone under the brambles at about grid ref ST 17221 85357.

But the real give-away may be this

a patch of currant and raspberry bushes still holding their own against the undergrowth.

The lines of the fields from the tithe plan are also just about discernible under the trees along the lane.

Ty-Draw is marked as a ruin on the c 1840 tithe plan. The fields around it belong to the Clive estate and are occupied by a Thomas Roberts. But where did he live if the farmhouse was a ruin? He doesn’t appear anywhere else on the apportionments for Bedwas, Llanishen or Eglwysilan. Possibly he was sub-letting the fields around Ty-Draw to another of the local farmers: that might not have shown up on the tithe record.

Also, if the southern boundary of the farm is the parish boundary, what might that suggest about the age of the farm? The area to the north of the fields is marked on the tithe plan as a plantation – had the farm been nibbled away by the planting of trees for pit props, and was that why the farmhouse  had fallen into ruin?

It’s hard to see what some farms and cottages have survived and others have been lost. On the ridge above Tongwynlais, both Blaengwynlais and Bwlch-y-cwm are still there, Bwlch-y-cwm with enough garden to look like a smallholding. If Cwm-nofydd is anything like the Difrinn Anovid of that early C11 charter in the Book of Llan Daf, it lasted for the best part of a millennium but is now an overgrown ruin.  John Owen has identified Cefn Carnau in a survey of the de Clare estate in 1295.  Cefn-carnau Fawr, the biggest of the farms, is a ruin. though there are new stable buildings along the lane and the owner is working on some of the Cefn-carnau outbuildings. The farm called Cefn-carnau Ucha on the tithe plan but Cefn-carnau Fach on the OS, is a solid little farmhouse with another dwelling in the converted outbuildings.

And the Cefn Carnau of the tithe plan (Cefn Carnau Uchaf on the OS) is now a private rehabilitation hospital.

At the end of the lane from Cefn-carnau Fach, Pant-y-gollen is not on the tithe plan and is an un-named cottage on the early OS but is now a substantial house. The farmer at Cefn-carnau Fach told me Pant-y-gollen was once a shop.

Blaen-nofydd is also a substantial farm with converted outbuildings,

while the farms along the lane are long gone.

That’s about as far as I can get without delving into the census returns. In the comments on an earlier post, John Owen said he hadn’t found Bwlch-y-Gelli on the 1851 or later censuses but tht Bwlch-y-Llechfaen was on the 1861 and 1871 ones. But they are both on the OS map – I need a date for that before I start drawing any more conclusions.

I’ve updated my earlier posts with grid references, inserted a photo pf the limekiln near Bwlchygelli, and corrected my earlier reference to Bwlchyllechfaen as Bwlchygelli.

More deserted farmsteads …

Well, this is Bwlchygelli, at ST 16711 84736

just where John Owen said it would be, in the dip between Blaen-nofydd and the Heol Hir.

Can’t think why I hadn’t spotted it before. Perfectly obvious that heap of stones was once a building.

‘ Brains first, and then Hard Work’ said Eeyore.

John Owen suggests Bwlchygelli and Bwlchylechfaen  could originally have been squatter settlement on the older estates of Cefncarnau and Cefneinion. There was lead working in the area, and there are the remains of quarries and limekilns on the lane from Blaen-nofydd – this is the limekiln at ST 16595 84695.

Both farms were small, not much more than smallholdings: possibly early industry provided some casual work for wages, with the farm worked mainly by the women of the family for sustenance. That was quite a common pattern in early industrial areas.

I’m still not sure about Ty-Draw, though. There’s no evidence of a structure down the hill.

There are some possible features just below the track,

but the house marked on the tithe plan is further down. Part of the problem is that we are on the edge of 3 parishes so the lines on the plan don’t totally match up, but I’m wondering if it could be further down the slope again, below the track that goes towards Cefn Carnau Lane.

(Also it’s Ty Drav on the map but I’m sure it should be Ty Draw.)

Nell will be pleased to have another look.

All that’s left of Ty’n-y-parc now seems to be this ruined cowshed at ST 17830 85903,

though there are some tumbled stones under the trees.

John Owen remembered a forester living there in the late 1950s but the forest has now completely taken it over.

Another puzzle. The farm marked as Cefn-carnau-fach on the early and current OS maps is the one which is called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the tithe plan. The farm called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the OS is just Cefn Carnau on the tithe plan. Who is right – or did the names change?

Lost farmsteads: update

My old student Dave Standing (tweets as @AncientTorfaen ) suggested that the mortar in the farmhouse walls might give an idea of dating. We had an energetic discussion of this on Twitter and I’m not sure how well it works – but in general it’s suggested that the paler the mortar, the earlier the building, and when you get to the C19 it’s the dreaded black mortar.

Of course, all this is dependent on being able to see the mortar in the first place. Here are the walls of the unidentified farmhouse in Coed Wenallt: you’d have to take these apart to get mortar samples.

This was the only wall I could get to at Cwmnofydd:

rendered and heavily patched with cement, but is this a bit of creamy-beige mortar under the render?

 

And the farm at the top of the Heol Hir: quite a lot of coarse pale greyish-brown (while balancing precariously on a pile of logs, with the dog on the lead because there were sheep about …)

Looking again at the map, I realised I’d misidentified that farm. It’s not Bwlchygelli but Bwlchylechfaen. Bwlchygelli is back a bit along the path AND I HAVEN’T SPOTTED IT – time for another trip. The moral of this is that you need both field work and desk-top survey.

We went up the ridge towards Rudry Common then down the lane towards the Wern-Ddu clay pits. When we were nearly back down at the Heol Hir we spotted this at about ST 17270 85337 –

spoil from the old quarry, or is it suspiciously rectangular?

(You can just see Nell on top of the ‘wall’ here.)

There is a farm marked in the area, Ty-Draw, marked as a ruin on the 1840 tithe plan, but from the map it looks to be below the track, and down quite a steep slope.

Then there’s Ty’n-y-Parc, the other side of the railway tunnel and in the woods towards the Rudry road at ST 17827 85906. Not sure if that one is still there – there’s something on the modern map but it could be a ruin.

Watch this space …

Lost farms, lost settlements

To distract us during the lockdown, while we can’t do much in the way of fieldwork, we’ve been having a discussion on Twitter on the mapping and listing of deserted settlements. @DrFrancisYoung asked if anyone had ever done an atlas of all England’s deserted villages – so I said ‘and the Welsh ones’. It was suggested that Wales needed a separate volume – fair enough, there are differences, different settlement patterns, much more dispersed settlement, hamlets rather than villages. Also the perennial problems of funding and getting it noticed. Then @A_N_Coward rather proved my point by pointing out that our online resource Coflein ‘has site types for ‘deserted settlement’ and ‘deserted rural settlement’ with about 400 sites between them (although there’s probably some overlap) and a nice distribution across Wales. Many have pics (mostly aerial photos): https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/search/result?PCLASSSUB=97280&SEARCH_MODE=COMPLEX_SEARCH&view=map https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/search/result?PCLASSSUB=500312&SEARCH_MODE=COMPLEX_SEARCH&view=map

so actually we seem to have done it. Mind you, there’s some debate about what constitutes a settlement – how many cottages?

Meanwhile, my walks with my neighbour’s dog had taken me over towards the Wenallt, just north of Cardiff, and the little valley of the Nant Cwmnofydd: and at about grid ref ST 14702 83939 what should I find but what looked like the ruins of a row of cottages.

And in the Wenallt woods themselves, at about ST 14959 83860, another farm or group of cottages.

 

I wondered on Twitter how old they were, what the people who lived in them did for a living, and when the Record Office would be open again.

@DrIestynJones  pointed me in the direction of http://geoarch.co.uk/reports/1999-06%20Wenallt520slags.pdf which is a report on some early ironworking slag and other remains further down the Cwmnofydd. I don’t think the cottages were that old – but where there was medieval ironworking there may have been post-medieval working as well.

 

Several people pointed me to online maps, including @MusicNLW  who led me to the National Library of Wales’s amazing Places of Wales site https://places.library.wales/ . You need a place name to get in but once you are there you can scroll around, look at the 1840 (ish) tithe plans, an old OS map (2nd edition, I think, early C20) and the modern map (Google not OS, alas, so not brilliant for anything off road). Then you can pull up data from the tithe surveys – field names, crops, tenants and owners. It can be tricky tying up early C20 trackways with modern rights of way but it’s doable.

A bit of work on that suggested that my first batch of photos was not a row of cottages but a whole little farm, Cwmnofydd (about grid ref ST 14702 83939). It was there on the early C20 map and presumably occupied – one wonders when it was deserted and how it became so completely derelict. There are other lost farms in the area – Cefncarnau Fawr, up on the ridge to the north, around ST 15053 84409, was a big farm complex with a massive barn and other outbuildings

but that too is completely lost.

I still can’t identify the site on the other side of the stream at around ST 14959 83860. It doesn’t seem to be marked on the 1840 map so it may have been deserted and in ruins by then.

Walking a bit further with Nell the spaniel got me to the other side of the main road over Caerphilly Mountain and along the lane to the Heol Hir. Here the trees were cleared a couple of years ago and you could see the foundations of another little farm at ST 16943 84871 (easier to see just after the trees were cleared)

– here it is now

I found this one on the 1840 plan – I thought in the original posting that it was Bwlch-y-Gelli but it’s actually Bwlch-y-Llechfaen so I’ve corrected it (a bit difficult to identify as we were on the edge of 2 plans and they didn’t quite match up). That too was still there in the early C20 but it’s now just a little bit of tumbled stone under the brambles.

It’s often surprising how quickly a building can degenerate into a ruin. This is Penybryn Cottage, on the road between the Black Cock and Rhiwbina Hill at about ST 14293 84426.

.

My father-in-law remembered it in the 1930s or 1940s with a huge family living in it. Once the roof goes, the whole building goes.

Penybryn Cottage is on the map but I couldn’t find this one,

across the road and a bit further uphill. Quite a substantial building, with its own bread oven.

There are others that aren’t on the map. A traditional platform house near the top of Castell Coch woods, round about ST 14009 83746:

and some ‘structures’ around the iron-mining pits, a little further into the woods, round ST 13876 83545 (these grid references are a bit vague).

These might just be spoil heaps from the iron mines but this one looks rather rectangular. (It was actually easier to see before the trees were felled.) Probably not a house either, though – somethig to do with the iron mining? The whole area is pockmarked with diggings for haematite iron ore,

some of it probably 16th and 17th century.

When Natural Resources Wales were preparing to fell the conifers on this side of the forest because of the dreaded phytophthora ramorum, they said they had a detailed survey of things like the iron pits and possible charcoal burning platforms, something like a Lidar survey. I wonder if it’s ever going to be publicly available?

 

And I must remember that @AncientTorfaen  wanted to know what colour the mortars in the old houses were.

Swansea the Riverside Town

Gerald Gabb has sent me the following information about his magnum opus – the completion of his 3-volume history of Swansea.

The 1840 view above by Alexander Rolfe (Glynn Vivian Art Gallery) decorates the slipcase of my new book, “Swansea the Riverside Town”, which has been 12 years in the making.

It will be launched on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May between 10 and 4.00 at Swansea Museum – full details here.

book details

 

If that date does not suit, there are –

 

Further launches at Sketty, Newton, Bishopston, Reynoldston, Mumbles, the Central Library and in Swansea Market

 

As well as talks and events in the National Waterfront and Swansea Museum, and at Clydach, Fforestfach, Glynneath, Gowerton, Killay, Llansamlet, Loughor, Morriston, Neath, Penlan, Pontarddulais, St.Thomas and Trallwn, at which the book will be available.

Dates, times and venues are given below – just scroll right down.

 

It’s an expensive book, so anybody coming to have a look at it, or only to hear the talk and have a chat is sincerely welcomed. All talks are planned as being interesting in themselves – they are not just adverts.

 

You can also get in touch via g.gabb@ntlworld.com or 01792/613262. In that way you can arrange delivery of a copy, or call in to see one at 38 Woodland Avenue, West Cross SA3 5LY.

                                                                                                                       Keep going down !

Or try a shop:     Swansea Museum (open Tues-Sunday, 10-4.30)

Cover to Cover, Newton Rd., Mumbles

Waterstones, Oxford Street, Swansea

Norton Stores (opposite the Beaufort)

or further afield at College Street Books, Ammanford or Seaways Bookshop in Fishguard.

TALKS & EVENTS

Pre-publication talks

Saturday 13th April 2.30 RISW lecture, Swansea Museum

 

Wednesday 17th April 3.00 SKETTY LIBRARY

 

Thursday 25th April 2.00 TOWNHILL LIBRARY

 

Saturday 27th April 11.00 HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, National Waterfront Museum

 

Talks & events at which the book MAY be available

Saturday 4th May PENNARD LIBRARY 10.30

 

Tuesday 7th May OXFAM BOOKSHOP, Castle Street 7 for 7.30

 

Wednesday 8th May 7.00 OYSTERMOUTH LIBRARY please ring, email or call in for a ticket: 368380  judy.knight@swansea.gov.uk 

 

Saturday 11th May Local & Family History Fair, NATIONAL WATERFRONT MUSEUM, 10-4.00

with talk at 11.30

 

Wednesday 15th May PENLAN LIBRARY 10.00

 

Formal Launch

Saturday/Sunday 18th/19th May  SWANSEA MUSEUM, 10-4.00 both days

On Saturday, Prys Morgan (11.30) & Peter Stead (2.30) have kindly agreed to speak.

The author will give presentations at 11.00
on Sunday. The book will be available throughout both days.

 

Follow-up launch sessions

Thursday 30th May 10.30-12.30 ST.PAUL’S PARISH CENTRE, Delabeche Rd, Sketty,

                                                                         talk at 11.00 (ample parking)

 

Saturday 1st June 9.30-4.00 SWANSEA MARKET table in the centre, chat but no lecture

 

Saturday 8th June 10-1.00 NEWTON VILLAGE HALL, by St.Peter’s Church, talk at 11.00

 

Thursday 13th June 7.00 Tabernacle Chapel Hall, Chapel Street, Mumbles – a COVER to COVER  BOOKSHOP event – please book: sales@cover-to-cover.co.uk, 01792/366363 or at the shop

 

Saturday 29th June  ST TEILO’S PARISH HALL, Bishopston 10.30-12.30 talk at 11.00

 

Saturday 20th July 2.00 SWANSEA CENTRAL LIBRARY Discovery Room, upper floor

 

Friday 26th July Reynoldston Village Hall 6.45-8.30 talk at 7.20

 

Saturday 27th July, 10.00: Swansea History walk led by Gerald Gabb, beginning and ending at Swansea Museum – roughly 2 hours, level throughout. Tea & coffee available at the museum on return. For further details contact John Steevens, john@steevens.co.uk or 01792/643791 ALL WELCOME (Royal Institution of South Wales event)

 

 

Other talks & events where the book will be available

Monday 3rd June FFORESTFACH LIBRARY 10.30

 

Wednesday 5th June 2.00 circular Swansea History walk led by Gerald Gabb, – about 2 hours, level, meet at Swansea Museum (a Gower Walking Festival event, places limited, book at info@gowerwalkingfestival.uk or on 07340/672963)

 

Friday 7th June U3A Family History group 10-12  members only

 

Tuesday 11th June 10-12.00  Swansea Eastside Historical Society,

Community Room, St.Thomas Community Primary School

 

Tuesday 11th June 7.00 GOWERTON LIBRARY

 

Friday 28th June 2.00  KILLAY LIBRARY

 

Wednesday 3rd July 2.30 LLANSAMLET LIBRARY

 

Saturday 6th July 2.00-3.00 PONTARDDULAIS LIBRARY

 

Friday 20th September 7.00 CLYDACH HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Clydach Community Centre

 

Saturday 28th September RISW/HA History Day in the museums 10-4.00

 

Friday 11th October 2.30 LLANSAMLET HISTORICAL SOCIETY Trallwn Community Centre

 

Thursday 17th October 8.00 OYSTERMOUTH HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION Ostreme Centre

 

Saturday October 26th RISW Local History Bookfair, Swansea Museum 10-4.00

 

Wednesday 6th November 7.00 GLYNNEATH HISTORICAL SOCIETY Glynneath Training Centre

 

Thursday 7th November 2.30 LLWCHWR HISTORICAL SOCIETY the Institute, Lime St., Gorseinon

 

Tuesday 12th November 7.30  KENFIG SOCIETY Pyle Parish Hall

 

Monday 18th November 7.00 NEATH ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY the Old Town Hall

 

Tuesday 3rd December 2.00 MORRISTON LIBRARY

 

…….and probably a summer talk at the Glynn Vivian, details to follow

 

 

SHOPS  try Swansea Museum, open 10-4.30 Tuesday to Sunday

or Cover to Cover, Newton Road Mumbles, and Waterstones in Oxford Street all of whom have been very supportive. Norton Stores (formerly Ian Boyd’s) will have copies, as will College Street Books, Ammanford and Seaways Bookshop in Fishguard. Waterstones in Oxford Street and the National Waterfront Museum may also be stockists.

 

Payment

At the time of writing it is hoped that a card reader may be in use, but, to be safe, please bring cash, or, that old fashioned item, a cheque-book.

 

 

Llanfair-ar-y-bryn

The main purpose of our visit to Llanfair-ar-y-bryn was to check the memorial to the great Welsh hymn-writer William Williams Pantycelyn and his family (see https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/ ) but there was a lot else of interest in and around the church. It stands on the site of a Roman auxiliary fort, and there is Roman tile and brick in the church walls.

The church was built by the Norman Robert Fitzpons, who built the first Llandovery Castle. He established a small Benedictine priory here, dependent on the abbey at Malvern. When the area was reconquered by the Great Lord Rhys, he allowed the monks to remain, but they were turfed out by his son Rhys Gryg in 1185. (The story is that the behaviour of the monks had become scandalous. These little dependent priories could go bad, but theat may have been an excuse.)

The church was deliberately damaged by fire. It was rebuilt by Sir John Giffard when he was constable of Llandovery castle. There were later alterations – the installation of a rood screen, some new windows. The floor of the original church sloped down hill to the east, but at some point the chancel floor was raised, leaving two rather odd windows low in the east wall.

The church as it stands is big enough, but it was even bigger at one time. There was a south transept, but it was in ruins by the eighteenth century and used as a dumping ground for skulls and bones from the graveyard. There may also have been a north transept.

Inside, on the north wall, is this medieval cross slab.

Probably mid-late 13th century, measures 88.5 x 32 cm maximum. Turn it upside down

and the inscription reads …S: CVIV… (in other words, …s, cuiu[s anime deus propitietur], on whose soul may God have mercy).

There is also a strange little face with jug ears

 

– could this possibly come from an effigy? There are two sepulchral niches in the north wall of the chancel, one part obscured by subsequent rebuilding.

The church also has a little bit of decorative medieval paint and this

probably late 16th or early 17th century text, so far undeciphered. It could be Welsh;

the medieval font in which William Williams was baptized;

and some rather splendid hatchments of the local Gwynne family.

And the King’s Head in Llandovery does a full vegan menu including some vegan chocolate brownies.

Cross slabs – medieval and post-medieval

posted in: Tombs, Welsh History | 0

Really looking forward to speaking to Cardiff’s Continuing Education series of free lectures next week. The talk will involve telescoping two lectures into one, and as it’s part of the History programme I thought some further reading might be appropriate. To my embarrassment I find a lot is things I’ve written myself …

 

Some background reading on medieval cross slabs:

McClain, A. 2010. ‘Cross Slab Monuments in the late Middle Ages: patronage, production and locality in Northern England’, in S. Badham and S. Oosterwijk (eds), Monumental Industry, Shaun Tyas, Donington, 37-65.

This is a good introduction with a lot of further references to the work of Peter Ryder and Lawrence Butler – e.g.

Butler, L. A. S. 1964. ‘Minor medieval monumental sculpture in the East Midlands’, Archaeological Journal, 121, 111-53

Ryder, P. 1985. The Medieval Cross Slab Grave Cover in County Durham, Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, Durham

 

On Welsh cross slabs:

Gresham, C. 1968. Medieval Stone Carving in North Wales, University of Wales Press, Cardiff

– still a useful introduction but see

GITTOS, B., and GITTOS, M. 2012. Gresham revisited: a fresh look at the medieval monuments of north Wales’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 161, 357–88

 

On the Llangynwyd cross slabs:

Gray, M. 2012-13. ‘Good thief, bad thief: some thoughts on the medieval cross slabs of south Wales’. Welsh Journal of Religious History 7 & 8, 24-38, and

Gray, M. 2017. ‘An unrecorded triple cross slab at St Mary Hill’. Morgannwg 61.

 

On the post-medieval cross slabs:

Gray, M. 2016. ‘Post-medieval cross slabs: closet Catholics or stubborn traditionalists?The Antiquaries’ Journal. 96, p. 207-240. Available online at https://pure.southwales.ac.uk/en/publications/postmedieval-cross-slabs(39f0b31f-d6e5-4bc6-b255-2750950fe7ee).html .

 

Online resources:

There are several posts on my https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/ blog – e.g. https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/brecon-cathedral-history-beneath-your-feet/ , https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/on-the-benefits-of-a-fresh-pair-of-eyes/ , https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/abergavenny-three-more-post-reformation-cross-slabs/

and on the Tintern inscriptions, https://welshtombs.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/tintern-abbey-the-commendation-of-souls/

On the Llangynwyd cross slabs, https://churchmonumentssociety.org/monument-of-the-month/heaven-under-our-feet-the-laleston-triple-cross

and on Brecon https://churchmonumentssociety.org/monument-of-the-month/brecon-cathedral-a-post-reformation-cross-slab and https://churchmonumentssociety.org/monument-of-the-month/brecon-cross-slab-commemorating-lewis-havard-d-1569

 

The Church Monuments Society is for everyone who is fascinated by tomb carvings – medieval effigies, cross slabs, modern gravestones. Their web site is at https://churchmonumentssociety.org/

and the Ledgerstones Survey http://www.lsew.org.uk/ focusses on stones set in church floors – cross slabs, heraldic designs and others.

 

Finally, not really to do with cross slabs, but this thesis https://pure.southwales.ac.uk/en/studentthesis/death-and-commemoration-in-late-medieval-wales(7d14b42e-a69b-4968-9398-aad3b96748e0).html looks at different kinds of commemoration but also has a lot of detail on evidence for tomb carvings and burial practices.

‘Schall do no …’??

Llanfair Cilgedin, north of Usk in Monmouthshire, is one of the loveliest of the many lovely churches in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. It is most famous for the sgraffito work with which it was decorated by heywood Sumner in the 1880s. The panels illustrate the Benedicite – ‘O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord’.

We used to sing that every week in Mattins but not many churches do a sung morning service any more.

Being naturally contrary, I went to Llanfair Cilgedin not to see the sgraffito but this

the early 14th century tomb of a priest. But while we were there, I noticed some medieval stained glass in the chancel (these are mostly Martin Crampin’s photos)

and high above the west door.

The chancel glass is particularly intriguing.

The word Credo suggests a set of the Apostles with their clauses of the Creed. This

must be the feet of the crucified Christ. The word Sanctus on a plinth must belong to a saint – possibly one of the apostles – but what to make of the text to the right? And the English words at the bottom here –

‘schall do no …’ The glass looks medieval: is it possible that there might have been English text in a window by the early 16th century? And what might it be? My first instinct was a version of the Ten Commandments – ‘thou shalt do no murder’, maybe? Recently, I tweeted the photo of the magnificently-bearded man above and asked for ideas. Angela Graham suggested it might be a version of Isaiah 11, which also has the prophecy of the rod from the stem of Jesse. The bearded figure could be a king of Israel from a tree of Jesse. I can’t find an early translation with that exact wording, though.

The head in the west window looks like Christ, and this

Medieval Fragments, Church of St Mary, Llanfair Kilgeddin

could be God the Father.  We have so little medieval stained glass in south Wales (there is a lot more in the north) that these remnants seem worthy of more thought.

I do have to go back, to look for another tomb carving. Bradney drew this

in the churchyard. Medieval and reused, or another of those post-medieval cross slabs that are such a feature of the area?  The scrolled base certainly looks like other post-medieval examples from north Monmouthshire, including the Grosmont one that first got me thinking about post-medieval cross slabs.

Betty John Cefn Llwyd

I had a lovely afternoon exploring my mother’s reminiscences with our village Mothers’ Union last week. They all remembered her as the elegant elderly lady who came to Evensong and were intrigued by the story of her childhood on a farm between Newport and Cardiff and her struggle to get an education. I have promised to go back again and talk about her time at university and the war years in Chepstow.

I rescued her reminiscences and put them on this site but on a page which talked about her last illness and death. Here they are again without that rather sad introduction.

Reminiscences of farming life in the 1920s

Education for the people

War Years in Chepstow

Larkfield Grammar School in World War II

The pilgrim game

posted in: Pilgrimage | 5

When I was an undergraduate, way back when, we played board games like Risk, sometimes all night. We still have the odd game of Monopoly at Christmas, but I hadn’t realised that board games were a Thing until my daughter told me that was what they did on holiday – and I found that my son-in-law actually helps lead a board gaming group.

So I said ‘Who’d have thought it?’ and moved on.

Then last autumn with my lovely colleague Maria Nita I was invited to Swansea Museum to talk about pilgrimage at an open day, part of the National Museum’s ‘Saving Treasures – Telling Stories’ project. This does what it says – telling the stories behind some of the little objects handed in as part of the Portable Antiquities scheme. Some of the finds in Swansea Bay were pilgrim badges and they wanted to know more about them. This led to more events involving Museum volunteers, women’s groups from Gower and the lovely lads from the Gurnos Men’s Support Group. We walked them along our pilgrimage route to Penrhys and they went mudlarking in Swansea Bay.

And the Museum came up with the idea of a board game. I think they were thinking of a fairly simple children’s game – fall in the river, throw a double to get out, find a good hostel, get a second go, and so on. But I took to wondering about a grown-up game as well. You could choose an avatar (Margery Kempe, anyone?), collect the kit, choose your route, have all sorts of decisions to make on the way.  My son-in-law suggested we look at a game called Tokaido because it was one of the earliest journeying board games. A couple of colleagues said they were interested – one is a member of a board gaming group in Cardiff.

Then it all fizzled out.

Until this week when there was something on Twitter about the Reformation board game https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/200834/sola-fide-reformation – see thread at https://twitter.com/heritagepilgrim/status/904452513730101248 – and I replied that I had thought about designing a board game on pilgrimage. There was a surprising amount of enthusiasm. Here’s a suggestion for the board https://twitter.com/nickswarb/status/904841167925387264 and a lot of ideas about detail. History of Religious Women (@H_WRBI  ) wanted ‘rivalry between Jesuits &bishop, please? Need to bet on which shrine you should work towards, with SJ/Bp conflict in background’. I explained that being a medievalist I’d been thinking of something medieval . @H_WRBI said fine, bishop and Dominicans, we could do the post-Ref version as extension.

Now, I know next to nothing about designing board games – and even less about online games, which I think this one might have to be. But it does seem like a fun idea. You could choose a character – one of Chaucer’s pilgrims, maybe? You could start by collecting the standard kit – hat, scrip, boots, staff – and getting it blessed by the bishop. You could have the option of other kit, either to help on the journey or to get extra points (take along a relic to be blessed, a reliquary to collect something at the shrine, carry a heavy cross so you are slower on the journey etc). You could choose a destination – further afield gets more points but you are more likely to lose. We do actually have a framework for this: Pope Callixtus, bless him, decreed that 2 journeys to St David’s in west Wales were the equivalent of one to Rome, and three were the equivalent of one to the Holy Land. (This was a particularly good deal if you lived in Swansea, I seem to remember saying.) You could get extra points for going to other shrines on the way – again, we have evidence for this, guide books to the route to Compostela mention other places you could visit en route. There are all the things that could happen to you on the way – again, the Compostela guide books mention plagues of flies and wasps, poisoned rivers, boatmen who tip you in the river.

I’m just putting this blog post out there – do reply with ideas, and if anyone is good at designing board games or online equivalents, we can all get in touch.