Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004

This is one of the most special churches in Wales, if not indeed the British Isles.  I have read about it but this was my first visit and I was not disappointed. To reach it you must cross two fields and a stream!

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

Here is the first view of the building which greets the visitor - the circular graveyard is an indicator of a very ancient religious site.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

Here is the view from the churchyard gate - the porch is almost as large as the chancel. The church was restored by Prichard in 1871, when alterations were made to the porch and the bellcote was added. Prichard was also responsible for the east window stonework.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

The church is built of the material on which it stands. The Welsh Borderland is one of the main areas for Old Red Sandston sediments in the UK, a series of red sandstones that give rise to the red soils which typify the district.  In the church it is used for flagstones on the roof and floor, some of the gravestones as well as the stones for the walls. 

The cross in the churchyard is carved from a single piece of conglomerate or "puddingstone", also local.  It is pre-Norman and therefore nearly 1000 years old and the only complete example in the county.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

There is no chancel arch in the building, only a roof truss filled in.  The candle holders on the communion table were carved from the oak from one of the beams replaced in the restoration of 1989.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

Here is a view looking back down the church, with the only form of lighting, candles in their holders plain to see.  These were made in the neighbouring village of Shirenewton.  The chancel has the elaboration of two oil lamps; the church is not connected to water or electricity supplies.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

The east window is the war memorial for the parish and contains the names of those who died in the Great War including that of Richard Morgan who is buried in the church yard. He is believed to be the last British serviceman to die before the 1918 armistice. The glass was manufactured by R. J. Newbery and depicts Peace and Victory.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

The font is the only stone artefact in the building.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

The blocked west doorway is the oldest indicator in the current building, suggesting a date of the 12th century. The bell dates from 1696 and was donated by William Nicholas during an affluent period in the history of the church. His sandstone tomb is well preserved on the south east side of the church and is inscribed with Bishop Ken's 'Morning Hymn', first published in 1695.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTCHoly Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

The blocked west door (above) has a carved human face on a corbel above the arch.  It is possible that it could have supported a beam for a porch before the door was blocked.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

This final view from the churchyard shows the chancel with its east window and the north side of the nave. Both the north and the south windows were added in the 15th century, possibly after the porch was added on the south side.

Holy Cross, Kilgwrrwg, Monmouthshire, Wales - 27th September 2004 - MTC

This is a truly special place.  Remarkable for the fact that services are still held here every month, but more so because of its remoteness, and that it has remained intact for so long despite periods when it was used as a cowshed and last but not least because of the commitment and dedication of the small number of parishioners to keep this place special and alive.

The words on the cover of the church guide are so apt:
"The small promontory on which the present church sits has been a site of Christian worship for nearly 1300 years, a site tucked away from the mainstream of life where it has been possible to find peace, quiet and solitude throughout the centuries. These properties remain; savour them yourselves."

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