St Cynyw’s church, Llangynyw
The Rev’d Jane James
Tel: 01938 500231
First Sunday of Month
Llangynyw Church is a small country church of great charm, built on an ancient site; we are today forging links in a chain which stretches back about 1400 years.
Who was Cynyw whose name can be found in anicent manuscripts as Cyfyw, Cynfyw, Kemmeu, Kynnyw, Kyniw and other forms?
It is said that he was a saint or monk living in the 6th century and attached to an important monastry at Llancarfan in the country of Glamorgan. The word 'saint' simply meant a monk or holy man. In the 6th century, all over Wales, monks were going about preaching the Gospel. It seems reasonable to suppose that Saint Cynyw and his band of followers, on such a mission, chose to stay at the spot where Llangynyw Church now stands. Far more important in their eyes than a building for worshop would have been the burial ground where members of their community could be buried - hence the 'llan' or 'enclosure'.
Llangynyw churchyard is probably an ancient burial site because:
The Early Churches
It is probable that successive timber churches stood on the site before the present church was built. In the year 1254 A.D., in a Taxation Document, the church then on the site is referred to as the "Capella de Llankenwy", a Latin form of the "Church of Llankenwy".
The Present Church
This church was probably built between 1450 A.D. and 1500 A.D. This is surmised because historians date the porch, the nave, the windows, the font, the door and the screen as belonging to the fifteenth century and the historian Fred Crossley dates the tracery in the screen to the third quarter of the fifteenth century. So it seems that Llangynyw Church is about 500 years old and built on an ancient site dating back about 1400 years.
Yew trees almost surround the church, imparting to the graveyard a proective, secret air. One of the earliest gravestones is set, rather surprisingly, into the east wall of the church and records the death of Henry Foulkes who was rector of Llangynyw from 1729 to 1745, his wife, daughter and son-in-law. Several of the former rectors of the parish are buried here, the more recent ones with gravestones to mark the spot, one of which, to the Rev. William Morris Roberts, is a sun-dial. Some are recorded in the Parish Register (1729-1777) under the title 'A succesion of Rectors'. A War memorial records the names of the men from the parish who lost their lives in the First World War, 1914-1918. While the crosses mark the graves of men who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945.
An extension to the churchyard, paid for by the rector, the Rev. J. Bevan Jones, was consecrated in 1926. As a token of thanks to the rector the sum of £20 was collected in the parish and a rough granite column, suitable inscribed, was erected in the new part of the churchyard.
There are dates and initials carved into the wood on the left hand side as one enters - all adding to the feeling or intimacy and communion with the past which exists here. Who was J.T. who carved his initials here in 1788 - unless, of course, this was a piece of wood brought in to replace worn-out timber. There are grooves in the stone surround to the door which may indicate that generations of archers have sharpened their arrows here. This is very much a porch of the people: let us hope that its charm can be preserved for future generations.
The Rood Screen
This is the chief glory of Llangynyw Church. The delicate carving
is a tribute to the skill and patience of woodworkers using only
a chisel and mallet as tools. In the topographical Dictionary of
Wales (Lewis) published in 1833 is written: "In the interior
(of Llangynyw Church) are the remains of the ancient screen and
rood loft embellished with some exquisite carvings in oak.".
When this was written it was more complete than it is now. The Rev.
John Parker drew it unmutilated in 1839. Montgomeryshire churches
had been rich in medieval woodwork until after the reformation when
Henry VIIIth broke with Rome and our country became Protestant with
the sovereign as head of the Church. Elizabeth I ordered lofts to
be taken down and most churches cleared away screens as well. Whereas
all the Caereinion churches would have had screens and roodlofts
nothing now remains of these except for the screen here in Llangynyw
and that not in its original state but still very beautiful.
Sometime in the nineteenth century the ironworkers at Mathrafal Forge did a very good repair job; one of the designs is of iron but this fact is quite undetectable to the ordinary person looking at the screen.
The East window of the three foliated lights was plain until the year 1909; it was then filled with stained glass depicting the Crucifixion, placed there in memory of the Rev. David Lewis, a former rector. The inscription on the scroll reads "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Of interest here is the fact that here is an error in the placing of the panels; this is quite difficult to detect but in 1932 the Parochial Church Council noted it thus in their minutes:
29th August, 1932 "The defect in the lower-most panels of the East window was discussed but eventually deferred sine die."
In the tracery above the windows are depicted saints Cynyw, Asaph, Dewi and Tysilio. The stained glass window in the South wall was placed there in memory of the Rev. Samuel Reed, rector from 1895 to 1906. It depicts the Good Sheperd with Mary, mother of Jesus and St. John. The other windows are plain with foliated lights. There is a prettily shaped window in the West wall above the gallery.
The Oil Paintings
There are two oil paintings on the east wall. It is unfortunate that the colours have faded in these pictures. To the left as one faces the altar is a painting depicting the Incarnation placed there in memory of the Rev. Thomas Richards, rector from 1826 to 1856. To the right is one of the Resurrection given by Lady Pryce Jones in memory of her uncle the Rev. M. Myrddin Jones who was rector from 1856 to 1862.
Eighteenth century bells were nearly all from Rudhall
foundry in Gloucester. Llangynyw bell was a Rudhall bell bearing
This bell had to be recast in 1952 because the clapper had dropped out. It was said that in addition to the usual copper, tin and lead, the bell contained a considerable amount of silver. It is prehaps because of this belief that during the incumbency of Samuel Reed an offer was made - from whom is not clear - to have the bell exhanged for a peal of three bells but the offer was rejected. It was recast and re-hung, with some local help, by a firm in Croydon.
This is an octagonal stone font with a wooden cover and three of the sides are embedded in the wall. It has the Tudor flower ornament in the sides near the base.
The hooded Reading Desk and the Litany Desk in the
sanctuary are both memorials to men who died in the First World
War. The former bears the inscription:
The Marble Monument
Facing the door in the North wall is a white marble monument which is of some interest. It was carved by John Nelson of Shrewsbury who worked from about 1777 to 1800 and became well known. It was put up by Elizabeth Evans in memory of her uncle Canon David Evans who, it is said, was born in Llangynyw. He was, it is claimed, an excellent scholar. He assisted Dr. Barney in writing his book "The History of Music" and Mr Edward Joines in his compilation of Welsh melodies.
In 1839 the rood screen was complete, the pulpit and desk were against the South wall and the nave was filled with box pews up to the sanctuary. In 1842 some alterations were made to increase the accomodation; this may mean that the gallery was erected then. The year 1858 saw a complete rearrangement of the interior. The chancel was raised one step above the nave and the small vestry was erected. The pulpit was removed to its present position and the whole was re-seated. The old box pews were used as a wainscot which is still is position. The belfry was also erected about this time. In 1909 a new organ and a new altar table were dedicated at the harvest Festival. An extract from a report in the County Times of September 11th, 1909 reads "Last Sunday a letter was read to the congregation by the Rector from Mr Andrew Carnegie offering to defray half the cost of a new organ, which munificent offer will enable the church to have an instrument of more enhanced value than previously contemplated." This is the Organ we have today. In 1910 wall decorations of Vine, Wheat, Lily, Scrolls and texts were dedicated on June 2nd.
Last updated 5th November 2015.