Church of Saints Rhidian and Illtyd, Llanrhidian

Church of Saints Rhidian and Illtyd, Llanrhidian

llanrhidian_viking_era_stoneThe circular shape of this “llan” (enclosure) and its proximity to water suggest worship here may date back to St Illtyd (c.480-540 AD). The name Rhidian is possibly a corruption of Tryrlhid/Trynihild, who was either the wife of, or a pupil of, Illtyd.

Viking presence is indicated by the “leper stone” in the church porch – a tombstone decorated with human and animal forms (pictured right, courtesy of the Rev Tim Ardouin).

The church was given to the Knights Hospitaller by William de Turberville before 1198. The family, originally from Thouberville in Normandy, held extensive lands in Glamorgan by the 1120s and were patrons of Ewenny Priory and Neath Abbey. William also gave the Hospitallers the churches of Landimore and Rhossili.

The Hospitallers were meant to maintain this church, with any surplus income supporting their work overseas. In the late 14th century (when their resources were focused on campaigns against the Ottoman Turks) the bishop of St Davids noted that their church of Llanrhidian was so dilapidated that “for a long time it has not been possible for the divine offices to be celebrated with due honour”.

On a previous visit the bishop had warned the commander of the Hospital at Slebech, Pembrokeshire, to make repairs. As this had not been done, the bishop sequestrated the rectory’s revenues and arranged for the work to be carried out. The church transferred to the Crown in 1540.

Within the ramparts of the medieval tower is a large stone, “the Parson's Bed”, where a beacon fire could be lit to warn of seaborne attack. The chancel predates the nave, as evidenced by a blocked doorway and the piscina near the window.

The Talbots of Penrice financed the nave’s 19th-century rebuilding. The Rev JD Davies, rector of Llanmadoc in the early 20th century, carved the altar front and roof bosses.

The stained glass windows include a fine one under the tower titled “Suffer the little children”, in memory of Ann Davies of Freedown.

The age of the yew tree on the grassy bank has been estimated at over 500 years. On the church’s south wall is the gravestone of Robert Harry (died 1646), who had two wives and 10 children.

On the village green you can see a broken stone cross from the 11th century, known locally as the “whipping stone”. The standing stone opposite was dug up from the green in the 19th century.

With thanks to Susan E Medwell and to Prof Helen Nicholson, of Cardiff University

Postcode: SA1 3AR    View Location Map

Church website

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