St Michael’s Church, Penbryn

button-theme-crimeSt Michael’s Church, Penbryn

This church occupies an elevated position near the coast and Hoffnant river. Penbryn is Welsh for “hilltop”. The churchyard’s rounded shape indicates that early Christians established a religious site here.

The church building dates back to medieval times and was recorded as ecclesia sancti Michaelis de Penbrin in the 13th century. The roof has probably survived from the 15th century. Some alterations were made, notably to window openings, in the 19th century.

In the 13th century, the tithes (church taxes) of Penbryn were claimed by Talley Abbey and by the archdeacon of St Davids. The dispute was eventually settled at an arbitration hearing, which had been authorised by the Pope himself!

Another tithe dispute erupted in the parish in the 1880s. By then, many local people worshipped in chapels and resented funding Anglican churches and clergy. Some hadn’t forgotten that the vicar in the 1840s had seized and sold a family’s Bible as tithe payment.

In March 1889, 43 police officers came to Penbryn parish to help church representatives seize goods from farmers who had refused to pay tithes. A large crowd supported the farmers. There were clashes between the police, who used batons, and protestors, who used sticks and stones. Most of the policemen and c.40 or 50 protestors were injured.

A schoolmaster asked the chief constable, Major Basset Lewis, whether he had read the Riot Act (which would have authorised the police’s use of force on civilians). The chief constable said he had, but his authority to do so was questioned. There was no magistrate on hand to read the Act.

By summer 1890, Penbryn farmers owed £238 in tithes. In June 1891, a group including bailiff Robert Lewis went to Morfa Uchaf Farm to seize two milch cows. Hundreds of protestors waited in the farmyard. Mr Lewis stopped a charging bull in a field, from which he extracted one of the cows.

Postcode: SA44 6QN    View Location Map

Parish website