St Cattwg’s Church, Port Eynon

St Cattwg’s Church, Port Eynon

Christian worship at this site is thought to go back to the founding of a cell by St Cennydd in the 6th century. He was a disciple of St Cattwg, the present church’s dedicatee. Notice the curved shape of the churchyard perimeter – a hallmark of early Christian establishments in Wales.

In 1198 Bishop Peter of St Davids recorded that a Robert de Mara had given the church here to the brothers of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller), along with a house next to the church and six acres of land held by Thomas, the priest’s son, and 10 acres of the fee of Oxwich.

The Hospitallers appointed the rectors of the church and kept it in good repair. Much of the present building dates from the 14th and 16th centuries.

The valuation produced for King Henry VIII c.1535 stated that the rector (appointed by the Knights Hospitaller in England) was Johannes Davy and that the church’s income was £9 5s 9d a year. This amount was similar to other Gower churches, such as Oxwich, Cheriton, and Ilston.

The church transferred to the Crown in 1540. It was restored in the 1860s by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, a member of one of Gower’s wealthiest families. There are monuments to members of the Talbot family inside the church, as well as memorials to local people who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Unusually the church has no east or west windows. South of the chancel is a small bricked-up window aperture which allowed lepers to watch the priest taking services without entering the church. Leprosy was considered contagious.

Buried in the churchyard are lifeboatmen William Eynon and George Harry. They and their coxswain drowned in 1916 when the Port Eynon lifeboat capsized twice. All three are commemorated by a sculpture of a lifeboatman at the south-eastern corner of the churchyard.

With thanks to Prof Helen Nicholson, of Cardiff University

Postcode: SA3 1NN     View Location Map

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