St Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell
St Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell
The church you see here today is the same length as when it was built. That was before 1303. When you enter, take a moment to appreciate the distance to the east window in the distance.
The building’s large dimensions reflect the wealth of the church’s founder, Lady Sybil Pauncefoot (or Pauncefote). She inherited Crickhowell Castle from her father. The Manor of Gwernvale was part of her wedding dowry. Her stone effigy lies inside the church, in a recess in the north wall beyond the base of the tower. Opposite is an effigy of her husband, Sir Grimbald Pauncefoot. He had ordered the castle’s rebuilding in stone (previously it was of timber) in 1272.
In the porch is a large stone tablet, carved in 1787, listing the people whom men and women were not allowed to marry. Those denied to a man included his grandmother, his father’s brother’s wife, and his wife’s father’s sister.
The church is the only one in Wales dedicated to St Edmund. He was king of East Anglia until he was captured and killed by Danish invaders in 869AD. Various miracles were ascribed to him after his death. It is thought that the dedication is due in part at least to the fact that the bishop of St David’s, when the church was built, was known as David Martin de Edmundo.
The north and south aisles (left and right of the central nave) were added during Victorian rebuilding. There were aisles here previously, decorated with the emblems of local businesses from an earlier period of the town’s commercial prosperity.
The Victorians also moved the well-preserved effigy of Sir John Herbert, which you can see to the left of the altar. Previously it was in the centre of the nave – a prominent position. Sir John, who died in 1666, was sheriff of Brecknockshire and aided the Royalist cause in the Civil War. He owned a fortified manor house whose gatehouse still stands beside the main road, a short way uphill from the church.
The church’s south transept was known for a long time as the Rumsey Chapel, after a wealthy local family. In 1934 it was rededicated as the Lady Chapel and refurbished as part of a memorial to the men who died in the First World War. In the north aisle is a brass plaque in memory of Wing Commander Arthur Bruce Gaskell, who married Dorothy Davies in Crickhowell in 1915. He served with the Royal Naval Air Service throughout the First World War and received the Distinguished Service Cross for organising a successful evacuation from the island of Lesbos in 1917. He joined the RAF in 1919 and helped to train airmen. He was killed, aged 39, when his fighter plane crashed in Iraq in 1927.
Inside the church is a simple wooden cross which originally marked an unknown soldier’s grave on a First World War battlefield. Buried in the churchyard is Major-General Arthur Solly-Flood, who served on the staff of Sir Douglas Haig in the First World War. For more on his story, see our page about Porthmawr mansion.
See our page about Crickhowell war memorial for details of the local dead of both world wars.
With thanks to Eric Gower
Postcode: NP8 1BB View Location Map
|To continue the Crickhowell in WW1 tour, leave the churchyard (north-east corner), cross New Road and walk past the school entrance to the next turning, outside Porthmawr mansion|