Church and school building, Ystrad Meurig

Church and school building, Ystrad Meurig

Religion and education are intertwined in the history of this site, where St John’s Church stands beside the former Edward Richard grammar school building.

The curved shape of the churchyard suggests Celtic origins. The Bishop of St Davids confirmed in 1198 that the church which stood here had been given to the Knights Hospitaller. This gift was probably by Earl Roger de Clare after he conquered Ceredigion in 1158. Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd confirmed the Hospitallers’ possession of the church when he recaptured the region in 1164, demonstrating that the Welsh and Anglo-Normans alike supported the Hospitallers’ work here.

The Hospitallers were also known as the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, and are probably responsible for the church’s dedication to St John the Baptist. By 1338 the Hospitallers had leased their properties in this area to a manager, rather than running the properties from their commandery in Slebech, Pembrokeshire.

In the 18th century a grammar school was established in the church by Edward Richard, a poet and academic from Ystrad Meurig. The church also housed his collection of 700 books, including a first edition of Samuel Johnson’s pioneering English dictionary. John Williams, a past pupil, became schoolmaster after Edward’s death in 1777. John raised money for the bespoke school building to be erected from 1812 to 1815. He was known as Yr Hen Syr (“The Old Sir”).

It was a local tradition that the schoolmaster was also the vicar. Both buildings fell into dilapidation in Victorian times, but the school was converted into a first-grade school in 1881 and the building restored.

The church had been downgraded to a chapel of Ysbyty Ystwyth parish earlier in the century. The old church was demolished and replaced with the present building, on the same foundations,  in the 1890s, when it became a parish church.

Today the school building, still owned by the church, is a community centre – follow the link below for details.

With thanks to Prof Helen Nicholson, of Cardiff University, for Knights Hospitaller information

Postcode: SY25 6AA     View Location Map

Parish website

Website of the Edward Richard Centre