St James’ Church, Pyle

button-theme-slavesSt James’ Church, Pyle

This church is marked with the date 1471. It may be an enlargement of an earlier building. The ancient stonework of the walls is in different styles, suggesting they were erected at different times.

The church, listed Grade 1, replaced an earlier one, also dedicated to James, at Mawdlam. That church was close to St Mary Magdalen Church. These churches effectively replaced the 12th-century church in Kenfig after it and nearby homes were buried in sand blown from Kenfig dunes.

Legend has it that St James’ Church is “upside down” because smaller stones from upper parts of Kenfig church were removed to build the lower parts of St James’s Church, followed by the larger ones. (Usually smaller stones are higher up in walls.)

In the 15th century there was a tug-of-war between Mawdlam and Pyle over which church should be the parish church. The Bishop of Llandaf held a meeting in Margam Abbey in 1485 which decided in favour of St James’ Church.

The 1925 cross in the churchyard stands on the plinth of a much earlier preaching cross. Such crosses were destroyed after the Civil War by Puritans, who hated religious icons. You can see parts of the original shaft of the cross by the porch.

The church contains tombs from the 17th century onwards. The elaborately carved font dates from the 15th or 16th century and sits on a medieval base. The church bell is dated 1677.

Outside the church is the grave of Sir James Laroche. Like his father John, he was a Bristol slave trader. His first wife had inherited two estates with slaves in Antigua which she left to James on her death in 1781. Before then, he had mortgaged one of the estates in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent bankruptcy. James was MP for Bodmin, Cornwall, from 1768 to 1780. His second wife was widow Elizabeth Thursley of Llangynwyd. He died in 1804. His burial record states that he lived in Pyle and “Kenvig St James”. She died in Llandaf in 1824 and is also buried here.

The church was renovated in Victorian times, when an organ chamber was added. The east window is a memorial to local people who died in the First World War.

Postcode: CF33 6HR    View Location Map

Parish website – service times, church histories and more