St Mary Magdalene's Church, Mawdlam

St Mary Magdalene's Church, Mawdlam

It’s thought that this church was built in the mid-13th century as a chapelry of the church built in Kenfig in the previous century. Mawdlam grew as a settlement after sand from the dunes began to bury Kenfig church and nearby houses. The name Mawdlam (or Maudlam) comes from Magdalene.

A church dedicated to St James stood a short distance to the north west of here (south of Kenfig Castle) but was replaced by 1471 by St James’ Church in Pyle. Why were two churches built so close together? Possibly St Mary’s had a role in caring for people suffering from leprosy or other ailments. Some historians believe the nearby Angel Inn was a hospital in medieval times.

The Victorians renovated St Mary’s Church but many earlier features remain. The tower is medieval, with a bell cast in 1664.

Inside you can see a Norman font, known as a “tub font” because of its shape. It was shaped from a limestone block and features a rope pattern around the rim and carved scallops lower down. It may have been rescued from Kenfig church as the sand piled up.

The east window is a memorial to local people who died in the First World War. The porch contains two slabs of polished stone, thought to be parts of an old altar.

Among the centuries-old memorials in the church is a panel commemorating Elizabeth Williams of Sker, who died in 1722. Legend has it that Elizabeth Williams of Sker House died of a broken heart after her father locked her in a room to stop her running off with her lover. The tale has inspired stories of ghosts at the house.

Some of the gravestones outside are shaped like coffins, a distinctive feature of churchyards around Swansea Bay. In 1895 a man’s skeleton was buried in the churchyard after it was discovered by a boy walking on Kenfig sands, where wind had blown away the sand which had long concealed the bones.

Postcode: CF33 4PG    View Location Map

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