St Mary’s Church, Rhossili

button_lang_frenchSt Mary’s Church, Rhossili

This church probably dates from the 14th century. Inside is a carved memorial to local man Edgar Evans, who died in 1912 during Captain Robert Scott’s disastrous South Pole expedition.

The previous church at Rhossili was given to the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (also known as the Knights Hospitaller) by William de Turberville in the 12th or early 13th century. The old church and its successor were in the Hospitallers' care until 1540, when King Henry VIII dissolved their organisation in England and Wales. Although no documentation survives, presumably the Hospitallers paid for the construction of the present church.

Intriguingly, the doorway at the south of the church dates from the 12th century. It was probably moved here from the earlier church, which was in the lower area of Rhossili. There was an overlap period when both churches were used.

St Mary’s Church was originally a simple nave and chancel. The tower was added later. The unusual carvings around the inner doorway include chevron patterns. The font is medieval.

rhossili_edgar_evans_church_windowThe church’s elevated position leaves it exposed to the prevailing westerly wind. By the 19th century it was in poor condition. Rebuilding works restored some medieval features, including reopening a small side window in the chancel which may have been provided for lepers to take part in worship without entering the building.

The Victorians added several new window openings. Stained-glass windows were installed in the 20th century including the east window, by Celtic Studios of Swansea in 1948.

Inside is a white marble tablet commemorating Edgar Evans. He was born in 1876 in nearby Middleton and joined the Royal Navy aged 13. He had been promoted to Petty Officer by the time he left Cardiff in 1911 on the Terra Nova, bound for Antarctica. He slipped and injured himself during the arduous trek back from the South Pole, slowing the party’s progress. He died on 17 February 1912. His comrades died later, before reaching the Terra Nova.

The tablet, erected by his widow Lois in 1914, depicts his imagined burial and features the message: “To seek, to strive, to find and not to yield.”

He is also commemorated by a window installed in 2016 (pictured right). It was made by Anne Clarkson as a student project while she attended Swansea College of Art in the 1970s.

Another marble plaque commemorates William Gibbs, of the Welsh Regiment, killed in action in France in 1918 aged 30. His parents John and Ellen lived at Mewslade View, Rhossili.

With thanks to Prof Helen Nicholson, of Cardiff University, and Caroline Johnson

Postcode: SA3 1PL    View Location Map

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