A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ST. DAVID
The Church of St. David, referred to locally as Llanfaes Church, was probably founded in the early sixteenth century. The first Parish Priest, Maurice Thomas, was installed there by John Blaxton, Archdeacon of Brecon in 1555. The name is derived from the Welsh - Llandewi yn y Maes - which translates as St. David’s in the Field. It is probable that the site and the name of the present Church were chosen because of the close proximity of a fresh water well called Ffynnon Dewi (David’s Well) which was situated approximately 150 metres south of the church. It is believed that St. David drank from this Well during his pilgrimage around Wales and it is also believed that at that time, there was probably some form of religious activity on or near the site on which our Church now stands.
During the sixteenth Century, the two most prominent families living in Llanfaes were the Havard Family of Ffrwdgrech and the Games Family of Newton House. Although there is no documentary evidence existing today, it is thought that these two families were instrumental in getting the original Church built and bore most of the cost for it.
Unfortunately, our Parish Records only date back to 1716 so little is known about the period 1555 to 1716. However, there is a list of incumbents sited on the north wall of the Church and they are:-
1555 - Maurice Thomas 1777 - Thomas Williams
1570 - Roger Ap Robert 1783 - Edward Edwards
1610 - David Jones 1803 - Charles Griffith
1640 - Evan David 1832 - John Jones
Hugh Jones 1845 - Rees Price
1644 - Roger Pritchard 1901 - D. Saunders Jones
John Price 1915 - John Simon
1663 - Thomas Morgan 1945 - Leslie L.J.Davies
1706 - John Lloyd 1954 - W.D.G. Wilkinson
1720 - John Williams 1956 - D.R.Wilkinson
1723 - Samuel Jones 1969 - E.H.V.Rees
1730 - William Stephens 1978 - J. Coutts
1739 - Theophilus Evans 1985 - John T. Lewis
1769 - John Howel 1991 - D.E. Thomas
2010 - T. Williams
Interestingly, the Rev. Theophilus Evans had a grandson – the Brecknock Historian Theophilus Jones. He described the Church of St David in 1790 as “standing in what are considered to be the suburbs of Brecon Town”. He goes on to say that “although the exterior of the Church is not very striking, the interior is light and neat, consisting of chancel, nave and a tower at the west end in which there are four bells.” He also says that “the Church is ceiled and flagged, the seats regular, painted and numbered, many of them have the names or initials of the proprietor in front”. He also describes a gallery over the entrance to the steeple, which he says is small – but this gallery was not a feature of the rebuilt Church.
The Church was rebuilt in 1839 at a cost of £1,500. The architect was Mr John Clayton. A memorial window was given by a family called Church in memory of their son and in 1868, the Bishop of St. David’s consecrated three quarters of an acre of land for burial purposes. The Church, in its present form, dates from 1923, when it was again rebuilt.
There are some beautiful stained glass windows in the Church of today. The East window shows Our Lord in majesty, between Saint David, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St John and St Teilo. Below these figures, at the foot of the window, are several biblical scenes: the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Resurrection. The South Aisle has a window that shows two saints in the top tracery and a portrait of the Rev. Ress Price, a former incumbent who died in 1900. The West window in the North aisle was once the East window in the period before the last rebuild. It depicts the Crucifixion, the Road to Emmaus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. The symbols of the four Evangelists can be seen above. This window was given in memory of John Church and his wife Mary, William Richard Ellis, John Church Pearce, William Morrice and his wife Elizabeth, John Church and Samuel Church. The aisle windows are twin lights with trefoils above. The North Aisle houses the Lady Chapel, which has a window containing a twenty-eight quartered coat of arms, possible of an army officer. There is also a sixteen quartered coat of arms. The East window of this aisle shows the Holy Family at Nazareth. Unusually, this window depicts Joseph holding the Christ Child. Traditionally, it is the Blessed Virgin Mary that holds Jesus. This window was given in memory of Margaret Caroline Simon in 1935.
The Church has some beautiful furniture and fittings. The East wall has a reredos of carved oak with a dorsal curtain – this was given as a World War Two Memorial. The altar stands in front of it. This is oak, panelled with pierced openings and was given in memory of Irene Richardson in 1925. On the North Wall is a very fine wooden chair which is used by the Bishop when he visits the Church. The seat has a thick cushion covered with a woven celtic cross. A similar cushion covers the sedilia (the seat on which the officiating priest sits and which is found in the Chancel) and both were made by Miss Audrey Hargest. The Bishops’s cushion was donated Mrs Delia Havard in memory of her husband Gerald, a former church Warden. The cushion for the Sedilia was donated by Geoff, John, Ishbel and Vera Davies in memory of their mother, Mrs Dorothy Muriel Davies.
The South Wall is carved with the names of those of the Parish who fell during the two World Wars. An Act of Remembrance is held here every year to honour their names. The Communion Rail is also of carved oak and the rail can be closed with gates that fold back when access to the altar is required. The choir stalls are found on either side of the chancel and there are two Prayer Desks also made of oak. The Pulpit is located just in front of them on the north side of the chancel. The Pulpit is inscribed “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of David Evans of Ffrwdgrech Taken Home on 24 January 1908. In his 80th year”. The Lecturn on the other side of the chancel is carved in the shape of an Eagle and is also inscribed as follows: “In Loving Memory of Margaret wife of the Rev. Philip H. Morgan, M.A., J.P., Rector of Llanhamlach”. She died on the 2nd February, 1884 and was the daughter of William Hughes of 16 Bridge Street, Llanfaes and Elizabeth, his wife. On the steps of the Chancel is a Legilium given in memory of Brony Lomas, a faithful member of the Church. Spanning the Chancel Arch, a timber roof beam supports a Crucifix with Saint Mary and Saint John standing on either side.
At the West end of the Church there is a carved, glazed screen underneath the Tower Arch. This was given in memory of those who fell in the First World War. In front of this screen are two Warden Chairs. One is inscribed “To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Edith, wife of Edward Worthing, Mother of Rosalind, 19th January, 1946”. The other is inscribed “To the Glory of God presented to St. David’s Church, Brecon by Edward H. Worthing of Barry 1847”.
By the main entrance, there is an offertory box given in memory of Daisy Shapland. The main font also stands here, right in front of the West Window. This is an elaborately carved octoganol shape, set upon a plinth. It has a wooden cover given by the children of the Sunday School and is inscribed to that effect. The original font is of plain stone and now stands in the south aisle of the Church.
In the ringing chamber under the belfry tower there is a foundation stone of the Church dating from its re-building in 1859. It reads:- Foundation stone laid by Lieut. Col. Pearce K.C. of Ffrwdgrech, 13th January, 1859. Opened for Divine Service by the Right Revd. Connop Thirlwall D.D Lord Bishop of St. David’s. 10th November 1859. There is also a medieval stone cross slab set against the wall of the Tower, a Roll of Honour of those who fell in the First and Second World Wars and a record of a Peal of 5040 changes of Plain Bob Minor which was completed by Laetitia Jack, Anne Kleiser, Geoffrey Miles, Paul Johnson, Bryan Williams and Malcolm John (Conductor) for the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the bells and for the ten-centenary of the bell of the Chapel of St. Nicholas, Christ College. The peal was rung on Saturday, 12th April, 1986 and took 3hours and 10 minutes to complete. There is a peal of six bells, although originally, there were only four. These four bells were all inscribed but were taken down in 1924 and sent to the Bell foundry in Loughborough. They were melted down and extra bell metal added to form the ring of sdix bells which we have today.
The Church Clock mechanism is by John Hando of Brecon, 1917. It is maintained by Joyce of Cardiff. An electric winding mechanism was installed in 1982.
The pews in the nave are filled with pitch pine pews. The South aisle has had the seating removed and a play area for the Sunday School children is to be found here. The North Aisle has traditional wooden chairs for seating for the Lady Chapel. The communion rail for the Lady Chapel is of oak, being in the form of an elongated Prayer Desk with rail and kneeler attached. There is a large vitvice candle stand situated in the middle of the seating and a large wooden seat in the Lady Chapel itself, both gicen by the late Catherine Morgan, a faithful member and caretaker of the Church. The altar of the Lady Chapel is a marble slab on a timber frame with H stretchers for support. The altar frontal is embroidered with a design of wild flowers and was given in memory of Edwin Henry Verdon Rees (1916-1979) who was Vicar of the Parish from 1969-1978. The old G.F.S. Banner and the new Morth’s Union Banner are situated on the East wall of the Lady Chapel. Above the Lady Chapel is the organ loft and the stairs to it are located in the north wall of the Chapel itself. The organ was restored in the early 1990’s and is regularly maintained. It has an electric blower, serving three stops on the swell organ and seven stops on the great, with pedals and three couplers. The builder is unknown but the organ was cleaned and enlarged by J.W.Walker & Sons in 1967.
The church has some valuable Plate, mostly stored in the Bank. The plate used for Sunday Service is kept in a wall safe in the Vestry. The vestry is located at the East End of the South Aisle and has a door leading directly into the Chancel. There are many monuments, tablets and inscriptions in the Church and interested visitors are welcome to visit at any time between 09.00hrs and 17.00hrs, when the Church is open. It has to be locked a night as a security measure.
There will shortly be a geocache located in the Church. We hope that everyone looking for the geocache will take the opportunity to visit the Church – it is well worth a visit! Everyone is welcome at St. David’s.
This brief history of the Church of St David, Llanfaes, Brecon is based on a pamphlet produced in 1993 by the Rev. D. E. Thomas and Michael Vickers, B.E.M. A copy of this pamphlet which carries much more detail about the Church, can be found near the Entrance Door of the Church.