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St. Mary's Annual Inspection

Saturday 6th March 2010

This annual inspection by The Friends, held on Saturday for convenience instead of the actual St. David's Day Monday, was attended by about 45 people, adults and juniors, several of whom had not visited the site recently, some never before.

Sue Brooke and the juniors with their daffodils for the 'altar'.
We were very pleased to find that much of last year's reported damage, including overturned gravestones, had been righted by Cardiff Council workers. We were particularly pleased to see that the top of the lovely red granite stone had been placed back on. The site itself was clear of litter, and there was not much new damage or graffiti. Ongoing minor damage to the standing walls by way of crumbling mortar and dislodged stones was noted in several places, and this will be reported to the Council, together with the litter, very bad this year, around the security gate and lane at the foot of the hill.

Delia welcomed the crowd of supporters gathered in the body of the church, and Rosemary delivered an interesting talk on aspects of the site history, see 'Rosemary's talk' below. Sue Brooke and her Junior Friends group laid daffodils in the chancel area (see picture), and we closed by singing the Welsh Anthem, led by Tony Jay, Delia's husband!

Dave Horton, Senior Support Worker of Communities First had arranged the marquee and tea/coffee and hot chocolate which were welcomed by all, especially when the forecast shower of rain arrived. We squeezed under the marquee while storyteller Cath Little told us the tale of Mari and the Golden Chair, a magic memory chair that gave a little girl the knowledge of all the local historic events.

Inspection Team 2010.
We were delighted to see our faithful friend and stalwart supporter Ken Pinches, but sorry that Ivan Woodberry could not be with us this year. We send our very best wishes to Ivan and hope to see him at St. Mary's very soon. The formal inspection team (see picture) included Jean and Cliff Evans, Jean's cousin Val, Sue and Dave Brooke, Rosemary Lewis, and Delia and Tony Jay and others, apologies if you are not named here. Our thanks to the "Junior Friends" for assisting with this inspection.

We were urged to hold an event in the Summer (Sat 14 August suggested), when Father Jones might be able to attend. He had hoped to come for the present inspection, but was not well enough to brave the wintry weather. Arrangements will be reported as they develop.

Finally, our thanks to everyone who came and helped to make the occasions such a happy one, with our special thanks to Dave, Sue and Cath for their continuing support..

Rosemary's Talk

Rosemary talks about the site history.
St. Mary's during medieval times prior to the Reformation in 1520 during the reign of Henry VIII, would have looked rather different than it did in modern times.

When St. Mary's was being rebuilt by Father Jones, one of his assistant's, Roger Wools, noticed that where the white emulsion had been washed off the inside walls of the church, some coloured plaster emerged. Being a student of architecture he realised that the walls had the remains of medieval murals.

A couple of years ago I visited St. Fagans Museum with Cardiff Archaeological Society to see an ancient church, called St. Teilo's, which had been moved there from Llandeilo. At this visit, work was still underway, but some of the murals had been completed and others were in the process of completion. The artwork in our little church may well have been similar. St. Teilo's is well worth visiting. Its architecture is different and it is larger than St. Mary's and does not have a tower.

The outside of our church would have been lime-washed in medieval times, whilst the inside would have been decorated with figures such as angels and Christ and the disciples. There would also have been decoration of archways which may have been brightly coloured.

At certain times of the year, processions of the congregation headed by the priest carrying the cross would walk around the church. In medieval times the year revolved around religious festivals and there were many festivals. On special saints days the people had parties and drank ale. The first festival of the year was the Feast of Our Lady on 25th March. On Plough Monday, just after Christmas, the priest blessed the plough. Then, Henry VIII abolished many of the festivals. The people hated this reform as festivals were the only break they had from hardship. After 1520 the paintings and colourful decoration gradually disappeared.

There is a book that can be purchased called "Saving St. Teilo's - bringing a medieval church to life." It is published by National Museum Wales Books.

The lovely old red granite stone repaired. The old church, still standing.