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St Martin's Church, Cwmyoy (Cwmiau), Monmouthshire

St Martin's Church Denomination: Anglican

Dedication: St Martin of Tours

Built: Medieval
Restored: 1887 and 1991

Photography: John Ball
Date: 16 March 2016
Camera: Nikon D50 digital SLR

A long delayed photographic expedition to the old parish church at Cwmyoy in the Vale of Ewyas. Despite (or maybe because of) its querkiness, the church is obviously very much cherished and tended by its parishioners. [JLB 2016]

Note 1: Soon after turning into the [Llanthony] valley you will descry amid the heights ahead a weird, bulbous summit. That is the Cwmyoy landslide, a mighty fragment torn away from the Hatterall ridge. Seen from afar, the landslide seems like an immense boil on the shoulder of the Hatterall. The chancel of Cwmyoy church is a remarkable example of a "weeping chancel". In many of our churches, the axis of the chancel is out of line with the axis of the nave, for the nave represents our Lord's body, and the deflected chancel His head fallen sideways in death. At Cwmyoy, not only the axis but the whole chancel slews sideways, and it seems that the builders planned it thus , for if the slant had been due to the landslide it should have followed the slant of the tower. There is little change since 1682, when Tom Price was buried there.

Thomas Price he takes his nap
In our common mother lap
Waiting to heare the Bridegroom say
Awake my dear and come away.

[Source: Out and About in Monmouthshire, by Fred J. Hando, R. H. Johns Ltd, Newport, 1958]
Above right and below: St Martin's Church below Hatterall ridge [pen and ink sketch by Fred J. Hando, 1958]
St Martin's Church

Below: St Martin's Church viewed from the western side of the valley. St Martin's Church

Church Exterior
Below: Approaching the church from the east shows its tower to be leaning to the north
and its chancel to the south. The building to the left is the old vicarage.
St Martin's Church

Note 2: The church is an ancient building, and is remarkable in that in no one part of it is it square or at right angles with any other part. The building looks as though its foundations had all been moved by an earthquake or landslip. [Source: A History of Monmouthshire: Part II The Hundred of Abergavenny by Joseph Alfred Bradney, Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, London, 1906]

St Martin's Church
Above: St Martin's Church, viewed from the southeast. Three flying buttresses support the nave and chancel.

Below: St Martin's Church, viewed from the northeast. At the northwest corner, a massive flying buttress supports the tower.

St Martin's Church

Note 3: The church lies on a shelf above the Honddu, so affected by landslips that the walls now lean at a variety of crazy angles. Even with the support of huge flying buttresses it is difficult to see how the west tower remains standing. [Source: The Old Parish Churches of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, Malvern, 1991; ISBN 1-871731-08-9]

Below: The southwest corner of St Martin's Church, showing the base of the west tower and the south porch.
St Martin's Church

St Martin's Church Note 4: The church has suffered appreciably from local subsidence. The main reason is that the charch was built immediately below the site of a spectacular landslide, which occurred towards the end of the Quaternary Ice Age [about 12,000 years ago].
The church was built on the lower slopes of the slide debris and as this material slowly disintegrated and settled the building was subjected to a long series of minor disturbances. As the more modern buildings nearby show no signs of subsidence it may be assumed that the sub-surface material beneath the church is at rest. [Source: Information sheet (displayed in the south porch) Cwmyoy Church by D. Emlyn Evans, Assistant Keeper, Department of Geology, National Museum of Wales, 1967]

Below: Decorated arch over window in south wall at western end of nave. The window was part of the late Victorian restoration.
St Martin's Church

Note 5: St Martin's Church, Cwmyoy is constructed in local fine grained red/grey sandstone coursed rubble, with stone tiled roofs which were renewed in 1887. The walling is medieval with considerable repairs and rebuilding as a result of ground instability. The church consists of nave, chancel, south porch and west tower with external stair turret and castellated parapet. The church is heavily buttressed, with three stepped ones to each side of the nave and one to the south wall of the chancel, and large flying buttresses to the tower, these are all Victorian additions. The nave has three windows in either wall, three identical two-light Decorated ones which are Victorian; the north west one which is 12th-13th century; the south east one which is 13th-14th century; and the three-light middle window of the south wall which is probably 16th century. The chancel appears to have been built separately from the nave. It has a small pointed window on either flank wall and a two-light east window with cusped heads, this may be 14th century. The tower is medieval, it is twisted and leans at a considerable angle towards the south west. There are a number of painted tombstones and a stone cross carved with an unusual image of Christ, thought to date from the 1200s. [Source: Coflein database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (accessed 17 Mar 2016)]

South porch
Below: Inside the south porch is a stoup now set in a niche in the wall.
St Martin's Church

St Martin's Church

Right and Below: Examples of several decorated plaques on the walls of the porch and on each side of the entrance to the nave.

St Martin's Church

Church interior
Below: The nave and chancel.
St Martin's Church
St Martin's Church

Right: Steps leading up from the nave into the chancel,
which leans markedly to the south.

Below: The simple wooden altar table in the sanctuary.
St Martin's Church

Below: View west into nave from top of chancel steps. The pulpit is on the right.
St Martin's Church

Below: The south window in the base of the west tower. The (vertical) crucifix shows the angle at which the tower leans.
St Martin's Church
St Martin's Church St Martin's Church
Above: The medieval font.

Right: Eagle lecturn.

St Martin's Church St Martin's Church

Right: Plaque commem-orating the deaths in 1788 and 1790 of Mary, aged 8, and Mary aged 14 weeks, daughters of Mr. Williams of the Sharpal.

Left: Medieval cross showing the figure of Christ. The design is unusual for the mitre with three crosses on the head of Christ.

Note 6: The medieval cross was dug up in 1861 at a nearby farm and kept in the farm garden. In 1935 it was placed in the tower inside the church. In 1967 the cross was found to be missing. When a photograph of the cross was shown to the Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities at the British Museum, he not only dated it as being 13th or early 14th century, but also said he had recently seen the cross in an antique dealer's shop in London. From there it was recovered, returned to the church, and safely set in concrete. The thieves were never traced. [Source: The Church of St. Martin, Cwmyoy, undated booklet available in the church]

St Martin's Church Left: 17th century commemorative slab on floor of chancel.










St Martin's Church
Below: Tombstone of William Watkin:
In Memory of
William Watkin
Who Died April ye
21st 1748 Aged 73
St Martin's Church

Right: Ancient churchyard cross.

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