Friday 10th November: a walk around St Woolos Cemetery to look at the WW1 graves and a talk on St Woolos Hospital in the Great War.

A cemetery 4cemetery 3

NEW EVENT TO FINISH THE YEARFriday 10th November the day before Armistice Day.

Meet at 2.30pm in St Woolos Cemetery where Richard Frame will give us a tour of the World War one Graves. Please wear sensible clothes and shoes.

Then back to our secretary’s home for tea / coffee and biscuits and perhaps cake at approximately 4pm.  At 4.30pm Peter Strong will then give a talk entitled St Woolos Hospital in the Great War.  Thtalk on WW1 and Woolaston House War Hospital Newport at our Secretary’s house. Monmouthshire Antiquarian Association – Home

This framed print of staff at Wooloston House War Hospital Newport (now St Woolos Hospital) taken in 1918 will be placed in the hospital as part of the Journey’s End project. Thanks to Newport Museum and Art Gallery for permission to copy the photo and to HLF for the funds.


To book, send your name to Richard via email or ring up to book a place.

Saturday 14th October we hope you will support Frank Olding’s talk on ‘The Archaeology of Upland Gwent’,

Eisteddfod 7Here is Frank Olding at the book launch last year at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod

Saturday 14th October we hope you will support Frank Olding’s talk on ‘The Archaeology of Upland Gwent’, at the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre, which is attached to the National Museum in Cardiff.

The Talk commences at 10.30 am. This talk, is organised by Christabel Hutchings in conjunction with the Friends of National Museum Wales. The MAA want to support it because you will remember that we made a grant towards its publication. There will be coffee and a chance to talk to Frank after the event. COST £10, pay on door, including tea/coffee and biscuits following the lecture.

Wednesday 6th September: Visit to London to the Society of Antiquaries of London in conjunction with Cardiff Archaeological Society

Wednesday 6th September : Visit to  the Society of Antiquaries of London in conjunction with Cardiff Archaeological Society: Organised by our President Jeremy Knight and Chairman Alan Aberg

On September 6th we were joined by members of Cardiff Archaeological S0ciety on our visit to the Society of Antiquaries of London.   On arrival at Burlington House we were welcomed by the General Secretary, John Lewis, in the Meeting Room.  The Society, founded in 1707, moved into this splendid building from Somerset House in 1875.  In the Meeting Room were a fine collection of paintings, including a series depicting English sovereigns.  The Library on the first floor is a magnificent space, with columns leading the eye to upper levels of shelving.  Here we were able to examine various documents from the Society’s collection chosen for us by  Alan Aberg and Jeremy Knight, both FSAs, who had arranged the visit for us.   Among other items we saw a range of 17th century documents from the Wakeman collection, (Thomas Wakeman lived in Monmouth), and early illustrations of places in Wales.  Many of us were fascinated by a collection of 19th century watercolours of Monmouthshire churches by an unknown artist.

As well as these public rooms we were able to visit those which originally were the home of the General Secretary.  Now they are given over to offices, and showed clearly the difficulties of adapting Victorian spaces to modern needs.

What we saw and heard gave only a taste of the Society’s work and its collections.  We were very grateful to Alan and Jeremy who made this fascinating visit possible and to everyone who helped with the organisation.  Would Fellows please pass on our thanks to the Society staff involved. The lecture and conducted tour were both superb and generous in time. The Gwyn Coach company driver also deserves  a thank you as he was unfailingly good, timely, and contributed to the overall success of the day.


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Here are prints from the Society of Antiquaries collections. We were able to see many more on our visit. The first is of Bettws Newydd Church and is dated 1842, and the second is of the Old Tower at Caerleon.

BT 2                                                       Image (63)

copyright: Society of Antiquaries

Sunday 6th August at 12.30pm: Members’ summer lunch at usual venue

Thursday, 13th July a visit to St Teilo’s church at Llantilio Crossenny and Hen Gwrt moated site

A visit to Llantilio Crossenny

llan 1

It was a beautiful summer’s evening on Thursday 13th July as the MAA led by Alan Aberg and Revd Canon Dr Arthur Edwards headed out to visit Hen Gwrt moated site and the church of St Teilo at Llantilio Crossenny.  The Church of St Teilo is the parish church of Llantilio Crossenny, Monmouthshire is a cruciform church with an early English tower crossed by a decorated chancel. Rev Canon Dr Arthur Edwards gave an interesting talk on the church, and we then spent time looking at a splendid ‘Green Man’, interesting graves and fine Victorian stained glass amongst many other treasures. Thanks must also be given to the Revd Heidi Prince who allowed access to the church and joined us on the visit.

Llan 2

The church is important because St Teilo stayed in the vicinity on his visitations. All the Welsh historians believe that he died at Llandeilo, In the 6th century it was probably a timber church. The earliest relic is the 12th century Norman font. The tower is 13th century early English and the chancel 14th century. The Cil Llwch chapel on the left of the chancel is dated by the hair style of the two heads on its east wall to 1307-27. The nave is late 14th century. In 1708-9 the four great timbers in the tower made from one tree 60 feet high supported a ring of six bells and the spire. The ring increased to eight bells in 1978-9. A staircase leads to the door which gave access to the rood screen which was removed during the reformation and such screens are rare survivals. We recall the screen still in place at Llangwm which we visited recently with Maddy Gray.

Llan 3

After a short walk to Hen Gwrt, Alan Aberg gave an informative and interring talk about the excavations and history of the site. There was little to see above ground but Alan brought the ancient site to life once more by describing the buildings that would have existed there. It was probably a manorial site belonging to the bishops of Llandaff in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, later used as a hunting lodge. Only the moat now remains. The site is defined by a rectangular platform, 39m by 45m, set within a moat, 72.5m by 76m overall. Excavation in 1957 demonstrated a sequence of occupation starting in the thirteenth century, the moat being the work of the fourteenth century. Such structures were high status and were most likely the homes of minor lords and well-to-do tenant farmers and in some instances they may also have represented outlying grange farms associated with monastic establishments. The site would have formed the focal point of an agricultural estate. They were less common in Wales than in many areas of England. In Wales in 1978, 136 had been identified but probably aerial photography will have increased this number.   The moat was the unifying feature for identifying such sites. There was obviously a defensive purpose to the moat, but the moat would have been connected to a series of fish ponds and would have varied in size.

After a hiatus in occupation during the fifteenth century substantial buildings were constructed/adapted in the sixteenth century when the site was used as a park lodge, occupation ceasing in the seventeenth century.

See Alan Aberg’s introduction to the Council for British Archaeology’s Research Report no. 17 for moated sites. Published in 1978.

Photos thanks to Adrian Smith

Saturday July 1st: Llangwm History Day

The event aimed to showcase the history of Llangwm and took place in conjunction with the Gwent County History Association and Llangwm Monmouthshire Local History Group. It was organised this year by the MAA.

The day will consisted of lectures in Llangwm village hall and forays into the locality and luckily the sun shone.  Hefina Rendle the chairperson of Llangwm History Society welcomed us to the village. Lyn Bennett, a member of the Llangwm society and also a member of the MAA worked the amazing PA system and it made all the difference to the day. The first lecture was given by Tony Hopkins from archivist from Gwent Archives and related to the John Gwin Common Place Book which is held by the archive. Tony had analysed the archive  in detail. He started with the family history and moved on to the contents. The book was not a diary or a journal. The contents are randomly recorded which is part of its charm. It contains things he needed to remember and things that interested him. The Civil War gets only one comment. There is a lot on medicine with various bizarre remedies. There is much about church affairs as he was church warden to St Jerome’s church. he was also related to the Monmouthshire Puritan Walter Cradock.

The group then walked to St Jerome’s church which is the custody of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Professor Maddy Gray described the ninth century origins of St Jerome’s church, its wonderful carved rood screen, and the nineteenth century rebuilding by Seddon. (Bradney commented unfavourably stating, ‘ The whole has suffered by the injudicious work of zealous restorers.’) She explained the liturgical significance of the lay-out of the Medieval church, and how the laiety would have experienced worship. St Jerome’s  is now under the custodianship of the Friends of Friendless Churches,  and recent work by them has revealed the tombstone of Joan Gwin, Cradock Gwin and Elizabeth Gwin, (the latter ‘murdered in her own House’.)

After a ploughman’s  lunch prepared by our secretary and treasurer we visited the Baptist Chapel. The Revd Cannon Dr Arthur Edwards reminded us that when it was built in 1840 the Baptists were the strongest denomination in rural Monmouthshire, as shown by the religious census of 1851.  Here, too, we heard about the Cradock connection, as it was Cradock  Gwin Watkins who provided the land for the church.  In contrast to the separation between priest and congregation seen in St Jerome’s, the Baptist congregation focused on the preacher and the open Bible placed directly before them.  It encouraged a form of democracy in church government, and women were taught leadership in meetings, being able to vote, though not allowed to preach.

Peter Strong then spoke about the agricultural workers in Llangwm and the neighbouring villages of Gwernesney and Llangeview, based on evidence given to  the Royal Commission on ‘Women and Children In Agriculture‘, 1869. He explained that the wages, at 10-12 shillings a week were low but higher than many agricultural districts due to the proximity of industrial districts.  Women were paid about half as much as men but normally only did seasonal work.  Children were often sent out of the home to live on farms as farm labourers or domestic servants from the age of ten.     Having a lack of pictorial illustrations he cleverly used the paintings of George Clausen to illustrate the lives of people at the time.

Time was passing and so Christabel Hutchings curtailed her talk on the Village School. She described its foundation by the National Society in response to the expected take over of non-sectarian education under the terms of the 1870 Education Act.   This act allowed voluntary schools to carry on unchanged, but established a system of ‘school boards’ to build and manage schools in areas where they were needed. She then looked at the contents of the early log books and admissions books and the evidence for the social history of the village that could be gleaned from their contents. The punishment books are now available for study 1904-7 at Gwent Archives and created interest and she finished with a glimpse of how the school children celebrated St David’s Day in 1915 by creating a tableau of a  First World War hospital and trenches.

The day was  summed up expertly by the Chairman of the MAA Alan Aberg. He thanked the speakers and discussed the importance of their different talks relating to the village of Llangwm. He finished with some interesting and comical  reminiscences from his own school days.

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Thursday 15th June: A visit to Much Marcle, Hellens Manor, St Bartholomew’s church and St Mary’s Church Kempley:

We arrived at the Hellens’ Manor at 11.30am. The present house dates from the 16th /17th centuries, is built of brick, and has gardens redeveloped to reflect the age of the building.  Most of what you can visit is Jacobean, with period furnishings, but it has the feel of, and is, of  a lived-in house.   The house is run by a trust and the aim is to ‘protect and maintain, in perpetuity, two houses of historic interest – Southside House, Wimbledon, and Hellens Much Marcle, Herefordshire – and to make both houses available for educational and cultural activities relevant to the local communities.’

We divided into two groups and had two excellent guides. Hellens Manor stretches back to 1096 when it  was granted to the de Balun family. It then passed to the Lords Audleys by 1301, who were created Earls of Gloucester in 1337. We enjoyed the tour which began in the Stone Hall with a fireplace bearing the Black Prince’s crest and the Minstrel Gallery and finished in the rooms prepared for Mary Tudor and her tutor Fetherstone,

The gardens alone are well worth a visit.



Hellens 1       Hellens 2      Hellens 4


Hellens 5       Hellens 6

Following the tour we had an excellent lunch in the barn.

After lunch we will visit:- St Bartholomew’s Church (13th -15th century) was  nearby which has several fine tombs, including the unusual effigy of Sir Walter de Helyon, of painted oak (14th century), Blanche Mortimer (d.1347), portrayed realistically with drapery flowing over the side of the tomb, and effigy of Sir John Kyrle. We were met by the Church Warden who greatly added to the experience.

Kempley Church  a Norman church now in care of English Heritage, which was founded in the early 12th century by Hugh de Lacy, who also founded Llanthony Priory. It’s best known for the exceptional 12th – 14th century wall-paintings, revealed when white-wash was removed in the last century. Five people went on to the church while others went back to the Hellens’ gardens.

Below members viewing the frescos in Kempley.

Fresco      Fresco ceiling    Fresco 3


From the bell tower    The Nave 2   The Nave

Thursday May 25th at 7pm: An evening visit to Runston Deserted Village in conjunction with Cardiff Archaeological Society.


A beautiful sunny evening and members from the MAA and CAS assembled to view the site. The event was organised by Jeremy Knight, our president and Chris Jones-Jenkins a member of the MAA and of CAS. We were kindly allowed access to the Wye Valley Archery Centre to use their car park and access the deserted medieval village.


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A few more photos

Runston 5   Runston 7    Runsron 4                                Runston 10


Runston – the site

The monument represents the remains of a deserted village’s earthworks, building flooring and a partially standing chapel open to the sky. Documents reveal that the chapel was built by the Normans and might stretch back to the early 10th century. Although it goes back to medieval times it was deserted in the 18th century when the landlord abandoned the village as its rents dwindled.

On the site one can see:-

The Chapel

The chapel is roofless with a chancel and nave and bell tower at the west end.  The chancel arch survives intact with walls surviving to original height. The chapel retains finely jointed ashlar blocks, and small Romanesque windows which point to an early 12th century date. Documentary evidence points to a village on the site as early as the 10th century.

Runston’s fortified Manor House

Visible is the remains a fortified manor house evidenced by tumbled rubble. This measures 30m by 30m on the north side of the chapel. On the s w corner is the outline of a tower toughly 5m in diameter and some coursed walling is still evident.

Runston House Platform

A rectangular complex of a turf covered long house and building foundations associated with enclosures surrounding it.

Dr Mark Lewis has written about finds discovered on the site:-

Runston 2



Saturday 6th May, The MAA AGM at the Charles Williams Church in Wales Primary School at 2pm


The AGM was held on 6th May 2017 and as Rick Turner was ill, Dr Mark Lewis stepped into the breach and gave one of his interesting talks this one on his recently published book entitled ‘ The Fountains of My Story Arthur Machen and the Making of a Museum 


It was a wonderful AGM this year. We were very sorry that Dr Rick Turner was not well enough to attend, but so pleased he is getting better. Mark Lewis stepped into the breach and wowed the audience. Ian Burge our former President came with a piece of carved stone and presented it to Mark. Everyone was fascinated and it will go to NMW. Three new committee members – not that many elected at once for a long time. They cut the average age down too.

AGM 1   AGM 2  AGM 12

Friday 7th April: Visit to Abergavenny Priory Church at 1.30pm followed by a visit to Abergavenny Castle and Museum at 2.30pm:

Visit to Abergavenny Priory Church

This was an informal visit during which we pooled our knowledge. We met at the Priory Church Abergavenny at 1.30pm. Some people arrived earlier and had lunch in the Tithe Barn close by. Anne Dunton led the discussion and began at the oldest part of the Priory which was the Norman font. Jeremy Knight told us about the bells and how at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, the parishioners bought the four bells, weighing a total of 45.5 cwt, which were hung in the Priory Church. Anne told us that St Mary’s Priory was founded in 1087 as a Benedictine Priory alongside the castle by Hamelin de Ballon, the first Norman Lord of Abergavenny.

Priory 4       Priory 6

Here Jeremy is describing how medieval fundraising raised the bells and saved them from destruction at the Reformation. You can also see the oldest item in the church, the Norman font.


Priory 8       Priory 9

Here we are in the Herbert chapel.  Centre is the tomb of William ap Thomas and Gwladys Ddu, and on the right his son Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook and his wife. He was executed after the Battle of Edgecote. On the right is the tomb of William ap Thomas.

William ap Thomas was responsible for beginning the construction of Raglan Castle as we recognize it today. He obtained Raglan through his marriage to Elizabeth Bloet, widow of Sir James Berkeley shortly after 1406. When Elizabeth died in 1420, ap Thomas retained Raglan as a tenant  for the rest of his life. William’s second wife was the heiress, Gwladus, the daughter of Sir Dafydd Gam and the widow of Sir Roger Vaughan and all these men had fought with King Henry V in France at the battle of Agincourt. William ap Thomas was knighted by Henry VI, becoming known to his compatriots as Y marchog glas o Went (the blue knight of Gwent). Gradually he began to establish himself as a person of consequence in south Wales. When he died in London in 1445, his body was brought back to Wales to be buried in the Benedictine priory church at Abergavenny. His wife Gwladus (the star of Abergavenny), as she was called by the poet Lewys Glyn Cothi, died in 1454. William was succeeded by his eldest son, another William (d.1469) who took the surname Herbert.

Priory 10

Here Anne is pointing out the alabaster carving of the Annunciation and saints Catherine and Margaret on the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert.

Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook

On the north side of the Herbert Chapel is the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert and his wife Margaret, who lived at Coldbrook. Both Richard and  his brother William Herbert, were prominent in the wars of the roses and they were both beheaded at the battle of Edgecote. They brought up Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, at Raglan Castle under their guardianship. We then took the opportunity to look at the Jesse Tree which was carved from a single piece of oak in the 15th century and depicts the lineage of Christ from Jesse.

Abergavenny Castle 

At Abergavenny Castle Jeremy spoke about its history. Both the Priory and the Castle were focal points in the turbulent times of the Welsh Wars which followed the Norman incursion into Wales, particularly into the areas known as the ‘Welsh March’.

Priory 3       Priory 11

In 1087 the wooden keep was built, followed in 1190 by a replacement keep built of stone. As the castle of Marcher lords it had an interesting history, changing hands between English and Welsh. It was slighted by Charles I during the Civil War and became a source of stone for building material. Jeremy had pointed  out that the Caerleon Antiquarian Association, as it was then called, had visited in 1898 when they held their Annual Meeting at the Castle.  They used to travel to places by train and took picnic hampers with them which were piled into carts and transported to the historical site they were visiting. Here is a map that they drew and provided for members on that the occasion of their visit to Abergavenny.

Abergavenny Castle (poss 1898)


Copyright MAA.

The Museum is situated in a nineteenth century hunting lodge which is on the site of the former motte. It  has an interesting collection of artefacts. There is a Victorian Welsh farmhouse kitchen and a saddler’s workshop amongst other displays. When we visited the current exhibition was ‘Monmouthshire Women Making Change’ which was very interesting.