St. Barnabas Church, Penboyr
(article by Dr D. L. Baker-Jones in The Carmarthen Antiquary, 1962)
The parish of Penboyr lies in north west Carmarthenshire and belongs to the Rural Deanery of Emlyn and the Archdeaconry of Cardigan. The parish church is dedicated to St. Llawddog and is believed to be a sixth century foundation. Not far from the church are the remains of hillforts and tumuli, etc., which show that the neighbourhood had been the hub of successive settlements long before Christianity came to these islands, and this may well account for the building of the first church in such a remote spot.
Throughout the centuries pilgrims and worshippers flocked here – and it seems to have been the spiritual centre of a parish of some 6,936 acres. In time a chapel of ease dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built in the village of Velindre Siencyn. It was known as Capel Bach, and is referred to at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but little of its early history is known. Subsequently it served the needs of the inhabitants of Drefach and Velindre. A school was held there at one time, together with vestry meetings in addition to the services of the church (see pp. 184-185, Hanes Plwyfi Llangeler a Phenboyr, D.E. Jones, Llandyssul, 1899).
By the middle of the nineteenth century its condition was so ruinous that a new place of worship had to be built in the village. The woollen industry in the district was by now becoming flourishing – although it was still run on ‘domestic’ lines. Again, the Earl of Cawdor, patron of the Rectory of Penboyr, aware of the changes of the time, was disposed to give a new church to Penboyr parish.
The idea was originally mooted by John Frederick Campbell, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Cawdor (1790-1860), but he died before proceeding further with the project. Fortunately, however, J. F. Vaughan, the 2nd Earl Cawdor (1817-1898), on succeeding to the title took immediate steps to carry out his father’s wishes. Thus through various indirect and direct causes St Barnabas Church was founded in 1862, and celebrates its centenary this year.
We are told that on Thursday, 13th February, 1862, Earl Cawdor and Mr. D. Brandon , the architect, visited Penboyr parish in order to select a site for the church. “Immediately upon his arrival in the picturesque village of Velindre his lordship proceeded on foot accompanied by the Rev. Wm. Harries to view the different spots recommended as a site for the new church; while Mr. Brandon took another direction to inspect the quarries. After his lordship had made a circuit of several miles distance he returned to the village where he found large groups of tenantry awaiting his arrival.” (Carmarthen Journal – Friday, 21st February, 1862, & The Welshman of same date).
Judging from the glowing press accounts it was a gala day in Velindre and district, and both old and young, rich and poor, halt and maimed came out to see their illustrious landlord! “Addressing them in English he said that he regretted his brief stay would not allow him to see all his tenants, but that he intended visiting the parish again in a few months” (ibid). All this was explained to them in Welsh by the Rev. W. Harries. In the meantime Mr Brandon returned from viewing the quarries and the site was finally chosen. “The design is most elegant as would naturally be expected from the distinguished taste of the architect” (ibid). Incidentally the church is plain and well proportioned and leaves little room for criticism of Victorian Early Gothic! The contract for building was given to Mr. James Rogers of Tenby, who undertook the work for £2,000; and on February the 14th, 1862, the ground was excavated, and the quarries opened so that the work could be completed with the least possible delay.
Meanwhile “His Lordship, after the arduous work of the day was over, proceeded to Llysnewydd, the residence of Major Lewes and left on the following morning for Golden Grove.”
The work commenced well and continued until the following year when the church was consecrated on Friday, the 3rd July, 1863. From the same press accounts we are told that – “the weather was most auspicious, and the event created great interest in the neighbourhood, as was evident from the large number of persons who congregated to witness the ceremony … A little before 10 o’clock the Earl of Cawdor arrived and shortly afterwards the Bishop of the diocese.”
A procession of about thirty clergy went from the residence of the Curate (Velindre House as it is known today) to the church. “The consecration service then commenced with the 24th Psalm being repeated by the bishop and clergy alternately as they proceeded up the aisle. When the learned prelate had taken his seat on the north side of the communion table, the Earl of Cawdor advanced to the rails and presented the deed conveying the site of the church and the adjoining burial ground to his lordship. After which the Registrar of the diocese, Valentine Davis, Esq. read the petition.” (ibid).
Then the Bishop read the consecration prayers and the Chancellor of the diocese read the deed of consecration which was then signed and laid on the altar. The Rev. D. H. T. G. Williams, Rector, read the order of Morning Prayer at which the lessons were read by the Rev. Wm. Harries, Curate, and the Bishop preached from Psalm XXVI, 8. Dr.Thirlwall alluded to the decease of the late Earl Cawdor, and an eye witness described the delivery and matter of the sermon as “most effective.” Then followed the consecration of the churchyard and the service of Holy Communion. Thus ended the morning’s activities.
The clergy and many laymen were entertained to a “cold collation” at the Curate’s residence, and we have a list of their names given in the Welsh Church periodical Yr Haul, Awst 1863 –
The Revs. D. H. Thackeray Griffiths-Williams, Llwynhelyg, Rector; T. Lloyd, Llanfair Orllwyn; R. J. Lloyd, Troed-yr-aur; J. R. Griffiths, Llangeler; J. Sinnett, Bangor Teifi; G. Evans, Llandyfriog; J. Hughes, Penbryn; J. Griffiths, Llandeilo; J. Jones, Llansadwrn; D. Jones, Brechfa; E. Jones, Llanfihangel-ar-Arth; E. Morgan, Llandyssul; J. Jones, Llandysilio-gogo; J. Rees, Llangranog, T. H. Davies, Llangunllo; J. B. Herbert, Cilrhedyn; H. L. Davies, Cenarth; D. Evans, Cilgerran; H. J. Vincent, Llandudoch; Ll. Ll. Thomas, Newport, Pemb; H. Morgan, Aberaeron; J. Evans, Llanddeiniol; J. Morgan, Conwil; D. R. Jenkins, Llan-llwch; E. Griffiths, Capel Cynon; W. Harries, Curate of Penboyr; M. Morgan, Curate of Nwewcastle Emlyn; S. Williams, Curate of Cenarth; T. James, Curate of St Dogmaels; T. Rogers, Curate of Llangunllo; J. Roberts, Curate of Carmarthen.
The afternoon and evening services were entirely in Welsh, and owing to the vast congregation, a temporary platform had to be put up in the churchyard “…where, after the Litany had been read in church, two admirable and telling sermons were preached by the Revs. J. Griffiths, Llandeilo and J. Jones, Llansadwrn.” This was followed by another full service after which two interesting and eloquent sermons were delivered with great fluency, etc., by the Rev. D. Jenkins, incumbent of Llan-llwch and the Rev. J. Evans, Llanddeiniol. On the following Sunday the Rev. J Griffiths, Llandeilo, preached again in the open air to a large crowd – “Pregethodd Ficer doniôl Llandeilo .. un o’r pregethau mwyaf hyawdl a chymhwys a glywsom erioed; a bernid fod dros ddwy fil yn ei wrando.” (Yr Haul – Awst 1963). All the chapels in the neighbourhood were closed as a tribute to this famous cleric. In passing it is interesting to note that John Griffiths was born at Mynydd Bach, Llandyfriog in 1805. He was educated under Dafydd Dafis, Castell Hywel and at St David’s College, Lampeter. He was ordained Curate of Newcastle Emlyn, whence he moved to Llangeler where he was vicar from 1835-1853. From 1853 until his death in 1878 he held the living of Llandeilo, became Rural Dean, Proctor in Convocation, etc. In 1859 he graduated B.D., and in 1869 the degree of D.D. was conferred on him by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his services to the Welsh Church.
Thus St. Barnabas, Penboyr, - or yr Eglwys Newydd as it was known for generations – was consecrated and for a hundred years it has played an important part in the religious life of the area.
To conclude, one might add that the church naturally contains but few historical relics. Shortly after its consecration a stained glass west window was given in memory of James Lewes Lloyd, Dol-haidd, who died 11th July, 1858, aged 75, and Joyce Maria Lewes Lloyd who died 4th December, 1857, aged 83.
This window consists of two lights each representing St. Barnabas and St. Paul, whilst the quatrefoil completing the tracery depicts the crest of the Lewes-Lloyd family, viz.: an eagle with a serpent in its mouth. Three of the Chancel windows depict the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension and were given by Lord Cawdor in 1862. Two other windows were added on the south side of the Chancel – one showing St. George and the Dragon, in memory of those who died in the 1914-18 war, and the other of the Good Shepherd, in memory of Canon Thomas Jones, Rector of Penboyr 1889-1914 and of his wife Margaretta. In the vestry there is the safe given to Penboyr Parish Church in 1815 by Archdeacon Thomas Beynon, and brought to St. Barnabas (where it remains!) for safe custody when the parish church was being restored in 1889. Apart from a few memorial tablets, the other items of interest are the four tiles on the floor immediately inside the door near the font. One has the date of the foundation 1862 and two others show armorial devices of the Cawdor family.
Re-dedication ServiceIn 2009 the church was rewired, new under pew heating installed and rainwater goods repaired.
With the support of the Local Community, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Churches Trust and CADW extensive refurbishment and repairs were carried out in 2017/2018 including new slating to the Nave and Chancel roofs, General external masonry repairs, and redecoration inside the church with re-painting of the Chancel Arch Inscription “GOGONIANT I DDUW YN Y GORUCHAFION” which translates as “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST”
On completion of the work a re-dedication service was held on the 4th February 2018, presided over by The Right Revd. Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids