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St Margaret Marlos's Church, Llandawke

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Map ReferenceSN21SE
Grid ReferenceSN2827111214
Unitary (Local) AuthorityCarmarthenshire
Old CountyCarmarthenshire
CommunityLaugharne Township
Type Of SiteCHURCH
PeriodPost Medieval

St Margaret Marlos Church, Llandawke, is situated within a curvilinear churchyard, bounded to the north and west by a stream, which begins as a spring some 90m south of the churchyard. Llandawke Farm (now two dwellings, Llandawke 1 and Llandawke 2), is sited some 100m to the north-west. The farm was constructed on the site of an earlier manor house, which may have been associtaed with the church. A former pond (NPRN 310480), now visible as earthworks, is located some 60m south-south-east of Llandawke Farm and is likely to have been associated.
The church's former rectory (now Rectory farm) is adjacent to the south-west churchyard boundary. A Latin and Ogham inscribed stone, thought to date to the fifth-sixth century, was used as the sill of the south door until it was moved to the nave in the nineteenth century. It is now kept on a ledge by the chancel arch. A similar stone can be found at St Margaret's Church, Eglwys Cummin (NPRN 107301). According to local tradition, the church was founded in the fourteenth century as a monastic establlishment, but there is no evidence to support this. Originally dedicated to St Odoceus, the church may have been a parish church during the post-conquest period, belonging to the Deanery of Stradtowy. It is thought to have always been under private patronage, under the lordship of Laugharne. In 1833 the living was a rectory under the patronage of William Powell, Esq. In 1998 St Margaret Marlos was a parish church, belonging to the Rural Deanery of St Clears, and was not in regular use. In 2006 the church was rescued from dereliction by Friends of Friendless Churches, and it is open to the public.

The church is a Grade II listed building, constructed of limestone and Old Red Sandstone rubble. It comprises two-bayed nave, chancel and west tower. The chancel arch is thought to date to the early thirteenth century. The nave and chancel date to the thirteenth century, and the chancel south wall has a contemporary piscina with semicircular-headed recess and bowl. A rood loft doorway, also thought to be thirteenth century, has a plain semi-two-centred head, and its sill comprises three steps. Two corbels either side of the chancel arch also relate to the rood loft. Openings are medieval (although some have been rebuilt), and have purple sandstone, limestone and yellow oolite dressings. The church was remodelled in the fourteenth century by Sir Guy De Brian, Lord marcher of Laugharne. A tomb recess in the chancel west wall may be fourteenth century. It is thought to have housed a painted fourteenth century effigy, reputedly that of St Margaret Marlo (neice of Sir Guy de Brian), which now lies against the chancel north wall. The effigy was recovered from the churchyard in the nineteenth century, and is broken ito three pieces (according to legend St Margaret Marlo was broken into three pieces by robbers). The square limestone font may be post-medieval in date. The tower is thought to be post-medieval and may possibly date to the seventeenth century. It is unusual in that it lacks the typical west door, battered base and string-course typical of the region (being battered to full height instead). It has a spiral staircase, which projects from the eastern half of the north wall, entered through a simple, square headed doorway. The church was restored in the later nineteenth-early twentieth century. The elaborately carved, arcaded oak alter dates to 1882, and its design includes angels, lily of the valley, rose of sharon and passion flower.

Sources include:
Cadw, Listed Buildings Database
Cambria Archaeology, 2000, Carmarthenshire Churches, gazetteer, 48
Richard Suggett, Painted Temples: Wallpaintings and Rood-screens in Welsh Churches, 1200–1800, (RCAHMW 2021).