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St Ciwg's Church, Llangiwg

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Map ReferenceSN70NW
Grid ReferenceSN7238005590
Unitary (Local) AuthorityNeath Port Talbot
Old CountyGlamorgan
Type Of SiteCHURCH
Anglican parish church with medieval fabric, altered in 1812. Source: Cadw list description 2003. 2004.01.30/RCAHMW/SLE


Llangiwc Church is one of the more remote, picturesque, and historically interesting medieval churches in Glamorgan. Despite its remoteness it remains a focus for the community of Llangiwc and beyond. It is a parish that was historically part of the lordship of Gower and was a focus for pilgrimage in the late-medieval period. It was declared redundant in 2004 and is now in the care of The Friends of Llangiwc Church.

There are several components to the site: church, churchyard, well, and a possible platform of early Christian significance.

Architectural interest
Llangiwg is an upland parish church. The core of the parish church is medieval and the church retains the basic plan of c. 1500. Font and early Christian stones provide physical evidence of the earlier medieval church. The Royal Commission's Glamorgan Inventory notes that an important early medieval trackway passes near Llangiwc suggesting that the area had early religious associations (RCAHMW,Glamorgan Inventory, Vol I, Part III: The Early Christian Period (1976), p. 4). The amount of C19th rebuilding has been exaggerated in the standard accounts.
Much of the medieval fabric survives apart from a section of rebuilt walling on the N side of the chancel. The plan is characteristic: an undivided nave and chancel; a porch, and west tower.
Both porch and tower are essentially non-liturgical. The porch was a traditionally used for meetings and agreements and the porch retains the stone benches of the period as well as the holy water stoup. The tower is an extravagance and exists simply to house a ring of bells. It was an embellishment that most upland churches would have wanted but few managed to achieve.
The tower opens to the nave through a rough pointed arch. The tower seems to be of the same period as the nave. It has thick walls (except where it butts against the nave, pierced by putlog holes. It had originally three floors which need to be reinstated: ground-floor chamber; ringing chamber lit by two `loops?, one looking into the nave; bell chamber, latterly with one large bell. The top of the tower is now crenellated. The tower is not placed symmetrically against the nave but offset to accommodate the space occupied by a blocked doorway in the W nave wall. This doorway alongside the tower is architecturally mysterious. The wall is thick enough to contain a stone mural stair which would have been lit at the upper level by the surviving single light Tudor window. The whole area is unusual and needs careful archaeological investigation.
The interior of the church is largely C19th, probably in two phases. The first phase is dated by the inscription under the eaves of the south wall: `This Church was new |roofed and considerably |altered. A.D. 1812.?
The new roof is a Georgian plastered ceiling presumably replacing an earlier `open? roof. It is unclear what if anything survives of the earlier roof. The alterations relate to the paving and repewing of the church and rebuilding of the N chancel wall. Some of the surviving pews of enclosed bench type with raised panels and moulded rails may date from this phase. A further phase of C19th improvement is represented by the replacement windows of Early English type and the re-ordering of the chancel.
Font. Although the church has closed the font has been retained. This is a precious link with the Norman predecessor of the present Tudor church. The font is a large circular Norman `tub? of Sutton stone with a plain moulding at the base of the bowl.
Early Christian Stones: The early Christian stone in the porch is a precious link with the pre-Norman church. The `disc-headed? cross is fully described in RCAHMW's Glamorgan Inventory, Vol. I, Part III, p. 45, where it is assigned a 9th-century date and its provenance discussed. A socketed stone for a small standing slab/cross remains in the churchyard and is assigned a 9th to 12th-century date (Glamorgan Inventory, Vol. I, Part III, p. 68).

The Churchyard: memorials
The large churchyard is roughly quadrangular rising steeply to the North and enclosed by a drystone wall with access from the west (to the well) , south (the main gateway, and the north (by steps over the wall). The churchyard is full of memorials from the 17th to 20th centuries. There is a concentration of C18th altar tombs and other C18th memorials on the E and S sides. On the N. Side particularly there are several coffin-shaped graves defined by pitched sandstone slabs. C19th burials include victims of the cholera epidemics. C20th burials include casualties of the World Wars.

R.F. Suggett/RCAHMW/2013