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The Parish Church of Abbey Cwmhir

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Photographs copyright © 2002 by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Extracted from the guide to the church by Mr. W.C. Maddox

The history of the church in Abbey Cwmhir is far older than the present parish church itself. The name of the village is testimony to the great religious foundation which stood, until the 17th century, where the village now is. The remains of the Cistercian abbey church lie close to the village, on the banks of the River Clywedog.

There is strong evidence that the headless body of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native prince of Wales, is buried within the precincts of the Abbey, his body being brought here from the Builth area, where he had been killed on Friday 11 December 1282. A slate memorial in the nave of the abbey church commemorates his burial here.

All that remains (locally) of the glories of Abbey Cwmhir are carved stone capitols in the Early English style, incorporated into the terrace wall of the nearby Hall, other scattered carved stone blocks in the surrounding area, a fine relief of the Ascension, and the newly consolidated ruins of the ancient Abbey church.

After the dissolution of the Abbey, it appears that a corner of the church nave was used as a local chapel, but it was not for 160 years that a separate village church, dedicated to St Mary, was built. In 1680 the church on the present site was built at the expense of Sir William Fowler. The old church was constructed from the ruins of the ancient abbey and contained some mutilated ornamental pieces from the same source, which unfortunately have not been preserved. It was a plain edifice of moderate dimensions, with a small belfry at the west end, and a singing gallery underneath.

Abbey Cwmhir was fortunate in having a generous benefactor in the person of Miss Mary Beatrice Philips, a sister to the Squire George Henry Philips, for during the years 1856/6 a new church was built entirely at her expense. The style of the present church is 12th century Gothic, and comprises a chancel with an apsidal east end, an organ chamber on the north side of the chancel, a tower and spire on the south side of the nave with ground stage as the south porch and a vestry attached to the north west corner of the nave.




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Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas