Archbishop John has led a service of rededication for St David’s Church in Llanwrtyd Wells.
The church has a recorded history spanning more than 1,000 years and has just completed a £152,000 project to carry out major repairs, make the building wheelchair accessible and celebrate its history.
The work was funded by grants and local fundraising, and included new lime mortar for the outside walls, new wooden floors, resetting the medieval font, re-laying the entrance porch slab floor to provide disabled access and digging out and providing a French drain around the church.
Churchwarden of St David’s, Howell Evans, said: “Following three and a half years of fundraising, the renovation finally got underway on September 2018.
“It was completed in July this year to an exceptionally high standard – it’s so good to have our church back looking in pristine condition and retaining its timeless, simplistic appearance and spirituality.
“Having the archbishop to rededicate the church was the icing on the cake for our community, being yet another of many significant events witnessed by our 1,000-year-old church over the centuries.”
Speaking at the candlelit service – St David’s has no electricity or running water – Archbishop John said it was a “privilege to have such a beautiful building in such a beautiful setting”.
“Everything you’ve done will ensure that this lovely place remains for generations yet to come. You have pilgrims, or at least visitors, and when visitors, walkers, passers-by encounter these serene, beautiful places, we have to hope that because of the way that they are cared for and presented, they will in some way be touched by the essence of what the building is here to represent.
It has to be a means, a vehicle, of grace. A place of welcome, a place of calm, a place where the grace and truth of God made visible in Jesus can be touched and felt.
You do the physical job properly to ensure that the spiritual task that exists can be undertaken properly, and with hope and pleasure.”
As well the rededication of the church, the service also saw the dedication of a new altar frontal which has been designed by pupils from Ysgol Dolafon.
The children entered a competition to draw and produce their idea of an altar cloth design and the best was sent to local artist Sarah Evans to interpret the design into the cloth frontal. Lorraine Alterations of Llanwrtyd put the altar cloth together.
The site of the church is reputed to have been chosen much earlier by St David, after the synod at Llanddewi Brefi in 519.
As well as links to St David, the church has many historical claims to fame. In 1164, Lord Rhys gave the hills behind the Church to the new Cistercian monastery at Strata Florida and the property remained with the monks until 1535. Queen Elizabeth I presented a silver chalice to the church in 1559 which bears the incorrectly spelt name ‘Llanwortyd’.
It also houses a plaque to one of Llanwrtyd’s most famous sons, John Lloyd.
“He was a young man who was born in a house just up the road, went to sea at 17 and joined the East India Company. He was captured by various sultans and came back in those days as a multi-millionaire. The legend around here is that he brought back a slave, but I haven’t found anything to substantiate that,” Howell, pictured above with Area Dean Mark Beaton and Archbishop John, said.
There are also personal links for Howell, whose seven-times-removed grandfather Theophilus Evans, a famous clergyman, historian and author, became priest of St David’s in 1736. Evans’ mother was a direct descendant of Edward III and his father a direct descendant of Llewelyn the Great.
His son-in-law Hugh Jones, who took over the church in 1768, is the six-times-removed great uncle of Sophie Rhys Jones, the Countess of Wessex.
To celebrate that history, the project will also pay for a church website and for information boards.
“There’s a lot of history. It’s impressive that a small church has this much history,” Howell said. “What this place reminds me of, is splendidly simple church. And I imagine when the church was first established here, in the first century, they built churches that were really simple. All the splendour didn’t come until centuries later so every time I come in here I imagine this is more like what the church would have been back then.”