Llanegwad’s Churches

The Churches of Holy Trinity, Pontargothi, Llanegwad, St John’s Felingwm and Llanfihangel uwch Gwili are locked during the week, except for the provision of regular worship and Church services. Access is available by phoning the vicar, who will be pleased to show visitors around.

Although Hernin`s was the first dedication, it was Egwad – son of Cynydd ab Gildas – who became patron of the parish, and it was Egwad who founded Llan Egwad Fawr and Llan Egwad-ar-y mynydd (Llanfynydd). He is reputed to have lived his life in seclusion as a hermit at Eisteddfa Egwad.

        There were several monasteries and religious cells in the parish but only the church of St Egwad remains. The first church was built in a field close to the site of the present church but it is unknown as to how long it remained. Two hundred and fifty years ago it was reported that part of the building had been turned into a dwelling house. The current structure was started in the 10th or early 11th century.

        In the 11th and 12th centuries many members of the Ynyswen family were buried in its circular churchyard. The site of the church with its circular churchyard suggests that it may have been erected on a pagan site. Some of the huge foundation stones may be seen in the boilerhouse.

        Over the centuries many changes to the fabric have taken place, not least those carried out during the restoration undertaken in the early part of the 19th century. However older parts of the building can still be seen. Manuscripts confirm that the present building conforms to the original plan of the church.

        Records are in the charge of the Vicar and go back to 1700 but other manuscripts also exist tracing its history to the 13th century. These are held by the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Brunker’s Llanegwad is regarded as the definitive work on the parish.

        During the reign of Henry VIII, a valuation of all the “ecclesiasticall preforments in England and Wales” was made. The church, in the Deanery of “Llandeilo and Llangadoc”, was valued at £8 13s. 4d.

        The sphere of influence of the parish extended into parts of the old Welsh divisions of Elvet and Cathinog, and embraced the eight “maenors” (or hamlets) of Hernin, Egwad, Mynachdy, Ystad, Llechgrin, Llechfraith Llethergele and Meiros. (The Hamlet of Meiros is mentioned in census returns of the mid-1800s.) Elvet and Cathinog were represented by one churchwarden each, plus one chosen by the vicar. These three, along with the vicar were responsible for the whole of the parochial affairs.

        Llanegwad has available a complete history of its churchwardens back to 1700, with odd references going back a further 30 years. In 1712 the vicar was the Rev Richard Pritchard (b. 1661 at Llangadock) and his curate was David Davies who succeeded him. Richard Pritchard was also vicar of Carmarthen and preached at Llanegwad once a month unless “hindered” by other duties. The annual stipend of the curate was £15.

        A presentement of 1717 states

“Richard Pritchard is vicar . . . and:

            “2. Our Steeple, if it may be so called is in good order according to the form it was first built: the Ivy were all lately taken down.

            3. We have a font with a cover, a communion table with a covering of White Linen (no carpet). A fair silver chalice with a cover also a Pewter Flagon and our Communion Table is rail`d in.

            4. Our Reading Pew is now taken down that it might not be spoiled by the rain, (the roof as was said before being open) . . . “

. . . and so it goes on.

        There are several mentions of damage to the church, but it is apparent from records in the Vestry Accounts showing small amounts for minor repairs that by the first two decades of the 18th century the fabric of the building was in a bad state of repair.

The following appears:                                                   £     s.     d.

     1711 For a new post to the Dyall                                          6     0

         For a new Dyall                                                           6     0

     1713 For fastening and putting a new iron about the bell        3     6

     1714 For pointing of the Chancel

                and part of the church at 2d. a yard                       10   0

     1717 To John Lewis for making 4 new couples, 

                and his part of 7 more laying the leads

                and proping                                                   21    3    0

          For alert raising of the couples                                     6    0

A presentement dated October 19 1719 says “Our Church being for some years past out of Reparation and being the Roof now to be put up: the walls want to be plaistered with white limed and the windows to be glass`d which we shall be done before Christmas”.

The work was carried out in 1719 since the Vestry Accounts show:

     1719 Paid to the Undertakers for rebuilding the roof 

          of the North Ile of the Church                        £58     6s.     0d.

        To Morgan the Tiler  for tiling part of the Chancel      12s.     0d.

        For laths and nails                                                       9s.   10d.

        For carrying the said laths and nails

            in a coregle over Towy                                                     6d.

      1720 Paid Mr Cartwright for adorning the church     £10     3s.    0d.

        Church records prior to 1754 were written in Latin, then from October of that year Welsh took over until 1778 when English followed.

        During the Curacy of David Richards, the church was white limed both inside and out. The cost of this is given as 14s. in 1775 and 5s. 10d. in 1782. In 1776 the roof was repaired as was also the gallery, the latter being demolished some 150 years ago, leaving no trace as to its position. A Welsh Bible was purchased in 1790 at a cost of £2 2s. 0d. In the early 1800s further repairs to the roof and guttering were necessary and part of the church wall was rebuilt. In 1805 the church was “patched and mended” and the lime house was removed for hygienic reasons.

        One of the few incumbents to be buried in the churchyard was the Revd David Nicholl and his wife, both buried on the same day. He was succeeded by the Revd Eleazor Evans, then by his son Thomas Beynon Nicholl. There was severe fabric deterioration during their occupancy. Thomas Beynon Nicholl`s memory is perpetuated by the Altar window and he was remembered as being a liberal and dutiful vicar. He left diaries and details of the parish during his term but died during a fever outbreak in 1882 whilst still a young man.

        Several memorial tablets can be seen inside the church and perhaps the most poignant is that of Leoline Jones. Unpretentious, it hides a tragic tale. Leoline Jones had two daughters, one dying aged less than a week old, and the other succumbing at the age of 2. His younger brother died aged 26 in 1820, his elder sister died sometime before 1822, leaving a husband and young daughter. A younger sister, Letitia Alicia died in 1815. He himself died in 1822 aged 32. His wife moved to Abergwili and died there in 1831 aged 41. Her body was carried back to Llanegwad, a distance of around 4 miles, and she was buried in her husband’s tomb. Certainly a man of some means, he married into a wealthy family and became a surgeon but fate played its cruel hand and virtually the whole family was wiped out in a few short years. So far as is known at present his only surviving family were his niece and another sister who was alive in 1802. A tragic tale indeed.

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