This week, we re-visit Fred Hando’s ‘Rambles in Gwent’ as he takes us to Llantilio Crossenny.

IN the village the folk still talk of Llanteilo Crossenny. “Llanteilo” it should be, for the beautiful church on the hill commemorates Saint Teilo.

Saint Teilo, Bishop of Llandaff in the sixth century, was the son of Saint Tegfedd to whom the lovely old church of Llandegfedd, described in Chapter nineteen, was dedicated. When the Saxons attacked this district, Iddon, sore oppressed, sought assistance from the godly Teilo whom he found praying at Llanarth.

Teilo stood on the mount “in the middle of Cressinic” and prayed fervently while Iddon and his men fought and defeated the invaders. The King gave the mount and the land around it to the saint, and it is therefore fitting that the church dedicated to Teilo should stand on the hillock where the saint prayed.

As my sketch shows, Llantilio - a “city built upon a hill” - cannot be hidden. The graceful spire on the central tower, like the spires of Grosmont, Ross and Monmouth, forms a landmark for miles around, and gives character to the park-like countryside.

On a recent Sunday we sat in a meadow above the “moat” (where the battle took place) and listened to the bells of Llantilio. Of these bells, five are inscribed with prayers for the church and Queen Anne, and the sixth dated 1821, with a prayer for the Church, and for “peace and good neighbourhood.”

As we sat and listened, the ringers played the old hymns of our childhood, and their music combined with the tinkle of the brook and the bird-song to induce a sense of peace which also recalled childhood Sabbaths.

Peace reigned within the grey church. Tall Perpendicular arches replace the Early English nave arcade, although the lancet windows survive at the ends of the aisles. The chancel is of the Decorated period. While the south transept is original, the north transept has been replaced by the Cillwch Chapel, separated from the chancel by three arches. From the chapel the view of the high altar is obtained through one of two “squints.”

To left and right of the east window are very interesting stone corbel heads, one of which I have sketched. The mode of the hairdressing dates these as of the reign of Edward II (1307-1327).

Standing in the centre of the west end of the nave, we noticed that Llantilio chancel, as in so many other parish churches in Gwent, is out of line with the nave, being deflected to the south.

The monuments bear testimony to the virtues of the great ones of Cillwch, of Treadam, and of Llantilio Court, while the north wall window near the pulpit recalls Sir David Gam of Llantilio Crossenny who won immortal fame at Agincourt, and whose home, Hengwrt, stood in the “moat.”

The flat stones in the chancel are of great interest. Two of the stones show costumes of Stuart days, and the third in memory of Vicar Owen Rogers, who died in 1660, bears three candles, ten angels’ faces, and a quaint inscription. The inn at Llantilio Crossenny bears an ancient name—”The Hostrey.”

There was a tenement called “Le Hostry” in the village, but on a different site, in 1459. Very picturesque is the scene when the foxhounds meet in the open space before the inn.

On a second journey we paid a return visit to Cillwch, one of the most interesting ancient houses in northern Gwent. To my delight, Cillwch has been restored to something of its former splendour, and the owners have now a beautiful home, every room furnished with taste.

It was very satisfying to find that the ancient window portraying St. George and the Dragon, which had been re-moved, has been replaced. On another window I read the signature of the glazier who had inserted a pane on “31st July, 1853”—a century ago this month!

In the attic we opened a small door in an inner wall at floor level, crept inwards and peered down into a secret room six feet square.

Cillwch was a Catholic home in the days of the Oates Terror, and with the Vicar of Llantilio so fanatical in his hatred of the Catholic priests, it must have been essential to have a hiding-place near at hand.

Yet the entrance to this small room has not been discovered ; it was certainly not effected from the attic.

We inspected the unicorn and the pelican plaster decorations, the carving on an ornate fireplace, the linen-fold panelling in the dining room, and the great beam-bolt, four inches square, used for fastening the front door. Robert was interested in the working of this beam, but far more interested in a friendly blue old English sheepdog.

Retracing our wheelmarks almost to Llantilio, we turned left to reach Abergavenny via Llanvetherine through the green and pleasant Trothy country.

In Treadam, halfway to Lianvetherine, we discovered an artist’s dream—the brown-roofed cottage shown in my sketch, unique even in this county of ancient homes.

The splendid eight-light window in the gable is merely one of many interesting windows. We were shown another window of four lights, all different in design.

The interior was lovely and quaint enough to be the setting of a Welsh fairy-tale, for the latticed windows let gentle light on to ceiling-beams and doors and floorboards, a spiral stone staircase, daub and wattle in walls and ceilings, and a young mother with her three-week-old baby.

Here again was evidence that a mediaeval home is being carefully preserved. Of necessity I have been unable to describe all the treasures of this exquisite district, but I advise all lovers of Gwent to lose themselves, either awheel or afoot, in the lanes around Llantilio.

Next week, Fred Hando takes us to the banks of the River Wye.