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Church of St Teilo  – The Design.

The tower of the church is offset from centre. The chancel is out of line with the nave, being slightly deflected to the south – a feature seen in many Gwent churches.

The Chancel

The chancel was rebuilt in the fourteenth century in the “Decorated” style. The east window of the south wall is a good example of “Decorated” work, and there is a decorated piscine to the right of the altar. The modern glass of the east window above the altar is by Howard Martin of Celtic Studios in Swansea.

The window from the ringing chamber of the tower now looks into the chancel, suggesting that the roof of the chancel was raised from its original level. In the south corner of the west wall there is a blocked off narrow doorway beneath an elegant arch. On the south wall there are three further apertures. The most easterly must have been an outer door, while the other two, one above the other, open into the south transept.

It has been suggested that one gave access to a priest’s room. Another possibility was of a raised chamber from which a constant watch could be kept on the altar where the pilgrims came to pray and make offerings.

Perhaps St. Teilo’s association with the founding of the church, or even the presence of a relic of the saint, made this a particularly holy place.

Several interesting flat slabs lie on the chancel floor. One dated 1621 is to the Stuart family and another to vicar Owen Rogers   (d. 1660). Then there is the Walderne memorial stone. This large seventeenth century carved stone memorial to a married couple has been identified from Walter Powell’s copy of the registers of Llantilio Crossenny as depicting Jane and John Walderne, who died in 1620.

Part of the surname can be seen on the tablet above her head. The smaller figures below them are presumed to be their sons – from the left they are believed to be Mark, David and Charles.

It is just possible to make out the last two names. No record of their burial survives. John Walderne is mentioned as a nephew in the will of Hugh Powell (vicar of Llantilio Crossenny), the uncle of Walter Powell, or Penrhos, the diarist and attorney of Gwent, who is buried near the altar.

Llantilio Crossenny
Llantilio Crossenny

The Nave

The church originally had an “early English” nave, much lower than the present one, and also aisles, as shown by the small thirteenth century narrow lancet windows at the western end of the present aisles. The oldest part of the present church are these windows and the massive arches supporting the central tower.

The nave is late 14th century and in the perpendicular style. It was raised on its slender pillars around the fourteenth to fifteenth century when a clerestory was added. (A clerestory is the upper part of the wall, in this case in the nave, of a large church, which contains a series of windows, above the aisle roofs). The slender arches of the nave contrast with the low, pointed thirteenth century early English tower arch, through which the chancel is accessed.

Above and to the right of this arch, in the east wall of the nave, is a blocked-off doorway leading to the ringing chamber, with descending steps now ending in mid-air. These originally gave access to a rood screen, which held a cross. This was dismantled during the reformation. It was used for preaching. Until the 19th century there was a wooden pulpit to the left of the screen.

The north aisle contains an early Norman or possibly Saxon font, discovered in the churchyard at the beginning of the nineteenth century and placed in its present position.

The most easterly window on the north wall, above the remembrance table,    contains glass from Llantilio Court.

The left shows the coat of arms and an inscription in memory of Sir David Gam, knighted by King Henry V, when Sir David was mortally wounded at the battle of Agincourt. Sir David lived at nearby Hengwrt, a house which was demolished in 1459. He is  reputed to have been Shakespeare’s Fluellen, but the dates are inconsistent. The right side of the window is in memory of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who was also connected with the Llantilio estate.

The middle window of the south wall marks the site of the former South porch. Normal entry to the nave is now through the west porch, which contains the parish chest. This dates to 1538 and housed registers, vestments and plate. It is constructed of plain oak and is 11ft. long with three locks – the vicars and the two church   wardens held the keys to open it.

This is a large church for such a small village and it has been suggested that the Bishop used it as a sort of cathedral as he progressed between manors collecting tithes.

Llantilio Crossenny
Llantilio Crossenny

The North Transept & Cil-Llwch (Killough) Chapel

The North transept was extended eastwards in the fourteenth to fifteenth century and became the Lady Chapel. The original east window was removed at this time and replaced by the  perpendicular fifteenth century window. The window has four lights, (filled now with stained glass made by Mr. Kemp of London and donated by Mrs. Morgan Clifford in memory of her husband and son).

On either side of the altar, below the window, are two corbel heads or brackets, used for the support of lights or statues. The one on the right, depicting a youth with circlets round his curling hair, is said to be one of the princes who was taken to the Tower of London, or possibly King Edward II, (1307-27). The hairstyles of the two heads date from that period.

The chapel was used to bury the owners of the local manor house, known as Cil-LLwch, (Killough or ‘dusty retreat’), between 1697 and 1835, and in the  seventeenth century was renamed the Cil-Llwch Chapel.

The south wall of the chapel communicates with the chancel and the area beneath the tower through three arches. The eastern arch is the smallest, with plain continuous mouldings and a Squint through its eastern pier with a piscine beneath. The middle arch is larger, well moulded, rather straight sided with good shafts, capitals and base mouldings. Its western pier is pierced by a second Squint and also bears the carving of the head of a Green Man. The Green Man is an old pagan fertility symbol of nature worship. It is probably thirteenth century and was permitted in churches as a symbol of death and resurrection.

The two Squints are oblique openings in the stone piers, allowing a view of the high altar., possibly to those who would not otherwise have been able to enter the chancel for reason of disease or because they were anchorites, (hermits). It was not unusual for a church to have a resident anchorite. It would also allow a priest to see the main altar of the chancel, since it is thought at one time the eastern arch may have been filled by a stone replica of an eastern sepulcher on the chancel wall.

Llantilio Crossenny
Llantilio Crossenny

The South Transept & Ringing Chamber

The South Transept seems original and is now used as a vestry. A flight of stone steps leads from it up to the ringing chamber in the tower. Two windows in this chamber look out over the nave and chancel respectively, that over the chancel being consistent with the raising of its original roof.

The window that overlooks the nave is set up in the aforementioned blocked-up doorway.