Saturday 19 November 2011


I am enjoying a long weekend looking after my brother's livestock out west and taking the opportunity to check out places of interest which I haven't seen before.

Today we head off to Cilgerran Castle en route to Cardigan market. Best known for its scenic position it's fairly run of the mill as castles go but famous for a notorious Christmas party in 1109 which got seriously out of hand when Nest, daughter of Rhys the last king of Deheubarth and wife of a Norman carpet-bagger called Gerald de Windsor, got carried off by local bad boy Owain ap Cadwgan. Or was she seduced and went willingly? Or was it a secret Welsh plot to get her away from her in-laws and start some trouble?

The arguments still rage in obscure Mediaevalist circles but I would just make the observation that Nest seems to have been the ancestress of a sizeable proportion of both the Welsh and Norman aristocracy having put herself about - or been put about, let's stay neutral on this - with everybody from Henry I downwards (the king's son by Nest was Henry Fitzroy or Fitzhenry). What everybody seems to agree is that she must have been the greatest beauty of her era, a veritable Welsh Helen of Troy - shame there are no pictures.

By way of contrast I take a look at the little-known church of Bayvil just a mile east of Nevern church which is itself famous for its Celtic Cross, bleeding yew, Ogham inscriptions, etc. In fact I suspect that Nevern's fame may account for Bayvil's uniqueness as a perfect example of a late Georgian church unnoticed and so unruffled by Victorian meddlers who probably thought it too new and too boring to spruce up and so concentrated on its glamorous neighbour.

As you can see from my picture it is ultra-simple, in-your-face low-church, and dominated by a pulpit which allows the preacher to lean right over his flock and inculcate the Word without any idolatrous distractions. The only symbol in view (and it isn't really a symbol at all but clearly symbolic) is the vast bier for bearing the coffins of deceased parishioners which is stored in full view below the pulpit - an entirely practical arrangement (where else could it go?) but no fancy icon, painting, or statuary could provide a starker memento mori to any member of the congregation whose thoughts might otherwise wander (Lord preserve us!) into a day-dream about the deeds of Princess Nest...