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ST MARTIN'S CHURCH, LAUGHARNE

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 102141

Map Reference SN31SW

Grid Reference SN30211143

Unitary (Local) Authority Carmarthenshire

Old County Carmarthenshire

Community Laugharne Township

Type of Site CHURCH

Broad Class RELIGIOUS RITUAL AND FUNERARY

Period Post Medieval, Medieval

Site Description St Martin's Church is situated within a rectilinear churchyard (NPRN 418571), bounded by former strip fields (NPRN 401707), extending some 200m to the south and 400m to the east. Cist burials have reportedly been identified in the churchyard, and a small, ornamented wheel-topped stone was reportedly excavated during grave-digging. It is thought that the church's original dedication was to St Michael, as it was reportedly referred to by this name in 1494 and 1849. The borough of Laugharne (NPRN 33066) was founded by charter of 1278, at which time the church was a parish church, belonging to the Rural Deanery of St Clears and a prebend of Winchester Cathedral. St Lawrence's Church, Marros (NPRN 413036) and St Cyffic's Church, Cyffic (NPRN 103869) were dependencies before 1777, at which time they both became parish churches. A medieval tile and what is thought to have been part of a canopied tomb, were found in the churchyard in 1927. The churchyard's eighteenth and nineteenth century monuments (NPRN 418571) are Grade II listed for their group value. Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet and playwright (1914-1953), is buried here.

A Roman cinerary urn was reportedly found underneath the south transept during restoration in 1873-1874. A ninth or tenth century cross with knotwork to the stem and marginal cable moulding is situated in the south transept.

The church is a Grade II listed building, constructed of limestone rubble. It consists of three-bayed chancel, four-bayed nave, north transept, south transept, tower, north porch, storehouse (south of chancel centre bay), north vestry and south porch. In 1873-1874, during restoration, the footings of a shorter, narrower nave were identified. The church is known to have been rebuilt by Sir Guy de Brian VII in the later fourteenth century. The current nave, chancel, transepts and tower are thought to belong to a single phase rebuild of the mid-fifteenth century. The north transept's east window is the only remaining medieval window. There may have been stone benching in the chancel (removed in 1811) and the tower is thought to have had a fourth storey. The church's medieval roof was reportedly comparible with St David's Cathedral (NPRN 306). The degree of internal butressing is unique in south Wales. A damaged effigy of a lady, dating to around 1400, is located in a cusped recess in the north transept. In 1552 there were three bells. A chest tomb, with the de Brian arms, dates to around 1600 and is situated in the chancel. The north porch is later than the mid-fifteenth century, but was constructed before 1725. The former south porch (rebulit in 1873-1874) is thought to have post-dated the nave. The gabled storehouse, known as the 'Bone House', is thought to possibly represent a post medieval charnel house. In 1723 a new bell loft and bell frame were added to the tower. In 1726 three new bells were cast, using clay from the Roaches, in Laugharne. An organ was present in 1809. In 1810 the church was ceiled. The present organ was installed in 1819. In 1823 a vestry with gallery above were erected within the north transept (known as 'Palmer's Aisle) at this time. At this time there were also galleries in the south transept and at the west end. The nave and transepts were re-roofed and re-seated in 1853. The present vestry and organ chamber were added in 1855, possibly removing a Priest's door. The south transept pews date from this time, as do the alter rails (whose wood is from the 1810 ceiling). The church was restored in 1853-1856 to the designs of R. Kyrke Penson. The windows were rebuilt at this time, the floor was replaced, and the north door was blocked. New chacel fittings were added in 1855-1856 and the chancel roof was replaced. A timber carving of St Martin, by Lang's, Oberammergau (Bavaria) was brought to the church in 1866. The church was restored in 1873-1874, again to designs of R Kyrke Penson. The south transept and south porch were demolished and rebuilt. The west window was rebuilt, the galleries were removed and the nave was re-seated. The north transept roof was replaced and the others repaired. The internal plaster was removed and the rood loft door uncovered. Some of the exterior was re-pointed at this time and the tower may have been truncated. In 1897 a boiler and underfloor heating ducts were installed in the north porch. The chancel screen and loft date to 1910. The reredos was restored in 1901. The stalls mainly date from the 1920s and 1930s. The pulpit dates from 1925.The chancel was renovated in the 1920s and 1930s, at which time most of the stalls were replaced and the interior was plastered. In 1954 the church was extensively repaired after storm damage, and the roofs were re-slated at this time.

Sources include:
Cambria Archaeology, 2000, Carmarthenshire Churches, gazetteer, 48
Lloyd, T, Orbach, J and Scourfield, R, 2006, The Buildings of Wales: Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion

N Vousden, RCAHMW, 12 March 2013

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