Thursday, November 1, 2012

Monnington on Wye, Herefordshire

Through the lychgate

One of the rewarding aspects of maintaining a blog like this is the interesting feedback one receives. Among the responses to the previous post about Monnington on Wye was an email reminding me of the tradition that Owain Glyndwr is buried there and an enquiry about the 19th-century clergyman and diarist Francis Kilvert: didn't Kilvert go to Monnington? He certainly did.

Kilvert's sister Thermuthis† (known as Thersie) was married to the Rev William Smith of Monnington and the diarist often visited them. Several entries towards the end of the diary mention Monnington. On one occasion, on 6 April 1876, Kilvert records visiting the church:

Mr. James went with us to the Church which is light and pleasant and cheerful within and seemed well cared for. He told us that in the great flood of February 6, 1852, he and the present Sir Gilbert Lewis of Harpton (then Rector of Monnington) had punted in a flat-bottomed boat across the Court garden, in at the Church door, up the Nave and into the Chancel.

Later the same month, Kilvert recalls a Sunday visit, when the three bells are rung and he goes through "the old slanting mouldering lych-gate" to the church. The Rev William Smith preaches the sermon, Thersie plays the harmonium, and Kilvert reads prayers. 

Even today, Kilvert's descriptions ring true. The place is certainly low-lying and watery: there is a stream nearby, the Wye is not far away, and one can quite believe Kilvert's punting story. The wooden lychgate – in my photograph above – is still there, but not, I'm pleased to say, slanting or mouldering. Its 17th-century timbers and quadruple gables have been given some loving care since Kilvert's time and it makes a fitting entrance to the churchyard. 

The church itself is still light and pleasant too, thanks in large part to the clear glass in the windows. The 17th century, when the nave and chancel were built, was not a great age of stained glass, and while one can regret the acres of medieval stained glass that were smashed by iconoclasts elsewhere in England during the Commonwealth period, the clear glass in this building of 1680 works well and is at one with the plain wooden benches and stone-flagged floor. With the door left open on the day I went there, the light pouring in through the windows, and birds singing outside, it couldn't have been that different from when Kilvert visited. 

* * *

† Kilvert's sister was named after her mother. In the account of Josephus, Thermuthis was the name of the Egyptian princess who rescued the infant Moses from the rushes.


bazza said...

"Through the Lychgate" certainly rings a bell (no pun intended!) There must be a book or play of that title.
The historical detail really brings added interest to your post. Lychgates often have seats in them don't they? I wonder why.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: The seats are because lychgates were used as a stopping point when a coffin was brought to the churchyard for a funeral. A long time ago I did a post about another lychgate, explaining more about this.

Anonymous said...

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Philip Wilkinson said...

Maria: Thank you so much for your nice comment. I've not yet started to use Twitter, but I do have a Facebook presence and if you find me on Facebook you'll see that I post links to my new blog posts there.