Mathry – Church of the Holy Martyrs
Aerial Video of Mathry church and village (Thanks to Wil Richardson)
Set on a hill commanding panoramic views of North Pembrokeshire, Mathry has claims to be one of the oldest settlements in Pembrokeshire. The Church of the Holy Martyrs is located in the centre of the village and the present building of 1869 was intended to have a spire, but funds ran out, leaving it with an interesting shape. The interior is spacious and light, with a new barrel vaulted ceiling and oak finished floor, following a major refurbishment (see below).
A stone inscribed with a wheel cross is now one of two built in to the west wall of the churchyard, to the right of the gate as you face it. They are from 9th century. A stone in the church porch belongs to an earlier period, probably 5th or 6th century. The inscription is cut in Ogham script and reads: ‘Mac Cudicel son of Caticuus lies here’. The ‘Mac’ is now missing. Near the altar lies another carved stone – the cross is carved in relief and the letters alpha and omega are inscribed above the arms, and beneath them the letters IHC.
The derivation of the name Mathry and the dedication of the church are not entirely clear, but a lovely account from the 12th century Book of Llandaff describes how St Teilo, walking beside the river Taf at Llanddowror rescued seven baby boys, whose father was too poor to provide for them. The saint baptised them and every day they received fish to eat from the river. Eventually they were sent to Mathry where for the rest of their lives they were known as the seven saints. In the 17th and 18th centuries a number of cist burials were discovered near the churchyard and these were instantly called the coffins of the martyrs.
Mathry was an important benefice of the diocese in medieval times, granted a market and hiring fair by King Edward III.
Mathry Heritage Exhibition
AS part of the Heritage Lottery Grant, we have been able to assemble a local history and community exhibition in the church. A selection of the photos on display can be seen in the gallery.
For the local history of all the major estates and settlements in the larger Mathry parish of the past, click on the pdf file below, which will open a longer document with photos and much fascinating information on the local area.
Mathry Church was closed due to the dangerous state of the ceiling in 2014, until the necessary repair work was undertaken. This started in April 2016 and it reopened on 28 May 2017. We are very grateful to a number of grant-making bodies that are generously helping us to finance the repairs, particularly the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Churches Trust, the James Pantyfedwen Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the AllChurches Trust.
Here is a video to show the refurbished church.
Below are photos of the work in progress.
Scaffolding for the rebuild of the ceiling