St Nicholas – Church of St Nicholas
Aerial video of the church (Thanks to Wil Richardson)
Known in Welsh as Tremarchog (The Knight’s Estate), St Nicholas is a peaceful, picturesque village on the Strumble Head peninsula (Pencaer). The Church is a little gem nestling in the heart of the village. It was last restored in 1865, but there may well have been a place of worship there since the end of the Roman period.
Kneelers depicting local buildings, scenes and landscapes add colour to the nave. The south transept has a squinch, an architectural feature; this vaulted space is thought to enclose the original cell of the founder hermit or saint. The font is Norman. Surviving mediaeval fabric includes the vaulted south transept, squint, and west wall with its impressive, massive external buttress.
In the chancel are three 5th-6th century Christian inscribed stones. One stone was once used as a stile in the wall of the churchyard to the east of the porch. By 1873 it had been set into the churchyard wall and was moved into the chancel in 1905. The Latin script reads ‘TUNCCETACE UXOR DAARI HIC IACIT’ – ‘Tunnccetacem wife of Daarus, lies here.’ A primitive linear cross, probably 7th-9th century has been cut into the lower right hand side of the stone. Two other stones are set into the base of the north chancel arch. These were once used as gateposts on Llandruidion farm, possibly the site of an early Christian settlement. One stone is inscribed with a small Larin cross and the name ‘PAANI’ meaning the memorial stone of Paani. The stone has clearly been split, probably by the farmer who wished to reduce the size of the gatepost. The second pillar stone in the chancel bears the scars of its gatepost existence in the shape of clearly visable holes six on the face and three on the left side.
A natural spring is located a short distance from the church; it provided the village with water from medieval times until the 1940’s and is still used during water shortages.It was re-dedicated by Bishop Hugh Jones during a pilgrimage in august 1995.
Restoration of St Nicholas Church
St. Nicholas Church has been awarded a potential amount of £108,000 for the St. Nicholas Church’s restoration. Development Funding of £11,300 is promised within this award to help St. Nicholas Church progress detailed planning in preparation for our second-round submission to apply for a full grant at a later date.
The project aims to repair the roof, restore heating, and repair brick and stonework to cure the damp. Some of the wood flooring will also be replaced, having been there for hundreds of years. This will allow the church to be used for community and educational purposes, re-establishing the importance of the building in the centre of the village. Many generations of the local population have had close links with the church, as do many current families in the area. As well as a place of regular worship, the church is looking forward to hosting events exploring the rich environmental, geological and historical wealth of the area. There are Roman and early mediaeval carved stones in the church which will be displayed for the benefit of all.
We are delighted with this Heritage Lottery Fund award. It will keep our beloved church safe for the community and future generations for many years to come. Without this grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, none of this would be possible, with the result that we would be facing a very uncertain future.
Although the Heritage Lottery Fund is supplying the majority of the grants we need for the restoration, we are also very grateful to other grantors who are contributing. We have received grants from the following bodies for the St Nicholas Church repairs;
1. Heritage Lottery Fund £108,000
2. National Churches Trust £12,000
3. Representative Body of the Church in Wales £3,000
4. Welsh Churches Act Fund £5,000
The retention of a local church in good order will always make a great difference to those in rural communities, whether or not they regularly worship there. For many communities, such as St Nicholas, the church is, together with the village hall and a nearby chapel, now the only surviving symbol of the kind of community life that once existed here in the past.
There is no school, no post office, no shop, no public house. The investment in the church, signified by the major repair will have a powerful and creative impact on local well-being and confidence. The importance of the simple creation of a safe, dry and warm space in the centre of a community cannot be overstated.
The church lies on the “Saints and Stones” trail followed by many British and overseas visitors to the area each year. Surviving mediaeval elements includes the west wall with its impressive, massive external buttress. The unifying 19th century purple Welsh slate roof is itself now a heritage feature that this project seeks to conserve. The simple layout, modest scale, and overall character of the church represent the quintessential rural Pembrokeshire church.