St Tudwal's Church
St Tudwal's is a living church with worship every Sunday at 8.30 and 11.15am.
Llanstadwell is an historic parish church serving an area of over 3000 acres containing 4000 souls. It has been a holy place for 1500 years. Its setting is typical of an ancient Celtic site with easy access to the waterway yet discreetly hidden from the open sea and the attention of raiders. The word LLAN is Welsh for CHURCH and Llanstadwell is a corrupt version of THE CHURCH OF ST TUDWAL, although in 1291 the name was written as Lanstowel. St Tudwal was a 6th century Bishop who was well known in Brittany and North Wales, and whose intervention was at one time invoked at times of public calamity.
The tower is Norman, reputedly built in the reign of King Stephen (1135-54). These were times of civil war and violence, which explains its fortress like appearance. The tower was useful to ships navigating the Haven but it also served as a fighting platform for archers who fired from the battlements. 75 well-worn steps ascend the tower in a clockwise spiral facilitating defence from above by right-handed swordsmen. The tower has 3 stages and has a plain corbel table and battlements. In 2011 extensive repairs were carried out to the roof and stonework.
For centuries people entered the church by a doorway in the west wall and down a flight of steps. The top of this doorway can still be seen from the churchyard.
The belfry holds 2 bells cast in 1684. In July 2012 they were restored and rehung for stationary chiming. Church bells were reintroduced after the prohibitions of the Commonwealth and one bell is inscribed VIVAT REX (Long live the King) - probably in honour of “The Merry Monarch”.
The restoration work carried out in the 1850’s largely determines the character of the interior of the church. The roof and the floor were raised by 4 feet. The old roof lines can be seen in the nave and on the tower walls. New windows, the north doorway and the Victorian box-like pews were all added at this time.
The square font of a much earlier period retains its old position near the entrance to the tower. It holds 5 gallons of water and in earlier times would have been filled, blessed and kept locked.
Opposite the font can be seen an incised tomb slab, brought up from under the floor of the north transept, during the restoration work carried out in 2011. It is thought that this may date from the 14th century. It is badly weathered having spent a good many years outside before being left under the floor when the Victorians raised the floor level in the 1850’s.
The list of vicars is complete from 1535. Before that date the only vicar whose name we know is one Thomas Balymore who entertained Richard II on his journey to Ireland in 1394 for which he received the handsome sum of 40 shillings to defray his expenses. In 1662 John Lunffey, Vicar of Llanstadwell, was removed from his living because he refused to comply with the Act of Uniformity and the Book of Common Prayer. On leaving the church he returned to his former trade as a hatter.
THE NORTH TRANSEPT
This is the site of an ancient transeptal chapel. As elsewhere, the floor of this section was raised 4 feet during the 19th century. Previously worshippers enjoyed an unimpeded view of the chancel sanctuary by means of a “squint” or “hagioscope”. This was a narrow oblique opening in the wall or pillar of a church, which permitted a view of the main altar from the transept. A small tunnel and the top of its archway are still visible low down on the north wall of the chancel.
The original earth floor below provided a resting place for the dead as the churchyard was then used for other, often recreational, purposes. Approximately 200 years ago burials began to be conducted in the church grounds, the oldest gravestone being dated 1802, but in less than a century there was little space remaining and in 1880 a new cemetery was consecrated in Honeyborough. In the churchyard can be found several graves of sailors belonging to HMS Blenheim, a guard ship based at Pembroke Dock and broken up in 1865. The 1861 census confirms that several sailors from the ship lived in the parish.
The lectern is fairly recent and believed to have been carved in the local dockyard.
The east window, by Kempe, is dedicated to the memory of those who fell in the 1914-18 War. Their names are inscribed on a brass plate in the nave. An Epiphany scene shows the Wise Men arriving in Bethlehem and illustrates the nations doing homage to Christ, the Prince of Peace. The text is from Isaiah 60.
The fine oak furnishing dates from the 1940’s but there is an ancient “piscina” or water-stoup in the south wall of the sanctuary. There is a most beautiful silver chalice (hallmarked 1599) from the reign of Elizabeth I, which is still used on important occasions, but is not on view. The chalice is inscribed in Latin “POCULUM ECCLESIE DE LAN SET WAL” (THE CHURCH CUP OF LLANSTADWELL).
Supposed traces of a “leper window” may be found outside the north wall of the chancel. In mediaeval times this allowed many sufferers from contagious diseases to view the proceedings within and to receive the sacrament without entering the church. Also on the north wall is a memorial to a long-serving incumbent, L H Rumsey, who was an Oxford graduate and was Vicar from 1873-1911. The pulpit and north door are also dedicated to the memory of his family.
THE SOUTH TRANSEPT
This part of the church was built as an extension to accommodate the population explosion experienced in the parish in the 19th century when Brunel brought the Great Western railway to Neyland. The buttresses near the pulpit show the line of the original outside wall. Neyland now has its own St Clement’s church. The South transept was furnished as a Lady Chapel in the 1950’s but has recently been adapted to provide a flexible space for various activities.
The Church Registers are in the Haverfordwest Records Office, but copies are held in the vestry and records are still maintained of every baptism, marriage and burial. The first entry records the Christening of Michael Jones in 1714. Surviving records show Baptisms (1714-1904), Marriages (1714-1892) and Burials (1714-1903).
In 2011, thanks to fund-raising, generous donations and grants, major restoration work was carried out on the tower and the roof of the main body of the church to ensure that it will be sound and weatherproof for many years to come.
8.30a.m. Holy Communion
11.15a.m. Morning Prayer
(Communion on 2nd Sunday)