Following a Friday evening lecture and a three Saturday morning lectures, the Cambrians headed for Valle Crucis Abbey, focusing their interest on the grave-slabs in the Abbot’s House. The coach then encircled in the car park of the Abbey Grange Hotel before stopping briefly at the gate of the field containing the Pillar of Eliseg. I gave a brief synopsis of what we know about the Pillar on the coach to those unable to access the monument, and then I added further information at the monument itself. I am speaking about the Pillar today (Sunday), repeating a paper I gave at the EMWARG conference last month. You can read this here.

The Cambrians at Corwen church
Corwen Church, Denbighshire

We then headed on to Corwen church and churchyard, passing back the motte of Owain Glyndwr. Sian Rees mentioned the consolidation work by Cadw necessary to prevent the further erosion of the motte into the River Dee below it.

Having passed by the current terminus of the Llangollen Railway, we saw the newly reinstated steam railway extension. Work is well advanced and due to be open this summer.

At Corwen, we passed by the 2007 statue to Owain Glyndwr and entered the fabulous churchyard. Corwen church was probably an early medieval mother church and there are thirteenth-century suggestions that this status was preserved. It is a large, dark church with transepts: itself a possible sign of a church of high status in the Welsh medieval landscape.

The churchyard at Corwen is an amazing collection of eighteenth and nineteenth-century slate churchyard memorials: ledgers, gravestones and d chest-tombs. The earliest are seventeenth century. Mainly these memorials are now out of their original context, being re-arranged in a clear display by the sides of the main path to the south entrance to the church. The paths around the churchyard were also composed of reused graveslabs.

We were met here by Bob Silvester of Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust and who was able to give us an expert review of the site. Bob pointed out Corwen College behind the church and an empty zone without memorials near the western entrance to the churchyard – the entrance from the direction of Corwen workhouse. Bob suggests that this was the pauper’s burial area.

Bob also pointed out the footstones with twin, and sometimes triple depressions on their tops, were used by descendants to awkwardly kneel and pray at the graves of their ancestors. The Cambrians were not fully convinced by this and others suggested they were simply shaped footstones and couldn’t have practically been used in this way: perhaps it is folklore?

Foot-stones – did worshipers kneel on these in prayer at the feet of ancestors on their way into church?

I simply want to add some photographs here to give an impression of this fabulous memorial space, before, in further blogs, discussing the early medieval stones and the church monuments. Below are some photographs of details from the slate memorials that struck me on this particular visit.

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