The abandoned medieval and post-medieval parish church of Llandeilo Abercywyn – St Teilo’s – (church: PRN 2186, churchyard: PRN 49267) is situated close to the confluence of the Cywyn and Taf, just to the east and across the river from St Michael’s church. Together, the two churches of St Michael’s and St Teilo’s frame the intersection of the Cywyn (Cowyn) and the Taf estuary. Thus, although landward travel between them takes one on a circuitous route up the river to the first bridge, they are within spitting distance of each other in terms of water transport over the river and marsh. Indeed, it is possible this was the site of a medieval ferry crossing to the west (Laugharne-side) of the Taf.
I visited for the first time whilst actually making a wrong turn in attempting to visit St Michael’s (discussed here). I parked by the farm and asked permission to walk through the farmyard to the church. On return, the farmer was very friendly and talked to me about the medieval date and ‘Saxon’ origins of the church.
St Teilo’s is a simple rectangular building with a southern porch. Roofless, it is ivy covered and fragmented. The rectangular churchyard is also deep in vegetation. There is only a restricted route from the narrow gap in the churchyard wall to the ruins on their south side. Window glass remains in one east window, but otherwise it is a complete roofless ruin.
What is striking is the collection of memorials, some are scattered in the churchyard, many cluster in the porch and frame the approach of visitors. Further gravestones have been brought ‘inside’: positioned inside the roofless nave. There were three more, two leaning against, one built into, the east end of the chancel.
The preservation and date of the stones vary. There is one possible 17th-century stone, the remainder are a mix of 18th and 19th-century memorials. They are made of different materials – slate and sandstone were both used – and epigraphy of different styles. There are also examples of Welsh as well as English deployed. Many are dislocated and repositioned and many are fragmented, yet some still retain crisp, legible surfaces. Once displayed along walls some show evidence of careful arrangement, others are now leaning at jaunty angles.
The churchyard is never static, even long after its abandonment it is a place in conservation peril but also a place in flux as the building degrades and vegetation, weather, time and other agencies affect the decay of tombs and their position in relation to each other.