I recently went to Cilcain church for the first time and I was astounded by the arrangement of 18th and 19th century gravestones outside.
For context, it is commonplace for memorials to be reused as paving and displayed against the walls of churchyards. I’ve discussed this phenomenon repeatedly in this blog, as for Talley Abbey, Carmarthenshire and St Dogmael’s Abbey, Pembrokeshire.
Cilcain provides an exceptional instance, however, and in two regards. First up, rather than graveslabs serving as the path itself, larger, 19th-century gravestones have been lain horizontally and framing the pathway around the southern side of the church in an amazing fashion. This is a striking arrangement showing the wholesale re-ordering of them away from their original positions and serving to guide visitors and worshipers to the south door of the church.
Yet, it is the 18th and early 19th-century smaller memorials that serve to frame the car park that I wish to focus upon as particularly striking.
West of the church, they are not simply rested against the church or churchyard boundary as I’ve noticed elsewhere. Instead, they are afforded a new and prominent significance, not only individually, but as an assemblage. When precisely this arrangement was created, I don’t know, but they have been arranged uphill of the church and the stones frame a new car park that encroaches onto the historic churchyard and accessed from a northern gate.
The small modest to the churchyard before splaying and framing a rectangular parking area. Further memorials are lent against the west end of the church tower.
Not only that, but they are angled, so that the sun catches their surfaces. Regimented, they stand to attention again, awaiting viewers in an arrangement starkly contrasting with their original, lost, positions within the churchyard. Their emphasis is upon ‘serving’ their new function, to be seen, individually and collectively, to defend the churchyard space and direct the walker and the protect from the driver.
They are thus simultaneously bollards and dislocated historic memorials…