At the west end of the south aisle of St Mary and St Beuno’s church, Whitford, Flintshire, is a small space that has been used as a lapidarium for its fascinating fragments of carved stones. They are combined with a small multi-tier display case containing sundry archaeological finds from the area, as well as a heritage board above it.
The stones are a mixture of early medieval, late medieval and post-medieval monumental and architectural fragments. There is an early medieval Class 1 inscribed stone and a couple of possible 10th/11th-century stone monuments I will discuss separately. Likewise, there are late medieval architectural fragments including two piscinas, the stone head of a man and a quern. There is also a post-medieval sundial. I will here focus on the sarcophagus and seven fragments of late medieval funerary monuments only.
As with other NE Wales medieval funerary monuments, they were last reviewed over fifty years ago by Colin Gresham (1968), although a recent review and update has been published by Gittos and Gittos (2012), including the addition of two further monuments not mentioned by Gresham.
I draw details from the descriptions provided by Bob Silvester who has authored a more detailed review available online here.
It must be said, however, that far better photographs are required to record these loose and poorly presented stones. Some of Bob’s photographs, and those I’ve been able to take, are far from ideal to depict the details of the stones.
Not recorded by Gresham, this is an elaborate 2m-long lidless late medieval sarcophagus of 14th or 15th century date, its sides decorated with eight-pointed arches with cusps and crockets, surrounding plain shields. There is an inscription in Lombardic capitals on the ridge: HIC JACET ROBERT.
Amusingly, the loose piece of architectural figural art – a stone head – has been placed with the head-niche of the sarcophagus, implying the absence of the body that once lay within. This is both comedy and uncanny.
These are two fragments of the same floriated cross-slab.
Annoying covered by a loose piece of sculpted stone, this is an inscribed slab commemorating Bleddyn ab Ifor, possibly a vicar of Whitford. The cross-head is lost, but a central stem runs down the slab. The text is partial and runs around the edge of the stone.
A floriated cross dated to the early 14th century.
Another interlaced cross-slab fragment of the early 14th century.
Commemorating Gruffyd ap Dafydd, this is the lower end of a grave-slab dating to the early 14th century. The tip of a sheathed sword can be seen on the stone’s right.
The base of a slab of late 14th-century date with a three-stepped base, commemorating Eva ferch Iohannes ap Madog. I don’t seem to have taken a photograph of this piece, so I will make sure I go back to take better photos.
What we have in a tightly constricted, poorly lit and badly explaining displayed area of Whitford church are important dimensions of the church’s medieval commemorative history. They deserve better interpretation and conservation, rather than treated like dumping ground in the darkest corner of the church.
Gittos, B. and Gittos, M. 2012. Gresham revisited: a fresh look at the medieval monuments of north Wales, Archaeologia Cambrensis 161: 357-88
Gresham, C.A. 1968. Medieval Stone Carving in North Wales, Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Silvester, R. 2006. Whitford Church, Flintshire: The Inscribed and Decorated Stones, Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust Report No. 816.