Llanddew : near Brecon, Powys, South Wales    Llanddew : near Brecon, Powys, South Wales
Historical Notes & Points of Interest

 
Home | Llanddew Well & Saint Eluned | The Name & A History | John Lane Davies | Church of Saint David | Reginald F. Vincent

 


Eluneds Story (c 450AD)


This photo of Llanddew village pump (c1900) is reproduced here, by kind permision of Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, Brecon ; and is also included on the Gathering the Jewels website (Gathering the Jewels ref: GTJ61238 http://www.gtj.org.uk/item.php?lang=en&id=21913&t=1  ).

 

Contents of this Page:-

 

Extract from Forgotten Sanctuaries by Gwenllian Morgan, 1903

             Account of Eluned by Hugh Thomas, (end of the 17th C.)

                     Flight to Llanddew & her Chastisement of Llanddew

                     Translation of Geralds account of The Saints Day

             Mention of the story of St. Winifred

             The fate of St. Eluneds Chapel

                      Sonnet on St. Elyned, by  John Lloyd of Dinas

             Visit to Chapel site by Mr. Butcher and Mr. George Hay

The Story updated

             Archaeological dig on the site of Eluneds Well

             The Well Springs Trust

             Restoration of Llanddew Well

             Church of Saint Ellwy, Llanelieu,  plus some links.

 

 

{back to top of this page}

 

(An extract from Forgotten Sanctuaries written by Gwenllian Morgan and published in Archologia Cambrensis in 1903. Gwenllian Morgan was the first woman mayor in Wales and gave the stained glass window of Eluned [Alud] in Brecon Cathedral. Her portrait can be seen in Brecon Guild Hall)

 

(Chastisement of Llanddew..)

 

St Aluds Chapel.---- Of the vanishing chapels in this parish dependent on the Mother Church of St John the Evangelist, the most interesting was that built on Slwch Tump, to commemorate the martyrdom of the Christian Saint, Alud, by a pagan prince in the fifth century.

 

St. Alud (Eluned, Almedha, Anger, Eiluned) was one of Brychan Brecheiniogs daughters - the twenty third. - and lived in Ruthin, in Glamorganshire; this may have been Roath or Ruderei. The chapel stood to the north of the British Camp on Pencyfyngaer, about a mile east of Brecon, and not far from Slwch farmhouse.

{back to top of this page}

In the British Museum is a M.S. [manuscript] account by Hugh Thomas, the Breconshire Herald, written about the end of the seventeenth century, of the legends connected with the life of this saint, which has not been published. Hugh Thomas came of an old Breconshire family descended from Brychan. He was a Catholic, a fact which has nowhere else been recorded excepting in this M.S., and in his boyhood he passed some time in Brecon under the care of two Catholic ladies, his kinswomen, from whom he learned the traditions handed down through successive generations since the departure of the monks one hundred and fifty years before.

 

The MS. (in his quaint but pleasant style) opens as follows:- ­[Only the spelling has been altered, and the punctuation - of which there was none-added.]

 

S. Lhud, that is Anger; she is commonly called S. Alud or Aled, but Giraldus Cambrensis calls her Almedha, who is the only author that makes any mention of her; his words are these:- ­There are dispersed through several provinces of Cambria many churches illustrated by the names of the children of Brychan; of these there is one seated on the top of a certain hill in the region of Brecknock, not far from the principle castle of Aberhonddu, which is called the Church of Saint Almedha, who, rejecting the marriage of an earthly prince, and espousing herself to the Eternal King, consummated her life by a triumphant martyrdom

 

But gives no further account of the matter, to supply which defect the country thereabouts gives us all the particulars, which will not be amiss to subjoin in this place, as a testimony of Gods Providence to preserve the memory of His servants, and the undeniable credit of the traditions of the innocent country people, which is thus briefly and obscurely touched by authors.

 

It seems, that having from her infancy dedicated herself wholly to the service of God, in her riper years being violently pressed by a young Prince to marriage, to free herself from his solicitations and those of her family, she secretly stole away from her fathers house in a disguise, resolving for a time to conceal herself in the neighbouring villages, not doubting that God, for whose sake she had renounced the world, would support her. But behold the great patience and victory of the holy, royal maid! All bowels of goodness were shut up against her, so that her name, Lhud or Anger, seems to have been given her by Divine inspiration (as well as those of all her brothers and sisters), anger being poured out against her like a flood, weight added to weight, and burthen to burthen, till her life was taken away with great violence.

{back to top of this page}

 The first place she retired to was the village of Llanddew or Trinity Church, about a mile from Brecknock [in the seventeenth century the Welsh system of mileage was still in use, one mile being equal to two English of the present day], where she was so ill-treated, that fleeing from hence, she retired to a village called Llanfillo, three miles farther, to live in greater obscurity, which, joined with her poverty, beauty in rags, was the cause she was treated as a common thief, who despised human good or riches, but sought Heaven, or rather God. From hence, fleeing back again to another village called Llechfaen, within a mile of Brecknock, where the former scandals had reached before her, she was treated with such scorn and contempt that nobody would receive her, but forced her to lie in the street and the high road, which ever since is called of her name in Welsh, Hoel S. Alud. After which she resolved to retire to some solitude, never more to converse with mortals; and such a solitude she found upon a hill called the Slwch, now Penginger Wall (a corruption of Pencefnygaer), near the town of Brecknock, which was then overgrown with wood . Here, that she might receive no further insults, she desired the Lord of the Manor to give her leave to dwell, which was very courteously granted, with a promise of other charity, upon which she there built her a little cell or oratory, and was used often to go down to the Castle of the Slwch, to beg her bread, where she was very hospitably relieved, for which she prayed that the Blessing of God and plenty might always be there.

When her thoughts were settled in a little tranquility after all these storms, by way of prophecy she said:

That by the secret judgment of God a chastisement would rest on the village of Landdew for the injuries done to her; that the village of Lianfillo should be plagued by thieves, as they are to this day above all others, and the village of Llachfaen with envy, as indeed they are almost continually in contention and law with each other.

But this sweetness did not last long, nor could any place give her security from the persecutions of our common enemy, the Devil, for the fame of her great patience and piety beginning to be reported in the neighbourhood, her importunate lover, impatient to know if it was his lost mistress, went to her retirement to see, where, finding her alone at prayers, a violent fear surprised her soul of the danger of the place and person, so that she thought to flee down to the Lords house at the bottom [of the hill], which the young Prince perceiving, mad with rage and despair, pursues her, and cuts off her head, which, rolling a little down the hill, a clear spring of water issues out of the rock, where it rested. This being presently known, she was taken up and buried in her own little cottage, which was thereupon turned into a chapel, and the secret history of her life by this cruel death revealed to the whole world, and her innocency made to outshine the sun, God working many miracles by her intercessions, in testimony of His great favour for her, in the eyes of all those who so much injured her.

{back to top of this page}

{still Hugh Thamas}...  "I take the following account from Giraldus":-

 

­The day of her solemnity is every year celebrated in the same place the first of August; whereto great numbers of devout people from far distant places use to assemble, and by the merits of that holy virgin receive their desired health from divers infirmities. One special thing usually happening on the solemnity of this blessed virgin, seems to me very remarkable, for you may often see there young men and maids, sometimes in the churchyard, and sometimes while they are dancing in an even ground encompassing it, fall down on a sudden to the ground. At first they lie quiet, as if they were rapt in an ecstasy, but presently they will leap up, as if possessed with a frenzy, and both with their hands and feet before the people they will represent whatsoever servile works they unlawfully performed upon the Feast days of the Church. One will walk as if he is holding the plough, another as if he were driving the oxen with a goad, and both of them meantime singing some rude tune, as if to ease their toil. One will act the trade of a shoemaker, another of a tanner, a third of one that is spinning. Here you may see a maid weaving, and expressing all the postures usual in that work. After which all being brought with offerings unto the altar, you would be astonished to see how suddenly they will return to their senses again.

Hereby through Gods mercy, who rejoices rather in the conversion than destruction of sinners, it is certain that very many have been corrected, and induced to observe the holy Feasts with great devotion.

 

Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecon, was residing at this time at Llanddew, and wrote as an eye-witness of the miracles he records. Hugh Thomas was not correct in saying Giraldus was the only author who makes any mention of St. Alud, for William of Worcester, a fifteenth century antiquary [B. 1415], has an entry in his Itinerary of which the following is a translation:-

 

­S. Alud, Virgin and Martyr, one of the 24 daughters of the Ruler of Brecknock in Wales at 24 miles west of

Hereford, sleeps in the church of cloistered virgins in the town of Usk, and was martyred on a mound at one mile from Brecknock, whence a spring [or well] arose, and the stone where she was beheaded there remains;

and as often as anyone in honour of GOD and the said Saint shall say the Lord s Prayer, or shall drink of the water of the said font, he shall find at his will a womans hair of the said Saint upon the stone by a huge miracle.

{back to top of this page}

There can be no doubt that she was buried here on the spot where she was martyred, and not at Usk.

This legend bears a remarkable resemblance to the story of St. Winifreds life; but our saint cannot be accused of plagiarism, as she suffered two hundred years before the North-Welsh saint.

The infuriated lover, the beheading, the spring of water bursting forth where the saints head rested, are all similar; but St Aluds end was final, whilst St Winifred, by a miracle, lived fifteen years after her decapitation.

Canon Jessop tells us that, in the thirteenth century the Lives of the Saints became very different in tone from what they had been in the earlier ages; they were overloaded with fabulous stories and incredible incidents, which were not for edification.

The earliest mention we find of St. Aluds little chapel is in the grant made by Bernard, the Norman Bishop of St. Davids 1116-1149, to the Prior and Convent of Brecon, of The Chapel of Saint Haellide ex nostro proprio dono (of our own gift, a free-will offering).

In the document, dated July 5th, 1152, David Fitzgerald, Bishop of St. Davids, at the petition of Ralph the Prior of the whole Convent, confirms to them the Church of St. Aissilde granted them by his predecessor.

{back to top of this page}

In the agreement between the last Prior, Robert Sadler, and the Vicar of Brecon, Sir Thomas ap Ieuan, in 1520, whilst the parish church and other chapels belonging to it were made over to the Vicar, the Prior excepted the Chapel of Saint Eylet with all the tythes, offerings, and emoluments belonging to it, on the condition, that the said Prior and Convent and their successors should cause all Sacraments and Sacramental to be administered within the aforesaid Chapel. It appears from the care taken to confirm the possession of this Chapel, that it was of some importance. The Welsh Princess was evidently a popular Saint, and the miracles attracted the pilgrims, who brought their gifts and offerings to leave before the altar.

In the Augmentation Office, in a roll of the Surveys of the possessions in Breconshire of the religious houses of the Duke of Buckingham forfeited to the Crown, the following accurse:

Possessions on the Dissolution  The Curates stipend for celebrating Divine Service in the Chapel of St. Alice in the parish of Brecknock. Theophilus Jones was of the opinion that this was the same building as St. Aluds Chapel.

In the Inquisitio post-mortem of Thomas James, Lord of Slwch, 1551, his manor is described as Slwch and Saint Aylett, or Haylett.

From the site of the chapel, at a short distance, can be seen Alexanderstone farm, which Theophilus Jones suggests (vol. ii, p. 151) may be a corruption of Alud or Alyned-stone; in that case it may, before the Reformation, have belonged to this chapel.

The Saints name is variously written Alud, Aled, and Elyned; but Hugh Thomas doubtless gives the local pronunciation of his time when he says: A Chapel of Ease called by the people thereabouts St. Taylad. This is an interesting instance of the final t of saint being joined to a name beginning with a vowel, as it marks the same corrupt usage which has made such words as tawdry and Tooley Street so familiar in the English annals. These words sprang of course from Saint Olave, or Olaf the Dane, by a process of popular elision exactly similar. To return to Hugh Thomas (who believed as firmly in the Fate of Sacrilege as ever did Sir Henry Spelman) M.S.:-

 

But since this general profanation of all holy Feasts, and the destruction of her Church and Altar, where she relieved those, whom she chastised, this miracle has ceased, but not her indignation or anger; for Mr. James Thomas, now Lord of the Slwch, who gave me this tradition of the Saints sufferings and martyrdom, told me this Church was under the protection of the Monks of the Priory of Brecknock, and that there was settled upon a Priest, for saying Divine Service there, two meadows adjoining to the north side of the Churchyard, and his dinner every Sunday at the Priory of St. John the Evangelist, and a can of beer every day. When Religion went to rack, and the land of the Priory sold in the time of King Henry VIII, this went off amongst the rest, and the Church stript of all its Ornaments and Pastor, and left to tumble to the ground. Therefore in the time of the Parliaments Rebellion against King Charles I, his father, Thomas James, of Slwch, made it a barn, and built a beast-house at the end of it, till he found himself almost ruined by the insensible decay of fortune for the punishment of his sacrilege, and that the family had never prospered since; that he cleaned it out, and left it empty, pulled down the beast-house, and often promised to repair the Chapel, but the top is now quite fallen to the ground, and the walls will shortly follow it. To this place the young people of the town did use to come every May Day, and have many sports and diversions, I suppose from an abuse of a devout custom of visiting the Church in former times, but this is now quite laid aside. The land, for maintaining a Priest to say Mass in it, is now in the possession of Sir Edward Williams, Knt., of Gwernfed

 

It was common belief that a curse fell on those who touched Church property. When Stukeley visited Glastonbury in 1776, he says I observed frequent instances of the townsmen being generally afraid to make such purchases [of stone from the ruins], as thinking an unlucky fate attends the family where these materials are used, and they told me many stories and particular instances of it

 

In an old map in the writers [Gwenllian Morgans] possession (of a property belonging to her in the parish of Llanhamlach), one field is called Close S. Ailed. This may have been land given towards the maintenance of the chapel, or it may have been the place to which the saint fled on being refused shelter at Llechfaen. No Heol S. Alud can be traced at the present time. The chapel once standing at Llechfaen may have been dedicated to her. 

{back to top of this page}

A charming sonnet on St. Elyned was written by the late Mr. John Lloyd of Dinas: a poet who was worthy of the wider fame which he has missed.

 

ELYNED

 

Fair Elyned, this window doth command

A low flat hill, whereon tradition says

Thy life was freely rendered, in the days

When yet the cross on this benighted land

Had feeble hold, by persecutions hand

Fiercely assailed: oh! while secure we raise

Temple and altar, well become us praise,

And recollections of the martyred band:

Nor least of thee for of a princely race,

And sex ill-formd such pang to undergo,

That thou hast won in history a place

Is proof thy spirit quaild not from the blow.

Would not the conquerors of the earth could trace

Such proud escutcheon, such desert might shew

 

 

John Lloyd, of Dinas.

 

 

St Aluds Chapel is a little more than one mile from the town of Brecon, and is reached by Cerrigcochion Lane, which, as its name suggests, is a rugged walk cut in the red rock, overhung with oaks and hazels, bordered with blackberry brambles and ferns and harebells. This ancient Pilgrims Way leads to the site of the chapel, and was the St Ellan Layne mentioned in an account of the revenue of the Priory, 28 Hen. VIII. It was the direct route from St. Alud's, by what is now Wellington Place and Kings Street to the Monastery. The land now belongs to Lord Tredegar, and on the Ordnance Map is marked as site of St. Elyneds Chapel. Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited the spot one hundred years ago and was able to trace some small vestiges of the building.

{back to top of this page}

To-day [1903] the spot may be identified by a fine old yew tree, about 6 ft. in diameter, spreading its branches over a well now almost choked by mud and weeds. The following is an account of a visit paid to the Saints shrine a few years ago, by Mr. Butcher and Mr. George Hay, of this town:­-

 

On ascending from the well to the hedge there is a small mound, and on its summit may clearly be

traced on oblong square, on which Capel St. Alud once stood. The spot is now completely grass-covered, and not even a solitary stone appears above the surface. At a short distance is what might have been a churchyard; there are clusters of plants growing in it at irregular intervals, with leaves resembling the common sorel, and these, according to tradition, mark out the graves of those who were buried here. On leaving the field, and taking the lane in the direction of Slwch farm-house, we noticed that many of the stones, forming a wall on the right side of the lane, were dressed, and we were informed that these had been taken from the ruins of the adjoining church. Mr. George Hay here discovered two very interesting stones in which a groove was cut for fastening the hinge of a door. On reaching Slwch farm-house, a dressed stone that had been removed from the wall in the lane, and now used as a curb-stone for the fold-yard, was pointed out to us. It was originally the cill-stone of a window, neatly chamfered, and forming the base of a mullion.  If some of our local antiquaries could be persuaded to undertake the work of making excavations on the site of St. Eleyneds, some interesting information might be obtained.

 

So, to-day, [1903] not one stone is left upon another to tell us of the faith and devotion of a past age. A yew-tree alone marks the spot where the sainted martyr gave her soul to God; a green mound alone recalls the memory of the chants of praise and prayer, which, ascended to Heaven through the long centuries, broke the silence of that lonely height.

Priest and chapel, and the local veneration of the Saint, have passed away; but, standing on this holy ground, we may lift our eyes to the eternal hills and remember, that the Faith once delivered to the saints is still ours, and is of the things which abide for ever.

 

----------ooOoo----------

 

{back to top of this page}

This concludes Gwenllian Morgans 1903 article and now one hundred years later, we offer these extra notes.

 

Gwenllian Morgan includes Hugh Thomass translation of Giraldus Cambrensis 12thC. eye-witness account of the celebration of Eluneds (Almeddas) Saints day. A more recent translation of the text reads thus.

 

.A powerful and noble personage, by name Brachanus, was in ancient times the ruler of the province of Brecheinoc, and from him it derived this name.  The British histories testify that he had four-and-twenty daughters, all of whom, dedicated from their youth to religious observances, happily ended their lives in sanctity.

There are many churches in Wales distinguished by their names, one of which, situated on the summit of a hill, near Brecheinoc, and not far from the castle of Aberhodni, is called the church of St. Almedda, after the name of the holy virgin, who, refusing there the hand of an earthly spouse, married the Eternal King, and triumphed in a happy martyrdom; to whose honour a solemn feast is annually held in the beginning of August, and attended by a large concourse of people from a considerable distance, when those persons who labour under various diseases, through the merits of the Blessed Virgin, received their wished-for health.

The circumstances which occur at every anniversary appear to me remarkable.

You may see men or girls, now in the church, now in the churchyard, now in the dance, which is led round the churchyard with a song, on a sudden falling on the ground as in a trance, then jumping up as in a frenzy, and representing with their hands and feet, before the people, whatever work they have unlawfully done on feast days; you may see one man put his hand to the plough, and another, as it were, goad on the oxen, mitigating their sense of labour, by the usual rude song:  one man imitating the profession of a shoemaker; another, that of a tanner.  Now you may see a girl with a distaff, drawing out the thread, and winding it again on the spindle; another walking, and arranging the threads for the web; another, as it were, throwing the shuttle, and seeming to weave.  On being brought into the church, and led up to the altar with their oblations, you will be astonished to see them suddenly awakened, and coming to themselves.  Thus, by the divine mercy, which rejoices in the conversion, not in the death, of sinners, many persons from the conviction of their senses are on these feast days corrected and mended..

 (from the 1912 J. M. Dent edition)

 

This engaging passage, not only conjures up a vivid image of the events in and around the churchyard, but also conveys the surprise of a sophisticated Norman cleric, as he watches the antics of the local population in a celebration with direct links back to the early Celtic Clas, and conceivably including echoes of ancient pre-Christian days.

 

(A note on the variations between translations:-  It is interesting, and slightly disconcerting, to spot the differences between these two translations of Geralds work; but one must remember how these writings have been passed down to us. Gerald, of course, wrote in Latin; and by all accounts, his Latin was very accomplished, correct and scholarly. His work was then copied by subsequent generations of monks; perhaps some prcis and paraphrase crept into some of these copies. These works were then translated into English, and, eventually, into Welsh; and each generation of historian is exposed to the temptation to rearrange the words into a form that chimes with the vernacular of his day. Any serious research historian would, of course, want to work from the earliest piece of source-text available; but as we confess not to be proficient at Latin translation, we have to take these translations on trust.)

 

{back to top of this page}

In June 1999, there was a two-day archaeological dig on the site of Eluneds (Elenuds) Well (where Gerald watched the locals) on the Slwch Tump. The yew tree next to the well is now no more than a withered stump.  The results of the dig were inconclusive: perhaps an investigation of the footings of the Chapel would provide more insight. (Its interesting to note that Mr. Butcher and Mr. George Hay were suggesting that investigations be undertaken at the site of the chapel, over a hundred years ago.)

A full account of the dig (Acrobat PDF file) is posted on the Brecon Beacons National Park website; including a location plan of the Slwch Tump.

 

There is currently, a local group by the name of the Well Springs Trust. Members of the group observe St. Eluneds feast day (in early August) by visiting the half dozen, or so, wells in the area. The wells are said to have sprung after Eluneds death, in places where she had visited on her flight, and had found, or been refused, charity.

 

{back to top of this page}

In Llanddew, there is one such well. It lies in the remains of the curtain wall of the 14thC. Bishops Palace, and, by the efforts of the present owner, and partial funding from CADW, in 2001 the Well was cleared and restored. The Well is distinctive in that it is partitioned and double-sided; one side being for the exclusive use of the inhabitants of the Palace, and the other side, for the use of the villagers.

 

 

..the road-side face of the double-sided well at Llanddew Bishop's Palace..this photo taken in 2002, after conservation work. The lean-to structure on the left is built into the angle formed by the Palace wall and a semi-circular bastion tower. The three steps are topped by a fine, cast iron Victorian water pump. The water level of the well (behind the metal grating) is (always) just a few inches below the level of the old cobble pavers. To the right is a 20thC. milk churn stand. Above the palace wall can be seen the roof of the Victorian Rectory...

 

 

..this photo shows the steps leading down to the inside face of the well; (again, taken in 2002).  Some ledges and discontinuities in the face of wall on the right, indicate some possible remodeling in this area..

 

This photo of Llanddew village pump (c1900) is reproduced here, by kind permision of Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, Brecon

 

 

In June 2004, the well was dressed with flowers and a short service was held.

In attendance were members of the Order of the Knights Templar.

 

{back to top of this page}

Thanks to a note from the historian, John E. Vigar, we have learned of a link between Eluned, and the Church of Saint Ellwy, Llanelieu; not far from Brecon. This 13th/15th century church (now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches) is thought to have been built on the site of a Celtic monastic settlement; the dedication to Saint Ellwy, may be a corruption of the name Eleu, Elli or Eluned,; and perhaps this church was a link in the chain of the Pilgrims Way to the chapel, now lost, on the Slwch Tump.

 





site navigator:-


Introduction to Website

The Bishops Palace (Llanddew Castle)

Llanddew Well & Saint Eluned

The Village Name & A History

The Rev. John Lane Davies

The Church of Saint David, Llanddew




   

CopyrightR.F.&M.E.Vincent2003,2004,2005,2006, 2007

Create a Free Website