The Church at Newton served the Parish of Newton Nottage, which comprised the Lougher, Pembroke and Herbert Manors. The Survey of the Pembroke Manor in the year 1628 makes the following reference to the Church :
"The Lord of this Manor hath the right to present a parson into the Parsonage of the Parish of Newton-Nottage by turn with the other Lords of the Parish of Newton-Nottage successively, one after another, and that one, William Bassett, is now Incumbent of the age of 40 or thereabouts, and presented by William Herbert Esq., and admitted accordingly, and the right of presentation upon the next avoidance doth belong to Watkin Lougher Esq."
From the year 1467, the record of the incumbents is complete, and the turns of the Lords of the three Manors were fully established. The reputed Lords maintained their rights until 1903 when Mrs. Gordon, of Nottage Court, for the Pembroke Manor, effected her selection of the Rev. T. Holmes Morgan. This right is now vested in the Representative Body of the Church in Wales.
When, by the Act of Supremacy of 1534, Henry VIII became Head of the Church in England, and Wales, in the following year, was subjected to English Jurisdiction, alternations of Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrines were enforced in the Church. The Puritan Revolution introduced a struggle for the pulpit which, at times, was occupied by usurpation, while, in a few instances, the incumbents were deprived of the living. The period 1614 to 1678, therefore, is rather confusing, while references to that prior to 1467 are scanty. Documentary evidence relating to the ancient church at Nottage is apparently not available.
(1) 1189 Among the Margam Charters is one which is believed to have been executed before the year 1189, and Glou, a priest of Nova Villa (Newton), was a witness.
Newton Church was founded later than the year 1147 so that Glou may be reckoned as among, if not, the first of the priests in charge of the Parish of Newton which did not include Nottage.
(2) 1410. Sir William de Coventry was in possession of the living in 1410. His name suggests his place of origin, though a John Coventry, archdeacon of Llandaff was regularly chosen by the chapter to succeed to the bishopric in 1346; but the Pope, setting aside the election, nominated another. By this time the original manor of Newton had been reduced to its present area, and that of Nottage absorbed for ecclesiastical purposes. The area was seething with discontent, and the Welsh at Nottage have, since the very earliest of time, shown their repugnance to alien rule. The idiom, "Go to Coventry'', is not new, and one may wonder whether the phrase was not coined by the fifteenth century Welsh of Nottage. The succession of five Welshmen to the benefice seems to lend support to the suggestion.
(3) 1467 John Kenfigge was presented to the parsonage of Newton Nottage in this year by Jenkin Turberville, Lord of Tythegstone, whose claim to the turn rested upon property which, situated in Newton, later formed part of the land constituting the Lougher Manor.
(4) 1504 The date of the Institution of Sir David Williams to the living is not known, but his will is dated 1504, the probable year of his death. He enjoyed the patronage of Jasper Tewdwr, who was granted the Lordship of Glamorgan by his nephew, King Henry the Seventh. Newton Church was re-built in the time of David Williams.
(5) 1504 - 1518. John Hier became parson in 1504. He was presented by that noted Welshman, Sir Mathew Cradock who was the first to adopt that surname ; his property was later called the Herbert Manor The name 'Hier' is probably derived from the Welsh Hir (long), and still survives.
(6) 1518 - 1523 William Willmott or Willot, by the nomination of John Turberville, Lord of Tythegstone, was instituted to the benefit of Newton-Nottage in 1518, when George de Attica, a Spaniard and chaplain to the Catholic Queen, Catherine of Arragon, was the absent and dis-interested Bishop of Llandaff.
(7) 1523 - 1540. Henry Morgan was the incumbent by the gift of Henry the Eighth, who included among his estates, the land which became known as the Pembroke Manor. He was Resident Priest during a revolutionary period, for the King of England by the Act of Supremacy of 1534 displaced the Pope as Head of the Church in England. In 1535, Wales, robbed of Monmouthshire, was placed under the English Constitution, her liberties being curtailed, and old customs were rendered illegal; also "No persons that use the Welsh language shall have any office or fee in England or Wales unless they use the English language". The monasteries were dissolved, and their properties confiscated. All of these innovations were distasteful to the Welsh who, regarding the Reformation as something from London, were so angered that they scoffed at the Church services; the English bible which made its appearance in 1536 was reviled. The inhabitants of Nottage - a thoroughly Welsh community cherishing its racial traditions-had not acquiesced in their compulsory attendance at Newton Church, and every opportunity was seized to disparage the English cause. Henry Morgan, later, became Principal of St. Edward's Hall, Oxford, and Bishop of Hereford.
The aim of King and ministers was, apparently, to reform, rather than revolutionise, the religious system, to simplify and not to change the doctrine. But the Protestants attacked the services, even the sacrament of the mass, with such profaneness that the Act of the Six Articles was, in 1539, passed to re-assert the Roman Catholic doctrines, and, within a few months, as the more likely to enforce the spent of the Act, the most lnteresting of the Incumbents became the Shepherd of the Disaffected Flock of the Parish of Newton-Nottage.
(8) William Hunt, a Roman Catholic, was presented to the parsonage in the turn of the Herbert Manor in 1540 when a Protestant was Bishop of Llandaff. During the next reign (Edward VI, 1548 - 1553), Protestantism received full recognition and support from the State, more from the greed of the legislators for the properties of the religious houses than from zeal for their new-found religion. The boy king died before he was sixteen years of age, yet, by his authority, large areas of land, including the Pembroke Manor in this Parish, were transferred from Royal Ownership to that Willlam Herbert who was created Earl of Pembroke and who was one of the executors of the will of Henry VIII, his brother-in-law. Communion in both kinds-bread and wine was re-introduced ; stone altars were to be demolished, but that in Newton Church seems to have survived under Hunt, who, at heart a Catholic, was supported by the Welsh under the influence of the Turbervilles. The use of the English Prayer Book was enforced, and Hunt veneered his Roman Catholic conscience with new Protestant beliefs, though he did not venture into the bonds of matrimony which were now open to the clergy.
Mary, a devout Roman Catholic, ascended the Throne in 1553 ; the Church in England was re-united to Rome, and the erstwhile Protestant parson became Father Hunt of the Roman Catholic Faith; the English Bible and Book of Common Prayer were withdrawn. The accession of Elizabeth saw the overthrow of Roman Catholicism as the State religion in England. Services were again conducted in English by the Rev Wm. Hunt who became the first resident Rector in 1563, dying apparently as a Protestant clergyman in the year 1565, after persisting in office over a period of twenty-five years of violent alternations of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Rector Hunt of Newton-Nottage was as constantly inconstant as the Vicar of Bray in Berkshire, who said : "If I changed my religion, I am sure I kept true to my principle; which is, to live and die the Vicar of Bray."
The Rev. Wm. Hunt, however. in accepting any prevailing order of religion, merely followed the example of his bishop, Anthony Kitchen, who showed no inclination to participate in the confusion that had arisen in ecclesiastical matters, because he thought it "the extremity of folly for a man to suffer for the sake of conscience and religion". Kitchen was the only Marian bishop to carry on under Elizabeth, whose Act of Supremacy made him declare "as a true and faithful subject, I shall for my power, cunning, and ability, set forth in mine own person, and cause all under my jurisdiction to accept and obey the whole course of religion now approved in the State of her Grace's realm". Of him it was said that he had always loved the kitchen better than the Church.
"What makes doctrines plain and clear ?
About two hundreds pounds a year.
And that which was proved true before,
Prove false again ? . . . Two Hundred More "
Under such circumstances, it was but natural that the laity should view the religious services with derision. Devout Catholics, refusing to attend occasionally at the Protestant Church, as directed by law, were termed Recusants, and were treated as enemies of the State.
(9) Philip Graunt, in 1565, presented by the Lord of the Pembroke Manor, and admitted by the Archbishop of Canterbury when the See of Llandaff was vacant, succeeded to the benefice, but was removed in 1567 when Watkin Lougher established the claim of the Lougher Manor to the turn.
(10) John ap Henry or John Penry, a Puritanical zealot, held the living during the period 1567 - 1570. His excellent preaching completely eclipsed the service at the altar; the Catholics, showing open defiance, were imprisoned, and among those in Cardiff gaol were Turbervilles of Newton-Nottage, James and Lewis dying of gaol fever. Four Commissioners visited Wales to examine the priests, to extirpate doubtful reformers, and to destroy all images and other relics of Popery. The rood loft in Newton Church was removed, statues and crosses were broken up, and used as building material - a part of a cross may be seen in the unfinished chancel arch By this time, the Welsh Bible had appeared, and a significant injunction was framed : "Let every priest provide that a whole Bible be laid, fast-chained, in some open space in Church."
(11) Dr Morgan Jones became Rector in 1600, and remained in office till 1624. Presented by the Earl of Pembroke, he showed no toleration towards Catholics : the whole Parish was reported as an area infected with recusancy. As rumours of plots were very insistent, the policy of persecuting the gentry, who harboured the Roman Catholics, especially Jesuits, was ruthlessly pursued.
James I, ascending the throne in 1603, and pursuing a course which supported neither the Romanists nor the Puritans, adopted the High Church form of service. The struggle, which brought Charles I to the block, now commenced with the coming of the Puritan Revolution ; the Jesuits, whose avowed object was to undermine loyalty to the throne, continued their activities, and were harboured by the Turbervilles of Newton-Nottage and of Sker - noted among whom was Alice Turberville, a spinster Communion Tables were replaced at the eastern end of the chancel, though many prefer to believe that the one at Newton had not at any time been removed. High Church services were held at the Church, but the mass of the people were indifferent to these religious variations ; Glamorgan was in a very disturbed state, with feuds raging among the chief families.
(12) William Bassett, a descendant of the famous family of Beaupre and a high churchman, was admitted to the Rectory in 1624, on the presentation of William Herbert, Lord of the Herbert Manor. Civill war broke out in 1642, when the Presbyterians, secured the reins of government, introduced a New Common Prayer Book or Directory, and also passed their Act of Uniformity requiring every minister to conform or forfeit his living. William Bassett, a staunch supporter of the Royalist cause, refused to comply, and the living was sequestered in 1644.
(13) Arnold Butler, a Presbyterian, succeeded In 1644 by the turn of Watkin Lougher, Lord of the Lougher Manor. The Independents, however, ousting the Presbyterians from Government, passed, as retributive justice in 1647, their Act of Conformity or "Engagement," which caused about 8000 episcopal clergy to be ejected. The King was executed in 1649, the Puritans made a merciless attack upon the Established Church, and Episcopacy was ignored. A couplet from Samuel Butler's "Hudibras" recalls the popular sentiment :
"When tinkers bawled aloud to settle
Church discipline for patching kettle,
The oyster women locked their fish up
And trudged away to cry "No Bishop."
The Act for the Propagation of Religion in Wales was passed in Wales. Men were hired at eighteen pence per day to try and discover faults that would be sufficient cause for the clergy to be ejected. The ecclesiastical income was paid into one public treasury; one fifth of the tithes were supposed to be set aside for maintaining the families of ejected ministers. About 330 Welsh livings were sequestered ; Arnold Butler, in 1650, was deprived of the living of Newton-Nottage. The pulpits were occupied by Puritans who received nicknames such as Rev. Praise-God-Leather-seller,Rev. Sin-Hater-Barber, Rev. Eternally-Elected-Shoemaker.
(14) From 1650, a certain Elliott conducted the services at Newton, despite the protests of the Lords of two of the Manors. In this year, the cottage of the venerable Lewis Thomas was recognised as the Moor Chapel or Preaching Centre of the Baptists, and at least two other homes in the parish were declared to be similarly used for conducing services in the Welsh language. Small assembles such as these kept aflame the torch of Faith, for a statement in the Petition of Wales, signed by the six counties of South Wales, and presented to Parliament in 1665, rejects the religious stagnation of the age : "The light of the Gospel in Wales was almost extinguished". All the inhabitants of Nottage were said to be Baptists by 1660; many in Newton were converted to Popery - "To Rome, rather than Bedlam". Traces of high church doctrine - crosses and images which had escaped the iconoclasts of the Elizabethan age-were completey obliterated by the mutilators of the Cromwellian period.
THE CHURCHYARD CROSS.
The Cross, probably 14th century, opposite the south porch of the church, was destroyed, the base only renaming. The present shaft, with cross and figures, of Portland stone, was designed by the late Mr. G. E. Halliday, and executed by Mr. Clarke of Llandaff in 1927. The cost was defrayed by Mr. E. Breffet who, to the Glory of God, wished to perpetuate the memory of his life - long partner and friend, Mr. W. A. Scrivener.
Elliott was a strict sabbatarian, and tended to limit the amusements of the people, while the Mabsant was divorced from its religious associations. Charles II ascended the throne in 1660, Elliott retired, and the stern discipline of the Puritans was gladly forsaken.
The episcopal party returned to power, and the ejected clergy had to be re-established in their benefices. William Bassett and Arnold Butler had been incumbents of Newton-Nottage ; the former (12) was restored to Newton in 1660, but was soon made Chancellor of the Diocese of Llandaff, and became, also, Rector of Llandough in 1666. Arnold Butler (13) was admitted into the parsonage of Lougher on February 11th, 1660.
(15) David Lloyd was, in 1661, instituted as Rector by the presentation of Richard Lougher, of the Manor of like name. The Baptists were persecuted during this period, some having their properties confiscated, some imprisoned, while many fled from the parish to America.
According to the Patent Rolls of the reign of Charles II, Thomas Hilliard, in 1672, succeeded David Lloyd as the Rector of the Parish. This was, however, an usurpation, as he had neither been presented by one of the Lords of the three Manors, nor instituted by the Bishop ; he was removed in 1678. A survey of the Herbert Manor says that Arnold Butler was the Incumbent in the year 1673. He had been the Incumbent during the period 1644 - 1650 and therefore was still the rightful rector, probably dying in 1678.
(17) David Edmonds M.A., succeeded in 1678 on the presentation of the Earl of Pembroke. Sker House, in the occupation of Christopher Turberville, harboured Philip Evans, a Jesuit, who, in 1678, was arrested, and executed at Cardiff in the following year. A Roman Catholic, in the person of James II, ascended the throne in 1685, when the Church was subjected to attacks which seem to have aimed at the re-introduction of the influence of Rome. He was dethroned in 1688, and religious persecution ceased with the accession of William of Orange, and Mary, his wife, to the throne of England. The Low Church form of Service, with the absence of ceremonials, was introduced and carried on until 1702 when Anne, becoming Queen, insisted upon having the services conduced according to the order of the High Church. Anne died in 1714, and there followed The Dark Ages of Religion in the times of the Georges.
(18) Thomas Andrews, Chancellor of the Llandaff Diocese, and also Vicar of Cardiff, presented in 1709 by Edward Herbert of the Herbert Manor, was admitted as Rector. Morgan Evans was nominated, as the successor in 1718, by Catherine Lougher, but the Bishop withheld his approval.
(19) Christopher Thomas, presented by the same lady, was acceptable, and was duly instituted in 1718, dying on October 19th, 1719. His tomb slab stands In the south Porch.
(20) John Rogers held the benefice during the period 1719 - 1721. The patron was Mrs. Jane Edwards who, in 1715, had purchased the Pembroke Manor, with the right of advowson, from Lady Charlotte Herbert, daughter of Philip, Earl of Pembroke, and heiress to his Glamorgan estates.
(21) Charles Cornish, M.A , who followed in 1721 by the favour of Thomas Herbert, had the spiritual oversight of the Parish until 1734. The church, however, was of no political importance, for it was the age of toleration towards various religious organisations.
(22) Edward Powell, in 1734, was instituted in the turn of the Lougher Manor, of which Robert Knight, of Bristol, by marriage to Cecil Turberville, heiress to the Tythegstone Estate, was lord.
(23) Robert Davies succeeded in 1743 by the right of the Pembroke Manor, of which he himself was Lord, by inheritance from his aunt, Mrs. Jane Edwards. He sold the Manor to Colonel Henry Knight, of Tythegstone, in 1777, who, owning two manors, therefore held the rights of presentation two turns out of three. His incumbency, for a period of forty-two years, is the longest in the history of the Parish. Edmund Williams, Curate, performed the duties .
(24) Richard Jenkins was presented in 1785 by his uncle, Elias Jenkins of Neath, who had bought the right of advowson (but not the property) from Calvert Richard Jones, Lord of the Herbert Manor. In 1786, the Baptist cause was founded in Nottage with David Powell, as minister. The services were held in the cottage belonging to William Jones and Jennet, his wife. The room forming the east part of the premises, together with the adjoining land, was transferred by sale, according to the custom of the Manor, in 1789 to the Rev. David Powell and the following six men . Bartholomew Thomas, Llewellyn ab Evan, William David, Thomas David, John David, and John Owen. As trustees "they shall permit and suffer the messuage and premises above surrendered to be used as and for a Meeting House for the Worship and Service of God by the Society or Congregation of Protestant Dissenters called Baptists.'' The Unitarians have been in possession since 1806.
(25) Robert Knight held the incumbency from 1819 till 1854. Colonel Henry Knight was the owner of the Tythegstone estate and the lord of the reputed Lougher Manor. His heir was his brother, the Rev. Robert Knight, Vicar of Tewkesbury, who, dying in 1819, caused the inheritance to pass to his son of the same name, the above - mentioned Rector of Newton Nottage, on the death of his uncle, the Colonel, in 1825.
The Civil War, associated, as it was, with theological strife, made the people indifferent to all questions appertaining to matters of religion, and the Church passed through a period of unparalleled stagnation. The whole tone of society was changed by the religious revival which was initiated in 1730 by a small group of Oxford students who restored the Church to life and activity. The fox-hunting parson and absentee rector were succeeded by clergymen, unsurpassed in piety, and possessed by an enthusiasm to remedy the ills, suffering and social degradation of those times : the spirit of philanthropy was awakened. The people flocked to the churches in which greater accommodation was needed. Reformation architecture was losing its popularity, and a movement in favour of Gothic art was spreading; Robert Knight, the Rector of Newton-Nottage, seems to have come under its influence. In the year following his succession to his uncle's estates - 1826 -he carried out extensive alterations in Newton Church, including the unfortunate mutilation of the pulpit. By the year 1840, financial obligations caused him to sell to Sir John Josiah Guest, afterwards Lord Wimborne, the land known as the Lougher Manor. The estate entailed in 1769, passing by the law of inheritance to the Rector, Rev Robert Knight, did not include the Pembroke Manor which was granted to his half-brother, the Rev. Henry Hay Knight, Rector of Neath, and later Rector of Newton-Nottage.
The Independents' Cause was, in 1826, founded at Newton ; Hope Chapel was built in the following year.
(26) Rev Henry Hay Knight, Rector of Neath, became Rector of Newton Nottage in 1854, by the turn of the Pembroke Manor, of which he was the reputed Lord. This property had become detached from the Tythegstone estate, and "Tymawr," Nottage, after suffering extensive alterations, became the family residence, under the new name of Nottage Court, in 1855. The Rector was the son of the late Vicar of Tewkesbury. The following quotation from one of his letters gives the history of the beautiful tapestries, now at Nottage Court, but formerly the treasured possessions, for about 350 years, of Tewkesbury Abbey :- "By restoring the main room of Tymawr to its primitive dimensions, 26ft. by 18½ft, I hope to have a dry wall for my Tewkesbury Abbey Tapestry. I cannot indeed bring there the pretty Gothic tracery of my mother's dressed room at the Abbey House . . . . " An eminent antiquary, this learned man made many contributions to the Journal of the Cambrian Archaeological Society, the three articles in 1853 on the History of the Parish of Newton-Nottage being of particular interest.
(27) Edward Doddridge Knight, Rector of Llandough, "in the 1857th year of the Lord, was presented to the rectory of the parish church of Newton-Nottage, in the Diocese of Llandaff, then vacant by the natural death of the last incumbent; from the presentation of the Lord of the Herbert Manor, patron of the said rectory for this occasion, to the Reverend Father, the Lord Bishop of Llandaff".
He was a brother of the last incumbent whose estate he inherited, thus becoming the Lord of the reputed Pembroke Manor which was enlarged by the enclosure of Common Land under the Award of 1864.
(28) Rev. William Jones, at the age of 36 years, became Rector in 1873 as the nominee of Lord Wimborne, Lord of the Lougher Manor. The year of his induction saw the National School erected for the education of the children, while later, religious services, conducted in the schoolroom in Lias Road, catered for the needs of the people of Porthcawl. More suitable accommodation was soon needed. Lord Wimborne, in 1892, generously gave land on which an iron church was erected, and, on All Saints' Day of the same year, consecrated.
The Rev. William Jones passed peacefully away on May 12th, 1903. His body was the first to pass through the lych gate erected to the memory of his great friend and co-worker, the Rev R. Wake Gordon.
The Rev Richard Wake Gordon, M.A , curate of Portsea, resided at Nottage Court after his marriage to Miss Mary Harriet Knight, eldest daughter of the Rev. Ed. D. Knight, and coheiress to his estate. Volunteering to share gratuitously the duties of the parish with the Rector, the Rev. William Jones, he first officiated on May 4th, 1882, and exercised untiring zeal until 1900, when illness prevented him pursuing his spontaneous and cherished services.
Many are they who, still living, avow that his influence for holiness has swayed them all the days of their lives. He passed to his rest on the twenty-first of May 1902, in his sixty-second year. On one of his last manuscripts was expressed a wish for as simple a funeral as possible, and no memorial of any kind. The lych gate at Newton, dedicated on the first anniversary of his death, was erected :
"To the Glory of God
In Affectionate Remembrance of Richard Wake Gordon, Priest,
Ascension Day, May 21st, 1903."
John Owen, B.A., commenced duties on January 1st 1901, was the first stipendiary curate to serve the Parish of Newton-Nottage.
(29) Rev T. Holmes Morgan, was offered, and accepted, the benefice of Newton Nottage, in the Spring of 1903. The patroness was Mrs. Mary Gordon, Nottage Court, lady of the Pembroke Manor. The new Rector was not unknown to many of the parishioners, for he had been a curate in the neighbouring parish of Coity from 1895 till 1901, and had often officiated, both at Newton and All Saints' Church, Porthcawl. When the offer was made him, he was at S Augustin's, Bournemouth, a church built and endowed by the munificence of the late Canon Twells, the hymnologist.
Before taking up residence, he was warned of the ruinous state of the tower of Newton Church, and this received immediate attention. His other rectorial legacy was the iron structure, of All Saints Church, which was in a dilapidated condition. In 1908, the Rector undertook the task of providing a permanent building. Six years later, the beautiful Cathedral-like church, built in the 15th century English Gothic style, was completed, and was consecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff In the spring of 1914.
In 1938, the Rev. T Holmes Morgan is still the incumbent, and is able to look back on some work done, during these years, to the Glory of God, and for the edification of his flock.
[Last Updated : 11 Nov 2002 by Gareth Hicks]