ST DAVIDS - from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1833)


St David

DAVID'S (ST.), a city and parish in the hundred of DEWISLAND, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 16 miles (W. N. W.) from Haverfordwest, 26 (N. W.) from Pembroke, and 265 (W. by N.) from London, containing 2388 inhabitants. This city has been described by several historians as occupying the site of the Roman station Menapia, both from the evidence of various ancient roads leading in a direction towards it, and the situation of that station as noticed in the Itineraries. But modern writers are of opinion, chiefly from the absence of all military works or other relics of the Romans, that the site of Menapia was nearer the sea, on a sandy tract called "The Burrows," and is now covered by that element, which has encroached considerably upon the shore in the vicinity. That the district now constituting the parish of St. David was inhabited at a very early period is obvious, from the numerous druidical remains with which it abounds. In the fifth century it appears to have been called by the Welsh Mynyw, which is also variously written Menyw and Manyw, and is probably compounded of the words Man and Yw, signifying "small yew trees," which were formerly very plentiful in the vicinity, though divers other etymologies have been proposed. Its Roman name, which was probably a Latinized modification of the British Mynyw, was also altered into Menevia, which is still retained in the style of its bishops, who are called Episcopi Menevensis. The history of the present city commences with that of the saint to whom it owes its name, who is also the patron saint of Wales, and to whom its origin is ascribed. St. David was the son of Xantus, Prince of Caredigion, and Non, daughter of Gynyr, of Caer Gawch in Mynyw, or Menevia, a chieftain who lived about the middle of the fifth century, and who, embracing a religious life, gave all his lands to support the church, which was probably the first endowment of the see of Menevia. The period of David's birth is not with certainty known, but may be assigned to the middle of the fifth century. The author of his life in the Acta Sanctorum considers him to have been born in 445; Cressy in 462; and others at a still later period. In Leland's Collectanea it is related that St. David was baptized by Elveus, Bishop of Menevia; that he was brought up in a place called Hên Mynyw, or "Old Menevia," and that Gistilianus, Bishop of Menevia, was his uncle; from which it appears that this place had been made the seat of an episcopal see at least before David had arrived at years of maturity. Having been advanced to the honour of priesthood, and having long studied in the Isle of Wight, under Paulinus, a disciple of St. Germanus, David proceeded to propagate the truths of Christianity among the Britons, and to assist in uprooting the Pelagian heresy, in which he exhibited such surpassing abilities, whereby he collected around him a body of disciples, many of whom were afterwards canonized for their superior wisdom and piety, that at a great synod held at Llandewy-Brevi, in the county of Cardigan, he was preferred to the archbishoprick of Caerlleon the capital of Gwent, on account of the increasing infirmities of the holy Dubricius, who then enjoyed that high dignity. David, however, only accepted it at the unanimous request of the bishops, clergy, and laity present at the synod, and on condition that he should be allowed to remove the metropolitan see from Caerlleon to this place, where St. Patrick had already founded a monastery, over which David presided, and which he is said to have held in greater favour than all the other religious houses in the diocese. The archbishop, with the consent of his nephew, the renowned King Arthur, accordingly removed the seat of the primacy to Menevia, called by Giraldus Cambrensis Vallis Rosini, which Capgrave translates "The Rosy valley," and Sir R. Colt Hoare "the Vale of Rhôs," and established it at his college in this vale, near Hên Mynyw, or "Old Menapia;" and the place was afterwards called by his countrymen, from respect to his memory, Ty Dewi, "the House of David, or "St. David's," which appellation it has ever since retained. During his primacy he had for his suffragans the bishops of Worcester, Hereford, Bangor, Llandaf, Llanelwy or St. Asaph, Llanbadarn near Aberystwith, called in Latin Paternensis, and Margam; the first two were at an early period accounted English bishopricks, and the two last being dissolved, the succeeding archbishops had only the bishops of the other three Welsh dioceses as suffragans. The period of the death of David, and the age at which he died, are as undetermined as the time of his birth. Pits considers this event to have occurred in the year 544; Giraldus Cambrensis, and John of Tynemouth, in 609; and Bishop Godwin in 647; whilst all concur in ascribing to him the incredible age of one hundred and forty seven. Usher and his biographer in the Acta Sanctorum are also of opinion that he died in 544; but the former states that he was only eighty-two years old, and the latter ninety-seven. He was interred in the cathedral which he had founded, and many years after his decease was canonized by Pope Calixtus ll.; but the distinction which he attained, as patron saint of Wales, is comparatively of modern origin. His immediate successor is stated by Giraldus to have been Ceneauc, or Kenanc, called also Kinothus, who was also interred in the cathedral, and was succeeded by St. Teilo, the celebrated bishop of Llandaf; but in Bishop Godwin's list of successors the name of Eliud appears next to that of David.

Early Destructions

The city and cathedral of St. David were repeatedly exposed to the desolating effects of incursive warfare in the early ages, and the events which marked the progress of one had an equal influence on that of the other. In the year 808, during the reign of Cynan Tyndaethwy, they were reduced to ashes by the West Saxons, which disaster was followed by a destructive murrain among the cattle of the surrounding district; and in the reign of Anarawd, in the year 911, St. David's was utterly destroyed by the Danes: on the latter occasion a desperate battle was fought in the vicinity, in which Maylor, one of the Welsh princes, was slain. Bishop Godwin records that, in the time of Samson, the twenty-fifth archbishop, there were seven suffragans to this see, viz., the bishops of Exeter, Bath, Hereford, Llandaf, Bangor, St. Asaph, and Fernes in Ireland: this prelate, in 915, according to Browne Willis, on account of a pestilential disease which then raged here, withdrew to Dol in Brittany, taking his pall with him, where he died; and his successors in the see, either for want of the pall, or for some other reason, were deprived of the title of archbishop, although they still exercised the power of consecrating the Welsh bishops of Llandaf, St. Asaph, and Bangor, until the reign of Henry I., when a Norman ecclesiastic, named Bernard, not chosen by the Welsh clergy, as had been the custom, but forced upon them by the English monarch, yielded an extorted submission to the see of Canterbury, which has continued to the present time; the bishops of St. David's and the other Welsh dioceses being thenceforward suffragans to the primate of all England. The first mention of the archdeaconry of St. David's occurs in this reign, about the year 1128, when it was held by one William, whose successor was the celebrated Giraldus Cambrensis, who was afterwards elected to the bishoprick, but not consecrated. Meanwhile, events of great importance to the city had occurred. In 982, during the reign of Howel ab levav, Geofryd, son of the Danish king Harold, laid waste the church of St. David and its possessions; and, towards the close of the same century, the Danes again landed, slew Bishop Urgenau, or Morgenau, and destroyed with fire and sword the inhabitants and their property. The reigning sovereign, whose two sons had been interred here, being unable to restrain the desolating progress of these marauders, was compelled to purchase their departure by paying them a tribute of one penny for every man in his dominions, commonly called "The Tribute of the Black Army," and is said to have died of grief in consequence. In 1077, in the reign of Trahaern ab Caradoc, St. David's was sacked and destroyed by a roving army either of Danes or Norwegians, who landed in great numbers from their ships. But, notwithstanding these disasters, the city rapidly increased in wealth and magnificence, owing principally to the many munificent largesses bestowed at the shrine of its patron saint, two visits to which were anciently deemed as meritorious as one pilgrimage to Rome. The amount of these offerings is reported to have been so great, that it was divided among the clergy of the establishment by measure, to save the trouble of counting it.

In 1077, William the Conqueror invaded Wales with a great army; but not experiencing the slightest opposition from the natives, he, with his accustomed good policy, changed his military expedition into a pilgrimage, and advanced at the head of his troops to this city, where he offered his devotions at the shrine of St. David, and received the homage of the Welsh princes. This shrine was sacrilegiously pillaged and the city plundered in 1087; and, a few years afterwards, the Danes once more landed, plundered and burnt the church, and, taking possession of the surrounding intrenchments, settled here for some time, during which they perpetrated the most cruel outrages in the adjacent district. In 1090, the descent of the Normans on the modern county of Pembroke commenced; and it is probably to the hardy valour of these invaders that the city of St. David's owed the tranquillity which it afterwards enjoyed. During the prelacy of David Fitzgerald, the immediate successor of Bernard, the Norman bishop, who, in the reign of Henry I., had surrendered the archiepiscopal authority of the see into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, King Henry Il. came hither, and, having made his offering at St. David's shrine, was entertained by the bishop. Peter de Leia, the successor of Fitzgerald, finding the cathedral church almost in ruins, from the frequent assaults of the Danes and other piratical invaders, pulled it entirely down, in 1180, and built in its stead a new church, dedicated, as the former had been, to St. Andrew and St. David, and which constitutes the greater part of the present edifice. Prior to the preferment of this prelate, the chapter had elected Giraldus Cambrensis, as the successor of his uncle, Bishop Fitzgerald; but the king, unwilling to elevate to that dignity a man of such influence and talents, refused to ratify their choice. The same body, however, on the death of Peter de Leia, again placed Giraldus at the head of a list of four persons, whom they nominated; but his election not being confirmed, the see remained vacant for six years, whilst Giraldus was endeavouring to procure his consecration to it, and it was ultimately filled by Geoffry de Henelawe, prior of Llanthony, whose successor was lorwerth, or Gervase, by whom the precentorships in the cathedral were founded, about the year 1225, and in whose prelacy the new tower of the cathedral fell down, in November 1220.

During the war between Henry Ill. and the disaffected barons, Richard Earl of Pembroke, Mareschal of England, and the most powerful of the barons, attacked this city, in 1233, and barbarously put to death all the king's partisans in it. In March 1248, whilst Anselm was bishop, a great part of the cathedral was thrown down by an earthquake. The office of Treasurer of St. David's was founded in 1259, by Bishop Carew, and the dignity of Chancellor in 1287, by Bishop Thomas Becke, who also established other offices in the cathedral, some of which exist at present, though under different names. During the episcopacy of Becke, King Edward I. and Queen Eleanor, in 1284, came on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. David. The next bishop was David Martin, who built a chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, at the eastern end of the cathedral, still occasionally called Bishop Martin's chapel, in which he was interred. He was succeeded by Henry Gower, Chancellor of England, who erected the magnificent episcopal palace of St. David's, the interesting remains of which are so deservedly admired: he died in 1347, and was interred in a chapel, dedicated to St. John, which he had built for his own sepulture under the rood-loft of the cathedral. His immediate successor was John Thoresby, Chancellor of England, and subsequently Archbishop of York; and Bishop Adam Houghton, who was also Chancellor from 1377 to 1379, was another early successor. The latter drew up certain statutes, which were to be observed in the church of St. David's: he also built St. Mary's College, adjoining the northern front of the cathedral, for a master and seven fellows, and endowed it with £100 per annum, and a separate house for each: to this institution John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was so great a benefactor, as to be reckoned joint founder with the bishop. Bishop Houghton was interred in the chapel of St. Mary; and his second successor was John Gilbert, who was twice appointed Treasurer of England. He was succeeded by Guy Mohun, who was also keeper of the King's Privy Seal, Treasurer of England, and Treasurer of St. Paul's, London. This prelate's immediate successor, Henry Chicheley, afterwards became archbishop of Canterbury, and was accounted the most worthy and benevolent bishop of the age in which he lived. Edward Vaughan, the eighty second bishop of St. David's, is recorded as the last who contributed materially to the embellishment of the cathedral: he built a most elegant chapel between that of St. Mary and the choir, which he dedicated to the Holy Trinity; and adorned various parts of the building with appropriate embellishments: he also erected St. Justinian's chapel, about a mile from the city, and, dying about the year 1521, was interred in his own chapel, where was formerly a brass plate inscribed to his memory. His successor, Richard Rawlins, died in 1535, and was the last bishop buried in the cathedral. Bishop Barlow, the immediate successor of Rawlins, presided over the see thirteen years, during which, in order, as it is said, (by Brown Willis,) successively to provide for his five daughters, who were married to five bishops, he greatly impoverished it, even taking off the roof of the episcopal palace, for the sake of the lead, and thus occasioning so much damage to that magnificent structure, as to require the revenue of the bishoprick for twelve years to repair; but this object was never attempted, so that it now presents a vast pile of picturesque ruins. Bishop Barlow's successor, Robert Farrar, was also a great dilapidator but after the fall of his patron, the Duke of Somerset, he was imprisoned by the precentor and canons, and, having continued in confinement during the remainder of the reign of Edward VI., was, on the accession of Mary, adjudged an heretick, and burned at the stake at Carmarthen, in 1555. On Farrar's deprivation, Henry Morgan was elected, in 1553, but was ejected on the accession of Elizabeth, and succeeded by Thomas Younge, the precentor who caused the imprisonment of Farrar, and who was driven into exile in Germany, during the persecutions in the reign of Mary, but finally was made Archbishop of York. His successor in this bishoprick was Richard Davies, a man of great learning and one of the translators of the Bible: he was succeeded by Richard Milbourne, D.D., who was translated to the see of Carlisle in 1621, and was accounted one of the most learned, pious, benevolent, and public spirited persons of the age. The next bishop was the celebrated William Laud, D.D., who was subsequently elevated to the archbishoprick of Canterbury, and was beheaded on Tower Hill in 1644. His second successor in this see was Roger Mainwaring, who was imprisoned and subjected to great persecution during the parliamentary war, in the midst of which he died, in 1653. About this period, lands of the value of £3547. 4. 8., were alienated by an ordinance of the parliament from the bishoprick, which continued vacant from the death of Bishop Mainwaring to the election of William Lucy, in 1660. Another vacancy, of five years and eight months, occurred in the see, which was terminated in 1704, by the appointment of George Bull, one of the most eminent divines of the last century. Robert Lowth, prebendary of Durham, who was eminently distinguished for his learning and amiable manners, was elevated to this see in 1766, but was translated in that year to Oxford, and thence to London. Samuel Horsley, the one hundred and fifteenth bishop, was appointed in the year 1788: he was a man of great learning, and early distinguished himself by an intimate acquaintance with the mathematical sciences. Amongst his other publications were, a complete edition of Newton's works, and a translation of Hosea: he was translated to Rochester in 1793, and afterwards to St. Asaph. Thus, with the divines who have since succeeded to this bishoprick, has the see of St. David's had the greatest number of prelates of any in the kingdom: of these, twenty-six were archbishops, and twenty-one more, although they did not bear the title, retained archiepiscopal authority over the other Welsh sees; and many others filled the highest civil offices in the state.

The Parish

The parish comprises the westernmost portion of the great rocky promontory projecting into St. George's channel, and forming the northern boundary of St. Bride's bay, and also the small islands lying off its extremity, which gave to this headland its ancient name of Octopitarum, or Octo-petrarum: these islands, with some sunken rocks, occasion in the intervening channels exceedingly strong currents. They are eight in number, of which seven are mere rocks, called "the Bishop and his Clerks;" and the eighth, which is called Ramsey Island, lies about one mile from the main land, and is about three miles in length and one in breadth. At the southern end of the intervening sound is a dangerous reef of rocks, denominated "The Bitches;" and in the middle of it there is a rock much dreaded, called "The Horse," which is covered at high water. The whole of Ramsey Island is elevated, and at each end rises a lofty hill, imparting to it a grand and romantic appearance, and presenting various picturesque groups of rocks: on the summits of these hills, which command prospects of great extent and magnificence, there are divers remains of antiquity, including intrenchments, carneddau, &c. The island contains much good arable and pasture land, and is amply supplied with water, the principal stream being powerful enough to turn a mill. The "Bishop and his Clerks," three of which afford scanty pasturage for sheep, are appurtenant to Ramsey: they are all included in this parish, and are the property of the bishop. At the eastern end of Ramsey, and scarcely separated from it, are two smaller rocky islands, one termed Ynys y Byry, or "The Kite's Island," and the other Ynys y Cantwr, or "The Precentor's Island," yielding a thick matted herbage, on which a few sheep feed. A little to the north-west of Ramsey there is a bank, which is said to have been formerly noted for its excellent fishery of cod, turbot, soles, &c., long since entirely neglected. The rocky cliffs of this and the other islands are annually the resort of an immense number of migratory birds, including eligugs, razor-bills, puffins, &c., and were anciently likewise distinguished for their breed of falcons. The city of St. David's, exclusively of "the Close," is pleasantly situated on ground sloping gently towards the sea, and at the distance of one mile from it; and consisted formerly of five streets, called respectively High-street, St. Nun's-street, New-street, Ship-street, and Pit-street, but is now reduced in appearance to a mere village, the houses, with very few exceptions besides those of the clergy, being small and meanly built. In the middle of the town stands the High Cross, where the market was formerly held, and funerals were wont to stop, and from which the High-street is continued downward to "the Close," an extensive area at the foot of the hill, which comprises within its precincts the venerable cathedral, the magnificent ruins of the episcopal palace, the habitable houses of some of the dignitaries, and the ruins of several others; the whole exhibiting very interesting remains of the pristine grandeur of the buildings of this ancient city. The Close, which is extra-parochial, is twelve hundred yards in circumference, and was formerly encompassed by an embattled wall, of which there are still some remains: in this wall were four gates, corresponding with the cardinal points;but the only one remaining is the Tower Gate, situated at the bottom of the High-street, and forming the principal entrance into the Close. The small river Allan, which is celebrated for its trout, runs through this area, and is now crossed by a bridge, in lieu of an ancient marble slab, which was polished by the feet of pilgrims, and was superstitiously believed to possess miraculous properties. The only prebendal house now remaining is that of the prebendary of St. Nicholas Penvos, besides which there are five other houses for the dignitaries of the cathedral, viz., the precentor, treasurer, chancellor, and the archdeacons of Brecknock and St. David's, which are neat modern buildings, much differing in character from the sacred edifice with which they are connected. This parish is very productive of grain, which in some years is shipped to a considerable extent: a haven is formed by the mouth of the river Allan, at Porth Clais, about one mile from the city, where a pier was constructed, at a very early period, to defend it from the violence of the waves, and was rebuilt in 1722. Of late years the quay has been extended, and the harbour otherwise considerably improved. To this small port, which is a creek to that of Milford, belong seven vessels, averaging about twenty-five tons' burden, which are principally employed during winter in conveying grain (chiefly barley) and butter to Bristol and other ports on the Severn, and during summer in bringing limestone, coal, and culm from the shores of Milford Haven . In the year 1830, three thousand quarters of grain and two hundred and fifty casks of butter were shipped from this place. The market, which was formerly held on Monday and Thursday, has long been discontinued: fairs are held on March 12th and August 5th. St. David's has no municipal corporation, although there is an officer called mayor, whose duty consists only in collecting the chief-rents belonging to the bishop, within the limits of the city, which is co-extensive with one of the four cylchs, or divisions of the parish, called Cylch y Drêv, or "the Town Hamlet," the remaining three being denominated Cylch-Mawr, Cylch-Bychan, and Cylch Gwaelod, "the Larger, the Smaller, and the Lower Hamlets," and all united for the maintenance of the poor. During the recent debates in parliament on the subject of amending the representation of the people, it was proposed by the first Reform Bill that St. David's should be contributory to Haverfordwest, but that arrangement was altered, 'and it is now wholly omitted in the Act.

The Diocese

The diocese appears anciently to have comprised the whole of South Wales, and is still of very great extent, containing the four counties of Brecknock, Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke the whole of Radnorshire, except six parishes, which belong to the see of Hereford; the deanery of Gower, in the county of Glamorgan, which contains twenty-two parishes; the hundred of Ewyaslacy, in the county of Hereford; and two parishes in each of the counties of Monmouth and Montgomery. The ecclesiastical establishment consists of a bishop (who is also dean), a precentor, chancellor, treasurer, four archdeacons, eight prebendaries, and six canons cursal; a sub-chanter, four priest-vicars, four lay vicars, an organist, six choristers, a master of the grammar school, verger, porter, sexton, and a keeper of the church during time of service. Of these, the precentor, chancellor, and treasurer are, by virtue of their dignities, styled Residentiarii Nati; and, in addition to them, three other canons are chosen by the rest of the members, as vacancies occur, from among the archdeacons, prebendaries, and canons cursal: these six residentiaries constitute the chapter, and hold an audit annually on the festival of St. James, which has been kept for several ages, and at which they are obliged by the statutes to be present, either in person or by proxy, to receive rents, impose fines, &c. On this occasion they keep by turns a public table, and he at whose expense the entertainment is provided is called "The Master of the Fabrick." The precentor is invested with the privileges of dean, and accordingly takes his seat in convocations, and subscribes in chapter next after the bishop, who is properly dean, and has a stall assigned to him at the entrance into the choir of the cathedral, on the right hand side. Divine service is performed in the cathedral by the eight vicars choral and four choristers, under the direction of the sub-chanter, who has a stall among the prebendaries. The sub-chanter and vicars choral are of themselves a body corporate, having lands, of their own, of which they grant leases under a separate seal, without the interposition of the chapter. The bishops formerly exercised almost sovereign authority throughout the diocese, particularly over the province of Dewisland, or honour of Pebidiawg, in which their jurisdiction was more absolute than the minor regality of a lordship marcher. In their instruments they called the inhabitants of Dewisland, including St. David's, their subjects; and such as dared to violate rashly, or infringe upon, their statutes, were punished by them. The mayor of St. David's acted in entire subordination to the bishops, whose statutes and mandates it was his duty to enforce; and he held his court in the building which formed the south-east wing of the Tower Gate. The bishop's seneschal, or steward, was usually some person of distinction in the country; and within his jurisdiction the prelate had several inferior courts, from which an appeal lay to the supreme court at his castle of Lawhaden, which place still confers on the bishops the dignity of a baron of the United Kingdom. In some cases the bishop exercised the power of inflicting capital punishment; but on the other hand he was bound to garrison and protect the city and its suburbs, and, by his military tenure, was compelled to be present in war; on which occasion he made his progress with great state, being accompanied from this city, on the first day of his march, by the burgesses, carrying with them the relics and shrine of St. David, so far as permitted their return that night. The privileges of the sanctuary of St. David's were very extensive and much respected: the sanctity of the place was not confined to the limits of the Close, or of the city, but the whole parish, emphatically called in Welsh Plwyv Ty Ddewi, "the parish of the house of St. David," was overspread with chapels, crosses, and holy wells, some of the last being still held in great repute. In addition to the sumptuous episcopal palace of St. David's, the bishops had castles at Trêvdyn, about six miles distant, Llan-Vydd (now Lamphey), and Lawhaden, in Pembrokeshire; at Llandygwidd, in Cardiganshire; Llanddewi, in Brecknockshire; and Aberguilly, in Carmarthenshire; all which are now in ruins, except the last, where an establishment is still kept up. At present the bishop holds his consistorial court at Carmarthen for the whole of the diocese, at Brecknock for the counties of Brecknock and Radnor, at Haverfordwest for Pembrokeshire, and at Cardigan for Cardiganshire: at each of the last three places the principal registrar appoints a deputy.

The Cathedral

The cathedral, dedicated to St. Andrew and St. David, is a magnificent cruciform structure, consisting of a nave, with aisles extending nearly the whole length of the building, a choir and chancel, north and south transepts, and a large square tower of elegant proportions rising from the intersection of the nave and transepts, surmounted by pinnacles at the angles. The exterior, with the exception of an early Norman doorway on the north side, is wholly in the various styles of English arhitecture. The western front was rebuilt, towards the close of the last century, by Mr. Nash, and displays a fantastic intermixture of these various styles. The principal entrance is through a grand doorway at the west end, called the Bishop's Door; but this is seldom used, the common entrance being by a handsomely enriched porch on the south side. The nave is separated from the aisles by a row of five massive pillars on each side, alternately round and octagonal, with corresponding pilasters at each end, supporting six arches richly ornamented in the later Norman style, above which is a double series of Norman arches, reaching to the roof of the nave, and occupied in the upper part of the higher range by the windows of the clerestory, every alternate one of which, on the south side, has been closed: there is also a range of five elegant windows, in the English style of architecture, in each of the aisles, opposite the arches which separate them from the nave. The roof of the nave is of Irish oak, divided into compartments, and ornamented with a carved pendent in the centre of each. The choir is entered from the nave by a flight of steps, leading to an arched narrow passage under the rood-loft, the front of which is adorned with a handsome stone screen, erected by Bishop Gower, and accounted, both for design and execution, one of the finest specimens of decorated English architecture: it is comprised within the four lofty arches that support the tower, three of which are of ancient English architecture, and the fourth, which is occupied by the rood-loft, and is supposed, from the decayed state of its pillars, to be the only one remaining of those on which the tower was anciently built by Bishop Peter de Leia, is in the Norman style, but all of them spring from Norman columns: it contains twenty eight stalls, which are of oak, and the bishop's throne, which was executed at the expense of Bishop Morgan, and, for elegance of design and carved decorations, is probably only surpassed by that in Exeter cathedral: in the north arch, and not in the rood-loft, as is usual, is placed the organ. The chancel, which is separated from the choir, by a low screen, contains a beautiful Mosaic pavement, composed of small tiles, inscribed with religious mottoes and other ingenious devices: the high altar is placed under an elegant design of three arches, said to have been formerly filled with painted glass, which, combined with the elegant window above, consisting of three lancet-shaped compartments, and adorned with the most elaborate tracery, had a rich and beautiful appearance. Immediately beyond the chancel is the chapel erected by Bishop Vaughan, in the reign of Henry VIll., an exquisite specimen of the later style of English architecture, almost rivalling in richness and elegance the chapel of Henry VII. in Westminster Abbey: the roof, which is of freestone, is beautifully designed in fan tracery, and the sculpture, from the great care with which it is preserved by the chapter, appears almost as fresh and perfect as when first executed. Beyond a small intervening passage, and forming the eastern extremity of the cathedral, is the decayed chapel of St. Mary the Virgin, built by Bishop Martin, which has been unroofed for some years, and is rapidly falling into ruins. In the same state also are the aisles eastward from the transepts, which were greatly damaged by Cromwell's soldiers, who unroofed them for the sake of the lead, which they sold to one of their partisans, then in possession of the priory estate at Cardigan, who made use of it in covering the church and priory-house there. From the north aisle a considerable flight of steps forms the ascent into what was formerly the chapter-house, but is now used as a grammar school. Under it is a room of the same dimensions, having an elegant groined roof, and probably that in which the entertainments of the chapter took place at their audits, there being at the upper end a dais, as in colleges and ancient baronial mansions. Both these ruined aisles retain vestiges of their groined roofs, with windows of beautiful proportions in the English style of architecture, and other corresponding decorations. The transepts have no distinguishing architectural feature: in the north transept stood formerly a chapel, dedicated to St. Andrew, and in the south was one dedicated to St. David, and now called the Chanter's. The northwest door of the cathedral opens into a space much obstructed by some heavy and unsightly buttresses, which it was found necessary to erect, for the support of this part of the building, Between this and the ruins of St. Mary's College stood the cloisters, of which only the pillars of the arches are now remaining. The extreme length of the cathedral, including the chapels of Bishop Vaughan and St. Mary, is two hundred and seventy-four feet and a half; its breadth along the transepts, one hundred and eighty-four feet, and the width of the nave and aisles seventy-six feet. Among the monuments are several of great beauty and antiquity: the celebrated shrine of St. David, now scarcely distinguishable from other ancient tombs, occupies a recess on the north side of the chancel, consisting of three arches in the ancient style of English architecture, resting on pillars of great delicacy and beauty, in the central one of which was placed an image of the saint, and on each side were those of St. Patrick and St. Denis: beneath a horizontal slab were four quatrefoil holes, for the offerings of pilgrims, of which two have been closed; and the whole was formerly enriched with precious stones, and veiled with silken drapery. Under the rood-loft are three recumbent effigies, one of which, formerly enclosed on two sides by a railing of brass, is that of Bishop Gower, and the other two are attributed by Browne Willis to Thomas Wallensis, who died in 1255, and Richard de Carew, who died in 1280, though other writers have assigned them to different persons. In the area of the chancel stands the altar-tomb of Edmund Earl of Richmond, the eldest son of Owen Tudor, by Catherine, Queen of Henry V., and father of Henry VII., on which were formerly his effigy and various escutcheons and other ornaments in brass, which were removed by the parliamentarians, who stripped the cathedral of many of its costly decorations: the earl was first interred in the monastery of Grey friars, at Carmarthen, on the dissolution of which his remains are said to have been removed to this place. On the floor of the south side of this portion of the building are the recumbent effigies of Bishops Iorwerth and Anselm; and, under recesses on each side of the altar, are figures of two knights in armour, well executed in freestone. That on the south side, which is in good preservation, is interesting as the memorial of Rhys ab Grufydd, last prince of South Wales, who died in 1196: the effigy represents a man rather advanced in years, in a recumbent posture, his vizor raised, and his head supported by a helmet, with a sword suspended at his side by a rich belt, a lion rampant sculptured on his breastplate, and another lion supporting his feet. The other effigy is that of a Welsh chieftain, named Rhys Gryg, and represents a younger man, similarly accoutred. Near it is the handsome tomb of Treasurer Lloyd, who died in the reign of James I. In the roofless aisle on the north side of the chancel are the mutilated effigies of a Knight Templar and a monk, another effigy with an inscription much defaced, and two arched ornamented recesses. Beneath a richly adorned canopy, on the south side of the dilapidated chapel of St. Mary, lie the remains of its founder; and on the opposite side is the tomb of Bishop Houghton. The decayed aisle on the south side of the chancel contains the monuments of various dignitaries of the cathedral, one of which is supposed to be the effigy of Giraldus Cambrensis, who was interred here. In the north transept, in which there is an effigy of some dignitary, many relics of antiquity, found in the cathedral, and some of them very curious, are deposited. In this part of the building there is a place separated by a railing, said to have been anciently used as a penitentiary; and in the wall are some round holes, by means of which the voices of the priests officiating in the choir might be heard by the inmates. Near the west end of the cathedral stands a building, erected towards the close of the last century, as a chapter-house; but, from the inelegance and impurity of its style of architecture, and as it obstructs one of the finest views of the venerable cathedral, it has been the object of general censure. Besides a room in which the affairs of the chapter are transacted, it comprises a handsome apartment, forty-two feet long, in which the audit entertainments of the chapter take place, with kitchens, cellars, &c., the whole being surmounted by a fancifully ornamented spire. The records of the minor chapter are kept in a room over the porch on the south side of the cathedral.

Chapels and Schools

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St. David's, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £1200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Precentor and Upper Chapter of St. David's. The cathedral is used as the parish church, divine service being performed in the nave four times every Sunday, twice in the English, and twice in the Welsh language. Formerly there were several small chapels in the parish, most of them situated near the sea-side, adjacent to the landing-places, so as to attract the devotion of seamen and passengers; and the offerings received at them were carried to the cathedral, and there divided every Saturday among the canons and priests. Of these, the names of four have been preserved, viz., St. Justinian's, St. Non's, Capel y Pystill, and Capel y Gwyrhyd. St. Justinian's is said to have been built by Bishop Vaughan, and now forms a very interesting ruin in a beautiful and romantic situation: there are also some remains of St. Non's. There are two places of worship each for Calvinistic Methodists and Independents, and one for Wesleyan Methodists. The grammar school attached to the cathedral affords instruction to six choristers, the number fixed by Bishop Morgan, in 1501, who conferred upon it a handsome endowment, which, however, it lost at the time of the Reformation, by the act for the suppression of chantries: the master is appointed by the upper chapter, and receives from that body a stipend of £20 per annum; and each of the choristers receives £3. 8. per annum from the same source. Another free school has been established by the upper chapter, from whose funds it is principally supported: there are at the present time upwards of eighty boys and fifty girls in this school. St. David's is one of the four parishes participating in the munificent bequest of the late Dr. Jones, made in the year 1698, for the relief of the poor and the apprenticing of children, and receives as its share £40 per annum, which is distributed according to the intentions of the donor.

A college for a master and seven priests was founded here, in 1365, by Bishop Houghton, to which John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Blanch his wife, were such great benefactors as to be considered its second founders: it was dedicated to St. Mary, and at the dissolution had a clear revenue of £106. 3. 6. The buildings were connected with the north side of the cathedral by cloisters, which, with the exception of the pillars of the arches, have been destroyed; and the only part remaining is the shell of the chapel, from which some idea may be formed of their grandeur and extent. The chapel was sixty-nine feet in length, and about twenty-four in width, with a square tower at the west end, which is seventy feet in height: the side walls are forty-five feet high, and in each of them were three windows in the English style of architecture, twenty-four feet high and nine broad: the east window was similar in shape, but larger in dimensions, and the whole of them were enriched with painted glass. Underneath this edifice there is a vaulted crypt of equal dimensions, through which runs a small stream of water. In addition to the cathedral and the college chapel, the remains of the episcopal palace complete the venerable and magnificent group of buildings which, with their varied architectural features, characterize the Close. This superb edifice was situated at a short distance to the west of the cathedral, on the western bank of the small river Allan, and was built by Bishop Gower, in the reign of Edward III.: it enclosed a quadrangular area, one hundred and twenty feet square, and presented four fronts, of which the south-east and south-west alone remain. In the latter is a noble room, measuring ninety-six feet by thirty-three, commonly called King John's Hall, which is entered from the court by an elegant porch, in the exterior of which there are two niches, containing mutilated statues of Edward III. and his queen: it is lighted by lofty windows at the side, and by a rich and curious circular window at the south-west end, having sixteen radii diverging from its centre, which were originally filled with painted glass. At the other end of the hall there is a drawing-room, opening into a small chapel, the freestone tower and spire of which are still standing. The bishop's apartments occupied the other remaining side of the quadrangle: the principal is a hall, sixty-seven feet in length and twenty-five in breadth, also entered from the court by an elegant porch, the archway of which forms a curious semi-octagon. At the south-east end, between these two halls, was the kitchen, alike convenient to the royal and the bishop's apartments, having in the centre a low pillar, from which sprang four arches, gradually diminishing into the same number of chimneys, the whole now presenting a heap of ruins. At the other extremity of the bishop's hall was a drawing room, opening also into a small chapel, corresponding with that at the extremity of King John's Hall: the basement story is composed of a series of curious and spacious vaults. But the most remarkable feature of these interesting ruins is the majestic open parapet surmounting the walls, and which, rising to the height of seven feet above the ceilings of the upper rooms, is formed by a succession of arches, resting upon octagonal pillars with decorated capitals: besides its concealing the roof, and having been exceedingly ornamental to the palace, it afforded the means of defence similar to the battlements of a castle, and was adopted by the same bishop in the fortification and adorning of his residences of Swansea Castle and Lamphey Court. The entrance from the town to the ecclesiastical precincts of the Close is through the Tower Gate, an arched gateway that is flanked by two towers, and one of them is a noble octagonal structure, being sixty feet in height, which ancientIy comprised the consistory court and record office of the diocese, and it now communicates with the cemetery, a spacious area on the south side of the cathedral; the other is circular, and, as it communicated only with the town, it is supposed to have been appropriated to municipal purposes: the whole was secured by a ponderous portcullis. The lower part of the building consisted of a porter's lodge and prison, and to the latter was attached a dungeon, entered only by an iron rating, through which malefactors were lowered into it.

The Surroundings

The promontory of St. David's abounds with ancient military and druidical remains. The Barrows, on which the Roman Menapia is supposed to have been situated, are overspread with tumuli; and there, according to tradition, was the site of a town, anciently called Caerlleon, "the City of the Legion." The military work situated nearest to the town is a small circular encampment, about a mile to the north of it. In the same direction is St. David's Head, projecting a considerable distance into the sea, and displaying scenery of the wildest character. At the entrance to it, from heathy tract producing various aromatic plants, rises lofty mass of rugged rocks, called Carn Lludw, towering in the most grotesque forms, and commanding from their summits an extensive and diversified prospect by sea and land. At the southern base of this rocky elevation lies the celebrated Maen SigI, or Logan Stone, which is of enormous size, and was once so delicately poised as to yield to a slight pressure; but its equilibrium was destroyed by the parliamentarian soldiers in the seventeenth century. Several ancient military enclosures of a great variety of shapes and dimensions are scattered over this part of the promontory, which is also intersected by the remains of a rampart, formed of loose stones, adjacent to which there are divers square and circular areas, enclosed with stone: and there is also a remarkable cromlech, the table stone of which is twelve feet long, eight feet broad, and about two feet thick, and which is supported by a single upright stone. A little beyond this there is a huge work called Clawdd y Milwyr, "the fence of the soldiers," which consists of a high and broad rampart of loose stones, extending, like that above-mentioned, from one side of the promontory to the other, but across a narrower part of it, with two outer lines of defence. This work is supposed to have been constructed by the North-men, who repeatedly ravaged the coast, and of whose habitations there are still some remains in various circular enclosures within the space protected by it. The parish is interspersed with numerous carneddau, or sepulchral heaps of stones; and on Crûglas, a common about three miles in length, bestowed on the parish by Rhys ab Tewdwr, there is a huge stone, the supposed memorial of some victory obtained here by the Welsh over some of the northern pirates. There were likewise vestiges of an ancient fosse-way, called also "the military way," in the parish, which once extended from the coast of the Irish sea to St. Bride's bay; and on the southern extremity of Carnochun, or Carn Nwchwn, are the remains of some ancient fortifications, the enclosed area of one of which is about one hundred yards long and sixty broad, and is intersected by a natural perpendicular trench of great depth and width: the whole is flanked with four parallel ramparts. Here are also several metallic veins, most of them containing copper, which run in parallel directions, and are much impregnated with sulphur, but none of them are worked. In the clefts of the precipitous and abrupt rocks forming St. David's Head is found a species of crystal, called "St. David's diamond," which, when first obtained, resembles the amethyst, and being extremely hard, is susceptible of a better polish than most of the British gems: in this part of the promontory there is also a large natural cave. The principal holy wells, of which there were formerly several in the parish, now held in repute are, one situated near St. Non's chapel, which is arched over, and the water of which is esteemed efficacious in the cure of divers diseases, particularly those of the eye; another near Porth Clais and a third just without the southern boundary of the Close: the last has also an arched covering, which yet exhibits some specimens of the rich sculpture that characterized an elegant chapel erected near it by Bishop Houghton. At a place called Llan-Druidion there is a number of springs, called the Nine Wells, the waters of which are immediately united into a copious stream.

St. David's and its immediate vicinity are distinguished as the birthplace of several eminent characters, in addition to the patron saint. Carausius, the celebrated Roman general, was born at Menapia: he assumed the government in Britain, which he conducted with great dignity and splendour, but was assassinated by his minister Alectus, at the instigation of the emperor Constantius. According to some writers, Asser, the friend and biographer of Alfred the Great, and commonly called Asserius Menevensis, was born here, about the middle of the ninth century; but others are of opinion that he was a native of a small village called Trêv Asser, in the parish of Llanwnda, and that he obtained the surname of Menevensis from having been a monk at this place, where his uncle Novis was archbishop. John Erigena, who is also known by the names of John Patrick Erigena and John Scotus, is claimed by the Welsh as a native of St. David's, whilst, so great is the obscurity of his birth, both the Irish and Scots regard him respectively as their countryman: he flourished in the middle of the ninth century, was a man of great learning, and, having resided for a considerable period in France, distinguished himself by some writings on school divinity, which gave offence to Pope Nicholas I. The late Richard Fenton, Esq., barrister at law, F.S.A., and author of a "Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire," now also a native of this parish. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor of the city and parish amounts to £905. 9.


Gareth Hicks, 5 Jan 2000