Raglan Church and its Graveyard, Gina Haines, 1991
BY - GINA HAINES
Raglan Church is dedicated to St. Cadoc the sixth-century martyr who preached the gospel in Brittany and Eastern England as well as in these parts. The site may well be on the site of earlier places of Christian worship, going back to the sixth-century.
The present building dates come largely from the 14th century and most of the church we see today was built by William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and his son, another William, the Earl of Huntingdon.
Raglan Church can be easily reached from Chepstow Road, via the lynch gate and short path leading to the church porch. Here, I can clearly read times of church services, church officials and news of many church events. In the right wall of the porch is a holy water stoop where holy water may be kept, which can be blessed every Sunday. Holy water in stoups is for use by worshippers entering the church. Some dip a finger in it and make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. This reminds them of their baptism and of their need to be cleansed from sin. I must, however,say that Raglan stoup is without water.
Entering the church, via the original stone doorway, the beautiful well-proportioned interior can be seen. The simple painted stonework and the perfect barrel roof are immediately noticeable. Turning left into the church I come across the font, behind which stands and interesting relic, semi-diagonal in shape and beautifully decorated with angels and shields. It was discovered in the vicarage in 1928 and is thought to be the battered bowl of the original 14th century font.
To the back of the church, gather the vicar and the choir every Sunday, but peeping behind the red curtains only a small area can be seen, presumably used for changing or a last minute singing practise, with St. Paul, John and Peter gazing down from the beautiful stained window. Turning east towards the altar, my eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful East window of 1868 showing the main events of the gospel story. The altar dominates the church and can be easily seen by all who come to Raglan Church. Walking down the aisle I see the beautiful golden eagle lecturn, holding the bible and the Victorian pulpit which has four carved panels, probably of the 15th century. The archway and stairs once led to the rood-loft. Along the north wall is a leaning ledge on which the poor and infirm could sit in the days when there were no pews and richer people bought their stools (the lowering of the nave now makes it difficult to picture this.)
The chancel was restored about 1868 by the 8th Duke of Beaufort who also added the north aisle, now the Lady Chapel. To the north of the chancel where the choir sits is the Beaufort Chapel. One of the two windows is a memorial to the 1st Lord Raglan who died in the Crimea in 1855, and the other commemorates the marriage of Lord Henry Somerset.
Lord Raglan was buried at Badminton, the chief seat of the Earls of Beaufort but several of his distinguished ancestors lie here, and monuments of three of them still exist. They are in the chapel north of the chancel – aged figures, much the worst for wear, which are said to have been wantonly damaged by Parliamentarians, after the fall of Raglan Castle.
The oldest figure is that of William Somerset, third Earl of Worcester, a Roman Catholic who became one of Queen Elizabeth's most loyal subjects, and was one of the Commissioners appointed for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots. A few months before his death he raised a small army to defend England against the Armada. His monument shows him as a fine broad-shouldered man over six fee high, clad in armour and wearing the mantle and chain of a knight of the Garter.
A monument of his son Edward, Fourth Earl of Worcester, is also here – a pathos headless figure. He too, was a good Catholic held high in the esteem of Queen Elizabeth. He lived to see the Stuarts on the English throne, and officiated at the coronations of both James the first and his son Charles.
The third monument here, a very mutilated figure, is thought to represent the fourth Earl's wife Elizabeth who died in 1621.
A more famous Somerset who was buried in Raglan Church, but has no monument, was Edward, Sixth Earl and second Marquess of Worcester. Son of heroic defender of Raglan Castle he was one of the most distinguished of them all. Born, probably in 1601, at Worcestser House in the Strand, he was secretly commissioned by Charles the first to raise armed forced in Ireland and in Europe for the subjection of the Kingdom, but open discovery of the scheme he fled to the continent. Reduced to poverty, he risked all and returned to England in 1652, and was imprisoned for two years in the tower. At the Restoration he claimed that he had disbursed £900.000 in the royalist cause, and recovered a share of his lost estates, including Raglan which his father had so valiantly defended. He was able to enjoy his restored fortune for only a few years, however, dying in April 3rd, 1667.
Here, in the Beaufort Chapel I can also admire the church organ. The present organ was built in 1908 by Sweetland of Bristol in the same place as the previous one and some of the same pipes were used. In 1962 the organ was completed restored and improved. The left-hand sanctuary chair is in memory of Roy Silverthorne, organist from 1930 until 1978.
Other treasures which I can see in the church include the chalice of 1576, inscribed “Ragland”, a chest of 1677 (“W.G.L.R.P.), another of 1755 (“C.W.W.W.D.I.”), a welsh bible, registers from 1711, and the minute book of parish meetings from 1802.
On leaving the church and walking to the front of the building I can clearly see the battlement tower, with pinnacles added in the last century and monster gargoyles leaning forward over the panelled corner buttresses. About 1860 Miss Anne Bosanquet, a formidable Victorian spinster gave a peal of six bells to the church, but then decided they were too noisy and transferred them to Llandenny to plague the villages there. She also presented the church clock, but because she disapproved of railways would not permit a face on the wall of the tower which looked towards the station. In 1963 the church clock, which had been giving trouble for some years, was changed to electric mechanism.
Raglan chuchyard completely surrounds the church and as I walk up the path, on the right I can see the Preaching Cross with it's four steps and interesting base to the cross. A niche can be clearly seen in this base, used perhaps for relics or gifts in past times. It is a fine medieval survival dating from early 15th century.
Gravestones span many centuries with the oldest part of the cemetery being to the left area, from the front of the church. Here gravestones dated from the 16th century can be clearly read with others hard to read but obviously very old. They clearly record the lives of people living in and around Raglan over the centuries and it is a way of finding your own relations by carefully reading the details on the stones. As I leave Raglan Church I wonder at all the information and past that can be found within the Church and it's Graveyard.
RAGLAN CHURCH QUIZ
QUESTIONS 1. To whom is the church dedicated and named after
2. How old is the chuch?
3. Who is the present vicar and church organist? Also name three past vicars
4. Who gave the church clock and in what year?
5. A welsh bible, to be found in the church, registers from what year?
6. What does the window in the east wall portray?
7. Monuments in the Beaufort chapel belong to who? 8. The origianl 14th century font was found where and when in recent times? 9. In what year was the present organ built?
1. A little tombstone, to the leftof the path to the church is of considerable interest. Why?
ANSWERS 1. Raglan Church is dedicated to St. Cadoc, the sixth-century martyr.
2. The church mostly dates from the 14th century.
3. The present vicar is Simon Guest and the church organist is Mr. Jack Poynton. Three of the past vicars are Peter Gower, Aarthur Blake and William Price.
4. Miss Anna Maria Bosunquet gave the church clocks in 1863
5. The welsh bible registers from 1711
6. The window in the east wall portrays the nativity, the crucifiction and the resurrection scene, and below the Agnus Dei between lilies.
7. The old monuments belong to William Somerset the 3rd Earl of Worcester, Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester and Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester.
8. The original 14th centry font was found in the vicars garden in 1928.
9. The present organ was built in 1908 by Sweetland of Bristol.
10. The dedication is in memory of Harriet May and George May of Raglan Castle who died in 1857. Here is direct proof that the castle was inhabited at that date.
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