A History of St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton

Cheriton Church is situated in the shelter of the Burry valley and like Port Eynon is dedicated to St Cadoc who founded Llancarfan monastery in the Vale of Glamorgan and was one of the main leaders in the early Celtic Church. In spite of the dedication to a C6 saint there is no evidence of a llan or a Christian stone from an ancient foundation. It is possible that a church was built and a parish carved out of the large, sprawling parish of Llanrhidian in the early C12. The present church is then a re-build dating from a period between the late C13 and early C14. The name ‘Cheriton’ from Cheryton meaning Church town was not adopted until after the church was built.

Unlike most Gower churches which are examples of folk building, Cheriton has a distinctive Early English architectural style and is often called the ‘Cathedral of Gower’ since the structure is modelled on the lines of a cathedral. This introduced a new concept of church architecture to the area with a nave, a choir surmounted by a large centrally placed tower and a chancel. The hallmark of the true Early English style can be seen in several areas. On the ornately carved inner doorway from the porch to the nave are two courses of foliage mouldings. The tower opens to the nave and chancel by well-chamfered pointed arches, terminating at their bases with fine carved corbels. Along the south walls of the chancel, tower and nave are distinctive narrow lancet windows. A doorway which led to the rood loft can be seen to the left of the chancel arch and corbels for the support of the rood-beam can still be seen in the south-east wall of the nave. In the chancel is a tub-shaped Norman font.

In 1868 Revd. J D Davies became Rector of both Cheriton and Llanmadoc.. Again he found a church in a very poor condition and in 1875 he organised a restoration for most parts of the building. A new south porch was built and a vestry added on the north side of the choir. Much work was needed to repair the structure of the building. The fine carved choir stalls, altar rails, altar and ceiling bosses, all in light-coloured wood were carved by the Rector. The restoration cost £1,200 and was settled by him, probably from money he had recently inherited from his parents but he added to his already substantial contribution by making candlesticks, trays and book-cases for sale in church bazaars. Standing near the west end is the present font of freestone, lined with lead and octagonal in shape, on a similar stem.

The nave has an exposed barrel vaulted roof with arch bracing to every rafter and five moulded longitudinal beams, decorated originally by Rev’d J D Davies.

The church has two modern stained glass windows designed and made by Celtic Studios in Swansea in the 1970’s. The east window of two lights is in memory of a popular and well-known Rector from 1958 to 1971, the Revd. Jack Evans and of his son, Michael. The west window, also of two lights, is in memory of Frederica Ebeling and grandson Colin Ross.

The tower has a saddleback roof and below the parapet are numerous holes which could have supported beams to form a fighting platform in case of attack. This was a common occurrence when the Burry estuary was a busy shipping channel to the numerous small ports on the north shore of Gower. The single bell in the tower is dated 1736 and was cast in the W Evans bell foundry in Chepstow.

The lantern at the entrance to the churchyard was erected by parishioners in 1908 to celebrate 50 years of the Revd J D Davies’ ministry and three years later he was buried near the south wall. More details about this remarkable Rector, his abilities and his achievements not only in the two churches but also in the rest of Gower are included under the description of Llanmadoc Church.

In the churchyard also lies buried Ernest Jones, Freud’s biographer and well known pioneer of early psychoanalysis. He was born in Gowerton and later lived in London but always kept a holiday home in Llanmadoc, still used by his descendants today. From 1840 to 1867 the Rector of Cheriton was Revd. William Lucas Collins who was the founding editor and made many contributions to the popular C19 Ancient Classics for English Readers. A close friend of his was the author Anthony Trollope.

Landimore Less than a mile east of Cheriton church is the hamlet of Landimore. For centuries a small port here handled trade, exporting limestone and lime and importing coal via the busy Burry estuary. A mid C12 document reports the granting of Landimore (the church by or of the sea) to the Knights Hospitallers but it is thought that sea encroachment as well as storms had led to that church being abandoned in the C14 and built further inland at Cheriton. There is no evidence of any church site or place names at Landimore today and that raises more questions about its history.

Valerie Beynon
June 2021

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