A History of St Gwynour’s Church, Llanyrnewydd, Penclawdd

The church at Llanyrnewydd, Penclawdd is dedicated to St Gwynour after the Breton saint, Eneour. On Speed’s map of Glamorganshire in 1610, it is shown as ‘Llannyenwere’ and was a Chapel of Ease to the church at Llanrhidian, being located on an ancient hilltop route from Swansea across North Gower. Several variations of this name appeared in following centuries before finally becoming Llanyrnewydd. It is situated south of the main village, in an area of Penclawdd called Blue Anchor and fine views can be seen from the church across the wide Morlais valley. When the hedges were lower it was possible to see the Burry Estuary and the hills at the western edge of the peninsula.

Since the late C17 Nonconformist worship had been growing throughout north east Gower at first in scattered farmhouse and barns but by the early C19 several substantial chapels of different denominations had already been established. They were meeting the needs of the growing populations of Penclawdd, Llanmorlais,Three Crosses and surrounding hamlets as a result of the numerous small coal mines which were being opened in the area and shipping from the small ports along the estuary. At first the Anglican leaders were very slow to respond and meanwhile the original church building was becoming unfit for use, services being held only once a month. Eventually in 1850 it was decided that a church in the Early English style should be built on or near the original site.

The church consists of a chancel, nave and tower, (unique in Gower in having a spire) and is entered through a porch underneath the tower at its west end. The total cost was £700, of which £300 was raised by local subscription. It was described as ‘substantially built with the best materials’. Little is recorded of this building although some early 1920 photographs show numerous wall letterings and decorations. The church remained a Chapel of Ease in Llanrhidian parish until 1924 when, the population having continued to increase with local industrial growth and the arrival of the railway in the latter part of the C19, St Gwynour’s became with St David’s, Gwernffrwd a separate parish.

In 1926 the small chancel was enlarged to accommodate the large choir and organ chamber and a vestry was added, making Llanyrnewydd one of the largest churches in Gower. The local benefactors were Mr and Mrs G Baker Haynes who not only paid for the cost of the internal work but gave additional land to enlarge the churchyard and after their death their nearby home, Brynhir House, became the Vicarage. They are commemorated in the 1935 elegant carved oak reredos and panelling, designed by W. Clarke of Llandaff.

The predominant feature in the church is the large and beautiful east window with four lights and fine tracery. The embroidered altar frontal, incorporating all the seasonal panels, was designed and made by Miss Duncan who was closely associated with Port Eynon Church and granddaughter of the well-known water colourist Edward Duncan. The church possesses a remarkable silver double-beaker chalice which bears the hallmark of 1657. Originally this was two secular wine cups joined together at the base, one part the drinking vessel, the other its support. However it is called the ‘Leper Cup’ which would have been handed through a small chancel window to those outside with any contagious disease. The font has an octagonal bowl which seems to be much older than the pillar below. On the north wall of the nave is a memorial tablet to the men of the parish who fell in the first World War. The single bell in the tower is dated 1850.

Recently the plaster was removed to reveal the original sandstone on the west wall which now has two fine stained glass windows and also a beautifully carved wooden cross, each designed and made by two current church members.

Valerie Beynon
June 2021

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