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Kenfig History & Community / Religion / Churches / St James' Church, Kenfig
Site Plan - Kenfig Town, Castle & Church (Gray 1909)
St James' Church, Kenfig (Built c.1147-1154)
History of the Church
During the 12th century the Normans progressed along the South Wales coast led by Robert Fitzhamon who split the conquest into knights fees keeping Cardiff and parts of Margam and Kenfig for himself, suggesting that they were of some significance. Kenfig became a Norman trading town attacked frequently by the Welsh.
The Normans had adopted the Roman form of Christianity and an organised church was becoming centred on Canterbury with the abbeys at other sites in England. As the Normans moved west they endowed abbeys at Tewkesbury and Gloucester with lands and authority in South Wales.
Kenfig was endowed to Tewkesbury Abbey.
Site of Church
The site of the old church is stated to have been South of the Castle's outer bailey (over 300 yards from Castle itself). A worked stone together with the outlines of graves and human remains have been noted in the site of the adjoining cemetery (the limits of which remain uncertain). A floriated slab seen by Donovan in 1804 lay at Maudlam Church for many years before being housed in Margam (Stones) Museum. The slab can be dated to the late 13th or early 14th century; it's enriched with a floriated design and has an elaborate encircled cross in the head. The Lombardic inscription at the sides is now undecipherable.
The church in the medieval town of Kenfig was initiated between 1147 and 1154. William, the Earl of Gloucester, petitioned the Abbot of Tewkesbury to permit Henry Thusard, clerk, to build a church in the town of Kenfig. Thusard paid an annual pension of 2 shillings to the Abbot so that the rights of Tewkesbury to the tithes were not prejudiced. Thus the church of St. James in Kenfig was a Tewkesbury church. As time went on, the sand encroached on the town. A number of events indicate that this gradual process, accelerated by occasional storms, occurred largely during the second half of the 13th, the 14th and into the 15th centuries.
What happened to the St James Church?
The church of St.James in Kenfig was eventually overwhelmed and a new church was built in Pyle, again dedicated to St.James. Some of the costs of the replacement of the church in Pyle would have been borne by the burgesses of Kenfig who were given to understand that the church in Pyle was now their parish church.
It is believed that St James' Church at Kenfig was removed stone by stone and rebuilt at Pyle being renamed St James' at that location.
Read more... St James' Church, Pyle
The Church Font (Maudlam Church - Was this font originally from St James' Church, Kenfig?)
The font in St Mary Magdalene Church, Maudlam is of early Norman origin with a distinctive fish-scale pattern all over and rope rim to its upper edge. The font occupies more than its fair share of space in the church with a theory that it was brought to Maudlam Church from the original St James' Church at Kenfig when that became inundated with sand.
A similar but smaller font can be seen in Llantwit Major church.
Source: Bridgend County Borough Council Library & Information Services
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