GOOD NEWS! ST BRIDGET’S CHURCH IS NOW FULLY OPEN
NORTH MONMOUTHSHIRE MINISTRY AREA
In January the four churches in our Benefice will become part of the North Monmouthshire Ministry Area.
Below is a link to the Ministry Area Update which will explain the process that has been going on.
The lovely church of St. Bridget’s, which celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007, stands alongside the ruins of Skenfrith Castle (Cadw) founded in the 1100’s. A mill stands at the entrance to the village alongside an impressive War Memorial, raised by public subscription in 1920 to commemorate men from the village who served in the 1914-1918 war. A large open space borders the river, which is spanned by a stone bridge built over the River Monnow in 1924 with the white painted Bell Inn alongside, both relics of coaching days.
This is Welsh border country, around 12 miles south of the old county town of Hereford and around 8 miles north of the historic town of Monmouth. The market town of Abergavenny is about 14 miles to the east. There are many walks to explore the hills and countryside, camping and caravan sites and the historic castles of Grosmont and White Castle nearby.
Social events take place in the Parish Hall, church services take place weekly in St Bridget’s Church (Church in Wales) and at the Norton Baptist Church.
ST BRIDGET’S CHURCH
St Bridget’s is an ancient church, consecrated in 1207, which has seen the worship of God through many centuries and continues witness to the love of God for all his creation and the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, to save all who believe in him. We pray each week for grace to show the love of God to those we live among and to support Christian work in its many forms throughout the world.
Cornerstone, the journal of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) describes the church of St. Bridget as “one of the star buildings of Monmouthshire, a red sandstone church enlarged in later middle ages and again in C17 and with a timber belfry to the west tower, stands on the banks of the River Monnow, separating England and Wales, opposite medieval castle and surrounded by hills in the small village of Skenfrith. It contains treasures of all kinds; some medieval glass, part of a medieval chancer screen, wall paintings, monuments, decorative Jacobean pews and early benches, furnishings from a 1660s re-ordering including the font, even an Opus Anglicanum C15 cope”.
This is one of the oldest churches in continuous use in Monmouthshire. The massive original altar stone has 5 incised crosses. It was hidden I the floor to save it from destruction in the Reformation (1550-1599). The church has been repaired, extended, and re-ordered any times. Major work was done in 1663, a date found in several places in the church, and again in 1909-10, using the principles of the Art and Craft Movement led by William Morris (1888). Repairs in 2011-12 re-instated the stone roof tiles and conserved the internal plaster and wall paintings.
Services are held every Sunday at 9.15am and Funerals, Baptisms and Weddings can be arranged. Contact us if you would like to have a service here. A team of lay and ordained ministers, led by a Priest in Charge, undertake pastoral visits and lead worship.
Things to see in St. Bridget’s Church
St. Bridget’s church is a wonderful building to explore for the evidence of centuries of use as the centre of community life. Its greatest treasure if the Skenfrith Cope, conserved in 2012 and now installed in a new case. The church is open every day to welcome visitors to see its treasures or to reflect in the stillness ad offer lives in prayer to God.
St Bridget’s has six bells made by Thomas Rudhall in 1764. They are unusual in being cast at the same time and each bell has an inscription, the second saying “When you us ring / We’ll sweetly sing”. The tenor bell, which is still tolled at a funeral, reminds its hearers “The living to the church I call / And to the grave will summon all”. The treble has a coin imprint, which could be of the reign of George 1, and the other bells bear names of the maker and churchwardens of the day.
Among the things to notice in the church are its great variety of pews. There are two examples of finely carved medieval box pews. The earliest example is the oak box pew from 1564 at the back of the church, known as the Morgan Pew. The other known as the Minstrel’s Pew, is near the organ and appears to be made from parts of the other pews. The heavy Jacobean pews with rounded ends date from 1600. In the north aisle are examples of linked pews, which once had doors and filled the eighteenth-century church. There are two polished ‘chapel’ pews near the door and the fine oak ‘Arts and Craft’ pews fill the centre of the church and the choir were installed in 1910
St. Bridget Lectern
St. Bridget was an early Celtic saint, who is commemorated in local places, known as Llansanlfraed. The lovely carving of a seated St. Bridget by George Jack (c.1909) which supports the Reading Desk has been exhibited, on loan, in the V & A, London.
The Skenfrith Cope
The Skenfrith Cope was ‘discovered’ in St. Bridget’s Church being used as an altar covering in 1848. For some years afterwards, it was taken to meetings of historical societies until in 1911 it was permanently displayed in the church in an oak case. In 1981, Kirstie Buckland undertook extensive repairs and re-lining, which undoubtedly conserved the Cope for decades.
The Cope is made of red velvet, embroidered with a central image of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, supported by angels. Though much of the gold and silver thread is lost, it is still possible to see what a richly sumptuous garment the Cope once was. The iconography is similar to a Cope in the Art Institute of Chicago and to Cardinal Moreton’s Cope in the V & A, London, which are dated to the late 1400s.
In 2012, while major repairs to the roof of the church were underway, a fall of stone resulting in dusty and debris around the Cope, led to its removal to the Restoration and Conservation Studio, London, for specialist assessment and repair.
The restored Cope returned to the church for St. Bridget’s Day (1st February 2013) and was welcomed with a Celebration Service for Candlemas 2013 attended by the Bishop of Monmouth, the Abbot and monks of Belmont Abbey and elders of Norton Baptist Church, as well as many donors and local people.
We gratefully acknowledge support from The Foyle Foundation, The Idlewild Trust, St. Andrew’s Conservation Trust, the Welsh Church Fund and the Trustees and Friends of St. Bridget’s, Skenfrith.
The church has a number of interesting fragments of wall painting from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The earliest painting in the south aisle is a depiction of ‘Christ of the Trades’ or ‘The Consecration of Labour’ which was a popular subject in churches in South Wales in the 1400s. Much of this painting is lost, but the over-size figure of Christ, wearing a loincloth, can be seen in relief in the centre. He shows his five wounds, surrounded by tools that, if used on the Sabbath, would wound him more. A pair of shears, a hoe ad a spade can be seen faintly near the sides of the painting.
Facing the south door is a cartouche with an ornamental scroll work border surmounted by a pilgrim’s shell. The text reads: Keep thy foot when ye enter ye house of God and be more ready to hear than to give ye sacrifice of fools. Ecc.V.i. It is intended to warn visitors to enter humbly, remembering that this is where God is worshipped.
Near the organ recess is a fragment of the Lord’s Prayer from the seventeenth century. On the east wall near the altar can be seen two long tests of the Ten Commandments, with a border of foliage acanthus leaves. The text was copied onto boards in 1910 and these can be seen in the north aisle.
John Morgan Tomb
“The tomb is an important monument locally, both for historical and artistic reasons. It commemorates a prominent local man, a Roman Catholic who lived in times of religious turmoil and who died when Roman Catholicism was coming under increased pressure from the Crown. It is of high artistic quality, with skilfully realised relief carvings of gentlemen and ladies in the dress of the day. It is not known whether the carvers were local or whether the family was wealthy enough to import craftsmen to undertake the work”. Torquil McNeilage 2006
John Morgan died in 1557 and was the last Governor of The Three Castles of Skenfrith, Grosmont and White, steward of the Duchy of Lancaster and Parliamentary Representative for Monmouth. His wife Ann, also depicted on the tomb, died in 1564 and it is thought that their children erected the tomb following her death.
It is a finely wrought chest tomb, with simple moulded base and elaborately carved side panels. On the south side are four kneeling gentlemen, believed to be the sons of John and Ann Morgan. Each is dressed in doublet and hose with high ruff and a hat by the side. The opposite side has four ladies of unknown identity. The family Arms are on each side and the top carries simple strapwork around the figures of John and Ann Morgan.
Norton Baptist Church
St Bridget’s Anglican Church and the nearby Norton Baptist Church share a Christian fellowship and join from time to time in shared services, most notably the combined yearly Carol Service.
Norton Baptist Church is a small, rural, Baptist Church situated just outside the village of Skenfrith. Norton is affiliated to and has close links with Monmouth Baptist Church of which I am also the Pastor.
I hope you will enjoy finding out about us in the following pages. They explain a little about our activities and what we believe.
We are sure you will find a warm welcome at Norton.
Norton Baptists are a group of ordinary people who have found Jesus Christ to be really good news! This is because we have discovered Him to be God’s Son who came into our world to end our broken friendship with God through his death on the cross. We are just people who believe hat anyone who puts their trust in Jesus can experience forgiveness for all the things we have doe wrong and have the promise of eternal life. There is nothing we do that is unforgivable if we truly turn to him.
As Jesus told His first followers, we share in communion, and in our church, we welcome all those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ their Saviour to share in it with us.
We also practise believer’s baptism, like the early church, sometimes baptising in the stream in Church grounds! To grow in our faith and serve others, we believe Christians do need to meet together regularly to worship God, encourage each other, and to learn how to follow Jesus’ example in our daily lives. But we are also a place where people searching for faith will find a warm welcome. We believe that following Jesus is very practical. So we try to serve God and each other by sharing or faith with the wider community and by helping to meet the social and physical needs of people at home and abroad.
Norton has close connections with other local rural churches through the Rural Churches Fellowship. We meet up throughout the year for prayer lunches, barbeques, summer praise, Advent and other activities.
Perhaps more than anything, we try to live as a family, so young or old alike we would love to have you join us!
Our Service Times
We meet each Sunday at 11.00am to worship through prayer, hymns and songs. We learn through readings and preaching. We have a small, but lively music group which encourages us to worship enthusiastically.
On the third Sunday of each month at 11.00am we move to Cross Ash Village Hall for a Café-style service with drama, activities, a short talk, and plenty of coffee!
We enjoy a loving Christian relationship with members of our local churches of differing denominations and a group representing these meets fortnightly on a Thursday evening to study and pray together.
Bible Study 7.30pm Thursday – see contact details
We meet on alternative weeks when we do not have Bible Study for an hour of prayer.
Prayertime 6.00pm Wednesday – see contact details.
Norton Baptist Church
Approximately one mile to the west of Skenfrith on the B4521