St Mary’s Church Llanwern

As at Llanmartin, here the church served for centuries as little more than a ‘family chapel’ to the various owners of ‘Llanwern Park’, itself now a distant memory, the mid 18thcentury mansion having been demolished in the 1950’s. This role explains the churches diminutive size; for there was no parish to speak of, other than the residents of Llanwern Park, their staff and a few outlying farms and smallholdings. The church remains isolated today away from the modern village. ‘Llanwern’ is translated as ‘the church among the grove of the alders’, but today it is the sight, sound and smells of the nearby Llanwern steelworks which are the dominant feature of the landscape. The west tower is an attractive feature – much more elaborate in style than most local churches. It contains five bells of various dates, restored to working order in the 1990’s. The church has a particularly good collection of stained glass; that in the east window and also the south nave window being excellent 20th century work by Celtic Studios, whilst the glass in the south sanctuary window was executed by Sarah Salusbury of Llanwern Park who used her family members as portrait models for the figures illustrated in the glass; Sir Charles Salusbury appears as the great patriarch Abraham!

Look out for features including a piscina with an elaborate canopy (for washing the communion vessels) located within the sanctuary, a circular head of an early stone cross (on the window ledge) and the former priests doorway, now sadly blocked up. Within the churchyard is buried Viscount Rhondda, who served within Lloyd Georges’ government during World War One and who as ‘Food Controller’ was responsible for the introduction of food rationing as an emergency war measure.