ST JEROME’S Church in Llangwm has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to undertake the medieval church’s renovation and to create an exhibition that tells the story of the immigration of a people who fled the collapse of sea defences in Flanders and came to Pembrokeshire to make their homes at the start of the 12th century.
Development funding of £17,700 has been awarded to help the church and the Heritage Llangwm team develop their plans to enable them to apply for a full grant to carry out the work, at a later date.
St Jerome’s Church was built by Flemish craftsmen around 1200; then in 1830 and 1879 the church underwent modernisation work that lost much of the building’s original medieval character.
But enough remained to inspire Llangwm’s Local History Society to investigate more about the church’s early history. This project when completed will see a church building well suited for the 21st century with a toilet and kitchen facility as well as environmentally friendly heating.
In addition, members of the Llangwm community will conduct extensive research into the village’s Flemish and medieval past. The aim is to create a state of art exhibition in the church telling the story of the Flemish settlement.
The exhibition will be able to be concealed from view during worship. This project will also create an opportunity for the whole village community, young and old to take part.
“This is a marvellous opportunity,” said Pamela Hunt, Chair of the Heritage Llangwm Team. “We have a church in desperate need of renovation, so while we are achieving that, why not create an exhibition that pays tribute to the very people who built it in the first place? We know so little about them at the moment, but that doesn’t stop us finding out. If you imagine the Fleming story as a 500-piece jigsaw that’s lost all but 50 of its original pieces.
“When this project is complete, we hope to have found another 300, enough to enable us to create a clearer picture of the lifestyle and culture of the people who made this part of Wales their home? And it doesn’t end there either. We have been running a successful series of concerts in the church since 2007. We plan to enhance the existing facilities to make for improved concert and of course worship experience.”
The Rev Jane Goupillon, Rector of Llangwm, concurs. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to preserve this wonderful medieval building.
Worship has continued here unabated for over 800 years. This grant will enable us to continue to do so for many years to come and most importantly opening our doors to more visitors whether they come for worship, our concerts or the exhibition. All will be welcome here.”
Jennifer Stewart, Head of the HLF in Wales, said “Places of worship are a powerful, visual connection with our past and always tell a powerful, local story. The future plans for this building means that it can be enjoyed more widely throughout the community. There is certainly an interesting story to be told at St Jerome’s and I am delighted that we have been able to award a grant to help develop the plans for this exciting project, further.”
The entire project is expected to be completed by April 2016, just in time to mark the 700th anniversary to the day of the marriage of Lady Johanna and Sir David De la Roche, the biggest ‘society’ wedding that St. Jerome’s Church has ever witnessed.