Sunday, 2 June 2019

Notes from North Wales

You don't often come across a church monument that makes you smile, but I found one such in the church of All Saints, Gresford, in Denbighshire. The monument to John Trevor (who died in 1589) irresistibly suggests, to modern eyes, the stage illusion in which a conjuror 'saws a lady in half'. At one end, an unconcerned John Trevor rests his head on his hand – an early example of the popular 'toothache' pose – and clutches the hilt of his sword, the rest of which emerges at the other end of the monument, along with his feet. The dark middle section bears a long inscription, now barely discernible. There's another, later monument elsewhere in North Wales that follows this curious design, but clearly it never caught on.
  Gresford church is a gem, with a wonderful array of carved screens and a beautiful angel roof.

The personal highlight of this tour, though, was a visit to the former lead-mining village of Gwernaffield in Flintshire. The Victorian church is not very distinguished, but in the churchyard stands a stone erected by my great-great-grandfather, William Jones, in memory of three of his children.

The inscription is in Welsh, and in translation (I am told) reads:

'Here lies AMELIA, daughter of Will'm and Marg't Jones, Pen y Fron, who died October 7 1838 at 5 weeks old.
      I am the first (child) to be given (the name)*
      (In a coffin of two shaped trees)
      I am wise where I will be wise
      Until my soul calls me to the south
      Although my body is weak and buried
      In the cold soil alone,
      A little girl is singing aloft
      Among the heavenly host and their music.
Also EMMA their daughter who died February 5th 1864 at 20 years, also Edwin their son who died February 21 1864 at 16 years.

* A later daughter was also christened Amelia.
And another later daughter went on to marry my philoprogenitive great grandfather (born 1808), who was undeterred by the fact she was his son's fiancĂ©e when she caught his eye – just like Miles Mowbray in Ivy Compton Burnett's A Father and His Fate.

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