A History of Catholic Worship at Llanarth

Parish History of Llanarth

Main body of Information was sourced from an article written by parishioner Celia Nash on the history of the Herbert / Jones family of Llanarth. Other sources include Kelly Directories for Monmouthshire; the transcription of the Old Registers of Llanarth by John Hobson Matthews; the Welsh Biographies held at the National Library of Wales and the existing parish registers.

Early history
The name Llangarth (Llanarth) can be translated in two ways. It can mean either, “Church on the ridge of the hill” or “Church with a garth – cloister”. Whilst the second translation would suggest the existence of a small monastic settlement, both attest to the presence of a chapel with resident priest (Llan). According to the Liber Landavensis (Book of Llandaff), King Iddon gave his mansion of Llangarth to Teilo who was Bishop of Llandaff between 512 and 566. It is safe to presume therefore that a church existed at Llanarth during the sixth century. The Liber Landavensis also notes that Bishop Nudd was resident at Llanarth in 880.

The Reformation
The impact of the reformation came late to Llanarth as many of the people remained true to the Catholic faith. Some were known as church papists because they attended the local church whilst also attending the Catholic mass which was celebrated in Llanarth Court. Others were known as recusants as they refused to attend the local church. Such actions were punished by heavy fines in order to deter people from continuing with the catholic faith.
In order to keep the Catholic faith alive in post-reformation Monmouthshire, a number of priests were trained on the continent and sent back to the area in order to minister to the Catholic population. A Jesuit mission named as the seminary college of St Francis Xavier was established in 1605 by Fr Robert Jones at the Cwm, Llanrothal . This college supplied Jesuit priests to serve the area who served along with secular priests who returned to the area from the newly established English College in Rome. This college had been set up by Welshman Owen Lewis, later to be Bishop of Cassano in Italy.
Amongst the priests who served the area were John Thomas of Llanarth, Walter Powell of Raglan, William Gwyn of Llanfair Kilgeddin who was educated at Llanarth, Morgan Chennock (Morgan Clynnog), Hugh Phillips, Walter Morgan and Paul Spence. Priests John Hall, Samuel Davies and John Owens took refuge at Llanarth Court and served both the Jones family and the local population. Samuel Davies served the family and local church from 1706 until 1761 and John Owens from 1713 – 1760. John Hall who had been ordained in 1662 served the community until his death in 1746. He was followed by John Bosville of Llanellen who served from 1746 until 1779. John Bosville was the last priest to serve the family and Catholic Community from the House. Part of the House at the end of the drive way was made into a presbytery and it is here that future priests to the mission would be based.
The original church building was erected in 1750 disguised as a garden shed and the new house of Llanarth Court was developed from 1770 onwards to replace the earlier house. The new house contained a chapel for the family, with the 150 strong parish community now gathering in the building erected in the kitchen garden.
According to John Hobson Matthews catholic historian and transcriber of The Old Registers of the Catholic Mission of Llanarth 1781- 1838:
“The Mission of Llanarth has had a more or less continuous existence ever since the ancient church of that parish was finally diverted to Protestant uses in the reign of Elizabeth. For this continuance throughout the period of penal legislation it is indebted to the Catholic fidelity of the family of Herbert, who have been Lords of the Manor of Llanarth from the year 1456. Down to the middle of the eighteenth century Mass was said only in the chapel of their mansion of Hendreobeth (now called Llanarth Court): but for the last 150 years the Catholics have assembled in the chapel which stands in the grounds at a short distance from the house.”
Kelly’s Directory for 1901 lists the existence of a Catholic School at Clytha, built in 1848, for 80 children; average attendance, 65 ; taught by the Sisters of St. Paul. The Directory also lists The Reverends Hook and Delerne as living in Pitt House which is close to the gatehouse entrance to Llanarth Court estate. This therefore acted as a presbytery for the church.

The parish in the twentieth Century
Llanarth Court passed to Fflorens Roch on the death of her father Colonel Ivor John Caradoc Herbert in 1936. During the second World War, Mr & Mrs Roch chose not to live at Llanarth Court and made the House available for a girls school that was evacuated from London. The headmistress of the school was Mrs Roch’s cousin, Mrs Gertrude Monteith. In 1947 the house was sold for a nominal sum to the Dominican order and was renamed Blackfriars School. The school housed 60 boys aged between 8 and 13. In 1967 the Benedictines took over the running of the school which expanded to cater for the needs of 140 boarders and 30 day pupils, eventually including girls. The Benedictine school closed in 1986.
Attempts were made to open the house as a Pastoral and Retreat centre but the house was soon sold for use as a nursing home, and then a centre for the treatment of the mentally ill. On its sale as a nursing home the Archdiocese of Cardiff retained the Chapel and land around it. Since then the parish has been served by secular priests from the Archdiocese based either at Usk or Monmouth.

Llanarth heraldry