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Trellech*, the history of Wales in a small village.
*Three Stones or The Place of Stones


The village of Trellech, between Monmouth and Chepstow in south Wales, is home to a marvellous collection of antiquities. Now really just a sleepy hamlet, this was once one of the most important towns in Wales - in its medieval heyday it was larger than Newport and Chepstow. The standing stones pictured here indicate that the area was important even in prehistoric times.The stones may once have been part of an ancient large avenue or stone circle.
The Trellech standing stones might look as though they were made from an early form of concrete but they are in fact large pieces of a volcanic rock locally known as pudding stone. This material was used to make certain types of millstone in days gone by. A 19th. century historian noted that a fourth stone once stood nearby but was destroyed towards the end of the 18th. century. On a recent visit, the present writer noticed the tip of a similar stone on the verge of a lane several hundred yards away.
For some reason called the Terret Tump, this forty feet high mound near a Trellech farmhouse was once the motte of a Norman French castle. The Normans threw up many of these on the borders of Wales soon after the invasion of 1066. The tiny castle at the top of the mound would have been made from wood and all traces of the building vanished long ago. 
The late F. J. Hando wrote that a church of "Trylec" was given to Llandaff by a King Ffernwael thirteen centuries ago but that nothing remains of this or the first Norman church. The present church is held to date largely from the 13th. and 14th. centuries, but the spire was re-built around 1792. When the floor of the church was disturbed in recent times many skeletons were discovered and the obviously hurried burials were though to be connected with the Great Plagues of 1340 and 1350. 
The churchyard contains this large stone pedestal upon which once stood a large ancient cross. This would have been thrown down at the time of the Reformation, on the orders of King Henry VIII. The church itself houses several fascinating objects carved from stone. One of these appears to be an ancient font, perhaps a reminder of the Norman church. The well known Trellech sundial is just nearby - Fred Hando called this "the most remarkable sundial in this island". 
Trellech's holy well, known as St. Anne's or The Virtuous Well, used to be a place of pilgrimage. Little is known about the present structure but an inscription on the sundial in the church (dated 1689) seems to indicate that Lady Magdalene Probert was responsible for this. It can safely be assumed that the well had been a significant religious site for many centuries before 1689. Interestingly, the tree at the rear of the well is festooned with strips of rag. It is well known that this custom was common in medieval times. Pilgrims to holy wells would tie strips of cloth to nearby trees or throw bent pins into the water. One cannot help wondering how this tradition has survived to the present day. See also: holy wells in Wales
The Lion, one of two attractive pubs in the village. As you might expect this is also an ancient feature. I seem to remember the landlady telling me that she thought the building dated from the 15th. century. Modern travellers from overseas might be pleased to know that these days it is quite possible to wander into such a country pub and order coffee and sandwiches. The uninitiated need no longer face the challenge of choosing an unfamiliar local ale.

 

 John Weston, 2002

 

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