A church in one of Britain’s oldest parishes, that has served the area for 1,500 years, is due to close in a few weeks after the congregation dwindled to just two. Founded in the year 583, St Madoc of Ferns in Pembrokeshire, Wales, has looked after its congregation for nearly 1,500 years.
But with the influx of second homes in the area and young people no longer attending, the last two parishioners, who both help out as church wardens, say they are too old to carry on. A group of volunteers is now looking for funding to clear the damp and pay the bills so that the church in Haroldston West can be turned into an arts and history exhibition centre.
If they fail the building could fall into ruin or be bought by developers and turned into a home. Madoc was born in 558 in Templeport, in Ireland’s County Cavan, before he came to Wales as a disciple of St David, the patron saint of the country.
He became known as one of his three most faithful disciples and had a reputation as a miracle worker. It is believed he founded the Pembrokeshire church in 583 before returning to Ireland and becoming a bishop.
The church is set to hold its final service on July 31. Church warden Jane Main, 78, said: “We are very sad to have to see it go. It’s going to be declared redundant.
“I’ve been a warden for most of the 30 years I’ve lived here but now I have trouble getting down the steps. My husband has Parkinson’s so he can’t do it and the other warden, Diana Thomas, is 80.”
She added that when she started as warden there used to be two services every Sunday, but the disappearance of agricultural workers in the area has led to a dwindling congregation. She said the church’s graveyard will continue to accept ashes and additions to family graves and that St Madoc is currently able to host christenings, funerals and baptisms, but not weddings.
The church was mostly rebuilt in 1883 on its medieval foundations, with the south wall and medieval font being the only features to have survived. Its 20th century stained glass windows show a very blond Christ in a carpenter’s workshop and the view of St Bride’s Bay from Haroldston Hill.
It also has in its cemetery the grave of an unknown WW2 soldier. At present, services are held every few weeks with a number of churches sharing the same vicar.
Shirley Norman, who runs the Boathouse Gallery in Little Haven, said she received a call in February from Ms Main who asked her if she would be interested in looking after the church when it closed. She said: “We thought it would be a good site for a history exhibition as long as it was not damp, but it was.
“Water was just running down the walls when we visited in February but we have been several times since and it has been dry. It’s awful to think it might close after all these years.”
At a community meeting on May 11 a group was formed and various options were discussed, from letting the church deteriorate into a safe ruin to converting it into a forum for art exhibitions, student lectures and rehearsal rooms for musicians. The group next meets on June 11.
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.