St Mabon's Church, Llanfabon

Church History

St Mabon's Church, Llanfabon is situated about 1 mile South of the main A472 into Nelson from the direction of the A470 main trunk road. The first recording of this site being used as a Church dates back to records in the Vatican Archives and refers to the rebuilding of the Church by the Earl of Hereford in the eleventh century.

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By 1836 the building had fallen into disrepair and the then Rector was requesting funding from the 'Church Building Society' for repair grants. The appeal was not successful, for in 1846, it was decided to demolish the building and fully rebuild it.

The Principal Architect was John Pritchard, who was later to restore Cardiff's Llandaff Cathedral. It is now believed that the whole building was not, in fact, destroyed, due to  periodic building style differences that can be identified.

The Church

St Mabon's Church is a simple two-celled building comprising a nave and chancel which are separated by an arch. There is a small vestry on the north side and a bellcote with a single bell on the western gable. Entry is gained either by the west door and its moulded arch surround, or by the south door which has a plain doorway and porch. Entering by the south door will lead you to the Baptisterie and font.
The floor under the pews was recently renovated for some modernisation when central heating was installed. Underneath the floors were found the remains of 103 individuals. Their identity remains a mystery, but their remains still lie under the floor. On the walls are various memorial tablet.

Perhaps the most poignant of these is to the memory of:

Henry Thomas Godfrey LEIGH
2nd Lt, Labour Corps and 5th African Field Artillery

Died - 11th November, 1918 - aged 34yrs

Buried at Terlincthun British Cemetery,
Wimille, Boulogne
Grave Number - IX.E.8

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Henry LEIGH was the grandson of a former Rector of Llanfabon, and died on the last day of the First World War, the very day of the Armistice. A Merthyr Express news article dated 23rd November 1918 records the reporting of his death as follows:

Many will regret to learn of the death in France from influenza and pneumonia of Second Lieutenant H.G.T. Leigh, Labour Corps, second son of Dr W W Leigh, J.P., and Mrs Leigh, Glynbargoed. The deceased officer who was in his 34th year, was educated at Sherborne, and Downton Agricultural College. About ten years ago he went to live in South Africa for the sake of his health, taking up the profession of farming. In 1915, he joined the South African Artillery and took part in the campaign in German West Africa under General Botha. At the conclusion of the fighting there he resumed farming but came over to England in 1917 and joined the Officers’ Training Corps at Cambridge. He was given a commission in the Labour Corps and spent a brief furlough at home about a month prior to going to France. He had only been a few weeks in France when he was taken ill and was removed to the 8th Red Cross Hospital at Boulogne. His illness became so serious that his father and mother were sent for and they proceeded to France to see him. Pneumonia set in, however, and after about ten days illness he passed away on November 11th and was buried the following day in the British Cemetery at Boulogne with full military honours.

Henry’s grandfather was the Reverend Daniel Leigh who resided at The Rectory, High Street, Nelson.

The Leigh family in the late 1800’s were a notable family and would have had some considerable influence and probably wealthy. Other notable members of the Leigh family included:

Willie Leigh - Surgeon
John Leigh - Surgeon

Both were also Justices of the Peace. They lived at Llanfabon Cottage in the 1880’s.

St Mabon's Church - Parish War Memorial

Also on a wall inside the Church hangs a framed memorial to the First World War fallen. The link in the left column will lead you to the details on the plaque in a more readable format.

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It contains the names of fifty-seven men who fell during the First World War and was no doubt a document used to assist in the formation of the nameplate that is on the War Memorial in the village today.
Many of the names it contains are included in the names on the Nelson village memorial. There are others that do not appear on the memorial, some of which are found on the War Memorial in the nearby village of Trelewis, while others are commemorated on similar memorials in other nearby villages and towns.

The Churchyard and Cemetery

The Church is surrounded by many old graves, most dating from the 18th and 19th century. One grave whose headstone stands like a pillar has the inscription written in Welsh "Here lies Gwilym Morganwg". This was the bardic name for Thomas Williams (1778-1835), who in 1814 became a member of the 'Gorsedd y Beirdd' (pron. gore-sathe 'er bayrth) a piece of tradition which in 1819 became part of the National Eisteddfod. In the far corner near the main road is the large red obelisk at the Mathias family grave mentioned elsewhere in this site. There is also a grave to W.E. Edwards - Driver -R.A.S.C.  who died 9th June 1919 and is buried near the West door, but at present a headstone cannot be found.

On the other side of the road in the 'New' Cemetery are several Commonwealth War graves including some from the Second World War, as well as the Sutherland family plot where Lieutenant George King Sutherland is buried.

Amongst the graves are a few reminders that war was not the only cause of sudden death.
There is a memorial to those that lost their lives in the Albion Colliery disaster in 1894 where 281 people were killed. Eleven unidentified bodies from this disaster are buried next to the Angel memorial. There are also other graves that remind us of other tragedies, such as the Senghenydd Colliery disaster of 1913 and the Aberfan disaster of 1966
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