Thursday, 13 February 2014

The most interesting graveyard in Wales?

There will be many candidates for this prize. I was travelling from Market Overton to Whitchurch recently and, knowing that RS Thomas had been a curate in Hanmer from 1940-42, I set aside a couple of hours to explore this little village. I couldn't find a trace of RS, but the setting of the village around the lake and the beauty of the church and churchyard was ample compensation.

This lake was formed in the last Ice Age and it's presence is reflected in the village name Hanmer - which is a corruption of Handmere - mere, meaning the lake of a Mercian lord called Hand.

The original church was founded by St. Chad in about 670 AD, and still bears his name. The original mediaeval church was greatly damaged by fire in 1463, but the clustered pillars of the knave arcading were rebuilt and restored in their original 12th century style after this fire and a subsequent fire in 1889. 
This is said to be the tomb of the architect of the church. It is known as the founder's tomb as tradition records that the architect fell from the tower and was killed in a tragic accident at exactly this spot.
Set in front of some fabulous 500 year old yew trees, this ancient preaching cross stands tall. It was knocked down during the Civil War, but reinstated in 1739.
Here is a view of St Chad's from the lakeside, framed by two giant Cedar trees planted in 1881. The burial ground is extensive and contains large areas given over to encourage wild-flowers and insects.
A fine example of a weeping ash to the north of the church.
There are two 1918 military graves which appear to have been recently replaced, a mark of the respect shown to graves in this churchyard.
This is the lake from the porch of the church. The village is on the Maelor Way, so there is good walking to be had in both directions.

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