Longstanding members of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) and supporters who live in Carmarthenshire may already be aware of the story of the beautiful little Llandyfeisant Church, which lies on the boundary of our Castle Woods nature reserve in Dinefwr, Llandeilo.
The church has a long history within the Dinefwr estate, and served a tiny parish, with church services being attended by the family and staff of the estate as well as residents of just one or two local roads. It was abandoned as a parish church in 1961, and subsequently deconsecrated, though it remains a listed building. The church had long had periods of both splendour and decline over its long history, much depending on the varying generosity of its patrons. As its use as a parish church declined during the 20th century, so did its condition once again.
WTSWW (then the West Wales Trust for Nature Conservation) took on the woodlands that became Castle Woods nature reserve in 1979. By 1980, they were asked if it would undertake the restoration and rehabilitation of the church, which was then in a sad state and quickly disappearing under encroaching vegetation. It was considered, in their words at the time, a ‘daunting task’, but the Trust and its dedicated local volunteers agreed, with the objective of turning it into a visitor and education centre. The Trust took on a lease, from the Church in Wales, for the building and graveyard. Ian Watt, a local volunteer, drove the campaign, with assistance from Manpower Services work teams, grants from the Prince of Wales Committee, Cadw, Dyfed County Council, and many other donations. The conversion was completed by mid 1986.
For a number of years the church was run as a popular visitor centre. However for various reasons it had closed by 1994. Amongst the changes leading to this was the acquisition of the main part of the estate by the National Trust and the opening of the main drive to the public, where previously they would all have accessed the woods and castle via the church.
The church then entered another period of decline, with dry rot now occurring in some of its timbers, and the building gradually suffering from being closed up. WTSWW found itself in a difficult situation; bound by a lease requiring repairs to be undertaken, but with insufficient tenure to support funding applications.
In 2018, local resident Beth Davies set up a petition to save Llandyfeisant Church, from which grew and active and engaged Facebook community. A group of interested local residents formed, with a view to supporting the church’s restoration. Both the Church in Wales and WTSWW now sit on this committee as ex officio members. The group has now formally constituted itself as the Friends of Llandyfeisant Church, and thanks to the Church in Wales and the Friends group, progress is being made towards the restoration of the building. Fundraising has begun in earnest.
WTSWW are working with the Friends of Llandyfeisant Church to organise a festive event inside the church, on Sunday 22 December (11am – 2pm).
The church will be open to view with a few activities and some mince pies available! You are also welcome to talk to us about future plans.
Please note that there are no conveniences at the church and no parking on site either, so please walk to the church leaving you car in Llandeilo town or in the National Trust car park.
For more details contact Lizzie on firstname.lastname@example.org