The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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ALL SAINTS' CHURCH AT KEMEYS COMMANDER
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 01812g Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Gwehelog Fawr Unitary authority : Monmouthshire NGR : SO34900480 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Church Status : listed building II*
Summary : The placename of Kemeys Commander indicates is first mentioned in 1254. It consists of nave, integral chancel, W bellcote and W tower, and its present appearance seems to be largely the result of a Perpendicular reconstruction.
Description : The placename of Kemeys Commander indicates a connection with the Templars, confirmed by the Norwich Taxatio (1254 ) in which the first mention of the church occurs (Brook 1988, 77; Davies 1953, 99). The dedication is to All Saints, and the churchyard is square; there is nothing to indicate a pre-Norman foundation.
The walls are constructed from small river boulders and irregular blocks of various local sandstones. The dressings are mainly of coarse-grained fawn sandstone. The building has suffered from ground movement, now most noticeably visible in the bellcote which is leaning out of the vertical. The most likely explanation for this is that the building is situated over burials or, given the position of the church on the floodplain of the River Usk, over peat deposits. Either of these have archaeological implications if it should become necessary to underpin the walls. The cracks resulting from this ground movement, together with the type of construction, make it difficult to identify for certain alterations to the fabric, although detailed examination with the joints raked out would probably result in a clearer picture. Only those alterations which can be clearly be seen at present have been recorded here; more doubtful ones are not noted.
The church as it now exists is a plain box of a building, consisting of nave with integral chancel and a bellcote on the W gable, and a W porch. That it had a rood loft of about the same date is shown by the presence of the loft window in the S wall, and the survival of fragments of the screen (Crossley and Ridgway 1959, 38-9). A straight joint on the S wall immediately W of the screen and almost underneath the E jamb of the loft window probably represents the E jamb of the lower door to the stairs. There hardly appears to be room at the side for an upper door at the end of a straight flight of steps, and access to the loft was probably by a spiral staircase in the thickness of the wall. The existing openings are 15th-16th century. Both these and the screen appear to be the result of a reconstruction of the building which took place at this time, rather than dating the construction of the building itself. The evidence for this is the arch which can be seen built into the top of the N wall immediately to the W of the screen; from its irregularity of the line of voussoirs of which it is composed it is more likely to have been a relieving arch than a rear arch, but it is not possible to be certain of this since none of the opening is now visible. This is too close to the screen to allow room for the loft which can be shown from the stops along the headbeam to have projected on its W side, and the opening was probably blocked when the screen was constructed. The only other earlier opening of which there are traces is a plain narrow rectangular slit in the N wall of the chancel. Most of the existing openings are stylistically similar and are probably of the same date, but the S window of the chancel both stylistically different, with 4-centred heads to the lights rather than ogees, and also the only window which shows clear signs of having been inserted. The porch is rather crudely constructed from massive baulks of timber pegged together; subsequent patches have been nailed on. The collars are moticed, indicating a date before c 1700. There is no ceiling. There is a single purlins on either side supported by arched windbraces, like those in the nave roof of Llanthony parish church. There is nothing to indicate the date of the bellcote.
A medieval altar-stone has been reset on a modern ashlar base. The font also appears to be medieval, but otherwise the fittings are Victorian or later. Most of the central gangway of the nave, and the whole of the chancel W of the altar rail, have been covered in fitted carpet, so it is not possible to check the inscriptions on flat slabs recorded by Bradney. Wright (1938a, 69-70) notes two uninscribed bells, one medieval, of 13th century date, and the other modern.
References Brook, D, 1988, The early Christian church in Gwent, Monmouthshire Antiq 5, 67-84 Crossley, F H, and Ridgway, M H, 1959, Screens, lofts and stalls situated in Wales and Monmouthshire. Part ten, Section XIII: Monmouthshire Archaeol Cambrensis 108, 14-71 Davies, E T,1953, An ecclesiastical history of Monmouth. Risca Wright, A, 1938a, The church bells of Monmouthshire ii, Archaeol Cambrensis, 93, 57-74 (69-70)
Evans 1997 GGAT 51 Historic Churches Project
Grass covered earthworks noted within enclosure to the S of Church Farm (PRN 01797g, NPRN 36,646) include building platforms and banks (viewed from adjacent lane). The area of the 16th century Church farm, also known as Church House, a Listed building (grade II*, ref. 36646), and the former parsonage for the church, is the most likely site of the medieval buildings associated with the church, the surrounding area would benefit from a geophysical and topographical survey.
Bowden, R. and Roberts, R. , 2012 , Monastic Sites in Glamorgan and Gwent
Evans, E M , 1997 , Gwent Historic Churches Survey: Churches in the Diocese of Monmouth, Deanery of Raglan & Usk
Evans, E M , 2003 , Early Medieval Ecclesiastical sites in Southeast Wales: Desk based assessment
Evans EM, 2003-04, GGAT 73 Early Medieval Ecclesiastical Sites Project
EM Evans (1998) GGAT 51/81 Welsh Historic Churches Survey: Glamorgan and Gwent
Events : E001386 : Early medieval ecclesiastical sites in Southeast Wales desk based assessment (year : 2004) E003576 : Field visit to All Saints' Church, Kemey Commander (year : 2011) E002119 : Assessment of Monastic Sites in Glamorgan and Gwent (year : 2012)