A 13th-century Breconshire church attracted over 60 visitors last Saturday as part of Brecknock History Festival.

Llandetty Church, situated alongside the River Usk halfway between the villages of Talybont-on-Usk and Llangynidr, is an important example of a late medieval Welsh church that retains much of its historic fabric.

The church is usually locked, except for services, due to its isolated location.

Inside the building, visitors were able to examine the 9th-century inscribed Llandetty Stone, the well-preserved Hanoverian wall painting of the royal coat of arms and the 1841 tithe map of Llandetty Parish, and to chat over tea, coffee and cakes.

However, probably most interest was shown in the bullet hole that is visible in the priest’s door. This was reputably made in the Commonwealth period (1649 - 60) by the local parliamentarian Colonel Jenkin Jones. He was hostile to the established church and installed himself as Llandetty’s priest, using the church as a farm building. In 1660, on hearing that Charles II had returned to Britain to reclaim the monarchy, Jones was allegedly so enraged that he fired his pistol at the priest’s door - cursing and making the bullet hole - before he rode off, never to return!

The churchyard itself is an interesting and attractive site of early Celtic origin with monuments and gravestones dating from the 17th century.

It is also a designated War Grave to 310 ex-servicemen who were resident at the British Legion’s nearly Crossfield House (now closed and renamed Buckland House). Many were veterans of two World Wars and died from war wounds. Their graves have no headstones only a single British Legion monument and, in the church, a Book of Remembrance. A Remembrance Sunday service will be held at the church on November 13.

Open day visitors at Llandetty Church
Open day visitors at Llandetty Church (The Beacons Benefice)

Some parts of the churchyard containing older memorials have become very overgrown and the new church committee has begun a programme of clearance. Visitors were able to see the work in progress and the interesting old monuments and gravestones that have been uncovered. The intention is to make the churchyard, with its three ancient yew trees and tranquil setting, an even more inviting and interesting place to visit.

Commenting on the open day, Keren Bender, Llandetty Church secretary said: “We were delighted that so many people came and enjoyed finding out about our church and its history, particularly the historic bullet hole.

“But more than that, they stayed and talked, making new acquaintances and exchanging stories, so there was a real buzz of community in the church.”

For further information on Llandetty Church including times of services, search for ‘Beacons Benefice’ on Google.