The church at Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) is most famous for its collection of early medieval inscribed stones commemorating ecclesiastical and secular leaders of the first millennium. This sometimes distracts froom the splendid collection of later medieval effigies and cross slabs and the post-medieval ledgerstones to be found in the church. One of the effigies has been the subject of consideable debate. Jeanne James, a local historian, has sent us this guest post which summarises the evidence for the various standpoints in the debate.
She says: This article discusses the effigy of a civilian with a glove in St Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major. Publications and email correspondence are referenced: first Professor Nicholas Orme and later Professor Madeleine Gray gave generously of their time and findings. The date, role of the man portrayed and his possible identity are considered. There is agreement about the date but less concerning his role and identity.
In the East Church of St Illtud’s Church, Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) at the north-east end of the nave, is a recumbent effigy of a man, right hand on his breast, left hand holding a glove (Figure 1). In the late-nineteenth century, before West Church was restored, the effigy was standing at its east end (Figure 2). It was later moved below the pulpit in the East Church, then to its present position.
Geoffrey Orrin thought the effigy was a mid-fourteenth century priest or layman. He described the head resting on a square cushion set diagonally, the left hand holding a glove, the right on the breast. The inscription around its edges, in Norman-French and Lombardic characters is: WILLIAM DE RAG….SHAM.…GYT ICI DEU DE SA ALME EYT MERCI. AMEN (William de Rag…sham lies here. May God have mercy on his soul. Amen). (Figures 3, 4 and 5). Jeanne James read the inscription as ‘WILLIAM DE RAC…HAM…’. The closest place-name match is Rackham in West Sussex. However, the ‘C’ could be a ‘G’ or even a ‘T’.
In 2012 Elwyn Gibbs dated the effigy as mid-fifteenth century. He compared the effigy’s dress with paintings at the Exchequer Court of a court official’s attire in 1450-70. A common assumption is that the effigy represents a merchant because of the glove in his left hand. This failed to recognize the significance of a single symbolic glove as a token of standing as steward (seneschal), authorised to hold a glove court. Checking there was a single glove, James measured it as 26 cm. The left-hand fingers measure 19cm, the flexed-right-hand fingers measure 18 cm. Professor Madeleine Gray noted that the cuff of a second glove would be expected to extend above the wrist (Figure 6). Gibbs acknowledged that two additional items of a steward’s full regalia are absent: the rod and the ring. The ceremonial rod, required in the conduct of court procedure in the Court Baron (freeholders’) and Court Leet (customary tenants) and the ring, required for the ritual act of homage to the lord, were used in the ceremony of the ’rod and the ring’ for admission to the manorial roll. He suggested sockets were used to fix the rod. Apparently, this would have covered his face. Two remain: on the right-hand side of the brow and in the middle of the robe. In a pre-restoration photo of the West Church sockets are just visible (Figure 7). Also, the steward did not always wear the ring. Gibbs associated the effigy with the Raglan family who arrived in Llantwit Major in the fifteenth century. The Earl of Warwick, then Lord of Glamorgan, granted lands to Robert Raglan for his work as steward (seneschal). Since stewardships were generally hereditary, the effigy was probably of one of Robert’s sons all of whom are accounted for except the fourth, William. With the addition of a few missing letters and allowance for the vagaries of spelling he read the inscription as: ‘WILLIAM DE RAGLAN SENESCHALL .. GYT ICI (rests here).  This is unlikely because Lombardic capitals were used in the fourteenth century or earlier. Gray noted that Lombardic script is found on Welsh tombs until the mid-fourteenth century; late-fourteenth century examples are very rare. Furthermore, Anglo-Norman French inscriptions are unusual after the early-fourteenth century. For her, that completely ruled out Gibbs’ idea.
In an early edition of the church guide-book, Vivian Kelly suggested no date but said the effigy possibly represented an official of the manor.  Gray brought a visiting professor to the church before 2015 who suggested that the effigy was wearing academic head-dress and gown and could have been a doctor of law from Oxford or Cambridge. In a guidebook dated 2015, formulated by Keith Brown, Kelly noted that the costume and Lombardic capitals pre-date the Raglans’ fifteenth-century arrival. He said the effigy was wearing the dress of a doctor of law of Oxford or Cambridge (hence the writing of this article), saying that he holds a glove so may be linked to a glove court, the assembly normally held in the Town Hall to settle the allocation of land in the manor and also disputes.
Professor Nicholas Orme, who visited the church in 2018, also showed interest in the effigy. He said the figure was not wearing academic dress and his head was resting on a cushion. Gray agreed, quoting H. A. Tummers that cushions came in during the thirteenth century to show that the effigy is actually lying down; earlier effigies look like upright figures placed horizontally. Earlier cushions are usually placed square: the Llantwit one is diagonal, more common later in the thirteenth century but there are early examples.
Orme also thought that the effigy dates from the mid- or late-thirteenth century or early fourteenth at the latest. Firstly, he drew attention to a monument in Winchester Cathedral to Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, who died in 1238. His right hand is positioned like the Llantwit Major effigy, resting on his left breast or heart (Figure 8). Orme considered this significant since it seems there was a fashion, at least for having the hand on the breast or heart, uncommon in later centuries from when most effigies date. Secondly, in the thirteenth century, there were various ways of depicting effigies while by the early-fourteenth century praying hands together became standard. Thirdly, from correspondence with Professor Nigel Saul, an expert on medieval church monuments, about thirteenth-century effigies in Herefordshire, he concludes that apparently the portrayal of effigies in the thirteenth century was more varied than later. The hand on breast seems to have various meanings: possibly making the sign of the cross, or penitential – beating the breast. It shows that it was trying to imitate a current fashion, not some eccentric personal choice. Orme considers that the monument is a civilian, a layman of status with enough money for him or his family to commission a fairly expensive monument. It is evidently a ‘bespoke’ monument because of the unusual position of the arms and the glove. Orme researched similarities with the name on the effigy in the Public Record Office (now National Archives) calendars and also the National Archives on-line and found only a Recham family in the thirteenth century in Kent, Recham being a thirteenth-century spelling of Rackham. Orme noted that there is very little about Llantwit Major in the National Archives because much of Wales was in the hands of the marcher lords and the king’s jurisdiction was limited. Sadly, Tewkesbury Abbey which might have been involved has no surviving cartularies of its lands.
James noticed an illustration of an effigy, similar to Llantwit’s but without the glove, in a book by Alison Weir. The effigy, in St James’ Priory Bristol, was thought to be to Robert Earl of Gloucester, who died in 1147 (Figure 9). However, it has long been believed to be of a thirteenth-century merchant. Comparison of the effigies supports both Gray’s and Orme’s opinions that the Llantwit Major one is of the thirteenth century. Gray pointed out an effigy more like that in Llantwit Major at St Hilary in the Vale of Glamorgan (Figure 10). Rhianydd Biebrach compared the late-thirteenth century St Hilary civilian, noting similarities but better carved; the bare left hand is on the breast, glove held in gloved right hand. Gray and Beibrach think the St Hilary effigy was probably of a senior estate servant; Gray considers that the Llantwit effigy is possibly another senior estate official. Orrin said that the St Hilary effigy is thought to represent the son of one of the lords of St Hilary of the De Cardiff family in the thirteenth century.
Nigel Williams, who has researched Llantwit Major families up to the nineteenth century, believes the effigy pre-dates the fifteenth century. Considering the cost, it seems unlikely to date from after 1340 during a period of poor weather, pandemic and depression. He thinks it represents a representative of the Lord of the Manor or equivalent for the monastic grange and suggested a member of the Rawley (Raleigh) family. Jean-Yves Robic noted that the lords of Glamorgan held the manor of Boverton and Llantwit, the abbot of Tewkesbury held West or Abbot’s Llantwit. By the late-thirteenth century, this was leased to the Raleigh family. However, Williams found that Rawleys held land in several places from 1307 and it is unlikely they would have placed a memorial where they had least land. Also, the name does not fit the lettering on the effigy. He then pointed out that the De Clare family were Lords of Glamorgan by the mid-late thirteenth century, and suggested the effigy was one of their servants. He has studied the Inquisitions Post Mortem, naming local stewards who created the documents, and checked names against the inscription on the effigy but has found no link.
James thought the effigy might commemorate William, ‘priest’ of the ‘clas’ who died in 1230. Kelly noted that, before the coming of the Normans, Llantwit Major’s Celtic monastery was replaced by a community of clerics called a ‘clas’. Robic said the ‘clas’ was served by secular canons. This ended in 1230 when the abbot of Tewkesbury insisted that the brother and relations of the deceased priest, William, renounced their claim to the hereditary right of a half share of the church. Because of the hereditary right, James wondered whether William was a ‘nominal’ priest. Orme said that clas clergy were married, not laity. The effigy would have had clerical dress and the date is probably too early. James cited Gerald of Wales, in 1188, who recorded that Llanbadarn Fawr ‘like so many other [churches] in Ireland and Wales’ had a layman as what is called its abbot. Gray said this situation was different. If Robic’s source was accurate (for which Gray referred to Denys Pringle), she also thought that he would have been dressed and tonsured as a priest. Gray sees no trace of a tonsure on the effigy. A thirteenth-century date is right but she considers 1230 is too early, although possible. The Ven. Philip Morris tracked the origin of Robic’s source to an article by John Rodgers. In it, Llantwit church received seisin, the moiety which William ‘late the parson’ held. The Ven. Philip Morris said the translation from Latin could be ‘presbyter’ rather than ‘parson’, but William was ordained. Gray checked the Tewkesbury Annals which describe William as ‘quondam persona ibidem’. After consulting dictionaries, Gray considers the fact that he held a moiety of the parish shows that the translation of ‘persona’ is ‘parson’. So that William is ruled out.
In conclusion, the Llantwit Major effigy is believed to date from the mid- to late-thirteenth century, or early-fourteenth at the latest, because head-cushions appeared in the thirteenth century and the hand on breast pre-dates the praying hands of the early-fourteenth century. Lombardic lettering and Anglo-Norman French inscriptions are rare after the early-fourteenth century. The effigy is believed to represent a layman of status possibly serving the lord of the manor. He holds a single glove, a token of standing as a steward authorised to hold a glove court. This article stems from a visiting professor’s opinion that the effigy probably represented a doctor of law from Oxford or Cambridge, leading to a change in the church guide-book. The name on the inscription is WILLIAM DE RAG.….HAM or WILLIAM DE RAC…..HAM. If the latter, the De Clares held an extensive estate at Tonbridge in Kent so, with connections, the figure on the effigy could represent William de Recham of Kent – but the link is tenuous. His role and identity remain questionable.
Thanks are due to Professors Madeleine Gray and Nicholas Orme; I am very grateful to them both for their interest and research about the effigy. I also thank my husband, Dr Matthew James, for photographing Figures 1 to 6 and Professor Gray for photographing Figure 8. Thanks also to Ven. Philip Morris for his research into William, priest of the ‘clas’ and to Nigel Williams for his research into the Raleigh family and stewards of the lords of the manor, the De Clare family. Keith Brown has kindly forwarded copies of the relevant pages in two editions of the St Illtud’s Church guide-book and the photograph of the West Church in 1890 and I thank him also.
Gerald of Wales, The Journey through Wales, The Description of Wales, 1188, translated by Lewis Thorpe (London, etc: Penguin Books, 1978), p.179, 180.
Gibbs, Elwyn, ‘The Raglans of Llantwit Major’, Llantwit Major Aspects of its History, vol. 12 (Llantwit Major Local History Society, 2012), pp. 5-31; pp.6-7, 11, 21-24.
Kelly, Vivian, St Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major, A Short History (Printed locally, 2015), p.28.
Kelly, Vivian, ‘St Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major, The Guide’ (one edition pre-2015,the latest 2015).
Orrin, Geoffrey R., Medieval Churches of the Vale of Glamorgan (Cowbridge: D. Brown and Sons Limited, 1988), pp. 251-2.
Robic, Jean-Yves, ‘Archaeological Watching Brief and Excavation Galilee Chapel’ Cardiff Archaeological Contracts, 2012-2013 (Held in the Benefice Office in St Illtud’s Church), p. 9, citing Denys Pringle, Archaeological Adviser to the Diocese of Llandaff, Llantwit Major: St Illtud’s Church, archaeological implications of the proposal to re-roof the Galilee Chapel (December 2009).
Weir, Alison, Queens of the Conquest, England’s Medieval Queens 1066-1167 (London: Penguin Random House, 2017), facing p.326.
Professor Madeleine Gray’s sources
Biebrach, Rhianydd, Church Monuments in South Wales (Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer, 2017).
Luard, H. R., ed. Annales Monastici, vol. 1 (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green, 1864), p. 75; on-line at: https://archive.org/details/annalesmonastici01luar/page/n11/mode/2up?q=llantwit .
Pringle, Denys, Archaeological Adviser to the Diocese of Llandaff, Llantwit Major: St Illtud’s Church, archaeological implications of the proposal to re-roof the Galilee Chapel (December 2009).
Tummers, H. A. Early secular effigies in England (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980).
Professor Nicholas Orme’s sources
Luxford, Julian, ed. The Founders’ Book, A Medieval History of Tewkesbury Abbey, a facsimile of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Top. Glouc. d.2 (Shaun Tyas and the Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey, 2021).
Public Record Office (now National Archives) calendars and also the National Archives on-line.
The Venerable Philip Morris’s source
Rodgers, John, Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists Society, Vol XXXIX (1906), ‘Collegiate or Monastic?’ quoting a translation of ‘Extract from the Annals of Tewkesbury Abbey in the year 1230’.
Nigel Williams sources
Matthews, Hobson, “Cardiff Records”, print on request versions (c. 1908).
Griffiths, Matthew, ‘The Manor in Medieval Glamorgan: The Estates of the De Ralegh family in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies (BBCS), no 32 (1985), pp. 173-198.
 Geoffrey R. Orrin, Medieval Churches of the Vale of Glamorgan (Cowbridge: D. Brown and Sons Limited, 1988), pp. 251-2.
 Elwyn Gibbs, ‘The Raglans of Llantwit Major’, Llantwit Major Aspects of its History, vol. 12 (Llantwit Major Local History Society, 2012), pp. 5-31; pp.6-7, 11, 21-24.
 Vivian Kelly, ‘Saint Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major’, formulated by Keith Brown.
 Vivian Kelly, ‘Saint Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major, the Guide’, formulated by Keith Brown (2015).
 H. A. Tummers, Early secular effigies in England (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980).
 Alison Weir, Queens of the Conquest, England’s Medieval Queens 1066-1167 (London: Penguin Random House, 2017), facing p.326.
 Rhianydd Biebrach, Church Monuments in South Wales (Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer, 2017).
 Geoffrey Orrin, Medieval Churches in the Vale of Glamorgan, p. 373.
 Jean-Yves Robic, ‘Archaeological Watching Brief and Excavation Galilee Chapel’ Cardiff Archaeological Contracts, 2012-2013 (Held in the Benefice Office in St Illtud’s Church), p. 9.
 Griffiths, Matthew, ‘The Manor in Medieval Glamorgan: The Estates of the De Ralegh family in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies (BBCS), no 32 (1985), pp. 173-198.
 Hobson Matthews, ‘Cardiff Records’ vols. 1 and 2 (c. 1908), ‘print on request versions’ which includes the IPMs plus prefaces.
 Vivian Kelly, St Illtud’s Church Llantwit Major, A Short History (Printed locally, 2015), p.28.
 Jean-Yves Robic, ‘Archaeological Watching Brief and Excavation Galilee, p. 9, citing Denys Pringle, Archaeological Adviser to the Diocese of Llandaff, Llantwit Major: St Illtud’s Church, archaeological implications of the proposal to re-roof the Galilee Chapel (December 2009).
 Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales, The Description of Wales, translated with an introduction by Lewis Thorpe (London: Penguin, 1978), pp. 179-180.
 Rodgers, John, Transactions of the Cardiff Naturalists Society, vol. XXXIX (1906), ‘Collegiate or Monastic?’ quoting a translation of ‘Extract from the Annals of Tewkesbury Abbey in the year 1230’.
 Luard, H. R., ed. Annales Monastici, vol. 1 (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green, 1864), p. 75; on-line at https://archive.org/details/annalesmonastici01luar/page/n11/mode/2up?q=llantwit ..
 R. E. Latham, Revised Medieval Latin Word-List (Oxford University Press, 1965, reprinted 1989).
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