Building » Llanarth – St Mary and St Michael

Llanarth – St Mary and St Michael

Llanarth Court, Llanarth, Raglan, NP15 2YD

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

One of the oldest Catholic churches in Wales, on a site which has seen continuous Catholic worship since the Reformation. The chapel was built by the Jones family, probably in the late eighteenth century, and was designed in a low-key understated manner, belying its function. An apse was added in the twentieth century. The chapel has numerous fine furnishings, including re-set sixteenth and seventeenth century continental stained glass, glass by Margaret Rope and Hardman & Co., a carved oak relief of St David attributed to Eric Gill and a medieval carved alabaster relief. The church lies within the parkland of Llanarth Court, now a private hospital.

Llanarth Court was the seat of the Jones family from 1465 onwards. The present house was built in about 1770, and remodelled in Italianate style by W. and E. Habershon in 1849-51. In 1848 John Arthur Edward Jones (who was related to the Herbert family) was granted permission by licence from the Crown for the family to revert to the name Herbert. A staunchly Catholic family, they suffered for their loyalty to the Church but remained steadfast. A chapel within the earlier house was in continuous use from the reign of Elizabeth I until the construction of the present chapel, dedicated to St Mary and St Michael. Several sources including Attwater and Little date this to 1750, while Newman and the list entry give it a late eighteenth century date (that is, around the time of the legalisation of church building under the first Catholic Relief Act). The latter date seems more likely, and would have been at the time Bishop William Sharrock OSB, Auxiliary Bishop of the Western District, was chaplain to the Jones family and priest-in-charge of the Monmouth mission (in 1791 he was a signatory to a petition set up for the building of a public chapel in Monmouth, qv). No architect is recorded for the church at Llanarth. The building is designed in an understated classical manner, no doubt to underplay its true function, with little external decoration and windows only on the north elevation looking towards the house. The current more ‘ecclesiastical’ appearance dates from 1930, when the apse and gable end cross were added.

The last member of the Herbert family to live at Llanarth Court was the Hon Fflorens Roch, daughter of Ivor Herbert, 1st Baron Treowen (and builder of the church of Our Lady of Peace, Newbridge, qv). She donated the house to the Dominicans in 1948, whereupon it became a school administered by the order. The school closed in 1986 and the house became a private hospital, which it remains. The church remains in use as a public chapel and is now served by the Benedictines from Our Lady and St Michael in Abergavenny (qv).


The church and its fine interior and furnishings are well described in the list entry (below). As it states, the ornate Italian altar formerly in the sanctuary has been removed, as have the Gothick altar rails described by Little in 1966. The following additional points can be made:

  • According to the Stained Glass in Wales website, the Continental glass was brought to Llanarth in about the 1880s by a member of the Herbert family.
  • The two Arts and Crafts stained glass windows in the apse depicting St Francis and St Bernard are by Margaret Rope, c. 1934, in memory of Ivor John Caradoc Herbert, 1st Baron Treowen (d. 1933) and Elydyr John Bernard Herbert (killed in action in Palestine, 1917) respectively.
  • The stained glass window of c.1921 to Arthur Herbert (St Michael overcoming the Devil) is based on Guido Reni’s painting on the same theme.
  • The stained glass window of the Risen Christ and St Therese of Lisieux on the nave north wall is by John Hardman & Co., c.1930, in memory of Albertina Agnes Mary Herbert (d. 1929).
  • A fragment of a medieval alabaster relief in the easternmost bay of the north wall depicts Christ on the Cross held by a seated figure of God the Father.
  • A carved oak relief of St David located on the wall to the south of the sanctuary is attributed to Eric Gill, who had strong Dominican connections.
  • Two oil paintings on the south wall depict the Resurrection and the Risen Christ.
  • A nineteenth century statue of Mary Queen of Heaven with the Holy Infant is housed in a niche in the south wall, it appears to be made of plaster.

List descriptions


Reference Number: 1971
Grade: II*  
Date of Designation: 09/01/1956  
Date of Amendment: 15/03/2000  
Name of Property: Roman Catholic Church of St Mary and St Michael  
Unitary Authority: Monmouthshire  
Community: Llanarth  
Town: Raglan  
Locality: Llanarth  
Easting: 338060  
Northing: 210520  
Location: Situated immediately N of Llanarth Court, between the mansion and the former stable block.  

History: Late C18 Roman Catholic church possibly converted from a barn or perhaps built c1790 to look like an outbuilding. The Jones family of Llanarth were an ancient Catholic family and maintained a priest at Llanarth from 1781. The church is one of the oldest RC churches in Wales.  

Exterior: Roman Catholic church, whitewashed roughcast with hipped slate roof. Single long range running N-S with raised plinth and rusticated stucco angle piers. S end porch, N end apse and E side small projecting vestry. W side has six large arched windows, the left one with slightly higher sill. Curved apse has 2 smaller arched windows. E side is mostly windowless with same angle piers. Added vestry has E bellcote, rusticated angle piers, N door and arched windows each side. One small arched gallery light to main church wall left. S end hipped porch with arched E side window and S double door  

Interior: Fine interior with S end gallery, N end apsed sanctuary screened by 2 Roman Doric columns in antis. Cornice all around with deep cove to ceiling. Two plain plaster roundels to ceiling centre. E wall has vestry door towards left, large statue niche right of door. Dado rail each side up to niche and corresponding window opposite. The ornate Italian altar formerly in the sanctuary has been removed. S end bow-fronted gallery on Roman Doric columns and piers, front of 2-2-2 panels with fluted pilasters between. In apse 2 fine Arts and Crafts style stained glass windows to Elydyr Herbert killed 1917 and Ivor Herbert, Lord Treowen (d 1933), of SS Bernard and Francis. In S wall 5 windows with C17 and perhaps C16 continental stained glass, probably Rhineland or Flemish in origin, put in in later C19. First has 1659 date and has 8 small panels in grisaille and inscription ?K. Immendorpff. Second head of saint, probably St James, under canopy, 3rd has St John with dragon in chalice, 4th C17 scene of the Presentation, wood-engraving style with colour and gold grounds, 5th with a saint and Christ blessing above. Sixth window has C20 glass to Lady Treowen (d 1939), Christ and St Teresa. Plaques to J.A.E. Herbert (d 1895), Lt Col Bleiddian Herbert (d 1931), Sir John Arthur Herbert (d 1945), Governor of Bengal 1939-43, Cecile Herbert of Clytha (d 1941), Brig-Gen. E.A. Herbert of Moynes Court (d 1948), and Mrs Fflorens Roch (d 1969). Vestry has small plaster cornice, wall cupboards each side of N window, and S window C20 stained glass of St David, made at Caldey Abbey, conventional C15 style. Entrance lobby has 6-panel door, stone flag floor and gallery stairs, with stick balusters and ramped rail. E side window has stained glass of St Michael, to Arthur Herbert d 1921. W wall alabaster war memorial plaque.  

Reason for designation: Graded II* as a very rare survival of a late C18 Roman Catholic Chapel retaining its original character intact. Fine interior detail. Historically important as one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Wales.

Cross outside church 

Reference Number: 22991
Grade: II  
Status: Designated  
Date of Designation: 15/03/2000  
Date of Amendment: 15/03/2000  
Name of Property: Cross outside RC Church, Llanarth Court  
Unitary Authority: Monmouthshire  
Community: Llanarth  
Town: Abergavenny  
Locality: Llanarth  
Easting: 338052  
Northing: 210535  
Location: Situated immediately N of the RC church at Llanarth Court.  

History: Late C19 or early C20 stone cross incorporating a fine late medieval carved head of unknown provenance, presumably given by the Herbert family of Llanarth Court.  

Exterior: Outside cross, sandstone single step base, tapering octagonal pedestal and octagonal shaft, all late C19 or early C20. Late medieval gabled carved head with eroded scene each side. On the S the Virgin and Child, on the N the Crucifixion with SS Mary and John .

Reason for designation: Included for fine carved head and for group value with the R.C. church.  

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1790

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*