Church of St James Lancaut
Scheduled Monument No 1002078
Location NGR: ST 53698 96482
Address Lancaut Lane, Chepstow NP16 7JB, UK
It would appear that Cewydd, a monk from Llancarfan, a major ecclesiastical community in Glamorgan, founded a monastic settlement on the Lancaut peninsular in the first half of the 6th century. Little more is known of this settlement, which may have been destroyed in skirmishes with the neighbouring Mercian Saxons, or by Viking pirates. It is clear a church existed in the early 12th century, because it acquired a splendid figured lead font, but there is some debate about whether it is built on the original monastic site. None of the present stonework dates before the latter part of the 12th century, but there is some evidence that it may have been constructed upon the foundations of an earlier structure.
It adds to the intrigue of Lancaut that this modest church should possess a fine arcaded lead font ornamented with seated apostles and curling tendrils of foliage. The design is sophisticated and beautifully executed. Sand-cast in three flat sections, it was welded together with the seals over the joins concealed by carving a continuation of the pattern. The same mould was used for at least five other local fonts, at neighbouring Tidenham, Siston, Frampton-on-Severn, Oxenhall and Sandhurst.
The church continued as an independent rectory throughout the Middle Ages, although perhaps dwarfed by its wealthier neighbour at Tidenham. The Lords at Chepstow Castle held the right to appoint the rectors and regular institutions are recorded from the late 13th to the mid 16th century.
In 1711, the rectory of Lancaut was joined with Woolaston, under the patronage of the Duke of Beaufort, and thus it remained until 1932, when it was united with Tidenham. Regular services were discontinued in the 1860’s and some 20 years later it was decided to remove the roof. Despite some repairs to the walls and gable tops, weathering inevitably took its toll.
By 1984 the building was overgrown and failing. One arch of the double chancel arch collapsed. Local concern led to the founding of the Lancaut Church Preservation Group which funded and undertook a major programme of repairs. The Members of the Group were Mrs C Arno, M Fitchett, A P L James, A Joly, H S S Poyntz, I J Standing, T E Wilcox. The church was made redundant in 1987. Ownership was vested in the Gloucestershire Heritage Trust. The latter subsequently dissolved itself without appointing a successor and the church reverted to the Crown. In 2013 the Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust petitioned the Crown through the escheat process and eventually a fresh title was created and the church vested in the Trust’s ownership.
Sources of more information
Two accounts are particularly good:
A survey of St Jame’s Church, Lancaut, Gloucestershirewww.bgas.org.uk/publications/online.html
The churches and chapels of the parish of Tidenham; their history and architecture
Reg. Charity No. 114775. A company limited by guarantee No. 6859885.
Registered Office: Security Office, Whitecliff Quarry, Coleford, GL16 8NB