The Friends of St Gredifael, supported by the Diocese of Bangor, will be hosting an open day at St Gredifael’s Church, Penmynydd, Anglesey, on Sunday, July 5, between 12pm and 3pm.
This historically important church is home to an exquisite 14th Century alabaster tomb chest belonging to Gronw Fychan and his wife Myfanwy, ancestors of the Tudor royal family.
Recently, water leaking from a skylight has penetrated the soft alabaster stone and there are now concerns for the future of this important artefact.
Internationally renowned conservator, Ned Schärer, who has previously overseen the conservation of the Tickhill tombs in Yorkshire and the Cosmati Pavement at Westminster Abbey, has carried out a full condition survey of the monument.
His report outlines a number of recommendations to prevent further deterioration of the alabaster including the use of special poultices to clean green algae off the surface stone.
Perhaps more controversially, the report recommends that consideration should be given to splitting the tomb chest into its component parts to allow each part to dry out slowly – a process which is likely to take several years.
Susan Booth, the Churches Conservation and Development Officer for the Diocese of Bangor, explained, ‘Tomb chests are usually constructed around a central chamber made of stone or brick. At Penmynydd we repaired the chapel roof over a year ago and yet the stone is still wet. This leads us to think that the internal chamber is holding some water that is still seeping through the surface stone.
“The decision to split this memorial into separate pieces is not one we can take lightly because, more importantly than anything else is the fact that this is someone’s grave. No decisions have been made about how to proceed but the Tudor history on Anglesey is so important that we have to find the best way to stablise the alabaster and secure this monument for the future. Therefore, doing nothing is not an option.
“An appeal is about to be launched to raise the estimated £20,000 that will be needed for conservation works to the tomb chest and the chapel. This is in addition to the costs of works to strengthen the floor of the church to support the weight of the stone if the decision is made to split the monument for drying.
“The open day this coming weekend will be a great opportunity for people to see this fabulous monument before any cleaning or conservation work begins. There will also be a small exhibition about Myfanwy, about whom very little is known.”
Entry to this event is free. Refreshments will be available with donations for the Friends of St Gredifael’s going towards the costs of the conservation works.