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Holy Trinity Church, Pontargothi's 'Painted' Church

On a warm April evening in 2010, the Friends of Carmarthenshire Museum met at Holy Trinity Church, Pontargothi, the painted church.  The Revd Philip Johnes, newly retired from the parish, gave an excellent illustrated talk on the history of the building.

He stressed that this very beautiful little church, with its unique wall paintings, is basically the work of one man, Henry Bath.  The family made a fortune as Cornish tin producers and then, when the tin ran out, exported coal from Swansea and imported copper ore and guano.  The coming of the railway to the Tywi Valley allowed Bath to buy land to build Alltyferin mansion and commute to Swansea.   The substantial Victorian house was completed in 1868.

Bath and his wife, having no children, were generous benefactors to the locality.  A school was built so that the tenant’s children did not have to walk to Llanegwad.  An ardent churchman, he did not want to enforce English services on the parish church in Llanegwad.  Holy Trinity was built on land which had belonged to Talley Abbey, half a mile from the mansion and linked to it by a wooden bridge over the Cothi.  The architect was B J Bucknall, a friend of the Baths, who had worked with them on Swansea docks.  Sadly, Bath only saw the plans, as he died on a voyage home from Chile in 1875 at the age of 54.  His nephew, Edward, inherited and continued the work.

Every inch of the interior is richly decorated.  Biblical scenes form a frieze and the ceiling and the walls are covered in gothic patterns.  Over the years fumes from a coke heater blackened every surface until the paintings were hardly visible.  Three years ago painstaking cleaning restored the original colours and made our visit memorable.

Jill Davies

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