The parish church of Llanfihangel Cwmdu, dedicated to St Michael and All Angels, is an imposing building in the village of Cwmdu, clearly visible from the A40 road from Crickhowell to Brecon in the panoramic view of the Rhiangoll valley.
The first Christian building on the site was consecrated in 1060 by Herewald, Bishop of Llandaff, but the oldest part of the present building is the tower which is early 15th century. Theophilus Jones in 1809 describes the church as “very spacious and extensive consisting of a nave and two side aisles with a strong tower”. He also describes the state of repair as alarming! In 1830 the church, apart from the tower, was taken down and was rebuilt by 1831; this was made possible only by the enormous energy of the Rector, the Revd Thomas Price, known by his bardic name Carnhuanawc. He raised a loan of £1000 from the rates at 5%, repaid over 10 years, together with a grant from the Church Building Society and £225 from public subscriptions to provide the £1600 necessary for the reconstruction; all this in one year!
The church underwent further major alteration in 1907-8 with the removal of the north aisle because the building was deemed too large for the present population, and a completely new roof.
The windows of the church are all fitted with clear glass with the exception of two tiny fragments in the top of each of the side windows in the east end, which produces a very light and airy feel to the building, always commented on by visitors.
The tower houses a maiden ring of 6 bells i.e. all exactly as cast by Evan Evans of Chepstow in 1719. These were restored to full-circle ringing in 1997 with the help of an 80% grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund together with other grant providers and generous donations from the public. New bell-ringers are always welcome so that we can continue to maintain the ancient practice of full-circle ringing.
The organ bears the plate “Robson and Company of St Martins Lane, London. Organbuilders to His Majesty” and is an excellent example of an early 19th century English organ.
Mature yew trees line the perimeter of the churchyard, which is very well maintained by a group of stalwart parishioners. The majority of the ancient graves in the south side were removed in 1981 because they had become unsafe, but detailed records of names and inscriptions were taken and are available on request.
The tomb of the Revd. Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc), incumbent of Cwmdu from 1825 to his death in 1848 is located in the north part of the churchyard. This polymath- historian, archaeologist, botanist, linguist, Celtic scholar and campaigner for the Welsh language and literature was also an accomplished harpist and responsible for introducing the triple harp to Lady Llanover. He moved to Breconshire in 1813, to the churches of Llangenau, Llanbedr Ystrad Yw and Partrishow, later being responsible for the churches of Llangatwg, Llanelli and Crickhowell before moving to Cwmdu in 1825. In essence this man served in all the churches of our newly formed Ministry Area. The Carnhuanawc Society arranged for his tomb to be restored in 2001 with the addition of a new bilingual plaque to commemorate him.
Services in the church take place at 9.30am each Sunday; Holy Communion on three Sundays and Matins on the remaining Sunday of the month. Of the 194 persons listed on the Voting Electoral Register, 24 are listed on the Electoral Roll of St Michael’s and our average attendance each Sunday is 11.
Sadly since the closure of Cwmdu Church in Wales School in 2012 we see very few children at our services. Previously the school used to hold services to celebrate Harvest, the Nativity, Christingle and Easter in church and it was always a delight to see the church packed at these occasions. Church members together with the Rector conducted an Open the Book assembly each week in the school itself.
Joint services with Tretower and Crickhowell are held several times a year with Rogation Sunday always being celebrated in Cwmdu – we have a flock of sheep in the next field!
The church is active in all village events; we have a cake stall each year at Cwmdu Show; our Pies, Punch and Bingo evening in December in the Village Hall also provides the venue for our Annual Christmas Raffle, and the Curry Quiz Night in February raises money for Hospice Africa.
For many years St Michael’s has been used as the venue for music concerts because of its excellent acoustics. In 2014 a charitable trust Friends of Cwmdu Music was established and it holds four concerts each year at St Michael’s, attracting musicians of the highest calibre.
We welcomed the Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and former Archbishop of Wales to preach in the church at Cwmdu in which our famous incumbent Revd Thomas Price had served. This joyous occasion was a joint Ministry Area service and approximately 160 people took Communion.
On Rogation Sunday each year we have a joint service with St John’s Tretower and St Edmund’s Crickhowell, prayer walking around the parish. This is also the time when the churchwardens and PCC members are inducted into their role for the year.