The Coffin Stone

In the Spring of 1999 an effort to rescue the stone and revive local knowledge of its legend, was made by local Community Councillors who mustered volunteer help to clear the ground around the stone and the adjacent base of a wayside cross (or abandoned mill stone).

The two stones can be found by the side of the road from Penygarn to the Old Church above the valley of the Black Brook. Nearby is a stone stile marking one end of a footpath down into the valley and across to The Glyn. When coffins were carried by strong men (because the lanes were unmetalled and often unfit for wheeled traffic) the large rectangular stone was used as a convenient resting place after the climb either from the Glyn or from Penygarn. The opportunity was often taken to sing a psalm or a hymn and to tidy one’s dress and perhaps revive one’s physical state. Some refer to the stone as a seat, but it seems more likely that the coffin was placed upon it for no other reason than to ease the effort made in lifting it again after the rest.

Local practices such as this often create their own legends and this is no exception. The coffin of a miserly farmer was once dropped clumsily on the stone, to be followed by groans from within and the discovery of the occupant recovering from a cataleptic fit. When eventually the old man died and the funeral party was again about to rest at the coffin stone it was urged on by the young window shouting “No stopping this time! Get on to the churchyard with him”!” [See also Coffins and Corpses]

With the site clear of grass and undergrowth and the stones raised from their sunken beds, it is not uncommon now for funeral parties to observe the old custom and stop for a few moments on the way to the church. The reason for the stopping can be explained to those who ask and the value of retaining direct links with living history acknowledged.

[from: Penallt Revisited]