Vicars Of Penallt

An Appreciation

The first thing we learnt about the Vicars of Penallt on our arrival in the parish were the memories of previous ones. There was no doubt they were popular and influential people in the life of the parish.

Rev John du Haume was remembered particularly during his incumbency throughout the 1914-18 war. He had come to the parish in 1913. A Channel Islander, he had visited Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and, looking across the Wye, had seen the Old Church and said ‘That’s the sort of little church of which I would like to be Vicar.’ When, years later he was appointed it was much to his surprise and pleasure to find he WAS the incumbent of that ‘little church’. In 1928 the Vicarage was let and the du Heaume family moved down to the Generals. The choir and various committees trudged up and down for church once and twice a Sunday. Mrs du Heaume was particularly well-loved in the Parish and very active, organising (among other things) dancing and needlework classes. On one occasion when the Rev du Heaume was speaking at a parish gathering, his wife hauled him off the platform with a walking stick when she considered he had been talking long enough! She was a natural French speaker and escorted parties to France.

When the du Heaume retired in 1945 there seems to have been a difficult time with their successors. The next incumbent died quite shortly after his appointment and the one following after only one day in residence! Then Rev Davis, with this rather depressing start, stayed for only three years. However in 1949 the parish welcomed Rev (later Canon) A V Blake, of whom all parishioners had kindly memories. He was the archetypal country vicar. He visited parishioners regularly and even after he left to become Rector of Raglan, he came back from time-to time to call on his ‘elderlies’.

Sadly, however, all is not sweetness and light. There is still a folk memory of the days of an earlier union with Trellech when Penallt was in the charge of a curate who was accused of matters ‘unbecoming to a clergyman’. When the Trellech congregation walked out on his taking Matins, the matter was dealt with by the Archdeacon and the curate departed. Later the parishes were separated; Richard Potter built a Vicarage for Penallt and Rev Reginald Goldney was appointed Vicar.

The Penallt curates seem to have lived from time to time in various houses in Penalt. Rev Evans lived at Woodbine Cottage, Lone Lane, where a second staircase was built to give him access to his room without passing through the principal bedroom! Church Cottage, Llananant and Crick (Cae Caws) are also remembered as curate houses.

Rev Blake was succeeded by Rev W R Rhys, a BSc and scholar and for a long time the only Welsh speaker in the area. He is remembered as only taking one holiday during the 23 years he was with us! We felt he thought in Welsh, which made his sermons sometimes perhaps a little involved, but on looking back through his letters in the Newsletter, we found he had often something very real and good to say. He and his wife came to Penallt as their first Vicarage an stayed until they retired to a Diocesan Housing Association cottage at Llandaff. It has been very good to welcome his widow back to see us; she was a most competent Vicar’s wife. Like all our vicars, he was a very good gardener.

After an interregnum, when Penallt was ably run by the churchwardens and Rural Dean, Rev John Richardson was appointed. The selection arrangement in the Church in Wales, with the churchwardens and patronage representatives having their say alternately with the Bishop is rather vague in practice but with this and our next incumbent, worked undoubtedly to our advantage. It was pleasant to have a young couple in the Vicarage, interested in all the Arts. John Richardson was the first Vicar to be appointed as Chaplain to Ty Mawr, after taking a special course at the community of the Resurrection, Nirfield. He had known the Convent from previous visits and he and his wife were adopted very happily by the nuns, Rachel leading them in Dance in worship. Many of us remember meeting John jogging round the village; as a ‘cave man’ in our fancy dress Royal Wedding celebrations; and with a nun from the convent pushing a pram which they had rescued from the rubbish dump and were conveying back to Ty Mawr to use for the transport of provisions! John and Rachel were happy during their last year to move into the new Vicarage built in the grounds of the old one, the Diocese having decided to sell the latter, which was in need of modernisation. Sadly they moved back to Yorkshire in 1985, accompanied on John’s induction at Amotherby by a covey of parishioners making a memorable trip to say a final farewell.

Again the churchwardens had a busy time and then the Diocesan arrangement of a joint incumbency with Trellech, Catbrook and the Convent produced our exceptional Rev Keith Denerley, with his experience at the Dorothy Kerin Home and Coventry Polytechnic providing an impressive background of healing and scholastic community life. Keith, his wife Jane and their gifted family have, we hope settled down to what must be a very busy life.

[from: Penallt – A Village Miscellany]