About St Michael and All Angels'
This Pembrokeshire site is encircled by earth-banked encampments, possibly prehistoric, an ancient burial mound and former vicarage, while several early pilgrim paths lead to the church. Perhaps the proximity to a stream and two holy wells gave this site spiritual significance. Or perhaps, nestled in a tree-lined hollow, it offered invisibility from marauders coming from the sea.
Architecturally, we can place the church in the late 12th century when the parish enjoyed wealth and status due the abundance of fertile, lime-rich soil favourable for crop farming.
The massive scalloped font and north arcade are the oldest visible remains of the early church. The small carved faces on the arcades are described as having “a death-like appearance, with closed eyes and shrunken noses and lips.” It is interesting to note that these masks face north – traditionally the dark or ‘devil’s side’ of the church – and could be figures of protection.
The 15th and 16th centuries brought much change to the church: the north and south chapels were removed, as was the north transept. Pre-Restoration sketches also indicate the presence of a west porch of Jacobean character of such size than it more resembled a chapel.
John Campbell, Earl of Cawdor, commissioned David Brandon to restore the church in the late 1850s. The church was re-roofed, re-floored and re-fenestrated, the vestry was added, and doorways rebuilt. As a legacy, encaustic tiles emblazoned with the Earldom Cawdor arms decorate the chancel floor.
In the early 20th century, most of the land in Castlemartin – 6,000 acres to be precise – was cleared by the government for use as an artillery range.
The church closed in 2016 and was an important milestone for the FoFC, being the 50th church we adopted!