St Dogfael’s, Meline

Located adjacent to the reconstructed Iron Age Fort of Castell Henylls off the A487, St Dogfael’s church, Meline is simple but refined, polite and scrupulously designed.

The church is dedicated to the 6th century St Dogfael or Dogwel, whose cult was confined almost entirely to this part of Pembrokeshire. Here, St Dogfael had a certain prominence, as the Tironian abbey founded in the 12th century by the Lord of Cemaes, Robert Fitz Martin, stands in a parish which still bears his name, and there are further dedications to him at St Dogwells near Fishguard, and Mynachlogddu. Capel Degwel, within the parish of St Dogmaels, now vanished, was described as a ‘capella olim peregrinationis causa erecta’, which probably implies that it housed the principal shrine of the saint.

There was certainly a church at Meline on the site of the present building, of which the blocked north doorway of the nave, is the sole survivor. In the 1860s, the lineal descendant of Robert Fitz Martin, the Lord Marcher of Cemaes and Gothic romanticist, Sir Thomas Davies Lloyd of Bronwydd (1820-1877) undertook the rebuilding of the church. Lloyd, who recreated the house (now demolished) at Bronwydd as a gothic extravaganza, was also responsible for the splendid church at Llangynllo. Thomas Davies Lloyd is one of the unsung heroes of the Gothic Revival in Wales, though his enthusiasm for all things medieval severely embarrassed his estate, from which it never fully recovered.

Sir Thomas Davies Lloyd

Davies Lloyd chose R. J. Withers to design the High Victorian set-piece an Meline. A single apse-ended slate roof sweeps over both the nave and the chancel. The walling is sheer with tracery set flush.

The interior is light and airy, thanks in part to the lack of stained glass. The leading of the plain glass windows is a delight, with varied patterning, including an emblem of the Trinity, and Stars of Bethlehem in the splendid rose window in the west wall.

There is only one stained glass window, the cusped lancet behind the altar, a Crucifixion with SS Mary and John, in vivid colours, but a rather cramped design, by Lavers & Barraud of 1865, i.e. contemporary with Withers’ rebuilding of the church.

All the furnishings seem to be as Withers left them: pine pews, with shaped ends, a pulpit with vessica-shaped panels, stalls, communion rails, lectern and communion table. Withers paid particular attention to the sanctuary, where the reredos is of painted ashlar, with inset best quality five-colour tiled panels, which, along with the window, enliven an otherwise austere interior.

St Dogfael’s came to our care late last year. Repairs are currently underway and include: roof repairs to all slopes, upgrading rainwater goods and surface drainage, minor timber and masonry repairs and redecoration. We are pleased to be reinstating the star-shaped leaded window at the centre of the west window.

The church is currently closed for repairs, but we expect to re-open for visitors in January 2019.