• Jill Durnford

Llanfair Kilgeddin

This rather ordinary-looking church contains a surprise inside. Situated on the River Usk between Abergavenny and Raglan, it can be reached via a minor road with space for a couple of cars to park outside.

Very little remains of the medieval church - it is effectively a rebuild from 1876. The architect was John Dando Sedding who trained under GE Street alongside Philip Webb, William Morris and Norman Shaw - all key players in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

But let’s go inside....

What you won’t be expecting to see is a complete series of ‘sgraffito’ wall-panels on every wall. Sgraffito is the very laborious and time-consuming technique of applying five layers of coloured plaster to the wall, each at a different depth. This is then left to dry overnight before being covered in fresh plaster. Finally the top layer of plaster is cut away at different depths to create a picture with the various colours. This all has to be completed in one morning as the plaster hardens in a few hours and cannot be cut away.

It is the work of Haywood Sumner who spent three summers working on it from 1888-90. He was commissioned by Rev William Coussmaker Lindsay who wanted a memorial to his wife Rosamond.

The whole of the Benedicite is depicted in the various panels.

It looks a lot like Lino-cutting - but in plaster and on a huge scale. The muted palette of just five colours works wonderfully and despite being 130 years old hasn’t lost any of ‘the wow factor’.

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