St. James Church- Lancaut
We popped over to Lancaut to visit St. James Church. A beautiful and fascinating 12th century ruin.
What can you buy for one pound?
A couple of chocolate bars?
Or, under the right set of circumstances, the ruins of a 12th century Church.
In 2013 the Forest of Dean building Preservation Trust purchased this- St. James’s Church at Lancaut- from the crown for one pound with the intention of stabilising the building to protect it from the decay It had been experiencing.
St James’s church now stands alone on the hillside above the River Wye some two miles north of Chepstow.
It is all that remains of a village that has been occupied in one way or another since the iron age; on this small Peninsula, created by a bend in the river.
In the 6th century this was the site of a monastic settlement, which may have been destroyed in skirmishes with Mercian Saxons, or more excitingly, by Viking pirates.
This of course all predates this church.
Although there is some speculation that it sits on the foundations of something earlier that may or may not have been something to do with the monastery.
Judging by the number of forts on either side of the river here, and the nearby Offa’s Dike, which was constructed in the 8th century, this was certainly a highly contested stretch of the border which must have made it a thrilling, if not exhausting, place to live.
It’s certainly beautiful.
With the view of the majestic limestone cliffs opposite.
This was always quite a small village- with ten tenant households recorded in 1306, and by 1550 that number had fallen to 19 adults.
In 1750 that number had fallen again, with only two inhabited houses, and in 1848 the parish records show that only 16 people lived here.
Now there are just a couple of houses and a farm.
Since 1971 Lancaut has been a nature reserve and is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The area supports a wide range of wildlife including: Otters, Porpoises, Cormorants, Peregrine’s, Dormice, and rare plants and trees.
Above the church are the remains of a pair of lime kilns; which hint at the area’s industrial heritage.
But now the area is lush and green.
Well worth taking the four mile round trip walk from Chepstow.