Newton North parish and church
Originally known by the Welsh name of ‘Llys Prawst’, the ecclesiastical parish of Newton North has a well-documented history from the medieval period onwards.
‘Llys’ indicates that there was a court, hall or palace, probably at Newhouse. ‘Praust’ is a feminine name but the Royal Commission for Historical and Ancient Monuments in Wales sees the name as relating to a Viking settler of 10th or 11th century, or a later Flemish settler.
In 1135-48, the parish is recorded as Lispraust. A church (or a precursor) was certainly in existence in the parish by 1291, when it is recorded as Ecclesia de Lyspraust in the Taxatio, a database of the assessment for taxation carried out on the orders of Pope Nicholas IV.
The name Lyspraust indicates the continuation of the strong Celtic Christian ancestry in the diocese of St Davids and possibly the earlier Welsh origins of the parish, later replaced by Newton North. In contrast, ‘Newhouse’ represented the anglicised name of the secular manor and Anglo-Norman federal authority in the area.
During the medieval period, the parish of Newton North was one of three tiny and barely viable parishes within the western part of the lordship of Narberth, along with Crinow and Mounton. All three parishes may owe their existence to assarts made in the Narberth Forest during a period of increasing population and land hunger. These settlements may have been deliberately planted by the lords of Narberth, the Mortimers, in order to create more revenue.
It appears that the parish became known as Newton North during the 16th century, perhaps to distinguish it from Manorbier Newton or Newton Carew.
For nearly a century, the church has been derelict, lying in a dell, the ruined tower reaching out of a green sea of dense foliage. The nave, chancel, small south transept and west tower are all roofless. The walls of the church are, at present, remarkably intact. The vaulted tower retains its crumbling spiral stair, leading up to an impressive view over the surrounding parish.
The church’s dedication is unknown but the architecture suggests an early Norman date for the chancel arch. The church is documented from at least the 12th century and elements may survive from this time. It is situated next to a spring, described as a holy well, which suggests a long history as a spiritual site, perhaps with pre-Christian origins.
The church has a number of gravestones to south west of tower, which are indecipherable, and there are likely to be others nearby.
The Pembrokeshire Archaeological Survey of 1907 describes a monument outside the church to Isaac Llewellyn who died on 17th march 1832 and to John his son, who died in 1860. Also in the church is a dedication to John Barden, a steward of John Barlow of Slebech, who died in 1749. These no longer appear to survive. It was recorded that funerals had taken place at the church within living memory
The church probably pre-dates Castell Coch (Newhouse) to the east and represents the spiritual centre of a missing medieval nucleated settlement. It is probable that this settlement may be located within the Bluestone site and possibly between the church and Castell Coch.
As the central feature of the Bluestone village, the church - a scheduled monument and a grade II listed building - will be sympathetically repaired and preserved in order to allow access by staying visitors.