All Saint's Church, Kemeys Commander
All Saints is the smallest and oldest of the three churches visited on our mini tour, located at the hamlet of Kemys Commander off the B4598 road between Usk and Chainbridge.
The origins of Kemeys Commander's unusual name are fascinating, stemming from the fact that the patronage of the church was once held by the Knights Templar and was a 'commandery' or 'preceptory' as their houses were called. By the 17th century the successors of the Knights Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, drew £2 13s. 4d. per annum from demesne lands in this parish.
In 1799 Archdeacon William Coxe rode through Kemeys Commander during his Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (published 1801) and wrote "We mounted our horses and rode through the thickets, across the fields to Kemeys Commander, a small village which according to the pedigree of the Kemeys family is supposed to derive its name from Edward Kemeys, who was commander of the army under Hamlet, so of Dru, duc de Baladun, at the conquest of Upper Gwent. It is however more probable that it was denominated Kemeys Commander because it was a commandery of the knights templars, to whom, according to Bacon, the patronage of the church belonged. The church is a gothic building of small dimensions, simple form, with a low belfry."
The name Kemeys is derived from the Welsh 'cemais' meaning 'bend in the river', in this case the River Usk, with the hamlet located near the river at the centre of a large bend.
The church of All Saints is an ancient building of stone, in the 14th century style of architecture, consisting of a chancel separated from the nave by a screen, with stone altar, western porch and a western turret containing 2 bells. There are 60 sittings. The register dates from the year 1813 only.
The living is a perpetual curacy, net yearly income. £53, including about 40 acres of glebe, in the gift of Thomas Phillips Price esq. and held since 1898 by the Rev, Herbert Sheppard M.A. of Clare College, Cambridge, who is also rector of Bettwys-Newydd with Trostrey, and resides at Bettwys-Newydd.
Thomas Phillips Price, esq. of Marks Hall, Kelvedon, who is lord of the manor, and A. Williams Esq. of Aberdare, are the principal landowners. The soil is gravelly; subsoil, red gravel. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, turnips and mangolds. The area is 493 acres of land and 15 of water, rateable value, £568, & the population in 1891 was 61. Parish Clerk, Richard Poole.
Letters through Usk arrive at 9 a.m. Nearest post office at Bettwys-Newvdd; box cleared at 4.30p.m. Usk is the nearest money order & telegraph office, 3 miles distant.
The children of this parish attend the National school at Bettws-Newydd for the united parishes of Bettws-Newydd, Kemeys-Commander & Trostrey."
|The simple interior of the tiny church|
|The dark green of the yew tree framing the acid yellow of the field of rape|
|Only the steps and base remain of the medieval stone cross|