Major restoration project for 13th century Caldey Island church

Western Telegraph: ANCIENT HAVEN: Caldey's Father Gildas (left) and Brother Luca inside St Illtyd's Church.PICTURE: Gareth Davies Photography.  (7906922) ANCIENT HAVEN: Caldey's Father Gildas (left) and Brother Luca inside St Illtyd's Church.PICTURE: Gareth Davies Photography. (7906922)

A tiny Pembrokeshire church which welcomed its first worshippers in the 13th century is keeping the faith with a major restoration project.

St Illtyd’s Church on Caldey Island - the second oldest church used for Catholic worship in England and Wales - has undergone a facelift to preserve its ancient fabric and maintain its heritage.

As well as structural support, the building has been re-wired; had its stonework cleaned and re-pointed, wooden pews and book-rests re-varnished, damp and mould problems have been tackled and access to the building and its adjacent Old Priory have been improved.

The pebble-floored church's unique wall etchings - thought to be carried out around 100 years ago - have also been skilfully and patiently repaired.

“We’re very proud of the church, which is famed for its leaning tower,” said Ben Childs, manager of Caldey Island Estate, which carried out the works.

Artisan Belgian builder, Francois, who visits Caldey on several occasions during the year, led the restoration team, which also included Cistercian monks Father Gildas and Brother Luca, together with Simon Curnin and other estate workers, including Steve Satchell, who carried out the re-wiring.

“The work has been completed thanks to a generous donation from our dear American friend, Patricia Bushra, who calls St Illtyd’s her ‘favourite church in the world’,” said Mr Childs.

“Everyone on the island is delighted with the improvements, and we are looking forward to moving on to another project to preserve another of our wonderful buildings."

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