At the heart of the Village of Roch stands the parish church of St Mary. It was constructed in mid-nineteenth century on the site of an ancient place of worship, below the imposing castle, which was built in the early thirteenth century.
The first church on the site was established in the thirteenth century, by Adam de Rupe or de la Roche of Roch Castle and by Benedictine monks. The earliest part of the current church is the fifteenth-century panelled stone vault to the porch. A late medieval aisle of two bays on the south side of the nave and chancel was demolished in 1798. The church was restored between 1857 and 1859, initially without an architect, then by RK Penson (who was also the architect responsible for Mathry Church). The vestry was added in 1904 by DE Thomas and stained glass and other fittings were donated around 1912-25 by Viscount St Davids of Roch Castle.
Of particular note are three fine windows of 1913-25 by Morris & Co to designs by Burne-Jones. And there is another, very unusual, window in the church, one which depicts Christ and a boy scout. St Mary’s has justly been described as a ‘beautiful sanctuary’.
- The church is situated inside a roughly circular burial ground, the level of which is some feet above the surrounding lane. This hints at the earlier existence of an earthwork, and thus it can be deduced that there was a church on the site long before a stone building was constructed here. It is more than likely that this was dedicated to a local Welsh saint, such as Madoc, David, Ishmael or Teilo. The present church is, however, St Mary’s: when the Normans built a castle, the church linked to that castle was always dedicated to Mary.
- In 1536 the vicar’s income from all sources (small tithe, Easter offering, surplice fees) was four pounds, thirteen shillings and ninepence. Things did not improve much over the next 200 years, for in 1720 Erasmus Saunders recorded the vicar’s annual income at seventeen pounds.
- It would appear that the first stone building was constructed out of rhyolite that was found in the fields around the church. As this is an igneous, volcanic rock, at some remote point in history there must have been volcanic activity in this area. This hard, unfaced, reddish stone can be seen in the footings along the south wall and in the chancel wall.
- Much restoration work was done in the eighteenth century by the Revd Moses Grant. He introduced new pews, laid stone flags on the floor, and provided a pulpit, reading desk, a seat for the parish clerk, altar rails and a new communion table. The font acquired a ‘new bason’, and Revd Grant insisted that anyone who buried their dead relatives under the family pew must ‘ensure that the floor is levelled afterwards’ or else they would have to forfeit ten shillings.
- In 1797 Revd Grant also arranged for the erection of a gallery at the west end of the church at a cost of just under twenty pounds.
- Repairs to the church have continued in more recent times. Since 1968, the floor of the chancel has been newly paved, the entire roof has been reslated, new oak church doors have been constructed, and a new lynch gate was made in 1973, an exact replica of the existing gate. New choir stalls, made in oak, were installed in 1993.
Roch: Church of St Mary
Haverfordwest, SA62 6BG
Rev Diana Hoare: 01437 721205
Rev Canon Michael Rowlands: 01348 831382