If you’re looking for a knight in shining armour then head for Neath today & tomorrow as the town will be celebrating its heritage with a special community-wide Medieval Festival.
From archery and ancient weaponry to stained glass and spinning, the free event will feature a host of medieval-themed activities for all the family.
The catalyst for the Medieval Festival is the restoration of the tower at the Parish Church of St Thomas, whose congregation wanted the mark the completion of the project in style.
Situated in the heart of Neath town the Grade II listed building dates back to the 12th century. Built as the garrison church for the nearby Norman Castle, St Thomas’ Church has been in continuous use as a place of worship for over 700 years.
The Medieval Festival coincides with the UK-wide ‘Great Get Together’ event held in memory of the late Jo Cox MP, and a candle of remembrance will be lit in the church.
Said the Rector of Neath, Canon Stephen Ryan, “For hundreds of years St Thomas’ Church has been central to the life of the town, and it is the only medieval building to remain in constant use. The community has come together to fundraise for the restoration of the Tower so it is only natural that we have a community-wide celebration.”
While focussing on St Thomas’ Church, the Festival will feature other historic areas of the town too including Neath Castle, the Old Town Hall, and the Town Square.
The sights and smells of medieval Neath will come to life over two days – with food, herb, and spice stalls, ancient artefacts and even stocks!
Activities at the Heritage Lottery Fund supported event also include re-enactments and displays by the Freemen of Gwent and BOARS (Brotherhood of Aman Re-enactment Society); medieval costumes by Neath Little Theatre; storytelling by The Crowman, traditional music from Scott Baker, and songs from the National Trust’s Waterwheel Singers.
Children will be able to have a go at designing shields and tiles, brass rubbing, pottery and calligraphy, while pupils from two local schools – Alderman Davies Church in Wales Primary School and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Castell-nedd – will be taking part in activities in St Thomas’ Church.
“We came up with the idea of holding a Medieval Festival as a way of marking the completion of the Tower restoration and bringing the community together,” said Canon Ryan, whose own large-scale model representing Neath during the Middle Ages is on display in the church during the festival which runs from 10am-4pm each day.
“We are overwhelmed and delighted at the support we have had for the Festival from the community, and we have been working with a number of organisations and local groups – including Neath Town Council, the Neath Antiquarian Society, and Neath Inspired Ltd – to bring as many aspects of the Middle Ages to life as possible.
“It will be an opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate our community here in Neath, to reflect on its past and also look to the future of our town.”
For more information about the St Thomas’ Church Tower Appeal or the Neath Town Medieval Festival please contact The Rectory on 01639 644612.
|ABOUT ST THOMAS’ CHURCH
St Thomas’ Church dates from 1298 and the original Tower was built in the mid 14th century.
The Tower was raised in 1591 with stone taken from the nearby Neath Abbey, following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. A clear demarcation line of white stone can be seen on the outside of the Tower. Since then little structural work has taken place, apart from minor repairs over the centuries.
Two years ago, the congregation of St Thomas’ Church launched its Tower Restoration Appeal, with target set of £120,000 for the essential repairs.
Following a raft of fund raising events and grants from organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, James Panyfedwen, and Garfield Weston, the specialist work began on the Tower at the start of 2017 and has just been completed.