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The Hooded Tomb of Piers Mostyn

Against the south wall of the parish church  St Asaph and St Cyndeyrn in Llanasa are the remains of a hooded tomb. They are rare and curious wonders, evidence of a brief flush of architectural flourish in North Wales. In our area of Curious Clwyd, there are examples here at Llanasa, Trelawnyd, Dyserth, a startling beauty at Cwm and Conwy, the latter being the first hooded tomb to be raised in Wales. There are others to be found in Gwynedd. Undoubtedly, there remain some to be found, since the canopies are often so shattered and removed that it is often difficult to spot them.(1)

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In brief, a hooded tomb is simply a rectangular chest tomb covered by a semi-circular hood, running its length. The hood is often decorated, sometimes elaborately, as is the case at the church of St Mael and St Sulien in Cwm. They can also be fairly plain, as at the early 18th century hooded tomb at Trelawnyd, described by Butler as, ‘rustic’. However decorated, if the hood remains extant, they are always impressive looking works. They came to North Wales fairly late in their architectural heyday, which elsewhere seems to have been much of the 16th century. Robert Wynne’s (d.1598) hooded tomb at Conwy is dated very late in the 16th century, and is possibly a stylistic result of the masons brought from elsewhere to build the extraordinary Plas Mawr in the town. The fashion for hooded tombs in North Wales seems to have run its course with the Trelawnyd grave, sometime in the beginning of the 18th century. The reasons for this are uncertain, but it is likely the taste for hooded tombs had faded elsewhere sometime in the late 17th century.

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Much worn, much weathered - the heraldic plaque would have orginally adorned the hooded tomb.

The hooded tomb in Llanasa is the resting place of Piers Mostyn (d.1605) - one of the Talacre Mostyns, notable for their fierce Royalism and Roman Catholicism during the Protestant ascendancy and Civil Wars of the 16th and 17th century. Given the date of his death, it's likely that this hooded tomb is the first to have been raised in the counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire. It has lost its hood, however, and at first glance would seem to be the remains of a table tomb. However, closer inspection will find the rusted fixing pins of the original canopy. It is thus impossible to know what it would have looked like with its hood. However, perhaps a little can be suggested with a look at its near contemporary at Conwy.

 

Robert Wynne’s tomb, while clearly a departure from the architectural norm of the time, is relatively simple. The table tomb has a plain lid, with the three exposed sides decorated with carved shields. The canopy is adorned with shields and small labels which mention by name members of the Wynne family. There is no decoration to the underside of the Wynne tomb, but later, major hooded tombs do, in fact, seem to have had a measure of decoration here - roses, if nothing else. It is thus tempting to suppose that the tomb of Piers Mostyn, given his stature and status, would have warranted such attention. There are, now embedded within the south wall of the church, overlooking the current site of the tomb, two worn and weathered heraldic plaques which would have certainly adorned the structure.

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The hooded tomb of Piers Mostyn of Talacre remains then, something of a mystery. While raddled, worn and well weathered, it suggests a certain flourish of architectural flair - a time when as Peter Smith has declared, Clwyd was the ‘Tuscany of Wales’.(2)

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. It is likely that there are more hooded tombs to be found within North Wales - some of which have lost even their fixing pins, making them almost entirely unrecognisable from table tombs. Butler suggests a definite hooded tomb at Llandrillo in the Edeirnion Valley, with perhaps another at Llanycil outside of Bala.

2. ‘For it is evident that during the Renaissance this territory formed culturally the heart of the country. This is the Tuscany of Wales.’ P. Smith, Reflections on Gellilyfdy, p.21

 

 

Further Reading

 

L. A. S. Butler, The Hooded Tomb in North Wales, Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol.122, (1973)

 

E. Hubbard, Buildings of Wales Clwyd, London, (1986)

 

P. Smith, A Few Reflections on Gellilyfdy and the Renaissance in North-Eastern Wales, Flintshire Historical Society Publications, Vol. 24, (1969-1970)

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