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A medieval church in Pembrokeshire and the large bay to the north bears the name of a famous Irish saint.

Medieval churches that appear to have been dedicated to the Irish saint Brigid, Bride or Ffraid can be found across most parts of Wales. The large west facing haven known as St Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire seems to have been known by versions of the name since the sixteenth century, and a church to the south of the bay was dedicated to the saint by at least the mid-thirteenth century.

The veneration of Brigid of Kildare at the western edge of Wales suggests Irish influence that was evident in the area much earlier in the post-Roman period, when Irish Ogham stones demonstrated Irish settlement in south-west Wales.

Samuel Lewis recorded that a chapel stood on the beach near the church in the 1830s, which had been appropriated as a salting-house for the herring fishery that had thrived there in the previous century. The chapel has been lost to the sea, along with burials at the site. Its proximity to the sea, and subsequent loss, mirrors the chapel dedicated to Ffraid at Tywyn-y-Capel near Holyhead, which was finally swept away in 1868.

The present church at St Brides, which is still dedicated to her, is substantially medieval, and was restored in 1868. An image of the patron can be found in the west window of 1892, alongside another of St David.

The series of six windows on the north and south walls of the nave were given as a memorial to William Edwardes, fourth baron Kensington, and his son William, fifth baron Kensington. The fifth baron acquired St Brides Castle, which can be seen from the churchyard, in 1899. Large crosses in the churchyard mark graves of the family, the largest of which commemorates the fourth baron and his wife, Grace Elizabeth Johnstone-Douglas, Lady Kensington, who died in 1910. She provided, along with her daughters, a figure of St Ffraid for the east window of the Church of St Katharine, Milford Haven. Unusually, each of the five figures made for the window was given by different donors.

The Chapel of St Non was built adjacent to the ruined medieval chapel above the cliffs on the north coast of St Bride’s Bay in 1934, close to St Davids. Brigid or Ffraid is included among the four saints commissioned for windows on the north and south side of the church, with St David, St Brynach and St Gwenfrewy, or Winefride. Ffraid is shown holding fish – sparlings – that she changed from rushes according to a twelfth-century tradition known from the Life of St Modwenna. At St Brides she is shown with a lamp, recalling the perpetual fire maintained at Kildare, and at Milford Haven she is shown with a cow, as she churned milk and made butter to give to the poor.

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