St Mary’s Church, as it stands today, is a stone building under a blue Welsh slate roof dating from Victorian times with a 15th century square tower hung with 3 bells for full circle ringing; there has been a church on this site since Norman times – see the history section.
Panteg, or as shown on older maps Panteague, means “Fair Hollow”. The church is found at the end of a country lane off the main road through the village of New Inn – indeed in a “fair hollow”.
There is little mention of the parish until the Norman Conquest and in the Taxation records of 1254 when the parish was declared to be too poor to be taxed. The position of the church is still very rural surrounded by farmland and very few houses; at times it is hard to believe it is so near to the more industrialised areas of Pontypool and Cwmbran.
St Mary’s is set at the eastern edge of a large churchyard and comprises a western tower, a nave, chancel, south porch, north aisle to the nave, a clergy vestry and choir vestry. There are 3 bells in the tower – all hung for full-circle ringing and there is no better sound as you approach for Sunday Service or a wedding, than to hear the bells ringing out as you walk through the beautiful old churchyard.
Inside the walls are plastered with a timber frame roof and there is an arcade of octagonal piers to the north aisle (a most unusual feature). There are plain wooden pews seating about 150people, a stone font with wooden cover, a wooden altar rail and pulpit all dating from the Victorian era of mid to late 1800s. A wooden choir screen was added in 1935 whilst the organ chamber was built around 1879. There are stained glass windows to the north aisle with a painted tryptych screen altar below a wonderful east window designed / made by O’Connor and Taylor.
The oldest part of the church is the Tower which is of Norman foundation but most of the church was updated in the Victorian era.
Entering by the south porch which was added in 1849, you face the stone font which was moved to its current position when the porch was built. At the same time much renovation work was carried out, including a new roof of blue Welsh slate, gallery, pews, altar rail, desk and pulpit.
The church can seat about 150 people and is often said by couples about to be married “it is not too big and not too small … and a lovely setting for photographs”.
Many eminent men have served as incumbents of St Mary’s Panteg. The roll board at the rear of the Church names Adam of Usk as well as many others, including the Rev’d David James from 1856 to 1872. During this time he and his wife Emma (in whose memory the pulpit is dedicated), were great educationalists and started a school in the Rectory next door to the Church. The school later moved into the nearby Tithe Barn and eventually the Rev’d James and his wife built a school at Pontymoile. During Dr James’ ministry a great many people were confirmed into the Church; records show that on March 23rd 1865, 84 people were confirmed and at a later date another 65 people. This is testament to Dr James’ great influence and ministry in Panteg and on his death, in 1871, the stained glass East window was erected by his friends and parishioners as a tribute to his 14 year ministry.
Around this time parts of the parish were becoming less rural with flourishing industries and a growing population. During the time of the Rev’d W. Elliot (1872 – 1896) the Church was enlarged by the building of the North Aisle, the Chancel and the Organ Chamber. On completing this work in 1876, further work to renovate the Tower and bells – adding one more bell – was carried out in 1877.
The Rev’d Alfred Addams-Williams, (1896 – 1920) the son of a local businessman, took the parish from the Victorian era through the Edwardian period and through the Great War (WW1.). The roll of parishioners lost during this war is still read out at the annual Remembrance Day service along with those from WW2.
Changes to the governance of the Church came in 1920 with the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales (before we had been part of the Church of England). The Diocese of Monmouth was newly formed and Panteg became one of its parishes. The Cathedral of St Woolos in Newport is the seat of the Bishop of Monmouth and the Rector of St Mary’s Panteg at this time – the Rev’d Joseph Morgan (1920 – 1947) became one the first Canons of St Woolos and a regular competitor in the Royal National Eisteddfod. It was during this time, in 1935, that the Chancel Screen was added to the Church.
In New Inn village, a new Church Hall was opened in 1937 and this gave the opportunity for services to be held in the centre of the village on occasions and for many social events and gatherings to take place that welcomed in the many people now living in the village.
The Rev’d William Kirkby held the incumbency 1949 to 1954 followed by the Rev’d T. Curtis-Morgan from 1955 to 1982. During this time the choir vestry was added and the church re-roofed.
Next came the Rev’d Peter Riley (1983 – 1988) when much re-furbishment was needed. Buildings of such age need constant attention to repairs and maintenance if they are to survive for future generations. Work was carried out on the Tower, the recently built choir vestry, the inside of the Church was decorated and an extension built to the Church Hall which was now being used for weekly services on a Wednesday.
Sadly, the old Rectory next to the Church, which had been home to many of St Mary’s incumbents, was found to be uneconomical to repair. The old Rectory was sold and the money of the sale used to fund a modern Rectory next to the Church Hall in the heart of the village. The Rev’d David Brunning – also a Canon of St Woolos – was the first incumbent to live there (from 1990 to 1998) followed by the Rev’d Philip Walker (1999 – 2007). The present Rector is the Rev’d Canon Jennifer Mole who was inducted into the Parish of St Mary Panteg on September 26th 2007.
Throughout its history, St Mary’s has seen many changes and welcomed many people to worship. Its priests have guided people through times of peace and rural tranquillity, during times of turbulence due to war, financial and economic crisis, through times of growth and industrial development, through times of learning and social changes. The many worshippers throughout the centuries have cared for the buildings and grounds where they have sought peace in God’s word. St Mary’s Panteg has been much loved and cherished over many generations, which is thanks to the spiritual guidance given by all it’s priests and the dedication of it’s worshippers through the ages. St Mary’s is now in the hands of those who presently worship there, in that “fair hollow”.