Henry Vaughan, Poet and Physician
Heritage at Llansantffraed, Brecknockshire
The Society has a longstanding association with the Brecknockshire poet Henry Vaughan. We look after his grave in Llansantffraed churchyard and help to keep his memory alive, including through events at Llansantffraed Church. In doing this, we work with other bodies, in particular Llansantffraed Church Committee and The Vaughan Association. The Llansantffraed site is an important part of the cultural heritage of Brecknockshire and an interesting place to visit.
Henry Vaughan was born in Llansantffraed near Talybont-on-Usk, Brecknockshire in 1621. He studied and travelled outside Wales but chose to live most of his life in the rural Usk valley where he practiced medicine and developed his poetic skills. He died in 1695 and is buried in Llansantffraed Churchyard.
As a poet, he drew inspiration from the power and mystery of the universe and his rural environment. Many of his poems reflect the love he felt towards the distinctive landscape around Llansantffraed - now in the Brecon Beacons National Park. His literary work is recognised internationally as effective, visionary and influential.
The site of Henry Vaughan's Grave
The recently published book on Henry Vaughan and the Usk Valley provides a good description of Henry Vaughan's life and work, including descriptions and pictures of the locality and a selection of his poems with commentaries.
The Grave of Henry Vaughan is at the highest point of the churchyard where it can overlook the River Usk. The simple inscribed slab of local stone is supported on a low masonry plinth under the shadow of an ancient yew tree. The grave is classified in its own right as a Grade II nationally important monument.
The site is recognised both for its historical significance and its setting above Llansantffraed Church and the Usk valley. Siegfried Sassoon immortalised this place in his poem - At the Grave of Henry Vaughan. The site is about one mile from Talybont on Usk and the popular Henry Vaughan Walk. Car parking is available in the A40 lay-by nearby.
Memorial Event for Henry Vaughan in 2015
Visiting Llansantffraed The Churchyard is always open. The Church is a Victorian architectural gem (click for photos of interior and some details). It is open to visitors from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm on the second Saturday, and the fourth Saturday and Sunday of the month during May to September. Click here for 2018 details. When the church is locked, some information on the church and Henry Vaughan can be found in the church porch.
Henry Vaughan Visitor Area When the Church is open, visitors or the local community can learn about the life and works of Henry Vaughan in the visitor area at the back of the Church where there are three Information Boards about Henry Vaughan - (1) his life in the locality, and (2) the landscape and (3) the wildlife of the Beacons environment which inspired his poetry.
Dr Rowan Williams opening the Visitor Centre
The Visitor Area also has books and other information on Vaughan and his poems, and guides on the church and other places associated with Vaughan. Some books and cards are for sale. Coffee, tea and squash is available.
The Visitor Area is an initiative of the Friends of Llansantffraed Church and was opened in April 2017. It was funded by The Brecon Beacons Trust with the Brecknock Society and Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship also contributing.
Friends of Llansantffraed Church Anyone who wants to help the Church Committee to keep the church building in good repair and in use, but is not a member of the congregation, should consider becoming a Friend. Click here for details.
Restoration and Access Project In 2014/15, the Society led a project to restore the Henry Vaughan grave and repair its cracked inscribed slab. No identifiable organisation or person was legally responsible for the grave. Specialist stone conservators - Elliot Ryder Conservation of Tregaron carried out the restoration. Their conservation report is available here. The area adjacent to the grave was repaved and a new gravel path laid up to it with an information board at the site.
Cracked inscribed slab before repair.
The £10,600 cost was raised through a grant from the Brecon Beacons Trust, plus donations from the Brecknock Society & Museum Friends, the Vaughan Association, Brecon Medical Group Practice, the Gibbs Trust, and private individuals from near and far including several in North America. JL Stephens Ltd Contractors contributed the Welsh flagstone. We thank everyone for their generosity.