Our work

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.

About Henry Vaughan

Llansantffraed Church

Llansantffraed Church

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.

More on his life and work

The site of Henry Vaughan's Grave

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.

Henry Vaughan's grave

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.

About the site

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

Memorial Event for Henry Vaughan in 2015

Events linked to Henry Vaughan

The Brecknock Society organises an annual wreath-laying at Henry Vaughan's grave in late April to commemorate the poet's death.  In the past, a Memorial Evensong Services and concerts in commemoration of Henry Vaughan have been held in the Church.  We hope that these can be continued if the Church returns to operational use.

Visiting Llansantffraed - Current situation of Church

The Churchyard is always open. The Church is a Victorian architectural gem (click for photos of interior and some details). It is not currently in operational use for services as its local congregation has dwindled and there is no church warden.   The church is locked for security reasons.   Some information on the church and Henry Vaughan can be found in the church porch.  It is hoped that the Church can be reopened - information on discussions about the future of Llansantffraed Church can be found on the Beacons Benefice website here.  Any person wishing to see inside the church should contact Dr Mervyn Bramley (see below) or the priest in charge, Rev Kevin Richards to make arrangements to visit.

Henry Vaughan visitor area

Dr Rowan Williams opening the Henry Vaughan Visitor Centre

Dr Rowan Williams opening the Visitor Centre

There is a 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.  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.

The Visitor Area was 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.

The Society's contact for Llansantffraed is Dr Mervyn Bramley (Contact - email: mervyn.bramley@icloud.com).  The Church is under the care of the Beacons Benefice as there is no functioning church committee.

Friends of Llansantffraed Church

This group for supporters who are not members of the congregation is currently 'on hold' while the future of Llansantffraed Church is under discussion.   Click here for details of the group's purpose.

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.

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.

Updated - June 2022

The Brecknock Society and Museum Friends/Cymdeithas a Chyfeillion yr Amgueddfa. Reg Charity No 518041