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Church Recording for St. Tysilio Church, Sellack, Herefordshire (in the diocese of Hereford)

Post Code HR9 6QPGrid Ref. SO 565276Church Code 618247

Sellack Church Exterior

The parish church of St. Tysilio, Sellack is situated on the north bank of the river Wye approximately three miles from Ross-on-Wye and falls within the hundred of Wormelow. In the past it has also served as the parish church for the residents of Kings Caple on the other side of the river. This village now has its own church but the historical links between the two villages are still strong.

The first church in Sellack would almost certainly have been made of wood and probably dates back to the 7th Century. Records indicate that a grant was made to NUD Bishop of LLANDAFF of LAN SULUC (SYLLYO) – in modern Welsh – SILIO. This suggests that the Celtic Christian Church (and not the Roman) held sway at that time. By the 12th Century, wood had given way to a building in the local sandstone and in 1291 the record of priests begins.

'The Chancel and Nave were built early in the 12th Century, with a North Aisle, of which the West bay of the Arcade remains. Early in the 13th Century a North Chapel was added. In the 14th Century the North Aisle and Chapel were rebuilt and the West Tower and South Porch added. Early in the 17th Century the ground stage of the Tower was divided and an external staircase built against the North Wall. Early in the 19th Century the large North Transept was added on the site of part of the aisle and the archway opening into it was rebuilt, this arch was subsequently replaced by the existing arcade. The North Vestry is also of this period.'Ref a

The 15th Century spire was repaired in the late 1980's at a cost of £40,000.

The dedication to St. Tysilio is unique in England although there are a number in Wales and Brittany.

St. Tysilio lived in the 7th Century and was a son of the King of Powys. He incurred family wrath by his refusal to follow a military career and instead founded a religious community on the Menai Straits. Later he established a monastery at St. Malo, where he died.

Numerous customs are attached to the Church and as might be expected many relate to the river and the nearby ford crossing, which was superseded by a ferry and which then gave way to the present bridge. The bells have also played their part in the history and customs of the Church. However, the tradition of handing Pax cakes to the congregation at Easter continues to the present day. The ceremony is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country and dates back to 1570 when a local landowner, Lady Scudamore endowed three annual payments of five shillings and nine pence.

The Pax cakes are made by a local baker and are stamped with the Pascal Lamb. They are handed out with the words 'Peace and Good Neighbourhood'.

Each year the service alternates between the two villages, the donkey led procession crossing the river between Sellack and Kings Caple. This unique custom continues as a reminder of the long standing links joining the two parishes, and the importance that the Church of St. Tysilio has played in the history of the villages.

(Ref a) Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England, Herefordshire Vol. 1 s. West.

Transcribed from the original text of the Record of Church Furnishings, commenced 1998 and completed 2006.

It is unfortunately not practical to display any examples from the record on the website because they were not recorded using digital photography.

© The Arts Society Ross-on-Wye or the originator