The Llandeilo oak coffer
A most unusual and large mid to late 18th. Century Welsh Carved Oak Coffer Bach, the rectangular top opening on wooden supports, the 3 panel front carved in great depth and detail with three drawers below, the ends and front all carved with lunettes and foliage, the whole raised on carved stiles.
Ca. 1770 Price: £2,250-00p.
Height: 43.25 “,110cms. Width: 58“,147 cms. Depth: 25“, 64 cms.
The coffer came from a house in Llandeilo and the story is that originally it came from Newton House at Dinefwr. If so, the saintly figure in the left panel could perhaps be St.Teilo himself, whilst the central panel depicts someone sitting outside the gates of a castle or walled town (possiblyDinefwr Castle), and the right hand panel depicts a semi-naked barbaric character with animal skins and a club who could be the Irish brigand, Bwya. Teilo confronted him with St David after he killed his cattle and burnt his fortress to the ground.
Another version of the story is as follows: St. David returned to Henfeynyw where he met up with his relation, Bishop Gwestlan. The two were neighbours and companions for some time, before the Welsh patron moved on to nearby Rhoson Uchaf (Rosina Vallis) near Mynyw (St. Davids). He was accompanied by a number of disciples, includingAeddan, Teilo and Ysfael, and together they founded the monastery of Mynyw (St. Davids). An Irish chieftain, named Bwya, living at nearby Castell Penlan, was not best pleased at this invasion of monks and plotted to drive them out. His wife sent her maidservants to bathe naked in the River Alun and tempt David and his followers, but the clerics were far from impressed. Misfortune soon befell the Irish couple and David was able to settle down without further harassment.
Saint Teilo also known by his Cornish name Eliud, was a British Christian monk, bishop, and founder of monasteries and churches from Penalun (Penally), Tenby in Pembrokeshire, south Wales.
Reputed to be a cousin, friend, and disciple of Saint David he wasBishop of Llandaff and founder of the first church at Llanduff Cathedral where his tomb is. He also founded Llandeilo Fawr as well as Penally Alley at his place of birth.
St Teilo may have been known as Eliau or Eilliau in Old Welsh. He was born at Penalun (Penally) around the year 500. Teilo was the son of Saint Issel and uncle of Saints Ismael and Euddogwy Teilo's education took place at two institutions directed by saints. The first was established by the renowned Church leader and educator Dubricius (or Dyfrig), while the second was the school directed by Paulinus of Wales at "Wincdi-Lantquendi" (thought to be Whitland) where he met and became a close companion of St David (Dewi).
Like many founder-bishops they appear to have had experience in battle. Along with companions Aeddan and Ysfael, he traveled toMynyw (St. Davids), where Dewi founded his abbey, and ousted an Irish pirate named Bwya, killed his cattle and burnt his fortress to the ground. He succeeded Dubricius as Bishop of Llandaff after Dubricius retired to a hermitage on Bardsey Island. Teilo founded the first Church in LLandaff headed a monastic school, and become bishop over Glywysing & Gwent.
St Teilo's Church, Llantilio.
In the 540s yellow plague affected Britain. In 549 Teilo, with a small group of monks, moved to Dol in Brittany. He is reported to have stayed in Brittany for seven years and seven months so must have left in 556 or 557, although some sources imply he returned in 554 They traveled through Dumnonia and were reported to have entertained King Geraint and joined Samson of Dol at Dol: to this day the fruit groves they planted are known as the groves of Teilo.
After his return to Llandeilo Fawr, where he is documented to have died on 9 February, although the year, though probably around 560, is unknown, he became one of the most venerated men in Wales. At his death Teilo's body was said to have miraculously become three identical bodies, probably because his relics were claimed by three churches, Llandaff Cathedral, Llandeilo Fawr and Penally Abbey. One tomb lies to the right of the altar of Llandaff Cathedral : his skull is kept in the south chapel. It is stated that many miracles were witnessed there while he was alive and also later at his tomb. Relics are now even more widely distributed: they are venerated at Landeleau (Finistère), Plogonnac (Finistère), and Saint Télo (Côtes-du-Nord).
Lit: See “Oak Furniture the British Tradition” by Victor Chinnery, pp386 Figs. 3:452, 3:453a, 3;453b and 3:453c, the great bed of Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Dynefwr, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire (died 1527) with comparable carvings. This begs the question as to whether this coffer, albeit later than the bed, was made to stand in the same room as the bed during the 18th. Century.