Home of the RS Thomas Literary Festival


“within listening distance of the silence we call God”

Heritage at St Michael’s Church Eglwysfach is important. There are 529 graves being recorded giving family genealogy details and family history. This church is near Machynlleth in the heart of Wales.

Architecturally significant as a Georgian period building, it is plain. The poet R S Thomas and his artist wife removed many memorabilia but the result is pleasing with a simple black and white decoration – no Victorian furbelows.

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R S Thomas

The R S Thomas Literary Festival and Poetry Competition took place in September and once again the organisers are pleased to report that it was a great success.

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During the R S Thomas Literary Festival there was an exhibition of a selection
of prints and paintings of the artist M E Eldridge.

Elsie Eldridge

Mildred Elsie Eldridge (1909-91) – known to friends and family as ‘Elsi’–was brought up in Leatherhead, Surrey. From 1930 to 1933, she studied at the Royal College of Art, where her tutors included Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden.  At the end of her studies, the award of a Travelling Scholarship allowed her to spend some months in 1934 sketching and painting in Italy.

In 1937 she held a highly successful exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London.  By this point, however, she had deserted the London art scene and was teaching art at Moreton Hall School, near Chirk. It was at Chirk that she met and, in 1940, married R.S. Thomas, then an unknown local curate; her impact on his early development as a writer has only recently begun to be noted. In 1942 Thomas was appointed to the parish of Manafon in Montgomeryshire, an area for which Eldridge developed great affection. Their only child, Gwydion, was born in 1945 and in this period she undertook much book illustration.  She also contributed to the  ‘Recording Britain’ project in the early 1940s. 

It was while at Manafon that Eldridge started work on ‘The Dance of Life’, a mural (actually painted on six canvas panels, totalling over a hundred feet in width) for the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen, near Oswestry.  This was the centrepiece of her artistic achievement, a large-scale allegorical vision of humanity’s growing alienation from the natural world. (The mural, completed in 1955 at Eglwysfach, is now on display at Glyndwr University, Wrexham.)

Much of her time in the later 1950s and 1960s, while at Eglwysfach, was devoted to teaching and to commercial work, mainly detailed studies of birds and plants.  Her journals and letters occasionally show her frustration that such work had a market while what she saw as more interesting work did not.  However, Eldridge continued to paint until near the end of her life, at Sarn Rhiw, near Aberdaron, where she died in 1991.
Tony Brown

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EGLWYSFACH, FURNACE AND GLANDYFI NEWSLETTER
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RS Thomas 2017 Festival Report - Another success
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In 1999 a large grant was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund for extensive repairs to the fabric of the church. This was followed in 2013 with reroofing of the chancel roof and in 2014 Grants for Places of Worship made a donation of £19,240 for repair to the church parapet, recording of the graves, this website and a notice board at the entrance.
For this last project financial help was also received from the Pantfedwen Trust and Ceredigion Council.

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