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There has been a Church on this site for 1500 years. In those early days this locality, Dewisland, was one of the most thickly populated areas of the country, and lay at the heart of the Celtic world, which included not only Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but Cornwall and Cumberland and Brittany. It would have been surrounded by an earthen rampart and containing several beehive-shaped huts of wattle and daub, but no more can be told for certain. Later this must have been replaced by a wooden structure, and finally by a stone Church.
Little is known of this saint, or of any other dedications to him. A few suggestions have been made:
·The name may originally have been Rian, Rayn or Ryan, as early documents spelt it this way, and he could have been one of St David’s followers.
The truth is not really known!
Cruciform Churches are rare in Pembrokeshire. The nave and the transepts of the present Church were probably rebuilt in 1836, and the chancel is believed to have been restored and enlarged in 1891 when extensive renovation was undertaken. In 1891 the old irregular high-backed pews were used to panel the walls and were replaced by the present unusually fine oak pews. The oak chancel screen was added at this time, the vestry was screened off and new windows were made, with the perpendicular mullions to be seen today.
This is of particular interest, it is the oldest part of the present building and is believed to date from the 13th century. It was probably originally built separately as a coastal watch tower and place of defence; the walls are almost 3 feet thick, and a yard inside. Interesting features are the saddleback form and the battlemented finish, whilst the western gable is stepped according to a style more common in N Europe than in Britain.
The font is ancient and is paneled in typical 15th century style. The decagonal form is unusual. Each of the panels contains an inverted shield and on one there is the coat of arms of Sir Rhys ap Thomas. It has been suggested that since geologists have declared that the type of stone of which the font is made is not to be found in Britain, but bears a resemblance to that of Solomon's Temple, Sir Rhys brought it from Jerusalem to Carmarthen where he is buried, and that it was later presented to Llanrhian Church by the Archdeacon of Carmarthen who was also Rector of the parish and Patron of the Benefice.
The present Pulpit, Lectern and Altar have all been added during the 20th century.
An ancient cross-incised slab belonging to the period of the 7th-9th centuries is to be seen outside the Church, at the base of the wall at the NW corner of the nave. A double circle can be seen, with 4 pits in the centre. It must have been part of a rough monument in the early wooden Church, broken up and thrown out by the Anglo-Normans, it was later used in the construction of a stone Church, but its presence proves the existence of the earlier building.