St David’s Cathedral Treasury

For much of our week camping in Pembrokeshire the beaches were blowy and wet – but among our adventures was discovering the best cathedral Treasury I’ve seen.

St David’s Cathedral Treasury makes up for its small space and rather thin collection by its effective design and imaginative organisation. It is divided into three themes: Treasures of the Bishops; Treasures of Worship; Treasures of Scholarship. Treasures of the Bishops are mainly finds from the graves of four early mediaeval bishops: splendid crosiers and rings. But later bishops are recalled by a portrait of Archbishop Laud (who was at St Davids 1621-26) and a cope worn by Bishop Jenkinson to the coronation of Queen Victoria. Treasures of Worship mainly comprises post-Reformation silver plate, but there are also carvings from the 1705 organ case, a Victorian altar frontal, modern embroidered kneelers, and 1983 Maundy Money. Treasures of Scholarship offers an opportunity to celebrate the Cathedral Library, which many visitors might otherwise not be aware of; the theme is currently wittily illustrated by copies of Diseases of the Bible (1883) and Discourse on the Plague (1720) (The Treasury is strategically sited at the end of the cathedral’s coronavirus-safe visitor route).

A few things don’t fit these themes: various medieval stone-carvings, a set of pewter plates from the deanery, the city’s 1995 Charter, a 1980s gold and ivory pendant. It’s not clear that everything here is managed as a single collection; rather the Treasury is a selection of things chosen to tell the story.

When I first saw it I thought the display must be quite recent, but in fact it dates from 2006. The acknowledgements board credits the design to Timothy Guy Design of Cornwall, and ‘research and copywriting’ to Fletcher Teckman Consulting.

Crispin Paine

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