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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Crickadarn

Crickadarn Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Erwood in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0896142228.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16682 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Crickadarn Church, CPAT copyright photo 95C0353.JPG


The church of St Mary and its small surrounding settlement lies in the hills to the west of the Wye Valley some 10km south of Builth Wells. It is a small well-maintained church, the earliest features of which may be 13thC, with 15th and 16thC additions, and several later phases of restoration. Internally there is a good range of monuments but little else of significance. Its churchyard small and sub-circular with many gravestones.

Fabric differences between north wall of nave/chancel on the one hand and south and east walls on the other would suggest that the former with simple lancets is earlier (perhaps 13thC) with a 15thC (or even early 16thC) rebuild of the south and east walls, retaining earlier doorways. The porch was erected at the same time or soon after and the tower was added, on the basis of relatively slight evidence, in the 16thC, the west wall of the nave being cut away to take it. Recent work is visible along top of north wall.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam


There are few if any early references to Crickadarn, but the churchyard shape might favour an early medieval origin.

A 15thC manual of daily offices for the church is now in Hereford Cathedral Library.

Around 1810 the church was not ceiled and the seats were irregular. There were three bells in the steeple. The architecture was described as "vile". The front of the oak rood loft still remained.

In 1865 Glynne found a church with all but the tower whitewashed externally, low walls that leaned outwards, and a dark interior though fitted with new seats, and a chest acting as the altar. The wooden porch seems to have met with his approval, and he noted a single box pew with the date 1666, a mural monument of 1649, and a beam over the chancel entrance which was presumably the remains of the screen.

The large rood screen and loft, similar to that at Llanfilo, fell into a bad state of repair during late 18thC and was removed in the latter half of the 19thC, its gradual deterioration chronicled by Crossley and Ridgway from earlier sources.

The church was restored in 1867 and 1895 when new windows were added.

In 1914, a faculty suggests that Sir Clough Williams-Ellis reconstructed the sanctuary, repaired the internal roof and porch, rebuilt the south wall of the nave to match the old, re-using existing stone where sound, rebuilt the tower arch wall with sufficient thickness to accommodate the old turret doorway, and provided at the west an oval vestry window, a balcony, and the fireplace. Two bells were also recast. The link with Williams-Ellis is strengthened by the fact that two years previously he had remodelled Llangoed Hall nearby.


The church consists of nave and chancel in one with a west tower and south porch. It is oriented north-east/south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of grey, laminated shale slabs and a few blocks, regularly coursed. Heavy pointing in places. Sandstone dressings and quoins. 'B' consists of mixture of shale, sandstone and other sedimentary rocks, some micaceous, mainly in block form and irregularly coursed. 'C' is predominantly of grey mudstone or some other fine-grained sedimentary rock, including slabs of considerable length; occasional lumps of red sandstone; weathered sandstone/mudstone quoins. 'D' small lumps of sandstone and mudstone, heavily pointed, and restricted to wall tops.

Fabric C is probably medieval, B could be re-used medieval masonry, A is perhaps of 16thC origin, and D is Victorian.

Roofs: all have shale slates with?stone ridge tiles but no finials.

Drainage: gully on north and south sides of nave and chancel but not tower; nothing on east.


Tower. General. Thought to be 16thC but on limited evidence. Fabric A with all dressings in grey sandstone. Set into slope so 1m+ difference between east and west ends. Plinth with ashlar coping, string-course of moulded sandstone at top of 1st stage with further string-courses above 2nd, 3rd and belfry stages. The last has simple waterspouts. Belfry stage inset slightly.

North wall: stair turret in north-east corner lit by slit windows with chamfered dressings at 1st and 3rd stages. Main wall of tower plain except for belfry window with its two four-centred, louvred lights, the heads fashioned from a single stone; arch stones replaced? Projecting stone, perhaps broken, just below battlements.

East wall: apex of nave roof cuts through string course above 2nd stage. Otherwise as north wall.

South wall: rectangular window in 1st stage, slit in 2nd, usual double light in belfry, possibly with arch replaced or just less eroded than on north.

West wall: slit windows with chamfered dressings at 1st and 2nd stages; standard louvred lights in arched window in belfry, the arch perhaps replaced.

Nave and Chancel. General. Partly 13thC.

North wall: Fabric C except for top 0.5m or so which is Fabric D. In north-west corner Fabric D drops lower, and c.2m from this corner there is a disconformity in the appearance of the masonry - the fabric, however, though more irregular remains the same. Wall slopes inward giving impression of batter, particularly in central section. Two lancet windows, one single and one double, with leaded lights, but only red sandstone heads look original; cavetto mouldings.

East wall: weathered surface which may be Fabric B containing many large blocks; apex and northern slope of gable rebuilt in Fabric D; some repointing at southern edge but unclear whether reconstruction here. Perpendicular window with four-centred arch contains three lights and panel tracery in yellow sandstone; tracery replacement in at least two places. Four mural slabs attached to wall, one of 1781, two 19thC and one with face completely flaked away.

South wall: Fabric B; two flat-headed Perpendicular windows with ogee-headed lights in yellow sandstone; between is a blocked priest's door with chamfered dressings for arch but not obvious for jambs; past restoration work on doorway, particularly the arch.

West wall: probably Fabric C, though differential weathering and different pointing; both its north and south faces appear to abut the walls of the tower.

Porch. General. Very good 15thC porch of the Wye valley type (cf. Aberedw on opposite side of valley). Fabric B with sandstone quoins.

East and west walls: plain.

South wall: of larger blocks to support gable, and possibly some replacement. Original wooden entrance arch.


Porch. General. Roof elaborate; two main trusses with quatrefoils and trefoils, the outer one also arch-braced, and a trefoiled, arched truss between them; two tiers of foiled windbraces, though some fragments lost. Floor of large slate slabs, raised one step above churchyard. Walls of bare stone. Porch later than nave doorway, the arch of which is partially hidden by roof truss.

North wall: doorway into church with two-centred arch, with stopped chamfers, showing some replacement of dressings, the originals in red sandstone, the replacements in grey.

East wall: stone-slabbed bench with alcove above.

South wall: woodwork.

West wall: also has bench, one slab of which is part of 1796 gravestone re-used; rough stoup from sandstone boulder set into core of wall above it.

Tower. General. Accessible only for ground floor which has barrel-vaulted ceiling; western two-thirds screened off and acts as vestry; plastered walls. Eastern end beyond screen unplastered.

North wall: plain except for tower turret doorway in north-east corner: four-centred Tudor arch with stopped chamfers leading to newel stair.

East wall: tower arch (see nave west wall below.

South wall: deeply splayed window, stepped down from slit to embrasure base.

West wall: deeply splayed window, as south wall; wooden Donations Board of 1712 against wall.

Nave. General. Roof ceiled and whitewashed; towards west end one truss visible with collar and principals, but painted over; at the nave/chancel divide a chamfered tie beam, collar and diagonal struts, where formerly the rood screen, the beam seemingly the only remnant of it that survives. Floor flagged, and incorporates a number of re-used grave slabs of 18thC and early 19thC date. Benches set on wooden block floor. Walls of nave and chancel plastered and whitewashed, also the majority of dressings for windows.

North wall: panelled to height of benches; one splayed window with wooden lintel, and stepped down to deepen embrasure; chimney with fireplace set diagonally across north-west corner; wall painting just to west of window; eight wall tablets arranged along wall.

East wall: chancel divide as noted above.

South wall: panelling as north wall; from east, a priest's door with two-centred arch, the reveal plastered except for the head, to provide an alcove which contains?a heating pipe and inspection plate; single, splayed window, the dressings and embrasure arch unplastered, the latter turned in edge stones; segmental arch to main doorway turned in edge stones, the reveal of bare stone, and showing clear evidence of stone replacement to apex of external door arch; ten wall tablets of late 18thC-early 19thC spaced along wall.

West wall: large tower arch, four-centred, with unpainted freestone dressings; above is an early 20thC gallery accessed by a doorway with flattish three-centred arch with chamfered dressings, the apex of the arch hidden by the nave ceiling.

Chancel. General. Roof and floor as in nave, with grave slabs used in latter. Floor at same level as nave, but steps up to sanctuary and altar.

North wall: window has splayed embrasure, segmental arch, and has been whitewashed but for sill.

East window: segmental arch, the embrasure of bare stone.

South wall: window has segmental arch, the dressings and sill unpainted; aumbry-like alcove to east of window; Grave slab of 1649 beneath window.


The churchyard lies just above a small stream running some 35m to the south-west through a broad but shallow valley. The church itself occupies what appears to be a small knoll or spur, of no great height, projecting slightly into the valley. Only to the east is the ground fairly level.

Across the valley to the south-west are the earthworks of a medieval castle.

Churchyard is sub-oval in shape with two curving sides on north and south and two straight ones which it is tempting to see as truncated though no substantive surviving evidence for such a view. It is of small size (maximum diameter 45m) and raised in that ground falls both within and outside, except on the flattish east side where interior raised by up to 0.5m.

Boundary shows some variation: at east 'corner' in vicinity of main gate, well-made mortared stone wall with flat coping stones, but wall on rest of east and some of north more roughly constructed of drystone masonry with coping stones on edge, overgrown in parts and the ground level higher internally than externally. Gap in north wall gives on to small dilapidated shed. North-west sector opens onto rectangular graveyard extension (formerly OS plot 9224) and earlier boundary reduced to 1m-high scarp bank. Boundary curves around at west corner (contra modern OS plan) and wall here more of a revetment because of external drop. Former path into south-west corner of churchyard now largely blocked by two gravestones. On south, revetment wall with external drop of perhaps maximum 1.8m and internal drop of 0.2m.

Churchyard well maintained but most recent burials in extension to north-west.

Monuments: well-ordered and quite tightly packed, particularly around south and west sides. Some go back to third quarter of 18thC (1760, 1775), but earlier examples tending to weather and flake. Fewer obvious graves on north. Generally a good range worthy of record.

Furniture: none noted, apart from 1995 memorial seat on north side of path leading to porch.

Earthworks: none noted, other than natural spur.

Ancillary Features: single wooden gate on east side with stone stile adjacent, served by stone slab path to porch. New extension on north-west served by double ornamental metal gates.

Vegetation: three old yews on north side with two less mature examples on west.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 17 October 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 60
Glynne 1887, 287
Haslam 1979, 311
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 16 & 18
NMR, Aberystwyth
Click here to view full project bibliography

Please note that many rural churches are closed to the public at certain times. It is advisable to check when the church will be open before visiting. Information about access, or how to contact parish clergy, can often be obtained from the relevant Diocesan Office which can be found through the Church in Wales website. Further information about Crickadarn Church may also be found on the Swansea and Brecon Diocese website.

The CPAT Brecknockshire Churches Survey Project was funded by Cadw as part of an all Wales survey of medieval parish churches.

This HTML page has been generated from the Cadw Churches Survey database & CPAT's Regional Historic Environment Record - 17/07/2007 ( 22:00:35 ).
Further information about this and other churches surveyed is available from the Regional Historic Environment Record, Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 7a Church Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7DL tel - (01938) 553670, fax - (01938) 552179, email -, website -

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