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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Cantref

Cantref Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanfrynach in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0564925460.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16734 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Cantref Church, CPAT copyright photo 371-00.JPG


St Mary's church lies in the small village of Cantref some 3km to the south-east of Brecon. The church is a 19thC structure but the tower is earlier, thought to be around 1600 in date. It contains little of pre-Victorian origin, the only medieval furnishing being a font of perhaps 12thC date. It is set in a rectilinear churchyard containing a fairly standard collection of memorials.

Tower claimed to be very early 17thC: architecturally it is undiagnostic but is certainly earlier than the nave. The latter together with the chancel and porch were built in 1829 and renovated in 1867, the only trace of the earlier church being a projecting foundation course at the east end.

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


Nothing is known of the origin and early history of the church.

The Episcopal Register of St Davids refers to the church at Cantref in 1402, but there are no references in the Taxatios of the 13thC. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 valued 'Cantreff' at 9 9s 7d.

The church was rebuilt in 1829, and altered in 1867 by C. Buckeridge.


Cantref church consists of a west tower, a nave and chancel in one, and a north porch near the north-west angle of the nave. The church is aligned on an east-north-east/west-south-west axis, but for descriptive purposes 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of regularly cut blocks and slabs of red and grey sandstone, small to medium in size, irregularly coursed. 'B' is a variation on 'A', but is mainly tabular sandstone, predominantly maroon-red in colour.

Roofs: sandstone tiles with ceramic ridge tiles. Tower has modern slates.

Drainage: no evidence of drains running beside church walls.


Porch. General. Fabric 'A'. Set on chamfered plinth.

North wall: two-centred arch, stopped chamfers, hoodmoulding, all in sandstone.

East and west walls: plain.

Nave and chancel. General. Treated as one unit externally. All in Fabric 'A'; chamfered plinth at c.0.3m (cf porch), but because of natural ground slope it is stepped down at the nave/chancel interface; ashlar quoins.

North wall: two single-light windows and two double-light windows all in yellow sandstone, and consisting of trefoiled lancets. One stepped buttress marking the nave/chancel divide; a second small buttress marks the north-west corner of the nave where it meets the tower.

East wall: the fabric contains some irregularities which might denote re-used masonry, and at the base of the wall below the chamfered plinth is a flat plinth projecting 0.2m with a maximum height of 0.3m; it is on the same alignment and is likely to be a relic of the earlier church. One three-light window, again trefoiled lancets and a hoodmoulding, with a relieving arch over.

South wall: similar to north wall but an extra two-light window at the west end opposite the porch. Also at the west end the wall face of the nave runs on for a short distance in front of the tower wall face. This is a Victorian feature matching the buttress on the north side, but it does appear to encapsulate an earlier buttress at a lower level.

Tower. General. Fabric 'B', crudely pointed in a dull grey mortar so that it appears more like a coat of plaster across the wall faces. Plinth at base at a height of c.0.5m topped by an angular string-course. Uppermost courses of tower may have been rebuilt. Pyramidal roof. Thought to date from c.1600.

North wall: low, shallow buttress at north-east corner as mentioned above (under nave). Rectangular slit window at ground floor level above plinth, chamfered and with a projecting hood over the top. A second similar slit window is set at a higher level (perhaps c.4-5m), and above this a broader louvred window of two lights for the belfry stage, lacking a projecting hood, and the jambs showing considerable difference in weathering.

East wall: nave roof rises to just below belfry level; two-light louvred window for belfry with replacement mullion.

South wall: windows as north wall, except for belfry which has a single light, the lintel terminating in stop-like blocks.

West wall: lower windows as north wall; belfry window also similar but has a flat, projecting stone hood; one jamb replaced.


Porch. General. Tiled floor. Simple roof with collars.

East and west walls:- plain.

South wall: two-centred arch, stopped chamfers, sandstone dressings. 19thC.

Nave and chancel. General. Tiled floors, largely carpet covered; wooden boards beneath seating. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of five bays with arch-braced trusses springing from corbels and having cusped scissor struts above. Chancel arch consists of cast iron pillars against the outer walls with floriate capitals supporting a main truss. 19thC wall brasses in chancel.

South wall: slab in a window embrasure records the rebuilding of 1829.

West wall: broad but low two-centred arched doorway with heavy sandstone jambs and dressings gives access to the tower.

Tower. General. Flagged floor with at least five grave slabs re-used. South and north wall faces inset to take joists at first floor level. Walls whitewashed. Deeply splayed windows.


The churchyard is pentagonal in shape, the church lying near to its centre. A short distance to the south-east is Afon Cynrig and the churchyard is set on the edge of its valley. It is well maintained and still used for burial.

Boundary: On the north side above the road the slight internal embankment is fronted by a revetment wall and there is an external drop of perhaps 1.5m. To the north-west the wall continues but the external drop is no more than 0.5m, and on the south-west and south-east the wall is in a poor state of repair and is reinforced by a wire fence; again the drop is little more than 0.5m. On this basis Cantref cannot be called a raised churchyard, the drop on the north probably resulting from the erosion of the adjacent roadway.

Monuments: these are well spread on the north side, with late 18thC graves on both sides of the path to the porch (Griffiths of RCAHMW counted 12 in all). There is little obvious burial on the south, west and east sides of the church.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: a gently scarped platform is visible around the east end of the church.

Ancillary features: metal gates give entry from the north with a tarmac path to the porch. There are also small wooden gates on the north-west and north-east sides.

Vegetation: an avenue of yews lead to the church from the main gate and several others are dotted around, one on the previously mentioned scarp to the east of the church.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 16 August 1995
Dawson 1909, 41
Haslam 1979, 307
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 Cantref 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 ( 22:00:33 ).
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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