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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Edmund , Crickhowell

Crickhowell Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Crickhowell in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2164718431.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16753 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Crickhowell Church, CPAT copyright photo CS950803.JPG

Summary

St Edmund's church is set in a large rectangular churchyard within the town on the north bank of the River Usk. Built at the beginning of the 14thC as a cruciform church, it retains some architectural features of that date but has also seen considerable restoration and the destruction and rebuilding of its later aisles. The range of medieval internal features is limited but it contains a remarkable range of monuments in the chancel.

Original early 14thC design was cruciform building. Of this building all elements survive, but some restoration has occurred, less in the chancel than elsewhere. Nave arcades and aisles added at later date - James suggested the 15thC - but are not symmetrical or identical. Broach spire thought to have been added in post-medieval era. Original aisles demolished in 18thC; those standing are of early 19thC date though windows replaced in 1897, all in Decorated style.

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

History

Crickhowell church was constructed in the Decorated style by Lady Sibyl Pauncefote prior to 1303 when the parish created. James suggested c.1280-1300.

During medieval period the transepts may have acted as chantry chapels, but possibly they were guild chapels for Theophilus Jones refers to the emblems of the Cordwainers' and Drapers' Guilds.

At the time of the Valor Ecclesiasticus in 1535 'Crukehowell' was rated at 10 1s 11d (cf the mother church of Llangattock with a value four times greater).

The two side aisles were taken down in 1765 and the materials disposed of.

The church in 1809 was reported to be cruciform, with chancel, nave, two transepts and a shingled spire which contained five bells in the centre. "Modern" improvements had deprived the nave of all distinguishing marks of antiquity. The side aisles, when standing, had the emblems of different trading companies carved in wood; with them was effaced the only memorial of the former commercial greatness of Crickhowell. In 1806 the church was decently ceiled with lath and plaster, and was paved.

The aisles were replaced in 1828 and 1835; and a west porch added in 1832/33. Glynne in 1836 described a 'large and rather handsome' church in good condition, though "many ugly modern Gothic windows had been inserted". The central tower had a tall, shingled spire and was supported on four large pointed arches. The font was early, a circular bowl on a shaft of similar form.

Restoration occurred in 1868 by J L Pearson when new seats were added, the monument to Sir John Herbert was moved into a recess on left side of the altar, and the masonry of the tower was renewed.

In 1890, gardens were purchased for 600 to extend the cemetery.

The roofs were replaced in 1897, and a 1908 description of the church states that the new side aisles, "in the worst style of the period", were re-roofed with proper ecclesiastical ceilings, the walls stripped of plaster and new windows inserted. Part of the rood loft, functioning as a belfry survived until at least 1909.

Further repairs were conducted in 1934, 1963, 1973, 1986 and 1994.

Architecture

Crickhowell church is one of the larger churches in Powys and has the following elements: west porch, nave, north and south aisles, north and south transepts to the east of their respective aisles, a tower over the crossing, chancel with north vestry and south porch opening off chancel.

It has a true east/west alignment.

Fabrics: 'A' is coursed red sandstone blocks of regular shape. 'B' is of irregular red, grey and brown slabs and blocks of sandstone, randomly coursed, generally heavily pointed, and at least one brick fragment inserted. 'C' is medium sized and rather uniform blocks of red and grey sandstone, with some regular coursing. 'D' is of grey and red slabs of sandstone, small in size and randomly coursed.

Fabrics 'A' and 'C' and 'D' are 19thC. 'B' is medieval.

Roofs: tiled roofs, crested ridge tiles, cross finials on most gable ends. Spire has shingles emplaced in 1963, after storm ripped off copper sheeting.

Drainage: little clear evidence of deliberate drainage trenches around walls.

Exterior

West Porch. General. 19thC addition in Fabric 'A', built 1832, rebuilt 1974. West doorway has two-centred arch turned in red sandstone, but without proper dressed stone. Either side of door is a small niche. North wall has a simple hole in it to act as window, the south wall is plain but ivy-covered. Small angle buttresses support the north-west and south-west corners.

Nave. In Fabric 'B', but consistent appearance of grey sandstone beneath eaves implies that nave has had roof raised by 0.5m+. Angle buttresses and ivy disguise junctions of nave and aisle walls.

West wall: much eroded string-course at level of window base. Decorated (14thC) west window has two-centred arch with recent hoodmould but probably original stops; three stepped lights with trefoil heads, and separate trefoil lights above, the dressings replaced; Griffiths of RCAHMW thought that the tracery looked 18thC. Two stepped angle buttresses of weathered red sandstone, presumably original (though Cadw listing report suggests that they were added when the aisles demolished, perhaps utilising rubble. Contrast buttresses of adjacent aisles).

North aisle. General. Fabric 'C'. Quoins in dressed grey sandstone. Existing windows all 19thC Geometrical.

North wall: one stepped buttress functioning as chimney housing with chimney pot above. Three two-light windows, the lights with trefoil heads under two-centred arches with hoodmouldings. Terminals of wooden beams visible. Some evidence of earlier blocked windows with present windows inserted below and to east of their predecessors which may have been larger.

East wall: plain. Abuts north transept wall.

West wall: all Fabric 'C' but smaller stonework at higher levels, and perhaps some re-use of stone. One two-centred arched window with two trefoil-headed lights and quatrefoil above. Similar to north wall windows but longer. String-course below window.

North transept. General. Fabric 'B' in the main, but also both 'C' and 'D'.

North wall: Remnants of render on surface and some ivy covering. One two-light Geometrical window, simple two-centre headed lights with quatrefoil above under two-centred arch; hoodmoulding in brown sandstone; tracery and much of window appears to be original. Infilling above window to gable apex in Fabric 'D'. Small patch of Fabric 'C' against aisle east wall.

Vestry. General. Separate unit inside church, but externally its north wall is continuation of north transept north wall and its east wall is now hidden by a new vestry built in the last few years.

North wall: Fabric 'B' as transept. Simple lancet window with chamfered moulding, in red sandstone; lancet head replaced and 19thC hoodmoulding, the rest original.

Chancel. General. Largely Fabric 'B' but some exceptions.

North wall: wall contains one original trefoiled lancet window with chamfered red sandstone dressings and standard hood-moulding and voussoir relieving arch over. Tomb recess protrudes from wall, constructed of regular red sandstone masonry (Fabric 'A') about 1868.

East wall: long window of three lights with intersecting tracery replaced in yellow sandstone while red sandstone dressings could be original; standard hoodmoulding and relieving arch. Lower part of wall in Fabric 'B', but at higher levels, Fabric 'D' in which is set (or re-set) a glazed, slit window with weathered chamfered dressings (original). Interrupted and?broken string-course may have been largely decorative.

South wall: most of wall in Fabric 'B', but in 'D' from window-top level upwards. Also one patch of large dressed red sandstone blocks centrally placed near base of wall remains unexplained. Two trefoiled lancets: that to east is complete Victorian replacement though hoodmoulding is in red rather than brown sandstone. That to west is largely original though it has a brown sandstone hoodmoulding. Both have relieving arches with edge stone voussoirs.

South vestry. General. Formerly a Victorian priest's porch converted to vestry use in 1973; acutely pointed double cusped window set in blocked former doorway of south wall; blocked Y-tracery window on east side. The whole built in red sandstone and only the blocking materials are in mixed coloured sandstone.

South transept. all in Fabric 'B'. No north and west walls.

East wall: abutted by vestry and otherwise plain.

South wall: contains one Geometrical window with two-centred arch over simple two-centred lights with quatrefoil above; hoodmoulding in buff sandstone; a few red sandstone jambstones may be original, the rest replaced. Red sandstone quoins at south-east corner; upper part of gable rebuilt in what looks like Fabric 'C'.

South aisle. General. Masonry is Fabric 'C' or a variant, and is coupled with red sandstone quoins. Windows all 19thC Geometrical. No north wall and only a relatively small plain area of east wall.

South wall: wall contains three two-light windows, with quatrefoils under two-centred arches and hoodmouldings. Red sandstone masonry around the windows may be decorative trait to set off windows against the grey masonry background. Tie-beam terminals visible in wall face.

West wall: fabric looks more like 'B' than 'C'. One two-light window as south wall, and string-course as north aisle. Angle buttress.

Tower. General. Central tower with corbel table supporting a parapet and waterspouts set into those corbels at the angles. Above, an octagonal broach spire surmounted by weathervane. Tower appears to be in Fabric 'B' with grey quoins.

North wall: louvred, cusped light under two-centred arched window in grey sandstone, largely original. Clock face immediately above window is a feature of the 1860 restoration.

East wall: window as north side but has relieving arch over.

South wall: as north side but has relieving arch; also clock face. Lower down and just above the apex of the transept roof is a glazed slit window with chamfered dressings.

West wall: as north window but relieving arch over.

Interior

General. all internal walls of bare stone, unplastered.

Porch. General. Flagged floor, ribbed ceiling. North wall has small window, the south wall, an undated wall plaque about degrees of marriage. East wall, a two-centred, stopped-chamfered doorway in red sandstone. Corbel suggests that original porch was a lean-to.

Nave. General. Tiled floor contains heating vents; carpets over. East end of nave raised as platform for liturgical purposes. Victorian ribbed wagon roof. Walls in Fabric 'B'?

North wall: arcade of three bays with octagonal piers and moulded capitals supporting two-centred arches, with relieving arches over; easternmost arch much wider than others. Two 19thC mural tablets at extreme western end.

East wall: two-centred arch to crossing, relieving arch over, no responds.

South wall: three-bay arcade as north side with octagonal piers, but of different pattern and arches wider.

West wall: splayed window embrasure with sloping sill, no obvious variation in fabric. Three 20thC memorials, two of brass, one of marble.

North aisle. General. Victorian build; tiled floor with grilles above heating voids. Western end raised up on wooden platform, but stone step up. Laterally ribbed ceiling with tie beams.

North wall: deeply splayed windows. Some evidence of blocking to east of most easterly window. Several 19thC marble and brass memorials, and one of 1789.

East wall: two-centred archway with simple stopped chamfers leads into north transept; not centred in wall, it looks of relatively modern build and is said to have been added in 1883.

South wall: arcade (see north wall of nave); a disconformity in masonry at a level with apices of relieving arches, but most easterly arch higher and top of relieving arch has disappeared: so wall rebuilt or heightened here. At west end just beyond arcade respond, wall is out set, and presumably represents original external wall of nave prior to introduction of aisles. Mural tablets of 1806 and 1808.

West wall: splayed window with modern ashlar in embrasure. Four mural tablets of 1732, 1739, 1760/1770 & 1776.

North transept. General. Known as the Gwernvale Transept. Largely filled by the organ and remainder not accessible. Flooring of wood and concrete approached by two steps up from north aisle. Ribbed ceiling.

Vestry. General. Completely refurbished in 1994, two steps up with carpetted floor, plastered walls and first floor room.

Tower crossing. General. Heating vent grilles in floor. Choir stalls raised up on either side. Wooden rib vaulted ceiling. Each wall has a two-centred arch, the responds with double chamfered mouldings, but no capitals. South wall has Perpendicular-style screen by Caroe.

Chancel. General. Two widely spaced steps up within chancel, three more steps altar. Floor of Victorian encaustic tiles, but also some heating grilles; Victorian panelled roof of four bays with arch-braces springing from wooden corbels.

North wall: three tomb recesses. From west to east: i) recess with early 14thC keeled mouldings and a hood; slab set into it to Rachel and Lewis James (d.1750 and d.1775) together with that of John Ash of Somerset (d.1727); above and slightly to right is single lancet with replaced trefoil head, flat sill and inner relieving arch of voussoirs, blocked externally by vestry: adjacent brass plaque states that the window was erected in 1886 or soon after; ii) recess with double order of late 14thC wavy mouldings, the inner resting on colonnettes; effigy of Lady Sybil Pauncefoot, and, above three 19thC marble mural tablets; iii) recess made in 1865 with stilted arch and foliated stops to the hood, containing monument of 1690 to the Herberts; recess contains 18thC wall tablets set into sides, including Rococo example of 1776. Over this recess a small lancet window (see exterior description) with ashlar dressings and relieving arch.

East wall: splayed east window with arch though not jambs internally moulded; plaques with Lord's Prayer and Exodus XX; brass and safe to north of altar; fine memorial wall tablet bearing Rumsey arms to south.

South wall: from east: i) piscina; ii) sedile with cusped head; iii) recess with quarter-round mouldings; effigy of Sir Grimbald Pauncefoot; iv) recess of similar design to last with tomb slab of Henry Rumsey (d.1619) plus three small 18thC slabs set in base. Four 19thC marble memorial tablets above. Both windows - above the piscina and above the second recess - have internal ashlar dressings and relieving arches. Vestry doorway is triangular headed with internal ashlar dressings. According to James, it probably led in medieval times to a priest's chamber over the south transept. Next to the door in the chancel is a trefoiled lancet with an asymmetric splay, resulting from the later addition of the adjacent door; it too has internal ashlar dressings.

West wall: arch is plastered over.

South porch. Not accessible, but contains an old doorway to south transept.

South transept. General. Known as the Rumsey Chapel. Carpetted floor raised two steps above south aisle. Roof as north transept.

North wall: standard tower arch with relieving arch above.

East wall: plain, covered by reredos.

South wall: single window with internal hollow-chamfered arch. Five 19thC marble tablets and two 20thC brasses.

West wall: screen.

South aisle. General. Floor and roof as north aisle.

North wall: wall raised as south wall of north aisle, though less obviously. Also same pattern of thicker wall at west end, emphasising later arcading.

East wall: off-centre arch (as result of narrower transept); its dressings look recent and it is said to have been inserted in 1883. Wall face exhibits signs of aisle being rebuilt.

South wall: All windows have internal dressings similar to south transept arch. Perpendicular (14thC) double-cusped niche with pinnacles, re-set in wall to east of most easterly window. One 19thC marble tablet.

West wall: window with standard internal dressings. One 19thC brass and one 20thC wall tablet.

Churchyard

St Edmund's church occupies a long rectilinear churchyard that has been extended southwards from its original rectangle and is now bounded by three streets and a footpath. This is set on ground that slopes down towards the River Usk to the south, but also has a more gentle slope from east to west where a tributary, the Cwmbeth Brook runs southwards.

The original churchyard has railings on the south side and a mortared stone wall on the three remaining sides. On the west there is a 2m difference in internal and external ground levels due partly to the natural slope, partly to deliberate levelling within the churchyard; on the other sides the difference is negligible. The stone wall continues around the southern extension.

Monuments: the original churchyard is reasonably full though gravestones are not tightly packed. Most are of the 19thC and 20thC, though there are a few 18thC examples just outside the western porch. East of the chancel some weathered slabs may be 18thC.

Furniture: none noted.

Earthworks: none noted.

Ancillary features: Modern lychgate of sandstone blocks at south-east corner of original churchyard; otherwise iron gates throughout and tarmac paths.

Vegetation: a few immature yew trees on south and west sides.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings in Crickhowell
CPAT Field Visit: 25 October 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 61
Faculty 1868: NLW/SD/F/133
Faculty 1894: NLW/SD/F/134
Glynne 1886, 278
Haslam 1979, 312
James 1995
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 119 & 140
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 Crickhowell 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 ( 22:00:36 ).
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 - chrismartin@cpat.org.uk, website - www.cpat.org.uk.

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