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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Mary the Virgin , Llan-y-Wern

Llan-y-Wern Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llangors in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1018728662. At one time it was dedicated to St Cynidr.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16803 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llan-y-Wern Church, CPAT copyright photo CS974627.JPG


The church of St Mary is a simple single-celled building, conventionally attributed to the 14thC but perhaps several centuries later; it has seen some restoration and yet there is little sign of Victorianisation. Its bare stone flagged interior retains only a font from the medieval era, but there is a collection of 18thC memorials. The surrounding churchyard is small and partly curvilinear.

A 14thC date is favoured for the nave and chancel, based on the single Decorated window in the chancel. The authenticity of this is however in doubt though of course it may copy an original window. Certainly much of the original walling has gone - it has been replaced in slightly more regular masonry, but where it survives there are three square-headed windows and a comparable priest's door, and these are likely to be 17thC or even later. The porch too could be relatively recent. However, there is little to suggest any significant 19thC restoration.

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


Traditionally the first foundation here was in the 6thC and was dedicated to St Cynidr, the present dedication only appearing in the 12thC. The shape of the churchyard reinforces the concept of an early date.

The church was formerly a chapel of St John's Priory, Brecon, and presumably because of this it does not feature in any of the main documentary sources of the 13thC and 16thC.


Llan-y-wern is a simple structure with the nave and chancel as a single cell, though the chancel roof is lower, and a west porch. It is aligned north-north-east/south-south-west but for purposes of this record 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of a varied assemblage of blocks and slabs of sandstone of different colours; there is little coursing, but the masonry is heavily pointed; larger slabs tend to be used for quoins. On the north and east sides the fabric seems looser, perhaps because the pointing is poorer. 'B' is of more regular blocks, the wall surface flatter; this fabric appears more weathered than 'A'. 'C': slabs of sandstone predominate; heavy white pointing.

Roofs: all slates, but banded in different colours.

Drainage: an infilled trench, 0.3m wide on south side.


Porch. General. In a variation of Fabric 'A' with poorly mortared slabs.

North wall: narrow slit window, slightly splayed internally.

South wall: as north wall but window dressings look more worn.

West wall: entrance has segmental-headed arch of voussoirs, with large freestone blocks for jambs; the doorway is inset slightly from the wall face. Limewash remnants on the masonry.

Nave. General. Wall bases of nave and chancel battered slightly. Above the west end is a bell turret with a pyramidal roof and sides hung with vertical slates.

North wall: wall bulges and supported by two wonderfully crude buttresses. Most of the wall is in Fabric 'B' and incorporates the only window on this side - a small rectangular embrasure - towards the west end. The north-west angle may be in 'A', the walling behind the more westerly buttress certainly is, while a large patch of 'C' dominates the upper part of the wall at the eastern end and runs behind the more easterly buttress which is adjacent to the juncture of the nave and chancel.

South wall: mostly Fabric 'A', but patches of original walling in 'B' which are less even and more weathered, though in terms of the type of stone there is not much difference. Limewash fragments adhere to the masonry of 'A' at the east end. Features from west are: i) a square-headed window with chamfered jambs and lintel, set in 'A'; ii) modern two-light rectangular window of similar design to the previous one, in 'B'; iii) above the window is a mural tablet to William Watkins (d.1728); iv) a blocked rectangular doorway with lintel in position, set in 'A'.

West wall: heavily pointed with some limewash remnants. Porch covers a reasonable amount of the wall face, and its apex blocks a window; voussoirs of this are visible and it could possibly be round-headed. The sill and the blocking are visible inside the porch.

Chancel. North wall: most of the wall including the single window is in original 'B' but the angle is in 'A', and limewash fragments adhere to it. There is also perhaps a butt joint though partially bonded, next to and partly disguised by the nave buttress - this could suggest that the chancel has been added to the nave but nothing similar occurs on the south wall face. Window has a square head and two lights; sandstone dressings.

East wall: a Victorian window of two lights with trefoil heads; freestone dressings. This has been poorly inserted, seemingly into the later 'A' masonry, and its surrounding stone is set in distinctive pink mortar; it also lies fractionally back from the rather uneven wall face. The original stonework ('B') was poorly pointed to the extent that it looks almost drystone built.

South wall: the lower part of the wall is original, but it is not clear whether the window - a single trefoil-headed lancet under an ogee arch which does not look convincingly authentic - is set in rebuilt 'A'; the amount of limewash around the window would, however, tend to favour such a view.


Porch. General. Flagged floor. Walls whitewashed. Roof of collars and in the case of the truss next to the church door, a tie beam, but probably of no great age.

North and south walls: stone benches along sides.

East wall: doorway has faintly pointed arch, almost round-headed, and like outer doorway of porch there are voussoirs and large freestone blocks for the jambs. Lintel of window in west wall is just visible.

West wall: reveal is slightly splayed and inner side of soffit has wooden lintel.

Nave. General. Flag floor but pews raised on wooden boards; walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of closely set scissor trusses, presumably 19thC.

North wall: one splayed window and five mural tablets, all of 18thC date.

South wall: two splayed windows and one 19thC mural tablet.

West wall: window above door shows as blocked rectangular aperture. Stoup set in wall just to south of door.

Chancel. General. A small chancel separated from nave only by first of two steps up to altar and the beam over the divide is painted madder. Six graveslabs all of 17thC date pave the floor around the altar, though the only one with a legible date is of 1617. Walls as in nave, the roof a four-bay wagon roof with moulded ribs of c.1500.

North wall: splayed window and mural tablet of 1785/1797.

East wall: splayed window.

South wall: splayed window and mural tablets of 1777 and 1801.


The church lies in a small, D-shaped enclosure, the name of the settlement denoting that it is a particularly damp spot, with a stream or gully bordering it on all sides except the south-west. It is well maintained and still used for burial.

Boundary: this consists of both a hedge and a stone wall, the former continuous, the latter not in evidence on the north-west and perhaps reduced to a low bank on the south-east. The churchyard appears to be raised, except perhaps on the south-east, but it is not possible to achieve a clear picture of how much higher the internal ground level is.

Monuments: these are sparse and lie to the south-west and south-east of the church. There are no pre-19thC gravestones.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the church is raised up on a slight platform which is visible on all sides except the south-west.

Ancillary features: main entrance is on the north-west side through a timber lychgate with a stone-tiled roof. Opposite this on the south-east are two small iron gates and a kissing gate. A tarmac path links the two.

Vegetation: one yew in the south corner.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 16 August 1995
Dawson 1909, 169
Haslam 1979, 357
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 Llan-y-Wern 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 ( 22:00:40 ).
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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