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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Peter , Llanbedr Ystrad Yw

Llanbedr Ystrad Yw Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of The Vale of Grwyney in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2397020419.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16813 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanbedr Ystrad Yw Church, CPAT copyright photo 1345-08.JPG


St Peter's church at Llanbedr is in the Perpendicular style, probably of the late 15thC or early 16thC, though the tower could be earlier. Renovation in the 19thC focused on the windows on the north side of the church and on the chancel arch. Internally there is a good range of monuments and re-used graveslabs, but the only medieval furnishings and fittings are the font and perhaps the wall painting above the chancel arch. The churchyard is triangular, but there is at least a possibility that this is an early medieval foundation, notwithstanding a reference to a church being consecrated here around 1060.


Tower may be earliest discernible element, perhaps 14thC, though there is no confirmatory architectural detail.

Despite what has been written by Haslam amongst others there is no structural indication that the present nave is Norman. Both nave and chancel are probably earlier than the aisle and chapel which have been attributed to the late 15thC or early 16thC; all the windows, however, are Perpendicular, though of various forms. It is claimed that the nave was widened to the north by the 16thC, and that the east windows are later 16thC in date.

South porch on evidence of main entrance is 16thC.

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


Llanbedr is in the old commote of Ystrad Yw, and is sometimes alluded to with the suffix to distinguish it from villages of the same name.

There is little to suggest that this is an early medieval foundation, yet despite the fact that the Liber Landavensis recorded the consecration of a church here in 1060 it is conceivable that the site goes back to a much earlier time.

The Taxatio of 1254 refers to 'Stradewy' at a value of only 2s 8d, but in 1291 'Ecclesia de Lanpetr' was valued at 6 13s 4d.

During the 18thC and into the 19thC, the village of Llanbedr was the home of the Brutes, a family of stonemasons noted for their ornate and lavishly-coloured wall memorials.

In 1785 shutters were made to protect the east windows because the game of fives was played in the churchyard.

The church was re-roofed and paved in 1790, with further work on the floors and the seating prior to 1831.

In 1864 Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church and describes the exterior as whitewashed, except for the tower. In appearance it was much as today and on the north side 'the windows [were] bad and modern'.

There are documented restorations in 1868, and in 1883 by F. R. Wilson of Alnwick. A further restoration occurred in 1897 when J.L.Pearson rebuilt the chancel arch and put new windows in the north wall of the nave. According to the Specification, the floors were to be lowered and the surplus earth spread over the churchyard, a wall between the tower and the nave removed, as was a fireplace in the north-west corner of the tower.


Llanbedr consists of a nave and chancel, a south aisle and chapel which extends as far east as the chancel, a west tower abutting the west end of the nave and a south porch giving access into the south aisle. The church is oriented north-east/south-west but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to large blocks and slabs of red sandstone with some grey sandstone, all randomly coursed; grey sandstone quoins. 'B' is of slabs and some blocks of red, grey and some brown sandstone, irregularly coursed; largely masked by remnant whitewash, and conceivably little different from 'A'.

Roofs: sandstone tiles and plain ceramic ridge tiles.

Drainage: a deep, broad trench around the north side, excepting the tower. Nothing on south and east.


Tower. General. Double plinth chamfered at maximum of 0.4m (though buried by higher ground level on north side) and 1.2m. String course at top of second stage; string-course at top of third, belfry stage; overhanging battlemented parapet. Tower stair built into north-east angle and turret rises above the parapet.

North wall: second stage has three putlog holes and one glazed slit window with chamfered dressings in cream coloured sandstone except for lintel in red sandstone. A similar window lights the tower stair but its head looks recent. Near the base of the third stage are two slit windows side by side, the smaller one for the stair. In the third stage is a two-light belfry window with a four-centred arch and the louvred lights having trefoil heads; stonework looks mostly original. Second stage has traces of limewash.

East wall: apex of nave roof rises to middle of third stage. Belfry window as in north wall though two-centred arch; some variation in colour of dressings suggests replacement.

South wall: nine putlog holes in second stage and a glazed slit window with newish dressings; third stage has glazed slit window with original dressings. Standard belfry window with two-centred arch and again colour variation in dressings, particularly for mullion and some tracery. Limewash survivals specifically on second stage. Wall is abutted by that of south aisle.

West wall: five putlog holes in second stage, and a broad, barred rectangular window with chamfered dressings that look recent. Third stage has a single slit window low down. Belfry window as on north side, almost four-centred, and the springers on top of the mullion in different coloured sandstone. Below the second-stage window is a large slab like a lintel - does this indicate a blocked west door? If so the chamfered plinth has been cleverly inserted and it seems more feasible that the 'lintel' stone is simply an anomaly in the masonry.

Nave. General. Fabric B. Wall face is battered to height of 1.1m though most of this is visible in the drainage trench, and it is perhaps only 0.2m above the current ground level.

North wall: wall face retains considerable amounts of limewash, and inserted into this are two square-headed Victorian windows each with three cusp-headed lights with small quatrefoils above, all in deep red sandstone.

East wall: this is heavily plastered with pink limewash over. It is possible though not certain that the chancel abuts the nave on this side.

West wall: plain; abuts tower wall.

Chancel. General. Appears to be Fabric B, but extensive limewash remnants as nave. A broken tombstone and several tiles in drain on north side.

North wall: two windows, both wholly replaced and the stonework around these new insertions is clear of limewash. That to west is square headed with two lights which have plain four-centred heads and in deep red sandstone, though different from those in nave. That in sanctuary is a single light and is set lower in the wall, but is otherwise the same as the double-light window just to west.

East wall: remnant limewash. Square-headed window with a label that has worn stops; three lights with four-centred heads in yellow sandstone and sunken spandrels above; otherwise the dressings are in red sandstone. Socket holes for metal grille. Window is not central but set slightly to the south.

South chapel and south aisle. General. No external differentiation between these two elements. Fabric akin to 'A' in that mainly red sandstone with large grey sandstone quoins, though masonry may be more regular than 'A'.

East wall: remnant limewash. Window as in east wall of chancel; the mullions replaced and one of the heads; some patching in yellow cement to match tracery. Holes in some of the dressed stones to take metal grille (likewise in chancel window).

South wall: fabric is 'A', matching that in tower inasmuch as mainly red sandstone with large grey sandstone quoins, particularly at south-east corner; whole is partially disguised by heavy pointing in brick-like pattern. From east: i) square-headed window with stopped label; three lights with cinquefoil heads but otherwise as east window; in red sandstone except for replacement heads in yellow; ii) mural tablet of 1792; iii) priest's door with four-centred head, complex mouldings with stops and around the edge of the mouldings some evidence of incised decoration, now much weathered; stonework largely original; iv) mural tablets of 1808 and 1804; v) above the 1804 memorial and set high in the wall is a square-headed window with two lights that have the standard four-centred heads; jambs and the sill in grey sandstone, the rest in red. It is not clear how much of the dressed stone is original. This window is set above the divide between the chapel and the south aisle; vi) mural tablet of 1828; vii) square-headed window having a label with decorated stops; four lights with cinquefoil tracery beneath ogee heads and decorated spandrels; original dressings include label, some jambstones, parts of the mullions and the sill; viii) porch.

West wall: heavily limewashed. An unusual single-light window with grey sandstone jambs and a red sandstone ogee head. The arch stone is incised with curling tendrils; a label with ball-headed stops, hardly long enough for the window. In this form not all of it can be original.

Porch. General. Fabric A; side walls battered to height of c.0.6m; abuts south aisle wall.

East wall: slit window with chamfered dressings.

South wall: entrance has angular-headed arch and complex mouldings with stops, all in yellow sandstone; the arch appears to be original. Large ashlar quoins at south-east angle but not the south-west.

West wall: as east wall but no slit window.


Porch. General. Sandstone flags. Walls pointed but not plastered. Roof of two tie-beam trusses with collars above, and an intermediate arch-braced truss; large purlins.

North wall: broad angular-headed doorway with complex mouldings and stops; the head in yellow sandstone, the jambs in red sandstone; whether this is simply decorative or indicates renewal is not clear. Upright dressings built into wall outside the arch suggest an earlier, wider doorway which bears a closer relationship to the batter of the aisle wall. Door itself is thought to date to the early 18thC on the basis of the inscription 'H.E.1716' on the lock on the inside of the door.

East wall: one small splayed window; wooden topped bench along wall.

South wall: one principal truss incorporated in wall. Archway has internal chamfer and is all in yellow sandstone.

West wall: plain with bench.

Tower. General. Flagged floor includes many graveslabs but is carpet covered; three that are visible range from 1706 to 1769. Walls heavily pointed. Flat ceiling.

North wall: deeply splayed slit window with relieving arch of edge stones over. In north-east angle, triangular-headed doorway with stopped chamfers leads to tower stair. Psalm board mortared to wall above doorway.

East wall: tower arch, two-centred and slightly off centre for on north side the outer moulding continues to ground level as a chamfered jamb while on the south both mouldings fade into wall.

South wall: splayed window as in north wall.

West wall: as north wall but window larger.

Nave. General. Stone flags on floor including some graveslabs at west end (of 1703 x 2, 1743, 1755, etc); one heating grille towards tower end; benches on flush wooden block flooring. Walls heavily pointed but not plastered. Roof of seven bays with ribbed tie beams set into ribbed wall plates, and collars, above which the roof is ceiled. Roof thought to be of late 16thC date.

North wall: close to north-west corner, the wall has an anomaly which could be a blocked feature or alternatively indicate that something was formerly set against the wall. Two windows have the upper parts of their reveals infilled with masonry indicative of modifications at the time of their renewal. Four 19thC/20thC marble wall tablets.

East wall: off-centre round-headed chancel arch of Victorian date, though no obvious masonry changes; a wall painting above it.

South wall: four-bay arcade with two-centred arches resting on octagonal piers and moulded capitals, all exhibiting a slight outwards lean. The stonework is original except for some renewal in that pier adjacent to the chancel arch. Above each of the remaining piers a mural tablet: from the east 1787/1775, 1803 & 1789.

West wall: at extreme southern end there is a butt joint where the nave walling runs up against the quoins of the existing tower. Tower arch occupies most of wall. Above it and slightly to one side is a blocked doorway with a four-centred arch and stopped chamfers. It is pierced by a small chamfered slit window, restored in 1897. North of the tower arch is a small glazed slit window lighting the tower stair.

Chancel. General. Tiled floor with one step up to chancel from nave and two up to sanctuary; choir stalls on wooden boarding. Walls as nave. Roof of two full and two half bays, the trusses as in the nave, though slightly lower.

North wall: windows have Victorian splays, and between is a 19thC marble mural tablet; it is claimed that to the north of the altar was re-opened and enlarged at the time of the 1897 restoration.

East wall: splayed window with sloping sill and wooden lintel. A large rounded boulder is set into wall behind and to south of altar for no obvious reason.

South wall: two bays of the arcade are a continuation of that in nave though the arches are broader; the bay to the east has a respond, that to west fades into the west wall of the chancel. Parclose screens across the bays set up in 1976.

West wall: nothing of significance.

South chapel. General. Tiled floor which is one step up from the south aisle and is covered with matting. Bare walls. Wagon roof resting on ribbed wall plates and having plain bosses - it is continuous with the roof of the south aisle and has 126 panels in all.

North wall: two bays of arcade as described above under chancel.

East wall: splayed window with sloping sill, cambered head to reveal; it also has large internal dressings.

South wall: ogee-headed niche for non-existent piscina, claimed as 15thC. Adjacent a large, splayed window embrasure with large dressed stones for the arch of the reveal. A triangular-headed reveal to the priest's doorway, the arch chamfered but not the sides which are not composed of dressed stone.

West wall: modern screen separates it from the south aisle.

South aisle. General. Floor of quarried flags, and it is only at the rear, towards the tower, that grave slabs have been re-used; wooden block flooring under seats. Bare walls. For roof see south chapel.

North wall: arcade. An anomaly here is that the respond at the east end has chamfer which is stopped at a height of c.1.2m off the floor.

East wall: see west wall of south chapel.

South wall: two splayed windows with considerable survival of stonework. One 19thC marble mural tablet and two stone examples of 1724 and 1799. South door has triangular-headed reveal, chamfered sides and slightly splayed sides.

West wall: splayed window with wooden lintel for the reveal. Stone in wall at height of c.2.2m has sharpening marks on it.


Llanbedr churchyard is rectangular, perched above the steep-sided valley of the Gwyrne Fechan. Internally it drops gently from west to east, mainly in the eastern half of the yard.

It is still used for burial and is generally in a good state of maintenance.

Boundary: a stone wall defines the churchyard through most of the perimeter, except in the vicinity of Llanbedr House on the north, where the presence of a wire fence points to some modifications to the boundary. Generally, the external ground level is lower than that inside, and not surprisingly the difference is most apparent on the east side. It does appear to be an authentic example of a raised churchyard.

Monuments: these are fairly regularly laid out in rows on the south side, are packed in places and generally 19thC. They also spread around the east and west sides but there are few on the north, except for very recent burials in the north-western corner of the churchyard. Some 18thC gravestones are set just to the south of the chancel, the earliest noted being of 1766.

Furniture: a former churchyard cross, the triple stepped base of which survives. Now surmounted by a small column which was once surmounted by a sundial.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: on the south the main entrance is through a stone and timber lychgate with two small wooden gates.

Vegetation: several old yews on the east and north, and other vegetation around the boundary.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 26 October 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 61
Dawson 1909, 112
Faculty 1896: NLW/SD/F/247
Glynne 1886, 279
Haslam 1979, 327
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 113
NMR Aberyswyth
Reed n.d.: Church Guide
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 Llanbedr Ystrad Yw 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 ( 22:00:42 ).
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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