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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St David , Llanddew

Llanddew Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanddew in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0548330743. At one time it may have been dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16819 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanddew Church, CPAT copyright photo 920815A.JPG

Summary

St.David's Church at Llanddew is a large cruciform stone structure with a central tower, lying 2km to the north-east of Brecon. It is considered to be a 'clas' foundation, but the earliest parts of the structure date from the 13thC. There have been subsequent rebuildings in the 17thC and 19thC. Medieval survivals include two stoups, a font and two carved lintels, as well as a stone with a ring-cross which may be pre-Conquest. The churchyard may originally have been curvilinear but its form has been modified in later centuries.

Nave supposed to be earliest part of church; this could be true for the south wall excepting the window insertions, but the west wall is a complete Victorian rebuild and it is possible that a substantial part of the featureless north wall was treated likewise in the 19thC.

North transept has portions rebuilt, namely the upper part of the north wall and some of the west, but the remainder should be 13thC on the basis of the single lancet window in the east wall.

For both chancel and south transept, it is difficult to determine the degree of rebuilding, and while the 13thC date is not in doubt most of the window dressings are considerably more recent. The porch, too, is 19thC.

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

History

Llanddew was an early medieval clas foundation. There is also a tradition that Eluned, a daughter of Brecon, fled to this church about 500 AD.

The Bishop of St Davids established a palace here in the 12thC, and Giraldus Cambrensis, as archdeacon of Brecon, had a residence at Llanddew in the late 12thC.

Its appearance in the 1291 Taxatio as 'Ecclesia de Llandon' at a value of 8 implies a more wealthy establishment than the average.

The central tower was rebuilt in 1629 as attested by a plaque in the west wall of the chancel, and was restored in c.1780, the date of the roof. It is claimed that the nave was also refurbished in the 1620s.

Damage to the church may have occurred in a fire early in the 19thC.

In 1865 Glynne recorded a small whitewashed cruciform church in a 'truely deplorable' condition. The nave alone was used for services, the unpaved north transept was dilapidated and the south transept was walled off for a school, which no longer operated because of a lack of funds. The chancel was Early English in design, vaulted in stone, with lancet windows in the sides and a triplet with hood mouldings in the east wall; the priest's door had a trefoil head and a good hoodmould. The rest of the church might also be Early English but its diagnostic features had been obliterated, the nave having modern windows, though the north side was windowless. The tower was low and clumsy, with square belfry windows and a tiled, pointed roof. It stood on four plain semi-circular arches. There was a plain south porch. Inside were pews and there was a shabby chest for an altar. The east wall of the chancel had a small square recess and there was a 'rude' pointed piscina. The font in the chancel with its large circular bowl on a quadrangular stem with chamfered angles was not used.

By 1875 only the nave was in use, the other parts of the building being closed off, because of their state of disrepair. Restoration occurred in 1884 when the chancel and south transept were refurbished, new roofs were put in place in the chancel and transepts, and there was some new flooring; and in 1900 the nave had new lancets, a new roof, and the walls were stripped. A number of fragmentary post-medieval wall paintings of texts were uncovered in the chancel during the works but these have since been destroyed.

Architecture

Llanddew church is a massive cruciform structure with short transepts and a longer nave and chancel. There is a tower over the crossing and a south porch towards the south-west angle of the nave. It is aligned east to west.

Fabrics: 'A' comprises slabs and a few blocks of predominantly grey and red sandstone, most of them small to medium in size but a few large. Better dressed stones selected for quoins. 'B' is of small rather haphazardly laid lumps of red, brown and grey sandstone. 'C' is of predominantly grey sandstone (though some red) masonry, irregular in appearance and in coursing, small to medium in size and less uniform than 'A'.

Roofs: shale tiles, ornamental terracotta ridge tiles; stone cross finials to nave, north transept and chancel but a metal cross above the porch.

Drainage: stone chipping around wall base of building indicates an underlying drain.

Exterior

Nave. General. Supposedly the earliest part of the building. However, the evidence might point to the north wall abutting the north transept, though reverse is true for the south wall.

North wall: in Fabric 'A' with a strong batter to height of 1.5m and then a general slope inwards; no windows. Highest quoins at north-west corner (the last 0.8m) replaced to support Victorian kneelers; limewash traces near north-east corner.

South wall: mainly Fabric 'A' with a faint batter at base. West of the first lancet the junction with the Victorian west wall is visible. Further east plaster/render remnants can be seen on 'A'. Three lancet windows, all Victorian, but a good job made of the insertions.

West wall: fabric is largely 'A' but almost certainly re-used, the whole having been rebuilt with the possible exception of the foundation at the north-west corner. Three lancet windows all with modern dressings.

North transept. General. Base battered to maximum height of over 2m on north, dropping to about 1m near the south-west angle. Basically Fabric 'A' throughout, though occasional anomalies visible.

North wall: batter in Fabric 'A' but higher up on either side of the window (though not perhaps as far as the wall angles) the masonry is in 'B'. Lancet window with grey sandstone dressings - Victorian.

East wall: fabric akin to 'A', and batter not as pronounced as on north side. A single, small, narrow lancet now used as an electricity cable inlet is 13thC; some jambstones replaced but others could be original.

West wall: in Fabric 'A' but close to angle with nave the upper part of the wall appears to have been replaced. One Victorian lancet window, the inserted masonry around it just visible.

Tower. General. Pyramidal roof to tower which was rebuilt in 1623 and restored in 18thC; with weathercock. It is not centrally placed but stands a little south of the east/west axis.

North wall: masonry of Fabric 'A' with quoins some of which are dressed, others poorly so. Rectangular, louvred, belfry window with wooden lintel and projecting stone sill. Apex of north transept roof to within one metre of the window and above the meeting place is a stone drip-course with lead flashing beneath.

East wall: chancel roof higher than that of north transept, and belfry window, though of exactly the same form as on the north, is commensurately smaller.

South wall: as north wall in all aspects.

West wall: as east wall but to south and below belfry level is a small, glazed slit window without dressings.

Chancel. General. Low batter on all sides, rising to no more than 0.5m. Fabric 'C'.

North wall: some reconstruction adjacent to north transept wall where a narrow vertical band of masonry is slightly inset. Three Victorian lancets though just possible that the most easterly window has one or two original jambstones.

East wall: Three lancet windows with continuous hoodmould arching over each individually. The smaller, outer lancets have new yellow stone heads, but the jambs of all of them are flaking and weathering, and conceivably some might be earlier. Fabric above the hoodmould is more weathered and lichened and this runs down almost to the bottom of the corners where there are dressed yellow freestone quoins of Victorian date. It thus appears that the upper part of the wall has been reconstructed using original weathered masonry.

South wall: weathered 'C'. Three lancets; the jambs eroding on the most easterly and in grey sandstone with a yellow sandstone head; the other two have red sandstone dressings but none are convincingly original. Trefoil-headed priest's door in Decorated style, and while the yellow sandstone head is undoubtedly relatively new some of the jambs could be original, and likewise the hoodmould in the form of a two-centred arch with worn extremities.

South transept. General. Battered to height of 1.6m on south side, 1.3m on west. Fabric 'C'.

East wall: appears to be 'C' though perhaps 'B' in places. Large two-centred arch turned in edge slabs with carefully selected jambstones; this must be Victorian or later

South wall: heavy repointing above eaves level; dressed quoins. Victorian lancet in flaking grey sandstone.

West wall: one Victorian lancet.

Porch. General. Abuts nave and was constructed in the 19thC.

East wall: plain. Appears to be an 'A'-type fabric.

South wall: two-centred archway employing large voussoirs; no dressed quoins. Gable projects with collar showing externally.

West wall: plain.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor; bare walls; Victorian roof of collars and rafters, replacing earlier roof for which a ledge is still visible on the south wall of the nave. Resting on the ground against the east and west walls are the carved lintels from an earlier church (see below).

North wall: doorway to church has modern segmental arch and large jambstones of red sandstone which are probably original.

East and west walls: plain.

South wall: reveal of doorway turned in edge stones at outer face.

Nave. General. Floored with red tiles, benches raised on wooden boarding, and the aisle carpet-covered with several grilles over the heating duct. Walls bare of plaster. Roof has two tie beams with king posts supporting a collar purlin and collar beams above.

North wall: nothing of note.

East wall: plain, off-centre, round-headed arch turned in edge stones; jambstones not chamfered. Wall battered at base and north wall of nave appears to butt against it.

South wall: uniformly splayed windows, each having a two-centred internal arch turned in edge stones. One corbel at a height of c.3m beside most easterly window might have supported a loft or gallery.

West wall: windows as south wall.

Crossing:. One step up from nave. Tiled floor; bare walls. Ceiled in wood just above the apex of the arches; the ceiling rest on eleven corbels, not of uniform design.

North wall: two-centred arch, smaller than its counterparts in the east and west walls, leads into north transept; its soffit is turned in edge stones.

East wall: round-headed arch in edge stones.

South wall: round-headed arch with a keystone and the arch turned in blocks with similar jambs; the arch is only one block deep. Two mural tablets of 1814 and 1823 in south-east corner.

West wall: round-headed arch as on east side.

North transept. General. Now used as a vestry. Tiled floor; walls plastered and whitewashed. Older roof than that in nave with a tie beam and collar against the north wall and two tiers of triangular windbraces.

North wall: splayed window but nothing of note.

East wall: the small lancet is backed on the inside by a large two-centred alcove for an altar. In south-east corner is a squint into the chancel.

South wall: wall has battered base. A gallery approached by a ladder is supported on corbels and gives access via a rectangular doorway to the tower.

West wall: splayed window but nothing of note.

Chancel. General. One step up from crossing, a further two steps up to sanctuary and one to altar. Tiled floor with encaustic tiles in sanctuary; choir stalls on raised wooden platforms. Walls plastered and whitewashed, except for internal jambs and sills of windows. Roof of four bays, the same form as the nave.

North wall: three splayed windows; squint at north-west angle. Corbel to east of central window, again at a height of c.3.0m, and either for a rood screen or a statuette.

East wall: splayed windows.

South wall: splayed windows, Victorian piscina with two-centred arched recess and a flat base. A corbel matches that on the north wall. 17thC graveslab fragment leans against south wall of chancel near priest's door.

West wall: round-headed arch. Plaque of 1629 set into wall face just to north of it, reads: 'This steeple was newly erected and made in Apriel Anno Dom. 1629. William Havard and William Griffith Gent then churchwardens'. Two coats-of-arms of the churchwardens also set into wall.

South transept. General. Used as a separate chapel with an altar against the south wall, and in the 19thC as a schoolroom. Tiled floor; walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of braced collars; that against the north wall could be original, the rest are replaced.

North wall: wall face shows disconformity at eaves level which could indicate rebuilding; squint in north-east corner and redundant stoup placed in it.

East wall: doorway of no age. Monument of 1855 near south-east corner.

South wall: splayed window; monument of 1833.

West wall: splayed window; two monuments, that of 1848 above that of 1864.

Churchyard

Llanddew has an irregular churchyard, best described as a polygonal D-shape; the only hint of curvilinearity is around the east side, though this does hint at an earlier oval enclosure. To the south of the church the ground is level, but on the north side it drops away, and this reflects the general siting which is on the southern edge of a dry valley.

The enclosure is well maintained and is used for current burials.

Boundary: buildings fringe the churchyard on the south, and there is a drystone wall on the west and further short stretches of wall on either side of the eastern entrance. On the north a garden hedge gives way to a hedged drop to the road. The churchyard area is raised on the north and east sides and there is internal banking on the west and south though the former may not be of any great age.

Monuments: these are spread out around the south and east sides of the church with a few on the west. Most are 19thC and 20thC and there are only a couple of 18thC examples to the east of the chancel.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: there are minor earthworks on the south side which cannot be characterised and might even be derived from the construction of the adjacent house, though this does seem unlikely. A low scarp just inside the east entrance reveals the original course of the churchyard perimeter.

Ancillary features: stone and timber lychgate at the east, a small wooden gate into field on west side of the churchyard, and a farm gate at the north-west corner.

Vegetation: there are two yews, one each on the east and west sides, and pines along the west side.

Sources consulted

Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 22 November 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 62
Dawson 1909, 90
Faculty 1883: NLW/SD/F/295
Glynne 1886, 270
Haslam 1979, 329
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 Llanddew 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 ( 22:00:44 ).
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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