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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Ellyw , Llanelieu

Llanelieu Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Talgarth in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1849134183.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16843 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanelieu Church, CPAT copyright photo 1040-03.JPG


St Ellyw's church, a small and relatively simple structure in a large irregular churchyard, is set in a remote spot some 3km to the east of Talgarth. Internally it is significant for its rood screen remains, wall paintings and wall monuments.

Core of building may be 13thC, there are indications of 15thC/16thC work, particularly the west window, and the east end may have been rebuilt in modern times. The porch too has been moved and rebuilt, though at earlier date. Absence of variation in the masonry makes closer analysis impossible.

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


There are few early references, but the siting, dedication and churchyard point to an early medieval origin.

No Taxatio records have been noted but the Episcopal Registers of St Davids have 'Llaneliw' in 1482.

The present building may have been erected in 13thC with subsequent modifications in the 15thC and/or 16thC.

The church escaped harmful 19thC restoration completely, but Glynne found it in a poor state of repair in 1869, particularly the roof. Its external walls were whitewashed. He noted a dilapidated wooden belfry at the west end and described the screen in unusual detail, commending too the lack of modernisation. Narrow single-light square-headed windows, now gone, were in the east wall and one in the south, and another with a pointed head. Inside were "some rude old open benches.

There were early 20thC repairs to the roof, bellcote, porch, etc., by Baldwin of Brecon in 1905, though Crossley and Ridgway were critical of the work, referring to the removal of church furniture, the obliteration of some mural decoration, as well as the loss of important details relating to the screen.

In 1909 the church was described as "a quaint structure with little pretension to architectural merit".

Further restoration was undertaken in 1981 by the Friends of Friendless Churches.


A small church consisting of a single cell, divided internally, with south porch and west bellcote. The church is oriented north-east/south-west, but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted here for descriptive purposes.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium blocks and slabs of sandstone, mixed in colour (red, brown, grey and white), irregularly shaped and randomly coursed. 'B' has a similar mix but the masonry is more regular in shape.

External traces of a limewashed finish remain, but now the masonry is just heavily pointed. The interior of the church is plastered and whitewashed, but the porch internally has flaking limewash coating.

Roofs: slates, with simple ceramic ridge tiles and no finials.

Drainage: concrete lined drain on west side and around south-west corner as far as porch, while on south a deep (c.1m) vertically-sided trench, necessitated by ground slope, is taken down only to original ground level. Ground soft around north side but here and on east no obvious drainage, other than two downpipes on former.


Nave and Chancel. General. Bellcote at west end has pitched roof, lower slated sides and, above, double, louvred openings on all sides. Appears to have been renovated recently, but is thought to have been constructed in 1905.

North wall: Fabric A, with irregular surface, and heavy wooden wall plates visible. Grey sandstone slabs used for quoins at north-west corner, but not north-east. Two glazed lights, simple slits; that to east slightly splayed, small stones used for jambs, a larger block of sandstone for lintel of more westerly window. At north-east end, a foundation course of masonry projects, but this rapidly disappears beneath the grass further to the west and its extent and explanation are unresolved.

East wall: heavily pointed and more weathered than north side, but appears to be Fabric B, though possibly upper parts of wall rebuilt(?). Quoins of dressed sandstone blocks, suggesting rebuild. Completely replaced two-light window with foiled heads under segmental arch all in red sandstone; a relieving arch over. Two early 18thC tomb slabs lean against wall near south-east corner.

South wall: heavily pointed but largely Fabric A. Features from east are: i) recent window with ogee-headed light; ii) priest's door with jambs in grey sandstone and two-centred arch in red sandstone (replaced?), showing a continuous quarter-round chamfer, attributable to the 13thC. Jambs continue to bottom of drainage trench, giving a high (c.2.5m) and narrow doorway, wider at the top than at bottom; iii) a totally replaced, square-headed window in red sandstone; iv) a blocked doorway with a segmental arch, and grey sandstone blocks showing only for part of east jamb, with ordinary slabs below. West side of doorway hidden by porch. A relieving arch over. This is the earlier south door; v) porch; vi) sundial high up on nave wall.

West wall: in Fabric A, undressed quoins, with battered base to height of c.0.6m; largely original, Late Perpendicular square-headed window with two lights, having rather poor, foiled two-centred heads, and a relieving arch over.

Porch. General. Roughly constructed in a variation of Fabric A, where red and grey slabs of sandstone predominate; it abuts nave and its side walls lean outwards.

East and west walls: side walls featureless, but two early medieval slabs set against west wall.

South wall: two-centred, almost round-headed, arch with voussoirs of edge stones; two low wooden gates close off entrance.


Porch. General. Flagged floor. Simple pitched ceiling with ribbing.

North wall: wooden segmental arch, stopped chamfers on the wooden jambs. Heavy wooden door hinged, unusually, on right. Haslam claims doorway is later than the door; the latter, though remade, is considered to be of c.1600 and appears to belong to the blocked doorway just to east. Wall above door still plastered.

East wall: stone bench with wooden seat along wall.

West wall: as east wall.

Nave. General. One step down into nave interior. New flagged floor, flush with wooden block floor beneath benches. Late medieval roof of three bays, and two half-bays over rood 'verandah'. Main trusses have tie beams and collars, interspersed with simple collars, while the half-bays have arch-braced collars linked by collar purlins; one tier of cinquefoiled wind-braces; trusses are set into wall; at least one collar has been replaced.

North wall: single deeply splayed window with arched embrasure. Marble wall tablets and fragmentary wall paintings grace wall.

East wall: screen for which see below.

South wall: two windows, the embrasures with two-centred arches but the splays of different shapes, and the door embrasure slightly splayed, with internal stopped chamfers on jambs. Niche just to west side of door, perhaps for a stoup. Wall tablets and one fragmentary wall painting to east of door; wall above and to west of door recently(?) rendered, but not whitewashed.

West wall: widely splayed window and above it, the wall is inset to support the tie-beam of truss. Walls paintings in window embrasure and beside it.

Chancel. General. Flagged floor with re-use of graveslabs. Chancel one step above nave, and sanctuary is a further step above the chancel. Roof has tie beams behind screen and against east wall, and between them two bays defined by three collar trusses, the collars originally supported by raking struts now gone and therefore (?)tie-beams below, the principals of the central truss set on wooden corbels; diagonal wind-braces. Timbers show considerable renewal.

North wall: one window, splayed and round headed, possibly 13thC. Marble wall tablets of 19thC date on wall, with wall-painting traces behind.

East wall: splayed window of no great age; ledge above supports tie beam; piscina beside altar with two-centred arched niche.

South wall: arched window embrasure, and beneath it a niche, perhaps an aumbry. Blocked priest's doorway is tall, and splayed also but only on west; now occupied by two memorial stones.


Llanelieu churchyard is large, with some degree of curvilinearity to its north side; its shape, however, is irregular and does not warrant the term circular (pace Haslam).

It is set in the meander of a small stream which edges it on north and east; to south and west it is bounded by a sunken lane, which to the west in particular is several metres below the graveyard level. Internally, the ground drops gently from south to north and as a consequence the church has been terraced into the slope on its south side.

Generally it is tidy with sheep-grazed grass over much of the area, although nettles have invaded ground round church itself; bushes and trees are limited to the perimeter.

Boundary: a mortared stone wall for a short distance on either side of the main north-west gate, and again on the south and south-east where the wall becomes progressively dilapidated and in places more a revetment to the churchyard. Elsewhere a modern wire fence lies inside an intermittent boundary of trees and other vegetation.

Monuments: gravestones concentrated around south side of church in a restricted area; many are illegible but clearly of the 18thC-19thC. Few of the 20thC though most recent is 1988. Large areas of churchyard are without any obvious burials and there are no signs of gravestone tidying.

Furniture: "against the west wall of porch are two early medieval pillar stones. i) incised with a cross in a circle and four small rings in the angles; ii) has a cross ringed with three circles. Both are 7thC-9thC" (Haslam).

Also an erect stone shaft, c.1m high by 0.1m+ square, set on 0.8m-square stone base. Has 'I.W. 1718' incised on one face. Probably originally a sundial shaft rather than cross shaft.

Earthworks: hollowed path from north-west corner gate to church porch represents part of footpath shown on Ordnance Survey map. No continuation south of church. South of church is scarped platform, with irregular edge, possibly created by deposition of soil during terracing for church.

Ancillary Features: main entrance is metal kissing gate at north-west corner with grass track (see above) leading to porch. Double wooden gates are located at highest point of churchyard near south-west corner. Stile or the like at south-east terminal of footpath not checked.

Vegetation: no yews or other trees within churchyard, though many deciduous specimens around perimeter.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings for Talgarth Community: 1995
Church guide: no date
CPAT Field Visit: 27 October 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 66
Dawson 1909, 114
Glynne 1887, 280
Haslam 1979, 333
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 74-75
NMR, Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
Silvester and Dorling 1993, 37
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 Llanelieu 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 ( 22:00:48 ).
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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