Brecknockshire Churches Survey
Church of St Michael , Llanfihangel Nant Bran
Llanfihangel Nant Bran Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Trallong in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN9443534271.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16854 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
St Michael's church at Llanfihangel lies some 12km to north-west of Brecon on the southern edge of Mynydd Eppynt. Architecturally the tower is the only interesting feature with re-used Perpendicular tracery in the belfry windows and a tower doorway which
is the sole in situ survivor of the medieval church - the rest was removed prior to the reconstruction of 1882. Apart from a few 18thC mural tablets there is nothing pre-dating the 19thC inside.
Date of tower not certain, but probably 16thC on basis of Tudor doorway to tower stair; the Perpendicular tracery of the belfry windows is re-used. Certainly tower post-dates earlier nave for stair turret butts on to a surviving fragment of the earlier
nave wall and the doorway leading from tower into nave appears to have functioned as main access to the church originally. Whether tower is all of one build is impossible to determine.
Nave and chancel reconstructed in large part in 1882.
Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1979 publication The Buildings of Wales: Powys by Richard Haslam
Nothing is known of the early history of St Michael's church and it is not clear whether there was an early medieval foundation here.
It does not feature in the 13thC Taxatios nor in the 1535 Valor Ecclesiasticus and this implies that it was a dependent chapelry.
When Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church, perhaps sometime in the 1860s, he commented on its lamentable appearance. It was "a rude building, always devoid of architectural grace, and is in a state of neglect and dilapidation which will soon render it
untenable." A west tower accompanied an undivided nave and chancel, whitewashed on the outside. Most of the windows were modern but the east window was a square-headed Perpendicular feature with two lights, and the chancel window on the south had two
trefoiled lights. Plain, pointed doorways led through a poor, south porch. The tower was low, massive and rough, with a square turret on the south-east. and window slits except for the belfry openings which were square-headed two-light openings. The tower
had no floors, being open to the roof, and was approached from the nave by a pointed arch. The roof was supported on cusped timbers but was full of holes. There was a gallery at the west end, enclosed like a room, the floor of the church was only partially
paved, the seating open benches. A priest's door gave on to the south side of the chancel and there was a small square opening in the same side near the altar and also a piscina. The altar was enclosed by rails and entered by a high arched "doorway". The
font had an octagonal bowl.
The building was restored and partially rebuilt in 1882 by J. L. Pearson.
Llanfihangel church comprises a west tower, a nave with a south porch near the south-west angle, and a chancel. It is aligned almost exactly east to west.
Fabrics: 'A' is of slabs and blocks of red, and more rarely grey, sandstone in varying sizes, reasonably well coursed; larger blocks of the same material dressed for quoins.
'B' is also of red and grey sandstone in blocks and slabs but they are frequently more regular in form than the stonework of 'A', but also more randomly coursed.
Roofs: tower has stone slates with ceramic ridge tiles; nave and chancel have reconstituted clay tiles with toothed ridge tiles, the porch similar but with plain ridge tiles. No finials.
Drainage: grassed over gully on north, 0.6m wide by 0.3m deep. Nothing comparable on south.
Tower. General. Fabric 'A', with in places large squared blocks forming distinctive courses in the stonework. Plinth chamfered off at c.0.6m, rounded string-course at c.1.2m. The uninterrupted tapering wall rise to eaves level where there is a squat
pyramidal roof surmounted by a weathervane and weathercock.
North wall: plain wall face until louvred belfry window which has a head of two lights with two-centred heads, sunken panels in the spandrel above, jambs of ordinary masonry, but no mullion. The window arch is also two-centred, and though there is no
obvious hoodmoulding there is one stop in the form of a rather crude face. As the whole of this window head is not flush with the wall surface but protrudes, it is almost certainly an example of re-use. North-east angle has stepped buttress, but the upper
part - perhaps the top 3m - has been removed and the top of the remaining masonry capped. There is an additional complication in that the lower part, up to the first step, is the angle of the earlier nave and its masonry merges with that of the nave's
north wall, but above the step the nave has been heightened and quoins have been incorporated.
East wall: nave apex reaches to c.2m below belfry window which is flat-headed, has chamfered dressings and two almost segmental-headed lights, and is glazed rather than louvred.
South wall: two slit windows, both glazed and chamfered, one at ground level, the other in the position of a belfry window. Projecting stair turret at south-east angle; has one small slit window, chamfered and glazed, approximately half way up the south
wall of the turret. Plinth and string-course continue round the turret indicating that it is an integral part of the structure. Incorporated into the turret masonry and standing slightly proud of it, is the earlier nave wall, comparable with the buttress
on the north side. There is clear evidence that turret built against it. This earlier wall terminates about 0.6m below present level of the nave eaves, and there is a distinct but irregular joint with the masonry of the present nave.
West wall: standard appearance. Slit at ground level as on south side. Three-fifths of way up, another slit, though broader. Belfry window blocked off but similar to that on north with sunken spandrel panels, though more worn.
Nave and chancel. General. Two elements indistinguishable externally. All Fabric 'B'. Buff-yellow sandstone used for fenestration throughout.
North wall: Victorian windows of uniform appearance. All double lancets with diamond lights over - though quatrefoil light in chancel - and two-centred arches with stopped hoodmouldings. Some replacement of dressings already necessary. Sanctuary window
less elaborate, with double trefoil-headed lancets under individual two-centred arches. Drainage trench around wall has exposed lower courses of masonry which have white plaster traces; these are not in evidence on wall face above and may suggest that
Victorian wall utilises earlier foundations.
East wall: Fabric 'B', the masonry with heavy lichen growth. East window has three stepped lights with trefoils above outer ones, a two-centred arch, hoodmoulding and relieving arch above. Gravestones of 1761 and 1783 lean against wall.
South wall: matches north wall in that similar fabric and three main windows; a sanctuary window of similar form to its northern counterpart also, and though this is in red sandstone it is probably not any older (though Dawson claimed these were the only
old stones surviving from the earlier church). Slabs of 1787 and 1792 resting against wall near porch.
Porch. General. Fabric 'B' with large quoins.
East wall: plain wall with slabs of 1796 and 1816 leaning against it.
South wall: doorway has two-centred arch, unchamfered jambs and a stopped hoodmoulding. To east of doorway, a slab of 1844 set into the concrete of the pathway.
West wall: plain. Three slabs against wall, one of 1811, the other two too weathered to read.
Porch. General. Floor of red and black tiles; unplastered walls; two bays to roof with three arch-braced trusses, trefoils above collars, and intermediate collar trusses.
North wall: two-centred arched doorway, decorative hoodmoulding with stops, stopped chamfers on jambs. The arch in red sandstone springs from plain capitals and is clearly Victorian, but the lower jamb stones on the east and perhaps those on the west are
East and west walls: plain.
Tower. General. Floor of standard black and red tiles on same level as nave floor. Bare walls. Wooden ceiling at about 3m.
North wall: plain.
East wall: two-centred arch with stopped chamfers, perhaps indicative of an entrance prior to construction of tower; large, blackened jambstones. Interesting too that the tower side of the door, which appears to be Victorian, is studded as though it were
an external door.
South wall: Tudor arch with broach-stopped chamfers gives access to tower stair. Slit window has wide splay.
West wall: wide-splayed slit.
Nave. General. Red and black tiled floor without carpet; benches on flush wooden boarding. At front of nave on south side is organ, beneath which is a large trap-door - heating or a vault? Walls plastered and whitewashed. Victorian roof is continuous with
that of chancel, having four bays (plus three in chancel); the main trusses have arch-braced collars with trefoils above, while one intermediate truss has a tie-beam, and another forms the nave/chancel divide.
North wall: deeply splayed windows; one 19thC mural tablet.
East wall: Victorian screen with broad segmental arch and traceried lights on either side.
South wall: as north wall but two mural tablets.
West wall: plain, but for broad, almost flat-headed arch with splayed embrasure leading into tower. At the rear of the embrasure and acting as a stop to the Victorian door is a two-centred, unchamfered arch in grey sandstone; the doorway is not central to
the main nave axis, and the embrasure in front of it is skewed. Five mural tablets on wall, two of 1781 and 1799, the remainder 19thC.
Chancel. General. Two steps up to chancel from nave, one to sanctuary, and two to altar. Carpet overlies tiles in central aisle; back row of choir stalls raised on wooden plinth. Walls and roof as nave.
North wall: deeply splayed windows.
East wall: as north wall. Stone reredos. Mural tablet of 1810 in Latin.
South wall: two splayed windows, that in sanctuary has sedilia below.
Church and sub-rectangular churchyard occupy flattish ground with a very slight slope from north to south. South of the enclosure the ground drops immediately to Nant Bran, a location which implies a river terrace at a point where the river bends. Boggy
but flat ground lies to the east and the land drops away to a smaller stream to the west.
The churchyard is well-kept and is still in use.
Boundary: around the southern perimeter is a low drystone wall with a post and wire fence above it. Houses and gardens edge the yard on the north-east and the wall continues on the north, above the road, and on the west. Significant differences in height
between the interior and exterior around the whole perimeter reveal a raised churchyard.
Monuments: there are localised concentrations but in general the marked graves are not tightly packed. 18thC and 19thC memorials lie to the south, 19thC and 20thC ones to the north. The oldest stone is dated to 1640 (Morgan David ap Hopkin), but this aside
there a number of late 18thC examples. A full list is provided in the church.
Earthworks: there is some internal banking around the perimeter, particularly around the north-east quadrant but otherwise nothing.
Ancillary features: main entrance in north-east where there are small ornamental iron gates, and a concrete path leads to the church. In the north-west is a pillared gateway and inside this are five steps up into the churchyard, such is the change in
height. Finally there is a vertical stone slab stile in the south-west.
Vegetation: three mature yews on the south side of the church.
CPAT Field Visit: 25 November 1996
Dawson 1909, 186
Glynne 1886, 271
Haslam 1979, 339
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 Llanfihangel Nant Bran 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 ( 22:00:51 ).
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org, website - www.cpat.org.uk.
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