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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Cenau , Llangenny

Llangenny 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 SO2401218147.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16868 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llangenny Church, CPAT copyright photo 413-20.JPG

Summary

St Ceneu's church at Llangenny (Llangenau) lies on the bank of the Grwyne Fawr 2km east of Crickhowell in eastern Breconshire. Most of the structure is late 15thC/early 16thC, though part is almost certainly earlier. It has an interesting structural history, but there are few contemporary internal fittings. The churchyard, now an irregular polygonal, was originally a small curvilinear 'llan'.

The present north aisle was originally the nave and is almost certainly pre-15thC. A chancel (now the north chapel) may have been contemporary or was added subsequently. The nave was originally wider - see its corner immured in the west wall of the present nave - and the chancel was narrower and symmetrically placed until it was widened when the present nave and chancel were constructed on the south side in the late 15thC/early 16thC. Nave arcade of this date. Perpendicular windows were inserted into the original nave at this time, and probably the porch added as well. Roofs of all the main cells raised at some unspecified date.

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

History

An early medieval origin for this church site seems assured.

The 1291 Taxatio reference to "Ecclesia de Stratden'ad" appears to relate to Llangenny, with a particularly high value of 20.

At some point in the past the south aisle was converted into the nave and chancel. This may have occurred at the time of the Victorian restoration, but in view of the fact that the taller east window is in the present chancel it is perhaps more likely that the 15thC/16thC enlargement resulted in the creation of a new nave and chancel, and that the putative south aisle never functioned as such.

In 1809 the church was described as having a low shed on the western end, under which were two little bells. The southern aisle was thought evidently of later construction than the northern, "but both are dark and gloomy". The first was described as 'vaulted like that at Llanbedr, and the other barn-roofed, except above the chancel where it is flat'. The seats were decayed and irregular, and the floor only indifferently paved.

A 1909 account mentions restorations of the church in 1864 and in 1894. The 1864 restoration by C. Buckeridge was described by Glynne, who visited the church in that year, as a judicious restoration, with due attention to preserving its original character.

An 1891 faculty, presumably for the restoration of 1894, focused on the rebuilding of the north and west walls of the north chapel, and the construction of a new bellcote.

Architecture

Llangenny church consists of a nave and chancel in one with a south porch near the south-west corner of the nave, a north aisle and a slightly narrower chapel to the east, and a vestry off this chapel. It should be remembered that the present north aisle and chapel were the original nave and chancel respectively. The church is aligned almost exactly east to west.

Fabrics: 'A' is of small to medium slabs (and a few blocks) of grey and red sandstone, irregularly coursed; dressed blocks of the same material dressed for quoins.

Roofs: all have reconstituted clay tiles, decorated ridge tiles (except on vestry), with a single cross finial on chancel end.

Bellcote at west end of north aisle in Victorian buff sandstone houses two bells, and has a cross on its apex.

Drainage: a brick-lined gully, c.0.5m deep on north and west sides of north aisle.

Exterior

North Aisle. General. Fabric A with render remnants showing. Heating chamber just outside west wall?

North wall: base battered to height of 0.6m, and rougher foundation courses of wall exposed by the drainage trench. Wall has heavy raised 'pointing' giving rectangular 'brick'-like effect, regardless of the stone. North-west angle reconstructed to take chimney, the top of which projects from the roof. Above the most westerly window is a vertical butt joint in the masonry -- this could be simply rebuilding or perhaps the infilling of an earlier embrasure. Three windows from west: i) a single light in a square-headed window with a small hoodmoulding, the light cinquefoil-headed, hollow chamfers and hoodmoulding, all original except for the last; ii) three-light square-headed window, the lights with ogee heads and cinquefoil tracery beneath, all the dressings replaced in red sandstone, except for the top, one jamb and one mullion stone; iii) single light window as the first, but tracery poorer; part of the hoodmoulding looks older, while the chamfered jambs have been replaced in buff sandstone.

East wall: about 1m higher than chapel, but latter not in alignment for its apex is to the south of that of the north aisle.

South wall: none.

West wall: in Fabric 'A' but some larger blocks towards base, and a few render remnants. Wall face shows various features. A break line in the masonry, more evident on the south side of the gable than on the north reveals that the roof has been raised in the past. A lower gable line may indicate that at one time there was another cell attached to this wall - one explanation would be a porch but there is no trace of a blocked entrance in the wall, though there is a horizontal dripcourse above it; alternatively it could have been the shed for the bells which was mentioned at the beginning of the 19thC. There is however a small blocked slit window at a low level. The former south-west wall angle of an earlier structure, which can be associated with the slightly lower roof line, is still discernible immured in the west wall of the present nave, its carefully dressed quoins clearly visible.

Vestry. General. Modern doors and windows.

North Chapel. General. Relationship with north aisle cannot be ascertained. Fabric 'A' variation with a few larger blocks, and only rare render flecks.

North wall: battered to height of c.1.6m; the north-east angle has large yellow freestone quoins. Rectangular window carrying two peak-headed lights with small lights in the spandrels; except for one jamb stone, all the dressings replaced in red sandstone as in north aisle.

East wall: roof raised at some point in past. East window has three ogee-headed lights with cinquefoil tracery in a rectangular window with complex moulding; most of window has been replaced, but the top of the window frame, the sill and one jamb stone are probably original. Disconformity south of window from ground to a height of c.2m indicates original width of this cell, subsequently widened when present chancel added.

Chancel. East wall:- battered base but partially disguised by remembrance area with stones slabs and lead flashing. Again some evidence that roof raised by perhaps 0.3m. South-east angle has projecting foundation stone and then large quoins except for the highest 2m. East window with two-centred arch, three lights with cinquefoil tracery, and further smaller traceried lights above; considerable replacement, but some of arch and tracery dressings are original.

South wall: masonry is variation on 'A' with rather more red sandstone, regularly shaped. Also much regular 'pointing' as north wall of north aisle. Batter at base of wall becomes less pronounced to west, a result of the rising ground level. From the east end: i) rectangular window of three lights with ogee heads and cinquefoil tracery, complex mouldings, and label with flat-headed stops; most of dressings replaced. ii) two steps up to priest's door which has a four-centred Tudor arch, complex mouldings, stopped chamfers; some of jambs probably original, arch in a single block of grey freestone, less convincing; modern studded door. iii) a second window with two lights in rectangular window frame, the lights with cinquefoil tracery, the window having a label with stops; jambs and mullions in replacement grey sandstone, the heads in original red sandstone; part of label also replaced but stops original.

Nave. General. Much render survival.

South wall: from east: a small window, part original, now blocked, designed to light the rood loft; a four-light window similar in design to those in south chancel wall, again much replacement of dressings though some of the traceried heads are original; porch.

West wall: Fabric 'A' but larger than normal number of large red sandstone slabs in it. The south-west corner of the original nave visible in the wall face (see above); also distinctive lines in the fabric of the gable where the roof has been raised. One two-light window, the lights with trefoil heads and a quatrefoil above, all under a two-centred arch with a stopped hoodmoulding and a relieving arch; the whole window totally replaced in yellow sandstone.

Porch. General. Perpendicular style. Variation in Fabric 'A' with inclusion of medium to large blocks of red sandstone. Some of masonry disguised by render and by heavy pointing.

East and west walls: narrow chamfered slit window in each wall.

South wall: doorway has semi-circular head, complex mouldings with shallow stops and rests on polygonal bases; much weathered and all in original red sandstone, but set slightly off-centre in wall face.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor, those directly in front of south door having traces of inscriptions and one date of 1692? Plastered walls. Late 15thC or perhaps early 16thC wagon roof of 24 ribbed panels; three tie-beam trusses and cusped struts.

North wall: four-centred Tudor doorway, complex moulding with complex stops; mainly original red sandstone, though the head in orange sandstone must be a replacement.

East wall: stoup; splayed window; stone bench with flag seating.

West wall: as east wall but for stoup.

Nave. General. Tiled floor, but covered with carpet down the aisle; benches on raised wooden plinths. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Perpendicular wagon roof continuous with chancel - in all 108 ribbed panels and moulded wall plates.

North wall: arcade of three bays (with two more in chancel), octagonal piers the most westerly of which is a monolith; two-centred arches and moulded capitals. 19thC mural tablet above one pier.

East wall: no division from chancel except a single step.

South wall: one deeply splayed window with stained glass; main door has peaked embrasure, and there is a step down into nave at doorway. The door itself is heavy and early. Above it is a Victorian wall painting depicting a scroll with a verse from Psalms. One 19thC mural tablet and three 20thC brasses.

West wall: splayed window plus two marble tablets of 19thC and 20thC date.

North Aisle. General. Floor as nave, but heating vents down centre and into north chapel. Roof has six ribbed tie beams and a flat ceiling. Organ takes up south-west corner and disguises some of wall surface.

North wall: three splayed windows; one marble mural tablet of 1796 and two of the 19thC; a rectangular niche below the most easterly one.

East wall: wall is dominated by a plain, unchamfered, two-centred arch leading to chapel; on either side of it are squints with asymmetric splays, into chapel; north of the more northerly squint and higher up the wall face is a shallow rectangular recess -purpose uncertain, but church notes suggest it held the picture of a saint and that there was an altar under each squint. Mural tablet of 1688.

South wall: arcade; most easterly arch springs from a corbel set at higher level that capital of respond.

West wall: splayed embrasure of small rectangular window, centrally placed and low down on wall face; now blocked externally. Adjacent a 19thC marble mural tablet.

North Chapel. one step up from north aisle and another to the sanctuary. Floor of wooden blocks and partially carpet covered; choir stalls raised on wooden plinths; sanctuary paved largely with graveslabs (at least eleven ranging from 1685 to 1787). Low-pitched Tudor ceiling.

North wall: splayed window; modern doorway to vestry; psalm scroll above war memorial brass.

East wall: splayed window; 19thC mural tablet.

South wall: two arcade arches supported on a pier and two responds, the east bay with a parclose screen.

West wall: arch; 19thC mural tablet.

Chancel. General. One step up from nave, floor carpeted and choir stalls raised; one up to sanctuary which has encaustic tiles on floor. Altar raised. For roof see nave.

North wall: arcade; one 19thC mural tablet.

East window: splayed window embrasure, stained glass.

South wall: two splayed windows both with stained glass; priest's doorway has slightly pitched soffit which, unlike sides, is chamfered. Piscina. One mural tablet of 1675 and one more plus a brass of the 19thC.

Churchyard

Although the circular churchyard depicted on the Tithe Map may be stylistic, and it is evident from the earthwork evidence (see below) that the original church sat in a small curvilinear enclosure, and that this has been extended to the north and west.

Most of churchyard is reasonably level though there is a gradual slope from west to east, and a more marked slope in the west extension. It is located on the west bank of a fast-flowing stream, the Grwyne Fawr, and there is a drop of perhaps 6m immediately below the east churchyard wall.

Boundary: consists of a mortared stone wall, in places up to 2m high. On the east there is a low bank inside the wall, possibly the remnants of the earlier enceinte.

Monuments: most of the churchyard is full, but the graves are quite well spaced, though there are few to the east and north-east of the church. 20thC graves to the north-west, 19thC with a few earlier to the south.

Furniture: sundial to south of nave. Three-step plinth, ornate pillar and plain gnomon and dial; the original (?17th) sundial stolen eight years ago.

Earthworks: old enclosure distinguishable as a faint bank or scarp on the south-west side running round to the north. Nowhere it is more than 0.5m high.

Ancillary features: stone-walled lychgate with timber superstructure and a roof of collars and struts bears the inscription 'at the charge of Anthony Morgan 1639', though Glynne in 1864 thought the lychgate new. This is at south end of churchyard and a tarmac path leads to church and to vestry. The only other gate is a modern one set in north wall and giving access to store shed.

Vegetation: several yews, most of them on or close to the earlier boundary bank.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 24 November 1995
Dawson 1909, 146
Faculty 1891: NLW/SD/F/364
Glynne 1886, 280
Haslam 1979, 347
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 146 & 148
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 Llangenny 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 ( 22:00:56 ).
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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