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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Peter and St Illtyd , Llanhamlach

Llanhamlach Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanfrynach in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0895326438.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16879 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanhamlach Church, CPAT copyright photo 373-14.JPG

Summary

The church of St Illtyd and St Peter at Llanhamlach lies on the eastern side of the River Usk, 5km downstream from Brecon. The tower is attributed to the 14thC or 15thC, but the rest of the building was comprehensively restored in 1887, though a 15thC date has also been given to the porch. An early medieval inscribed stone, a 14thC effigy and a 15thC font are preserved within the church, and the churchyard with its hint of curvilinearity could take the site back to early medieval beginnings.

Tower probably 15thC or a little earlier; the church guide puts a Norman date on the lower stages though without convincing evidence to support the contention. The nave and chancel were restored in the later 19thC, though the extent of the restoration and rebuilding is unclear either from fieldwork or the contemporary architect's specification. The porch is a 19thC rebuild incorporating an earlier, 15thC doorway.

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

History

The British dedication, the location and the partial curvilinearity of the churchyard suggest an early medieval origin for Llanhamlach.

The church is now dedicated to two saints but it has been argued that the dedication to St Peter was added in the early Norman era by the endowment of the family of Sir John Walbeoffe who accompanied Bernard de Neufmarche in his conquest of this area at the end of the 11thC.

In the 1291 Taxatio Llanhamlach is referred to as 'Ecclesia de Lanhamelagh' at a value of 4 6s 8d, while its current name is given in the Valor Ecclesiasticus in 1535.

The bells were installed in 1829.

The nave was completely rebuilt in 1804, and Glynne in 1855 commented on the fact that all but the tower and north porch had been replaced, the windows "of the poorest modern Gothic".

A further restoration in Decorated style was completed by S. W. Williams in 1887. This involved the excavation of the church floor to a depth of 12", window replacement and taking down unspecified amounts of the standing building.

Subsequent work includes the erection of the Reredos at the beginning of this century, and more recently the restoration of the Victorian wall paintings in the chancel.

Architecture

Llanhamlach church comprises a nave and chancel in one, a west tower and a north porch at the north-west corner of the nave. The church is oriented fractionally south of true east.

Fabrics: 'A' is of grey and red sandstone in small and medium sized blocks and slabs; dressed stones for quoins; heavy pointing; irregular coursing. 'B' also consists of grey and red sandstone though the masonry is weathered to a more homogeneous tone; slabs predominate and show frequent coursing; large ashlar quoins.

Roofs: stone tiles but occasional slate replacements; semi-cylindrical terracotta ridge tiles.

Drainage: possibly there is a drainage trench along the north side though not very clear.

Exterior

Porch. General. Fabric 'A'.

North wall: two-centred arch with chamfered sandstone dressings, possibly original, and Griffiths (NMR) queried whether it might have been the original church door.

East and west walls: plain.

Nave and chancel. General. Externally indistinguishable apart from buttresses at juncture on both sides. Fabric 'A'.

North wall: three square-headed Victorian windows in red sandstone dressings; all are three-light with quatrefoils above, and labels over. One buttress.

East wall: one Victorian window of three lights with cinquefoil heads and panel tracery; human-headed stops to the hoodmoulding

South wall: as north wall, but there are considerable patches of limewash at lower levels and there is a disconformity in the fabric near the south-east corner to a height of nearly 2m. A chimney protrudes above the central buttress.

Tower. General. Fabric 'B'; Perpendicular style. Chamfered plinth at height of 1.2m; string-course at c.1.6m, a further string-course with plain waterspouts just below the battlemented parapet.

North wall: one chamfered slit window just above the lower string-course and two further examples higher up, not quite vertically aligned but regularly spaced; immediately above the third is the louvred belfry window, a rectangular window with two lights having ogee heads and cusped tracery, and moulded dressings, probably all original.

West wall: two chamfered slits and a belfry window, all similar to north side. Low down (but now covered by ivy) is reportedly a block of stone with what is thought to be pre-Conquest decoration.

South wall: one chamfered slit and a standard belfry window.

East wall: nave apex reaches to about half the height of the tower. Belfry window is of standard form.

Interior

Porch. General. Tiled floor; plastered walls; simple roof of Victorian build (?).

East wall: three grave slabs of 1598, 1664 and? bracketed to wall.

South wall: Gothic arched doorway to nave in red sandstone with hoodmoulding and head-stops.

West wall: three 17thC graveslabs bracketed to wall, the only legible one of 1680.

Nave. General. Tiled floor, some matting, and at least two grilles over sub-floor heating vents down aisle; benches on wooden block flooring. Plastered walls. Roof of three full and two half bays; hammer beams on ornamented corbels, arch-braced collars with trefoils above.

North wall: nothing of significance.

South wall: early medieval stone against wall.

West wall: low Tudor doorway with stopped chamfers.

Chancel. General. Floor is tiled but carpet covered. Walls plastered. Roof of wood panels with braces.

North wall: incorporated into wall is an arched recess holding the medieval effigy (see below).

South wall: aumbry.

Tower. General. Flagged entrance and wooden floor one step above it. Splayed windows. Wooden ceiling to first floor.

Churchyard

The churchyard is D-shaped with curvilinear sides on the south and east and straight ones on the north and west: there is, however, no indication that the last two have been straightened out in the past. The ground within the church is level, and outside it, the only change in level is on the south-west where within 30m the ground falls drops down to the River Usk. The site is thus on the edge of a major river valley.

The churchyard is still used for burial; it is overgrown in places.

Boundary: the enclosure is defined by a stone wall; around the north-east corner and the north and west sides there is internal embanking but little change in ground levels internally and externally. However, at the south-west corner, even allowing for the internal embanking the external drop becomes marked, near 2m, and this continues though less dramatically to the road on the south and south-east. The continuous embanking within the perimeter wall appears to define the earlier boundary of the churchyard.

Monuments: these are spread over virtually the whole churchyard, but are densest to the north of the porch and to the east of the chancel. The earliest are inevitably those graveslabs in the porch; the earliest recognised in the churchyard is of 1769 just to the south of the south-east corner of the chancel, but many of the monuments are covered by vegetation, their inscriptions inaccessible.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: small timber lychgate with single wooden gate at north-east corner, and a small iron gate through the southern perimeter, both served by tarmac paths.

Vegetation: four old yews, perhaps significantly just inside the eastern and southern perimeter.

Sources consulted

Church guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 17 August 1995
Dawson 1909, 133
Faculty 1887: NLW/SD/F/394
Glynne 1886, 277
Haslam 1979, 349
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 Llanhamlach 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 ( 22:00:58 ).
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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