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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Eigon , Llanigon

Llanigon Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llanigon in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2137939928.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16881 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanigon Church, CPAT copyright photo 405-27.JPG

Summary

St Eigon's church is about 3km south-west of Hay-on-Wye, lying back from the valley of the Wye. It retains medieval fabric, perhaps from the 13thC, but only one original window and has been the focus of restoration work on several occasions, the most recent as a result of the Second World War. A curiosity is the bell chamber over the porch. Apart from its font it retains no medieval fittings. The churchyard is partially circular and is likely to have an early medieval origin.

Nave earlier than chancel. If its Victorian replacement windows are accurate reflections of what was there previously the paired lancets could indicate a 13thC date. Original east window reportedly moved to west wall in 19thC restoration, but as this window is itself not that old, we must assume it was replaced earlier in the 19thC.

Chancel and porch are 14thC though only south sanctuary window with Y-tracery is original; north window in chancel is thought to be 16thC/17thC, which suggests some modifications. Porch raised in 1670.

Restored in 1857: chancel east end largely rebuilt; chancel arch replaced.?Vestry added.

Restoration after bombing in 1941, but its extent is impossible to gauge.

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

History

The dedication, the morphology and the location favour an early medieval origin for Llanigon church. Needless to say nothing survives from that period.

It is claimed that prior to 1135 it was the principle church in the Hay region.

In the Taxatio of 1254 Llanigon was referred to as 'Ecclesia Sancti Eguini' and valued at 4 8s 10d; the later Taxatio of 1291 termed it 'Ecclesia de Laneygan'.

There is a record that it was once dedicated to St Nicholas. Given the Taxatio records this is likely to have been a short-lived post-medieval re-dedication (or perhaps an error).

In 1805 the walls of the nave were described as 'bedaubed with caricatures of death and time, a wretched imitation of the King's arms and "many a holy text strewed around", instead of which a little white lime would have been more ornamental'. The seats were generally irregular and decayed, the window near the pulpit was, as usual, to the clergyman's back. The chancel was ceiled.

The church was restored about 1857, and the east window was erected by the parishioners. Around 1887 a stone was discovered, covered with rubbish, when the churchyard was being put into a better state. It was thought to be a memorial to a 13thC priest, the cross having floriated ends in fleur-de-lys pattern, like others of that date.

In 1909 Dawson reported that the whole of the interior was cased in brick.

A brass in the church indicates that the church suffered extensive damage from a German bomb in 1941 and required considerable restoration.

Architecture

The church at Llanigon consists of a nave and chancel, a south porch with a small stone lean-to on its east side, and a north vestry with boiler house underneath. The church is oriented south-west/north-east but 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted for this description.

Fabrics: 'A' of small to medium slabs with some blocks, of red and grey sandstone, but a mix of different sandstones, some coarse, some fine-grained; randomly coursed. Large grey ashlar quoins. 'B' of medium-sized sandstone blocks, regularly shaped, irregularly coursed. 'C' small through to large, grey and red sandstone blocks, the larger towards the base; randomly coursed, but relatively regularly laid. 'D' weathered slabs of sandstone, small to medium in size.

'A' and 'C' are original but latter may also be re-used in places? B' is Victorian; 'D' from 1670.

Roofs: generally reconstituted clay tiles with ceramic ridge tiles, but chancel has slates; cross finials.

Drainage: not obvious.

Exterior

Nave. General. Battered base to about 0.8m. Victorian buttresses on north wall only. Ivy and other vegetation covers some of wall faces. Arguably of c.1300 and Haslam further claims that present west window was originally the east window.

North wall: Fabric 'A', with fresh appearance, where not disguised by vegetation. Three two-light windows, two-centred arches, chamfered dressings: all inserted, though difficult to determine precise edges of insertions. It is also claimed (by Dawson) that there was a small doorway opposite the main south door, which was blocked at the time of the Victorian restoration. This was not seen during the field visit.

East wall: nave up to 2m higher at apex than chancel, but less at eaves because of steeper pitch of nave roof. Continuation of battered base indicates that chancel added to nave.

South wall: Fabric 'A' with standard quoins; patchy pointing and render. Two replaced windows as on north side. Butt end of roof tie-beam visible near south-west angle. Porch appears to butt against wall.

West wall: probably Fabric 'A' but render on gable end and earlier plaster at lower levels. West window has three stepped lights with cavetto mouldings; grey sandstone. Must be Victorian, yet it is claimed that this was formerly the east window in the chancel which was moved in 1857.

Vestry. General. In Fabric 'B'. Chamfered plinth. Two-centred arched doorway with flight of steps up to it on east; steps down to boiler room on same side. Two-light window on north comparable with nave windows.

Chancel. General. Fabric 'C'. Base battered to height of 1m, and chamfered string-course in red sandstone above this.

North wall: string-course terminates about 1.2m along this wall, almost exactly above where at ground level foundation plinth projects from batter. Traces of limewash on wall face. Single round-headed window in grey sandstone: perhaps 16thC/17thC, though local historians see it as the sole indicator of a Norman church, albeit re-dressed at the time of the Victorian restoration.

East wall: Fabric 'C'; red sandstone quoins and string-course. Wall above this was probably wholly reconstructed using new materials lower down and re-using old masonry at higher levels. Large window with Y-tracery: Victorian. Three mural slabs attached to wall: one of 1775, the others too badly weathered to read.

South wall: Fabric 'C'; some plaster remains, and much ivy. Quoins replaced from height of c.1.5m. String-course for about 2m, then stops. Two-light window with Y-tracery and cusping, a two-centred arch over, all in red sandstone though mullion and some jambstones replaced; relieving arch of edge slabs, though this might not be original. A priest's door and a small blocked window adjacent to it, both disguised by the ivy.

West wall: not present.

Porch. General. Earliest porch thought to be 14thC. Unusually it has bell-chamber (of 1670) above it, but an unsubstantiated local tradition has it that this was formerly the priest's living quarters. Stone lean-to against east side, apparently a coal shed erected in 1849 when old stone staircase to bell chamber was closed.

East wall: Fabric D. Slit window high up, and to south a much larger opening to illuminate bell chamber, with sandstone slabs for louvres and a timber lintel. At height of c.1.2m and close to south-east angle is a putlog-like socket, matched by one in west wall; a local belief that these housed a wooden beam that could be used to reinforce the original door.

South wall: large dressed red sandstone slabs form front, probably a 'C' variant, but with something akin to 'A' above. Two-centred archway containing 19thC latticed wooden gates has unusual stopped-chamfered and half-round mouldings on plain capitals; perhaps some replacement of dressings? Porch then raised and probably widened: earlier gable line visible and masonry of 'D' type above, with three broad slit windows represents bell-stage added in 1670. Gable-end rafters covered with pegged sandstone slates but these now falling off.

West wall: large rectangular louvred lights illuminate belfry, the louvre boards of sandstone. Lower parts of wall in 'C', the upper part in 'D'.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor. Walls plastered and limewashed. Substantial wooden staging supports bells visible through the open timberwork, and this is propped up by four large corner pillars which are later additions. Roof has arch-braced collar trusses, some truncated, of two types; all are re-used medieval timbers.

North wall: two-centred archway with stopped-chamfers, all dressings in grey sandstone, apparently all replacements of 13thC original.

East wall: wooden bench against wall. Socket for beam (see exterior).

South wall: arch internally stop-chamfered.

West wall: as east wall.

Nave. General. Victorian tiled floor with central heating grille down aisle which runs the full length from west window to edge of sanctuary. Numbered box pews raised on wooden plinths. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Barrel ceiling, plastered and whitewashed, but one arch-braced truss visible at west end.

North wall: deeply splayed windows.

East wall: two-centred chancel arch in grey sandstone. Dates from the restoration of 1857.

South wall: as north wall plus arched reveal for main south door.

West wall: wall unplastered. One 19thC mural tablet.

Chancel. General. Victorian encaustic tiles in sanctuary which is raised one step above rest of building. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Crude roof of three bays with two principal rafter trusses reinforced by scissor braces beneath; purlins supported on rough corbels on west wall.

North wall: splayed window with flat sill.

East wall: wall is stepped in above the west window, suggesting not only that roof raised, but probably that internally some of original east wall in position. Four tablets with Lord's Prayer placed on wall in 1853.

South wall: mid-19thC commemorative plaque only.

West wall: chancel arch only.

Churchyard

The enclosure is now D-shaped with straight sides on the south-west and south-east, and a curve to the northern edge. It is clear that the parish hall has encroached on the original enclosure near the west corner, and one may suspect that the boundary has been modified on the south though there is no corroborative evidence for this assumption. The southern part of the churchyard is higher than the church, reflecting the natural slope.

The churchyard occupies a spur location with a steep drop down to the valley of the Cilonw Brook on the north-east and a gentler descent to a tributary on the north-west.

It is overgrown in places, particularly on the south, and is still used for modern burial.

Boundary: a continuous stone wall forms the boundary, except around the parish hall which is enclosed by railings. On the north-east the wall acts as a revetment above a stockyard, and on the north-west the natural slope has undoubtedly exaggerated the 1m height difference between the internal and external ground levels. On the south-west the ground level outside the wall is perhaps 0.7m below that inside, indicating that the churchyard is raised to a limited extent.

Monuments: most of the churchyard is covered by graves and their markers. These are regularly laid out on the south but not dense. There are a number of visible mid-18thC monuments, and two mid-17thC examples have recently been uncovered, recorded and covered over again by the Breconshire Family History Group. On the north side, the graves are predominantly 19thC. As usual flaking and general weathering is taking a toll.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none obvious.

Ancillary features: near the southern corner is the main entrance with a lychgate, stone walls supporting a timber superstructure, and an inscription recording its restoration in 1976. Adjacent is a vertical slab stile. Kissing gates are set in the south-west and north-east sides, and all the tracks are grassy paths.

Vegetation: four yews around the southern boundary of the churchyard and some deciduous and coniferous bushes within the yard.

Sources consulted

Cadw Schedule of Listed Buildings 1995
Church notes
CPAT Field Visit: 23 October 1995
Dawson 1909, 139
Haslam 1979, 350
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 106
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 Llanigon 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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