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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Bridget , Llansantffraed juxta Usk

Llansantffraed juxta Usk Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Talybont-on-Usk in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1223723495.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16886 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llansantffraed juxta Usk Church, CPAT copyright photo CS974433.JPG

Summary

The church of St Ffraed (Bride) lies in a sub-rectangular churchyard on east side of River Usk, some 9km to the south-east of Brecon. The date of its foundation is unknown and the present building is wholly Victorian. A few medieval fittings survived the rebuilding and there is an interesting group of post-medieval memorials.

Complete rebuild in uniform masonry with Gothic details in 1884/85; only one earlier window head retained; position of new church very slightly different from that of the old, and a description of latter given in Williams 1887.

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

History

Church is dedicated to St Bride, and Dawson speculated that the first church was founded here in early medieval period. The location though not the churchyard morphology is consistent with such a view.

The Taxation of 1254 contains a reference to 'Ecclesia de Sancta Brigida' at the relatively low value of 1, while the 1535 Valor refers to it as 'Llanseyntfrede'.

The predecessor of the present church had medieval and earlier 17thC features, and a curious 'bee-hive' bell-turret, though Theophilus Jones at the beginning of the 19thC claimed that the church had been rebuilt in 1690. In a detailed discussion Williams described the building as consisting of a nave, north aisle and chancel, and a south porch that had a pointed arch to the doorway of uncertain date. The bell-turret had circular openings and a peculiar string course, and was considered to be 18thC. The priest's door was round-headed but undatable. The interior sloped upwards towards the chancel. There was a four-bay arcade, the arches with semi-circular heads set on massive piers, and the chancel arch was similar. Williams argued that a north aisle and chancel were added in the early 16thC, and further alterations were made around 1626.

The building, which by the later 19thC was ruinous and too unsafe for use, was replaced by Stephen Williams, the Rhayader architect. He claimed late Norman/Early English dressed stone and architectural fragments, including an Early English lancet in the north wall, as well as three square-headed Perpendicular windows. One, window head, carrying a date of 1626, was saved from the south wall of the nave and placed in the vestry, and an old stoup was retained in the porch. A series of monuments and graveslabs were also transferred.

It was totally rebuilt in Gothic style by Williams in 1884-5. Stone from the earlier building could be used for specific purposes as detailed in the Specification.

Architecture

Church consists of nave, chancel, north (Buckland) chapel, south chapel with adjacent octagonal tower and spire, and south porch. Brick lean-to on west side of north chapel acts as boiler house, with chimney above. Apart from the lean-to all elements belong to the rebuild of 1884/5.

Church is aligned north-east/south-west but for the purposes of this description 'ecclesiastical east' is adopted.

Fabric: 'A' of rectangular slabs and blocks of reddish-grey sandstone, small to medium in size, randomly coursed; red sandstone dressings.

Roof: red ceramic tiles with comparable ridge tiles, large coping stones on gables, cross finials to nave, chapels and porch. Corbel table supports metal guttering with downpipes. Spire topped by cross.

Drainage: gully visible around south side, while eastwards towards chancel the whole church is terraced into hillside to depth of 1.5m and more.

Exterior

Walls all in Fabric 'A', chancel slightly lower than nave; chamfered plinth towards wall base; nave has single-light windows (except for west window), beneath hoodmouldings with ballflower-like stops; elsewhere two- and three-light windows, the hoodmouldings with human-heads stops; angle buttresses at west end of nave (one containing foundation stone of 1884), diagonal buttresses on chapels and east end of chancel.

Interior

Nave has tiled floor with heating vents, and flush wooden block flooring under benches. Four steps up to chancel, the floor similar but carpeted; one step up to sanctuary. Vents also in north chapel, where marble memorials against the walls. South chapel has gravestones back to at least 1598 as floor flags (some hidden by organ).

Nave has arched-braced roof on corbels, with collars; 6 bays in all. Wagon roof in chancel.

Walls of bare red sandstone blocks, set off by white corbels, and white, Early English style foliage capitals on the chancel arch.

Organ and vestry occupy south chapel, with access through adjacent tower as well as from chancel.

Churchyard

Llansantffraed churchyard is broadly sub-rectangular but there is a slight curve to its south-east side, and an 1817 map hints at a rather more curvilinear enclosure. It is set on a slope just above the valley bottom with the River Usk little more than 100m to south-west. Church itself is terraced into this slope.

Churchyard is tidy and well-maintained, and is still used for burials.

Boundary: consists of a mortared stone wall on south-east, the ground level internally slightly lower than that outside. On north-east is a revetment wall with internal banked slope into churchyard and a line of conifers, and outside a wire fence. Mortared stone wall picks up on north-west where internal ground level perhaps maximum of 0.3m higher than outside. On south-west is a high revetment wall, the churchyard level raised above the adjacent road by at least 2.5m.

Monuments: stones are well spread with some concentrations of graves on south-east and north-west sides, but few in the north-east quadrant. Earlier stones cleared and leant against south-east perimeter wall, but these are now largely covered by vegetation; a particular grouping of cleared slabs, some broken, in east corner range from 1775 to 1912. Here too is Henry Vaughan's slab. East of the north chapel is an underground 'mausoleum' constructed for a Holford.

Furniture: none though note the shaft fragments outside the porch (above).

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: at north-west corner a modern wooden swing gate provides main access to churchyard, while at south corner are double wooden gates supported on pillars: both have tarmac paths leading to church. Near north corner is a small metal swing gate.

Vegetation: several large yew trees on west side of church, smaller ones along south-eastern perimeter of churchyard. Conifers along north-east edge and occasional one elsewhere.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 24 October 1995
Dawson 1909, 155
Faculty 1885: NLW/SD/F/420
Haslam 1979, 354
NMR Aberystwyth
Williams 1887
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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 Llansantffraed juxta Usk 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 ( 22:01:00 ).
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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