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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Gwendoline , Llyswen

Llyswen Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Bronllys in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO1333838011.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16902 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llyswen Church, CPAT copyright photo 1035-24.JPG

Summary

St Gwendoline's church lies close to the Wye a few kilometres to the north-east of Brecon. The church was totally rebuilt in 1863, and apart from the font, a few re-used graveslabs and a single bell there is nothing inside which survived the Victorianisation. The churchyard, however, is small and circular and coupled with the dedication it is likely that Llyswen was founded in the early medieval era.

New building of 1863.

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

History

An early medieval date for this foundation seems likely on the basis of the dedication, the almost circular churchyard and the siting near the river. Theophilus Jones claimed that the site was given to the See of Llandaff in c.560 AD. Its subsequent history and development, however, remain largely unwritten.

It does not appear in either Taxatio, but the record in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 referred to it by its modern name and valued it at the comparatively low rate of 3 14s 7d.

The predecessor of the present church, as depicted on an old sketch now housed in the tower, had a nave and smaller chancel, a west bellcote and a south porch. There was a square-headed window in the nave, a two-centred arched window with two lights in the east wall of the chancel and one window in the south wall of the chancel which could conceivably be round-headed though this seems unlikely. A watercolour of the interior depicts a two-centred chancel arch, cusped tracery in the nave window and a ceiled roof with at least one tie beam.

In 1863 the church was built anew by Charles Buckeridge, a pupil of Scott, though it appears that some old masonry was re-used, particularly on the north side. Haslam claimed that the retention of the original Norman plan accounted for the slight axial discrepancies in the Victorian buildings.

Roof restored in 1964.

Architecture

The church comprises a nave and slightly narrower chancel, a west tower and a south porch. It is oriented slightly north of true east.

Fabric: blocks and a few slabs of grey sandstone with occasional red sandstone intrusions; random coursing. Quoins invariably of good dressed freestone.

Roofs: reconstituted clay tiles, plain ridge tiles, stone finials to nave and chancel and a metal one on the porch. Tower has stone tiles.

Drainage: no clear evidence.

Note: as the church is a Victorian rebuild, the following description is a summary.

Exterior

Tower. General. Uniform fabric though masonry rougher at lower levels. Chamfered plinth at base and this continues around whole building including the buttresses. Windows, whether standard lancets or the two-light example in the west wall, have relieving arches; string-course also functions as a hoodmoulding. Clock face over window on west wall. Low pyramid roof with weathervane and cock.

Nave. General. Wall has better finished stone at lower levels on north side and red sandstone predominates. Victorian double-light windows with quatrefoils or cinquefoils above, all under two-centred arches.

Chancel. General. North wall has slabs of red sandstone at lower levels (cf nave north wall), but at higher levels the fabric is more heterogeneous with a greater mixture of colours and shaped sandstone blocks. East wall similar to lower part of north wall, while on south less regular masonry appears at higher levels. Lancet windows on the north and south, and three stepped lights under a round-headed arch in the east wall. On south side a priest's door under a two-centred arch with stopped chamfers and a hoodmoulding.

Porch. General. Timber superstructure on chamfered masonry plinth. Open front.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor; benches on east and west. North wall contains two-centred arched doorway with chamfered moulding - Victorian. Open roof with collars.

Nave. General. Flagged floor, uneven aisle with carpet over, and benches raised on wooden boarding. Walls plastered and whitewashed, and a two-centred chamfered arch to the tower. Interior of both nave and chancel largely unornamented. Roof of scissor trusses.

Chancel. General. Chancel one step up from nave, sanctuary a further step up, and two more to altar. Tiled floor, choir stalls raised on wooden plinths, but encaustic tiles in sanctuary. Walls as nave. Unceiled wagon roof reveals collars above.

Tower. General. Flagged floor incorporates old graveslabs: two of 1675 and 1784, a third illegible. Gallery in first stage.

Churchyard

The churchyard is small and more circular than most; it occupies level ground on the valley floor with the River Wye little more than 100m to the north. It is raised, most noticeably on the south and south-east and to some extent on the west, though there is little change in height on the north.

It is well maintained but modern burials take place in the cemetery on the south side of the road.

Boundary: defined by a revetment wall, in part mortared especially near the west gate, but largely drystone.

Monuments: south of the church these are evenly spaced and quite dense, and some stones have been removed to the perimeter. Graves on the north are almost as dense, and overall there are few open areas. A reasonable number of later 18thC memorials remain though many are badly weathered; the earliest that was recognised was of 1738 and there are others from the 1760s.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: none.

Ancillary features: main entrance on west where there is a single broad iron gate and an adjacent kissing gate. On east is a wooden bar stile approached by five steps and both are served by tarmac paths within the churchyard. A blocked gap in the northern perimeter has brick terminals and may be related to a former shed that shows on OS Maps.

Vegetation: mixed trees and bushes, mostly around perimeter. There are two yews - neither of any great age - within the yard, but two more outside the northern wall may indicate that the boundary has been pulled inwards along this stretch.

Sources consulted

Church notes: n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 16 November 1995
Dowson 1979, 151
Haslam 1979, 357


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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 Llyswen 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 ( 22:01:02 ).
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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