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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St David , Llywel

Llywel Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Llywel in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SN8694230053.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16903 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llywel Church, CPAT copyright photo 414-10.JPG

Summary

St David's church at Llywel lies in a small valley converging on the Usk valley about 18km to the west of Brecon. Though part of the tower may be earlier, the building is considered to be largely late 15thC and is of simple plan. Internally there is an early medieval stone and the cast of another, a significantly early font and the village stocks.

The tower could be basically 14thC with 15thC alterations on the basis of its plainness and a blocked east window. Most of building claimed to be Late Perpendicular of about the 1480s. However some evidence that chancel added on, and mixture of windows in nave suggests extra fenestration inserted.

Little sign of any Victorian rebuilding except perhaps on north nave wall.

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 Llywel is a possibility; the early Christian stones have no bearing on the argument, but the putative pre-Norman font is suggestive.

The name of the settlement is supposedly that of a founding 5thC saint, a disciple of Teilo, but prior to its acquisition about 1203 by the Chapter of St David who gave it the current dedication, it was reputedly dedicated to three saints - David, Darn (Paternus) and Teilo - and known as (Llan)Trisant.

Church was burnt down towards the end of the 12th century according to Giraldus Cambrensis.

In the Taxatio of 1291 it was registered as 'Ecc' de Luel' with the remarkably high value of 14.

Major rebuilding took place in the late 15thC, but the tower may indicate a building phase in the previous century.

Ceiling plastered in 1812. Some restoration by Scott in 1869, included removal of rood loft, and the tower was restored in 1877. Plaster panels in ceiling replaced in 1987. An account prior to 1930 mentions that there was at one time a priest's doorway into the chancel from the north, and that the church contained an oak chest dated 1674.

Architecture

Llywel church consists of a nave, a slightly narrower chancel, a tower attached to west end of nave, and a porch set almost mid way along south wall of nave. The alignment is precisely east/west.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of medium to large blocks (and a few slabs) of red and occasionally grey sandstone, irregularly coursed with dressed blocks for quoins. 'B' of small to medium slabs, and a few blocks, of weathered red sandstone, irregularly coursed; frequent intrusive pink pointing.

Roofs: slates with red terracotta roof tiles but no finials.

Drainage: no obvious drainage trench and only concrete gullies on sides of porch; tower run off led away in conduit into churchyard.

Exterior

Tower. General. Fabric A. Basal stage has substantial batter to height of c.2.5m with top formed by weathered string-course. No further break until battlemented parapet, defined by moulded string-course with gargoyles. Embattled stair-turret rises above tower on south-east. Flag pole on top of tower.

North wall: batter shows differential weathering to rest of face. One dressed stone with arcing groove on it built into wall at height of c.5m: re-used? High up in second stage is slit window with unchamfered red sandstone dressings. Above this is a belfry window, flat-headed with two two-centred lights without tracery but louvred. One much weathered gargoyle.

East wall: apex of nave a little more than half way up tower wall. Slit window as on north side but set fractionally lower. Belfry window here has moulded flat top and limited decoration in spandrel.

South wall: less than half way up second stage is flat-headed window containing trefoil-headed light with cavetto moulding and louvre boards. Belfry light as on east though jambs and mullions probably replaced; one gargoyle. South-east corner has stair-turret projecting from this face. The basal string-course is not carried round this turret, unlike two others, one the gargoyle string-course that carries around the whole tower, the other lower down and on the turret alone. One small slit window set in south wall of turret, three in west face all in second stage; the middle one is exceptional in that chamfered dressings and one jamb could be re-used from elsewhere (?a later insertion).

West wall: recessed into the splayed base of the tower is a two-centred arched doorway, with hollow chamfers, all in red sandstone and all original; it holds double doors which are also of some age. To south of door is rectangular alcove with a stoup set in it. Above door three corbels support the string-course and there is a relieving arch above. Low down in second stage is a single, ogee-headed light within a grey sandstone, flat-headed window. Then standard belfry window as on east and south, and two fine gargoyles.

Nave. General. Fabric 'B', the nave perhaps 1m higher than chancel.

North wall: weathered masonry except above each window where there is an infill of fresher stone; also possibility that fresher masonry at west end including quoined angle could indicate rebuilding. Wall slightly battered for first 1m or so; two air vents at ground level; and at least 14 put-log holes of which two are blocked. Three windows, from west: i) rectangular embrasure of Tudor date, chamfered dressings, two four-centred lights with decorated spandrels, mullions certainly replaced, possibly some of other dressings; ii) Late Perpendicular two-centred arch with complex mouldings containing three lights with cusped tracery and cusped heart-shaped panels above; mullions and a couple of jamb stones replaced; iii) similar to ii) but mullions and most of tracery in main lights replaced. To east of this window the wall is out-set to accommodate rood loft stair; it has good quoins, two put-log holes in the east face, remnants of plaster on north face, and is bonded into main wall on west.

East wall: only small amount of masonry visible and some covered by lead.

South wall: large quoins of tower turret appear to abut the few quoins of nave's south-west corner, indicating former is later in date. Two air vents. Windows exactly as north side, with some replacement in the middle (mullion) and more westerly (mullions and all tracery) windows. Above porch roof, fabric shows a band of disturbance and skewed stonework suggesting higher porch line or removal of drip course.

West wall: abuts wall of tower.

Chancel. General. Chancel fractionally out of line with nave. Fabric 'B'; no batter in contrast to nave.

North wall: one air vent at ground level. One two-centred arched window of three lights with cusped tracery and two broad panels above; mullions and much of tracery replaced.

East wall: wall face badly obscured by heavy pointing. East window has two-centred arched window, four lights with ogee heads, cusped tracery and, above, panels with cinquefoil heads, all largely original dressings. Seven mural slabs pinned to wall, of: 1774, 1779, 1796, 1813, 1817, 1828 & 1835.

South wall: abuts east wall of nave; one air vent; one window exactly as north side with mullions and most of tracery replaced. Also a priest's door with four-centred arch, stopped chamfers and all original dressings. Mural tablet of 1743.

Porch. General. Fabric 'B'. Sides battered for about 1m or so, and appears to butt against nave.

East and west walls: plain.

South wall: two-centred arch, fine, complex mouldings set on chamfered bases, all original. No gate or door but light above the arch.

Interior

Porch. General. Flagged floor. Roof of four moulded arch-braced collars alternating with three plain, unfolded ones. Walls not plastered.

North wall: Four-centred arch with complex mouldings and stops, all in red sandstone; heavy studded door thought to be original 15thC fitting. Projecting and damaged stoup to east of door.

East wall: stone bench with flagged seat.

South wall: complex moulding internally to doorway giving hexagonal responds.

Tower. General. Floor of wooden boards covered in carpet.

North wall: plain. Stocks set against it, and old font in north-west corner.

East wall: opening on to nave.

South wall: two-centred doorway to tower stair; stopped-chamfers and all dressings in red sandstone. Mural tablet of 1761/1783 and framed Tithe Map.

West wall: simple rectangular embrasure for west door. Broken and unintelligible mural tablet.

Nave. General. Flagged floor, largely carpet covered, but no certain evidence of underfloor heating - instead piping along back of seats. Benches raised on wooden boarding. East end around pulpit is tiled. West end under boards. Wagon roof of 128 full panels and 32 half panels with plaster infill. All walls in nave and chancel plastered as are window embrasures except for dressed stonework.

North wall: deeply splayed windows; triangular-headed arched doorway with stopped-chamfers all in red sandstone gives access to rood stairway built within an oblong chamber against the north wall. High up on wall is four-centred arched doorway to former rood loft; chamfered sandstone. Doors themselves of recent date. 19thC marble mural tablet.

East wall: broad two-centred arch with screen of 1925 by Harry Hems.

South wall: deeply splayed windows and segmental headed embrasure for main south door; four 19thC marble tablets.

West wall: no conventional arch to tower, just a two-centred arched ceiling; in the entrance are three bays of the screen that was removed in 1869. High up on wall face is a window with chamfered jambs, its head invisible behind the nave ceiling; a wooden door or other form of blocking in place.

Chancel. General. One step up to chancel, one to sanctuary and one to altar. Victorian floor of red and black tiles. Raised choir stalls. Vault under chancel with former entrance outside beneath stone. Wagon roof of 120 panels.

North wall: one deeply splayed window. Four 19thC marble tablets plus monument of 1600 to Sybil Morgan.

East wall: behind altar are decorated tile settings which spread up wall and into basal splay of east window.

South wall: splayed window, and the priest's doorway, a simple alcove. Beneath window a shallow tomb recess with a Tudor arch and chamfered sandstone dressings. Mural tablet of 1684.

Churchyard

Llywel churchyard is of medium size and somewhat irregular shape. Curvilinear on the south and south-west, its north and east sides are much straighter and hint at expansion to north of church, though there are no earthworks to confirm this; an alternative view might see the early churchyard truncated on the east.

It occupies level ground beside a small stream that ultimately feeds into the River Usk. To the north the ground rises steadily to Eppynt.

Boundary:- consists on north of well-built mortared stone wall with coping stones, probably refurbished recently. Coinciding with the concave course of the wall on the south side is a sudden enbanking of material internally, and around south-west and south the interior is raised perhaps 0.5-1.0m above external levels. The disparity increases on the east where the wall acts as a revetment and the external level is nearly 2m lower.

Monuments: graves are spread widely throughout the yard except in the north-west corner. Well laid out on north where primarily 19thC and 20thC, less orderly but denser on south with some back to the 18thC. Earliest gravestone of 1740 and several others from second half of 18thC close to south side of church.

Furniture: none seen.

Earthworks: other than internal banking seen on south, the only feature is a gentle scarp running east/west across the northern side of churchyard. Its origin is uncertain.

Ancillary features: utilitarian double gate of iron on north side with grass track leading to modern burial areas. In south-west a single ornate iron gate with a concrete path leading to the church and to south-east side where small double iron gates.

Parish hall set within the churchyard on the north side.

Vegetation: three large, mature yews, one on north two to south of church. A few deciduous trees within the perimeter.

Sources consulted

Church Guide n.d.
CPAT Field Visit: 20 November 1995
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 76
Dawson 1909, 173
Haslam 1979, 359
Jones and Bailey 1930, iv, 99, 107-108
NMR Aberyswyth
Silvester and Dorling 1993, 66
Thorpe 1978, 79
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 Llywel 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 ( 22:01:03 ).
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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