CPAT logo
Back Home
Index to Brecknockshire Churches survey

Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St Ishow , Partrishow

Partrishow Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of The Vale of Grwyney in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO2788922434.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16931 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Partrishow Church,  copyright photo 1099-04.JPG


St Ishow's church occupies a remote spot 8km north of Abergavenny. To the usual nave, which may be Norman, and its accompanying 16thC chancel, has been added an eglwys-y-bedd with 13thC and 14thC features. The church contains an excellent range of furnishings and fittings including a superb screen and rood loft of c.1500, a font with an inscription of c.1055, two earlier altar slabs and a large number of 18thC mural slabs. The churchyard has been extended but was originally very small, and retains a medieval churchyard cross. .

Nave has been claimed as Norman, presumably on the basis that the eglwys-y-bedd, of putative 13thC date, abuts it; but its windows are Late Perpendicular (?16thC), as is the south door.

The chancel is of a different build to the nave and therefore may be wholly 16thC as defined by the windows, particularly that in east wall.

The porch is considered to be 15thC.

The eglwys-y-bedd appears to have seen considerable rebuilding. Assuming the west lancet is original, the core of it could be 13thC.

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


There is documentary evidence to indicate that Partrishow was established in the mid-11thC, though whether there was already a building here remains undetermined. It was apparently called Methur Issui, a corruption of Merthyr Ishaw, and together with the mother church of Llanbedr, was committed to the pastoral care of one Matgueith. An inscription on the font dates it to the time of Herwald, who was consecrated Bishop of Llandaff in 1056, when Cynhyllyn (Genyllyn Voel), the son and heir of Rhys Goch, was lord of Ystradyw, as well as prince of Powis. It has been argued that the font was coeval with the dedication of the church (c.1060).

During the medieval period Partrishow (Patricio) continued to be held with Llanbedr, and this probably explains its absence from the 13thC Taxatios or the Valor Ecclesiasticus in 1535. However it does appear in the St Davids' Episcopal Register for 1512 as a chapel annexed (to Llanbedr) in Ewyas deanery.

In 1864 Sir Stephen Glynne noted that the whole of the exterior was whitewashed. A small window at the west end of the nave was mutilated and closed, the chancel had an ugly modern ceiling encroaching on the arch. He thought the western chapel was co-eval with the church. A plain pointed doorway entered it on the south. The screen was described, together with the two altars beneath it, and the western chapel had a solid east wall had a third original stone altar against it. In the wall north of this he described a pointed trefoiled niche and two stone steps. On the south was a single-light window, and on the west an obtuse-headed small window, closed. There was a curious wooden poor-box and the interior was flagged and dark.

Partrishow avoided Victorian restoration and its conservation was undertaken by W. D. Caroe in 1908-9, with further work on the churchyard in 1919.


Partrishow comprises a nave with a west bellcote, a slightly narrower chancel, a south porch, and at the west end an eglwys-y-bedd with its own entrance. The church is oriented fractionally south of east.

Fabrics: 'A' consists of small through to medium large slabs of grey and red sandstone, irregularly coursed; large dressed blocks for the quoins. 'B' is as 'A' but the masonry includes a larger number of blocks mixed with the slabs; occasionally coursed. Quoins are not as well dressed as in 'A'.

Roofs: large sandstone tiles with ridge tiles of similar material. Bellcote and porch have stone cross finials.

Drainage: trench around north side and concrete lined gully on west; nothing obvious on east and south.


Nave. General. Fabric 'A', with windows of 16thC date. Nave and chancel both have a slab-topped ledge, 0.5m max in height and c.0.5m deep running along the south wall - presumed to be a relatively modern feature for seating though Glynne referred to it in 1864, stating that there were parallels in the neighbourhood ; in front of it graveslabs have been laid as a path.

North wall: extensive traces of render remain on upper part of wall. Foundation courses project forwards and appear irregular compared with wall face, perhaps due to them being hidden until revealed by drain construction. No windows. Rood stair housing projects by c.1m, has a slight batter at the base of the wall, and has same type of quoins and same render remnants as main wall. High up, its lintel hidden by wooden boarding across the eaves, is a small rectangular window with chamfered dressings, presumably original, and an iron grille. Nothing to suggest that the stair housing butts against the nave.

East wall: nave is just over 1m higher than chancel. There is a possibility that part of the east wall has been rebuilt. The east wall of the rood stair housing projects out from the main face of the wall by <0.3m, while at the south-east angle the wall also projects, though this time by not much more than 0.1m, beyond the gable.

South wall: wall has exaggerated batter to a height of about 1m at west end and this continues round onto the west side. There are no obvious signs of rebuilding or insertion though the nature of the masonry might preclude such signs. Features from west are: i) a two-light window, the lights with round heads, the mullion and east jamb replaced in grey sandstone; the large jamb on the west and the head are original although the former appears very similar in size and colour to the quoins used in the nave, and could conceivably be re-used; ii) porch; iii) square-headed window with three lights that have round heads, hollow chamfers, sunken spandrels above the lights and a label. How much is original is difficult to determine but the arrises on some of the dressings look unweathered, and the mullions and jambs do not fit precisely with the weathered sill; iv) a rood loft light comprising a small, rectangular, chamfered window with red sandstone dressings, except for the sill in grey; again sharp arrises but probably original.

West wall: remnants of render on wall; drip-course of diagonal overlapping slabs set into wall above roof of the eglwys-y-bedd, probably recent. In northern part of wall is a small square window with hollow chamfered dressings, the jambs once rendered; the top protected by a projecting slab, now lead covered. Above this window the wall looks to be slightly inset. At the apex of the gable the walling extends up to form the side of the bellcote with two arched recesses for the bells; some of the dressings look worn but most are more recent. Behind this facade (i.e. to the east) which does house the bells is a wooden turret with louvred sides.

Chancel. General. Fabric 'B'; render remnants. Windows again 16thC. No batter to the walls; that on south is bowed slightly.

North wall: render remnants and some modern concrete render just below eaves. No windows. No obvious relationship with nave except at foundation level where it appears that nave wall has been chopped away to take chancel - the alternate explanation that the chancel is earlier seems inherently unlikely.

East wall: A square-headed two-light window not quite centrally placed. The lights have two-centred heads, with sunken spandrels above, hollow and roll mouldings, a label with worn, decorated stops; the mullion and most of the jambs are replaced in grey sandstone. One mural tablet of 1797/1805 to the south of the window.

South wall: two rectangular windows with chamfered dressings of mixed sandstone, not all of which may be original. Priest's door approached by two steps; it has a four-centred arch and chamfers, with a bar stop on the east jamb only.

Porch. General. Butts against the nave. Remnant render on east and west walls.

East wall: simple slit window, chamfered dressings. Two gravestones of 1821 and 1854 lean against it.

South wall: bottom of wall face battered. Large, almost rounded, two-centred arch, chamfered with broach stops; reveals have two holes apiece for hinges. Some of the arch stones in red sandstone, probably original, but the rest in grey are more suspect.

West wall: as east wall with small window.

Eglwys-y-bedd. General. Largely in 'A'. Walls slightly battered; chimney with coping at west end.

North wall: plain. Upper part of wall is rougher than lower section, and is probably rebuilt.

South wall: cleaned but not all render removed. There is also a noticeable change in the appearance of the masonry near the south-west angle, and it is conceivable that there has been further rebuilding of this face. A wide two-centred arched doorway with chamfered dressings; arch surely replaced. A single window east of the door with an ogee-headed trefoiled light in buff-yellow sandstone: it does not appear to be of any great age.

West wall: weathered masonry with render in patches. Generally 'A', but more blocks in lower courses. A 13thC lancet with chamfered dressings in grey sandstone. The wall face is very uneven and some at least could be rebuilt.


Porch. General. Approached by two steps up. Flagged floor. Bare walls. Roof of two bays with simple collars and rafters.

North wall: four-centred arch in red sandstone, chamfered with elongated broach stops; jambs in grey-brown sandstone. Batter of external wall face cut back to accommodate doorway. Door iron-studded and vertically ribbed, of some age.

East wall: small splayed window. Stone slab bench. Stoup consists of simple circular bowl in a recess which has a two-centred head.

West wall: splayed window; stone slab bench.

Nave. General. Stone slabs under font and in front of screen where there are also several graveslabs utilised. Wooden block flooring under seats. Walls are plastered and whitewashed. Panelled wagon roof, ceiled - 60 panels - with moulded ribs and plain, pegged bosses; ribbed wall plates; late 15thC.

North wall: three wall paintings. From west: i) a fragmentary text; ii) opposite the main door, a faint coat-of-arms with an inscription on either side; iii) rood stair doorway with four-centred arch and simple triangular stops to the chamfers; iv) a mural tablet of 1757; v) a fragmentary inscription.

East wall: largely hidden by screen and rood loft; two-centred arch springing from responds with ribbed capitals; attributable to the late 15thC. Plaster above the arch has marks which may be the remains of Royal Arms painting. Two early altars set in front of screen.

South wall: from east: i) small splayed window high up; wall painting of text; iii) splayed window embrasure with wooden lintel; iv) main text; v) door reveal with worn four-centred arch, the dressings more worn internally than externally; vi) small text over door; vii) mural tablet of 1791; viii) splayed window, with most of the reveal plastered and whitewashed; ix) mural tablet of 1767 over window. Also two 20thC mural tablets.

West wall: splayed window to eglwys-y-bedd, partly whitewashed, segmental head, flat sill. High up in the northern part of the wall a splayed window with sloping sill. Below it the wall painting of a skeleton.

Chancel. General. No change in level from nave to chancel but one step up to sanctuary and another to altar. Flagged floor with many 18thC graveslabs; wooden block flooring under choir stalls. Plastered and whitewashed walls. Modern ceiling of three battlemented tie beams and panelling, put in by Caroe.

North wall: unevenly plastered. Six mural tablets of (from west) 1775, 1797, 1804, 1751, 1793 and 1778, and at extreme east end a wall painting of text. Behind the 1797 mural tablet, the remains of a plaster frame in relief.

East wall: deeply splayed window with two mural tablets of 1744 (to north) and of 1788 (to south).

South wall: two splayed windows with wooden lintels to reveals. Segmental head to door reveal. Four mural tablets from east: 1800, 1792 and beneath it 1766, and 1793.

West wall: tie beam across chancel arch.

Eglwys-y-bedd. General. Flagged floor includes two graveslabs the inscriptions on which are almost illegible, though one of 178?. The altar is placed off-centre to the right, over the grave of Issui and is approached by one step. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof has ten arch-braced trusses with pegged collars and is attributed to the 14thC.

North wall: plain.

East wall: at a height of c.4m the wall face is inset implying either rebuilding or possibly the location of a roof collar though this seems unlikely. Chamfered and glazed window to nave. Near the north-east angle a niche with a modern statue.

South wall: splayed window with stone lintel. Door has simple flat-headed reveal.

West wall: window is very badly skewed, suggesting it is of some considerable age.


Church and churchyard are sited on a natural shelf on a remote and steep south-facing hillside; the shelf has been extended by terracing the church into the north slope.

The churchyard has been enlarged in the last hundred years. Previously, it was a very small enclosure with a curvilinear west side; now it is considerably more elongated stretching as far as the lane.

It is overgrown but is used for modern burial.

Boundary: drystone wall on south and east, and a wire fence around the rest; the original boundary on the north remains discernible as a derelict stone wall and on the west as a scarp bank (see below).

Monuments: there are occasional graves beside the path through the new yard, but the majority of memorials are densely packed to the south of the church. Earliest noted is 1764, but they are mostly 19thC.

Furniture: churchyard cross perhaps of c.1300, except for the lantern by Caroe. Three steps up to square base which has chamfered angles interrupted by rounded stops. Octagonal stem with elongated broach stops at base.

Earthworks: original boundary shows to west of church as scarp bank and to north-west as an internal scarp.

Ancillary features: west of the church is a small stone building, previously outside the small churchyard, and presumably to be equated with the stable for the parson's horse by the lychgate, mentioned by Haslam. Stone lychgate erected in memory of R.B.Gabb (d.1919) at west end of enlarged churchyard. A stone slab path leads to porch and then to gate at east end.

Vegetation: one old yew within yard to north of nave; otherwise deciduous species.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 27 June 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 79
Dawson 1909, 214
Glynne 1887, 282; 1902, 98
Haslam 1979, 362
Jones and Bailey 1911, iii, 111
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 Partrishow 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 ( 22:01:06 ).
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 -, website -

Privacy and cookies