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Brecknockshire Churches Survey

Church of St David , Garthbrengy

Garthbrengy Church is in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, in the community of Honddu Isaf in the county of Powys. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SO0456633516.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 31225 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Garthbrengy Church, CPAT copyright photo 440-30.JPG


St David's church is located to the east of Afon Honddu, 5km to the north of Brecon. The building is a mixture of medieval masonry and 17thC and 19thC reconstructions - the latter included the removal of a north aisle. Internally, there is a reasonably typical group of fittings: a medieval stoup and font and 18thC and 19thC memorials. The churchyard is interesting for its clear indication of expansion at some point prior to the 1840s.

Tower claimed as 17thC, presumably on the basis of the belfry windows though conceivably this stage has been rebuilt. Nave walls largely rebuilt in Victorian era, though windows on north from earlier,?15thC north aisle. Chancel in part original but windows replaced, and no clear evidence of date. There is a claim, however, that parts of the building may date from the 12thC.

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


The origin of the church is obscure, but the former enclosure fossilised within the present churchyard could point to an early medieval origin.

In the 1291 Taxatio it is recorded as 'Ecclesia de Karpngy' with a value of 3 6s 8d. A similar value was attached to 'Carchpreguy Ecclia Prebendalis' in the Valor Ecclesiasticus more than two centuries later.

Main restoration of the church was in 1834 by William Jones with reports of further works in 1874 and 1901. Theophilus Jones in 1809 noted the rood-loft steps in position, but these have now gone.


Garthbrengy church comprises a nave and chancel in one, a west tower, a south porch near the south-west angle of the nave, and a heating chamber against the north wall of the tower. It is aligned almost exactly west to east.

Fabrics: 'A' of small and medium slabs of weathered grey sandstone, some coursing; larger better dressed slabs for quoins; occasional lumps of red and yellow sandstone incorporated in the masonry. 'B' medium sized, somewhat irregular blocks of sandstone in mixed colours (grey, red and brown); some coursing. 'C' small to medium sandstone, mixed colours, irregular slabs and blocks, not regularly set. 'D' regular blocks of grey, red and brown sandstone; some coursing.

Fabric 'B' is medieval, 'A' is considered to be 17thC, 'C' is probably medieval masonry re-used in the Victorian period, and 'D' is new Victorian.

Roofs: slates with ceramic ridge tiles, no finials.

Drainage: little obvious evidence of a drainage trench around the walls.


Tower. General. Fabric A throughout. Battered base to height of c.1.2m. No string-courses. Jambs of belfry windows have occasional socket holes which occur inconsistently; purpose unclear, but possibly indicative of re-use? Tower capped by flattish pyramidal roof with base for weathervane in place.

North wall: one slit window about half-way up wall, no dressings, but stone louvre boards. Belfry window has louvred round-headed light with chamfered, yellow freestone dressings. Lean-to boiler room at base.

East wall: apex of nave reaches to just below belfry window, but lies to one side of it, indicating that the two elements of the building are not in line. Belfry window as on north.

South wall: at ground level is an inserted rectangular window with two rectangular glazed lights, reddish-brown dressings and metal window frames cemented in. Standard slit window half-way up, and belfry window as on north though no obvious socket(s) in jambs. In tower/nave re-entrant, in line with the nave eaves is a stone slab projecting like a fragmentary string-course: purpose obscure. Finally it may be noted that at belfry level there is subtle change in masonry which could conceivably indicate a rebuild.

West wall: one rectangular slit at ground level, just above the batter, with reddish-brown sandstone chamfered dressings; Victorian with faint traces of insertion. Standard slit and belfry windows at higher levels.

Nave. North wall: formerly the open arcade of the demolished north aisle. Fabric C, with occasional variations in the masonry, smaller stones being used, noticeably around some windows; limewash remnants on stones. Three rectangular windows, all of two lights with cinquefoil tracery under two-centred arched heads; chamfered dressings, each window slightly different in appearance. Much replacement of dressed stone and most easterly window has best survival of original stonework. These windows were originally in outer wall of north aisle. Two Victorian buttresses. Iron-grilled vents near ground level.

South wall: wall rebuilt in Fabric D. Two rectangular windows with cinquefoiled tracery in lights; olive-grey sandstone, all Victorian.

West wall: small area of wall face visible. Large rectangular block projects from wall at base, perhaps a remnant of an earlier buttress or other structural feature. In places original walling survives, but most of wall rebuilt.

Chancel. General. South wall of chancel on fractionally different alignment from that of nave; a similar phenomenon is not noticeable on the north wall.

North wall: in Fabric B. One window, a trefoiled lancet with complex mouldings of Victorian date. A large chunk of wall rebuilt around it, though the remnants of limewash on the infill masonry, as well as the masonry itself, reveal re-use.

East wall: much weathered masonry, probably Fabric B. Four-centred arch contains three stepped lights with two-centred heads and cusped tracery; red sandstone dressings, some of which could be original?

South wall: in Fabric B, but window as on north side of chancel and inserted with infilling of 'D'.

Porch. General. Fabric D type. South wall has round-headed archway with chamfered dressings, all in Victorian grey and red sandstone. There is no gate or door, but a light over the top.


Porch. General. Flagged floor and one step up to south door. Plastered walls. Rafter and collar roof of no great age.

North wall: two-centred arch for main church door, chamfered with bar and broach stops; dressings painted, but possibly Victorian.

East wall: stoup, in good condition.

Nave. General. Flagged floor (except for one graveslab of 1730 which might be re-used), with carpets over vents and down aisle; raised wooden flooring under benches. Plastered and painted walls, but dressings unpainted. Roof of multiple scissor trusses across both nave and chancel, presumably Victorian.

North wall: encompassed in the wall is a low, three-bay arcade, a remnant of the former north aisle, which extends into chancel; four-centred Perpendicular arches of two chamfered orders spring from octagonal piers. 20thC brasses on wall.

East wall: no wall; instead a screen of 1912 set on a low foundation wall, with two steps up to chancel.

South wall: wall leans outwards slightly; splayed windows and slightly splayed door embrasure with flattish two-centred arch over. Four 19thC mural slabs.

West wall: surface irregular but nothing of obvious significance. Narrow doorway with two-centred arch and chamfered dressings to tower. Four mural tablets, one of 1782, the remainder 19thC.

Chancel. General. Flagged floor with two centrally placed graveslabs (one of 1725, the other perhaps 1829), covered by carpet; Victorian encaustic tiles in sanctuary, which is one step from chancel, and another to altar. Some of choir stalls raised on wooden plinths, others on the flags. Walls and roof as nave.

North wall: slight outward lean and one deeply splayed window.

East wall: window splayed but dressings do not look ancient.

South wall: unlike the external face, the wall is in line with that of nave. One 19thC mural tablet.

Tower. General. One step up from nave, the threshold flagged but remainder of floor has wooden boards with carpet over. Plastered walls. Flat wooden ceiling at height of about 5m.

North wall: wooden board indicates that church rebuilt in 1833/34 with assistance from Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement of Churches.

East wall: flat-headed reveal, but nothing to suggest it is of any age.

South wall: recess in wall from ground level to top of the window, but of no age.

West wall: one splayed window.


The church is set in a medium-sized, faintly curvilinear churchyard which has been extended on all sides but was originally about 50m in diameter (see below). Internally the ground is reasonably level, though it does start to fall away to the south of the church. Church and churchyard are positioned on a gently sloping hillside to the east of the Honddu, though to the north the slope is imperceptible and the location appears more like a hill top.

The present circuit is defined by a stone retaining wall reinforced by a hedge, and in some places, notably on the north, there is evidence of internal banking. The external ground level is consistently lower than the interior, varying from several metres on the west where the churchyard towers above the road to less than 0.5m on the east.

Monuments: these are restricted to the south side with none on the west and north. Locally dense; some are leaning, quite a few others have flaking faces. The earliest that was noted dated from 1797.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the original line of the sub-circular enclosure bank is clearly visible on both the north and south sides. There is a low scarp bank of c.0.7m with several yews on it on the north, resulting in a raised platform around the church; on the south this continues intermittently, again surmounted by yew trees. Clear evidence of an earlier 'llan' around the church.

Ancillary features: small double iron gates and a concrete path provide the main access from the south. There is a small iron gate on the east approached by a grass path, and a farm gate at the north-west corner. A wire fence to the west of the main path and another running eastwards from the north-east corner of the chancel to the boundary cordon off the 'active' part of the graveyard, presumably to allow sheep to graze across the remainder.

Vegetation: numerous yews, many quite mature. As noted above most are set on the former 'llan' bank.

Sources consulted

CPAT Field Visit: 14 March 1996
Crossley and Ridgway 1952, 61
Dawson 1909, 74
Haslam 1979, 319
NMR Aberystwyth
Powys SMR
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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 Garthbrengy 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 ( 22:00:38 ).
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 -

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