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Eastern Conwy Churches Survey

Church of St Michael , Betws yn Rhos

Betws yn Rhos Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Betws yn Rhos in the county of Conwy. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH9068473546.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16714 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Betws yn Rhos Church, CPAT copyright photo CS971227.JPG

Summary

St Michael's church at Betws yn Rhos, also known as Betws Abergele and a little over 3 miles to the south-west of Abergele itself, is a small, Victorian structure with a distinctive west end, not universally lauded. Nothing of the earlier church survives except some re-used masonry and one mural plaque inside. The churchyard was originally sub-circular and its original course can be defined; its graves have seen drastic re-ordering.

Wholly mid-19thC in date, the upper walls faces showing some re-use of earlier materials.

Parts of the following description are quoted from the 1986 publication The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd by Edward Hubbard

History

The shape of the churchyard and the location point to an early medieval origin; implicit perhaps is the loss of the original dedication. Betws was originally subject to the mother church of Abergele. It has also been known by the names "Bettws Abegele" and "Bettws Wyrion Wgan".

In the Norwich Taxation of 1254 Betws was one of two chapels recorded under Abergele, though not mentioned by name. It is mentioned in the Lincoln Taxation of 1291 with the "rectoria" taxed at 6 13s 4d and the "vicaria" at 4 2s 1d.

The first incumbent, John ap I'eun Vaghn, was recorded in 1508.

The church was rebuilt in 1838 by John Welch at a cost of 756 when its predecessor had become very dilapidated. In 1853 the sittings were rearranged and a new pulpit and desk set up. Thomas states that the old font lay in the churchyard.

Architecture

The church at Betws yn Rhos consists of a nave with a small sanctuary appended at the east end and a curious bell-housing at the west end. The present building is oriented west-south-west/east-north-east.

Fabrics: 'A' is of mixed blocks and slabs of limestone, small to medium in size, together with shale and slate, some laminating; range of colours from light grey through brown to dark grey; random coursing. 'B' is of roughly dressed blocks of limestone. 'C' consists of large blocks of limestone, some stained red, with slate and shale; limewash flecks.

Roof: slates, plain clay ridge tiles; cross terminal to the nave.

Drainage: not in evidence for wall bases edged either by concrete or graveslabs.

Exterior

General. Because of its late construction date only an outline description of the church is provided. Diagonal buttresses of dressed limestone at four corners of the building.

North wall: all in 'A'; plinth at base using large blocks of limestone and flat rather than chamfered top; because of ground slope this is at ground level at west end but 0.8m high or so at east end of nave. Five simple lancet windows without dressings, but the arches turned in dressed blocks of limestone and having large sills of limestone.

East wall: plain.

South wall: lower part of wall in 'B', upper parts in 'A', but no plinth. Five windows as north side. Foundation stone set in wall at east end records rebuilding in 1838.

Sanctuary. General. Short. Built across the north-west angle of this and the nave is a small room with pitched roof, its door approached by flight of eight stairs.

East wall: 'A' at higher levels but more like 'B' below, with plinth similar to nave at height of c1.4m. Three linked lancets with limestone ashlar dressings. Beneath the windows is a semi-subterranean doorway presumably to a boiler house, and to north of them a window is a chimney projection.

Bellcote and Porch. General. Narrower than nave. Hubbard describes the 'comical west front, rough and toy-like. The porch is carried up into two octagonal turrets' with corbel tables, capped by spirelets which appear to be covered in concrete and topped one by a weathervane the other a weathercock; linked by a screen wall pierced by an arched bellcote. All this upper part in 'C'.

South wall: peaked arch to main doorway, in limestone.

West wall: two-centred arched window in concrete with wooden lights and tracery; above this a round window in limestone and then a clock face of 1877. 'A' for the lower courses, 'B' above the main window. At each angle, beneath the spirelets a vertical line of three iron ties, presumably taking the weight of the west gallery.

Interior

Porch. General. Flight of stairs to gallery. The only noteworthy feature is a 19thC wooden board showing the layout of pews and names of their owners.

Nave. General. Tiled floor, carpet down aisle; pews raised on wooden boards; Oldfield vault in south-east corner of nave. Walls plastered and whitewashed. Roof of five bays with queen-post trusses, the tie beams supported on wall posts and corbels with bracing.

North wall: four memorials, the earliest 1851.

East wall: marble memorial of 1790 north of chancel arch, plus Oldfield memorial to south of arch.

South wall: one 19thC brass.

West wall: has gallery and above this a Victorian coat-of-arms.

Sanctuary. General. Three steps up from nave. 19thC Commandment boards in Welsh on north and south walls.

Churchyard

The churchyard is now a truely irregular shape because of extensions on the north side. Originally it was sub-circular but was extended under a faculty of 1870, and again in 1908 and 1955. The slope of the original churchyard was quite pronounced from west to east. It is located on the western edge of a small valley that contains a tributary of the River Dulas. Thus west and north of the churchyard the ground is reasonably level but to the south and east the ground drops away sharply to the stream.

Boundary: a stone wall on the north continues as a retaining wall on the south. Buildings and yards lie to the east and north.

Externally there are considerable drops to the south (by 2m+), and east (2m+ also but exaggerated by levelling for a yard?); on the west it is little higher than the road outside. A scarp about 0.5m high marks the original drop on the north-east. Overall, generally sound evidence of a raised churchyard.

Monuments: churchyard has been subjected to rigorous clearing in the recent past; the small clumps of memorials that do survive seem to have been ordered in the recent past. Otherwise locally concentrated, particularly to the north of the church. Here there are some railed tombs including one of 1788. Slabs used as paving on the south side, including a number of 18thC date and a few even earlier. Church guide claims the oldest is 1661.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: low scarp on north-east represents the old churchyard boundary (see above).

Ancillary features: ornamental main gate is on west in wrought iron. There is a plainer one on the south-west. Tarmac paths, in places giving way to concrete. Store shed in north-west corner.

Vegetation: one yew on west and a couple of yew bushes on the north; a few small trees on the south with the occasional holly tree.

Sources consulted

Church guide 1988
CPAT Field Visit: 11 December 1996
Faculty: St Asaph 1870 (NLW)
Faculty: St Asaph 1908 (NLW)
Hubbard 1986, 106
Quinquennial Report 1988
Ridgway 1997, 40
Thomas 1913, 194
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 Betws yn Rhos Church may also be found on the St Asaph Diocese website.


The CPAT Eastern Conwy 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 ( 22:01:12 ).
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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