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Eastern Conwy Churches Survey

Church of St Mary , Llanfair Talhaiarn

Llanfair Talhaiarn Church is in the Diocese of St Asaph, in the community of Llanfair Talhaiarn in the county of Conwy. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SH9270970135.
The church is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 16847 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.

Llanfair Talhaiarn Church, CPAT copyright photo 517-27.JPG

Summary

St Mary's church is situated above the small village of Llanfair Talhaiarn lying in the valley of the Elwy, about 5 miles to the south of Abergele. The double-naved church probably has some medieval fabric surviving, but there was considerable rebuilding in the 19thC and all of the windows date from that time, though the south door could be one or two hundred years earlier. Inside only a disused font bowl and a few of the roof timbers date back to the medieval era, but there is a good range of 18thC wall memorials and one unusual feature is a 19thC tank built for adult baptism.

The churchyard is small and polygonal in shape, but there is a hint of curvilinearity on its south side.

A minimum of two medieval phases is suggested by the inset in the south wall, though there is no corroborative evidence. North wall of north nave retains old masonry, presumably of medieval origin, but upper part of the wall has been rebuilt or heightened, probably the latter. East end largely rebuilt in two different fabrics, the one an homogeneous mixture, the other freshly quarried material; the sequence in which these two were used is not entirely clear, particularly in the south chamber. The south wall of the south chamber has been largely replaced, but though the windows are all 19thC it is not clear whether all were replaced at the same time, for two different styles are represented (or indeed whether these are faithful copies of earlier windows in different styles). Hubbard thought the windows were all of one date and replaced 17thC and 18thC examples, the south door perhaps representing a contemporary feature. The porch is Victorian.

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

History

Location and to some extent the churchyard morphology point to an early medieval origin, though there is no specific evidence for an earlier dedication to Talhaiarn, reputedly a 5thC saint.

Llanfair Talhaiarn appeared as "Ecc'a de Llanber" in the 1254 Taxation with a value of 4. In the 1291 taxation it was recorded as both "Ecclesia de Lanveyrdalhaern" and "Capella de Lanveyr Dalhaeayn" at 8.

Work on the church is suggested by a date of 1669 carved into a Greek cross that was once visible on the bellcote.

Glynne visited the church in 1856. He described a church 'very late and rude'. There was a six-bay arcade with the four western arches obtuse and misshapen and the other two more pointed with square piers. The windows were either bad and modern or poor, square-headed and of the 17thC.

The church was reportedly re-roofed and repaired in 1839 at a cost of 205 and restored in 1876 for 1400, reputedly to Scott's design. New windows were inserted, the choir and sanctuary were raised, the present arcade constructed, the building was again re-roofed and the seating rearranged. The ground level around the church was lowered, and the hearse house which was attached to the church was taken down and rebuilt in a more convenient place.

In 1879 a faculty was presented for an extension to the burial ground to the west of the church, though there is no evidence that this was ever presented. A new hearse house was planned in the extreme south-east corner. The choir was re-arranged and a vestry room provided in 1880.

Architecture

Llanfair church is a double-naved structure with a porch set about half way along the south side, and a bellcote at the west end of the south nave. It is oriented slightly north of true east.

Fabrics: "A" consists of medium sized, irregular blocks of grey limestone, irregularly coursed. Quoins of larger, slightly more regular blocks. "B" consists of mixed rubble, irregularly laid, including iron-stained limestone, shale slabs and buff-coloured freestone; also used for window dressings. "C" is of irregular grey lumps, some being micaceous siltstone or the like together with other stone, small to medium in size, irregularly coursed.

'A' is medieval, 'B' and 'C' are 19thC.

Roof: slates, reconstituted clay ridge tiles; stone cross finials at both ends of the north nave, and east end of south nave. Bellcote of dressed stone with weathervane surmounted by fish; one bell dated to 1738.

Drainage: on north side is a slight hollow beside the wall, which towards the west end turns into a grassless strip partly covered by recumbent slabs. East end also has a hollow, the south side a gully. Therefore some evidence of a drain cutting beside the walls.

Exterior

North Nave and Chancel. General. Described as one element because no differentiation other than chancel window.

North wall: in 'A' with foundation course projecting slightly at east corner. Above the windows and in places around them, the masonry is 'B'; as the level of the change is fairly consistently at window top level it suggests either wholesale rebuilding or a heightening of the walls. The windows are square-headed; three in the nave with foiled ogee-headed lights, all to the same pattern, the heads in pinkish sandstone, the chamfered mullions and jambs in buff-coloured freestone. Other features include, from west: i) most westerly window has slabs of the buff sandstone in line above it (set in 'B'); ii) jambs of second window in chamfered limestone, presumably from an earlier window; iii) 'B' masonry incorporates part of a graveslab immediately above the third window; iv) chancel window to same pattern as nave window but of two lights, all the dressings in pink sandstone; v) to east of window iv) part of wall rebuilt in 'B'.

East wall: lower part in 'A', upper part in 'B', but gable top in 'C'. Window, off centre as a result of wall heightening on north, has two-centred arch and two trefoiled lights with Y-tracery; also a simple hoodmould. Victorian design.

West wall: wall face covered with render coat. West door with segmental head of limestone and inscription 'WFH HT WARDENS 1715'. North of this door is a concrete lean-to with a boiler room sunk beneath it.

South Nave and Chancel. General. Treated as one cell as north nave.

East wall: juncture of east walls of two chancels disguised by heavy pointing. East window has two-centred arch, three lights with foiled ogee-heads and quatrefoil lights above, and a simple hoodmould, all in pink sandstone. Lower part of the wall appears to be not in 'A' but in a variation of 'C'. Above this and around the window is 'B', and the apex of the gable is in 'C'.

South wall: 'A' at base of wall though with some variety in the masonry including long slabs of shale-like material and very large quoins in vicinity of chancel window; this could be the only evidence of an eastwards extension of the south nave and it is not convincing. Masonry in heterogeneous 'B' from about 1.4m upwards (i.e. in line with lower parts of windows). From east the features are: i) square-headed two-light window with two-centred lights that do not conform to the standard pattern elsewhere; ii) three-light window as in north wall and showing signs of insertion; iii) porch; iv) a brick arch set in nave wall almost at ground level - associated with a vault covered by a slab adjacent to the porch wall; v+ vi) two three-light windows as north wall. West of the porch there is little 'A', and is mostly 'B' though quoins have been retained.

West wall: thick render cover. A two-centred arched window with simple Y-tracery and a hoodmould, all in pinkish sandstone.

Porch. General. In 'C'-type masonry.

East wall: plain.

South wall: doorway with three-centred head and modern door; above a tie-beam with struts fills the gable.

West wall: plain.

Interior

Porch. General. Stone flag floor; walls plastered and whitewashed; roof of purlins and rafters with one collar truss in addition to the gable truss showing externally.

North wall: round-headed doorway, unchamfered dressings; and a massive door, claimed to be late 17thC, with sanctuary ring, wooden lock and internal bracing.

East wall: plain with wooden topped bench.

West wall: as east wall. In north-west angle on the floor is the broken bowl of the old font. Against the wall is an unprovenanced plaque with the inscription 'RK OR CHURCHWARDENS 1797'.

North Nave. General. Single chamber extends full length of building. West end taken up with organ of 1880 and vestry. Floor carpetted with wooden boarding beneath benches. At west end near door is a vault covered by a slab (info: from churchwarden). Walls plastered and painted. Roof of eight and a half bays with arch-braced collars springing from wall tops, and two tiers of small cusped windbraces; some original timberwork survives in this.

North wall: slight outward lean to wall. Four splayed windows. At least four 19thC memorials plus two of the 18thC, one in a window embrasure. Also a large painting of unknown date.

East wall: one slightly splayed window and a memorial tablet of 1682/1707.

South wall: six-bay arcade with broad, chamfered, two-centred arches, springing from octagonal columns and capitals. In Decorated style but dating from 1876. Two marble mural tablets of 1790 and 1818.

West wall: slightly splayed west doorway. Benefaction board of 1717.

South Nave. General. Flag floor heavily carpetted, but certainly some reused graveslabs; along the front are at six, the earliest legible, of 1633, and there are others of 18thC date at the west end. Benches on wooden boarding. Walls as north nave. Roof of nave and adjacent chancel of eight and a half bays with arch-braced collars springing from wall tops, and two tiers of small cusped windbraces. Very little of the timberwork looks original.

North wall: four-bay arcade, as south wall of north nave; one marble mural tablet of 1792.

East wall: only division from chancel is one step up.

South wall: two splayed windows with a third shared with the chancel. A little to the east of the south door, the wall face is inset by 0.25m, and the rest of the nave and all of the chancel has a narrower wall. Furthermore the wall to the west has more of a outward lean to it: presumably the earliest part of the surviving structure. Late 18thC and 19thC memorial tablets on wall.

West wall: one splayed window and a memorial tablet of 1816.

South Chancel. General. One step up to the chancel, one to the sanctuary and one to the altar. Floor tiles in pattern in chancel, encaustic tiles in sanctuary; choir stalls raised on wooden boarding. For walls and roof see nave.

North wall: arcade as north chancel. Marble mural tablet of 1686.

East wall: splayed window with memorials of 1720 and 1883 on either side.

South wall: sanctuary window has segmental soffit, more pronounced than others. Memorial tablets of 1692 and 1776 (in a window splay), and a brass of 1882.

Churchyard

The original churchyard is small, well-kept and occupies fairly level ground. There are traces of curvilinearity on the south, which are more pronounced on the mid-19thC tithe map. An extension was added on the west side in 1879. The site overlooks the steep-side valley of the River Elwy, and the ground drops away immediately to the river on the north and into a tributary valley on the east.

Boundary: a mortared stone wall acts largely as a retaining wall on all sides.

Monuments: the old churchyard is reasonably full though the monuments are not densely packed. Many are ledgers, and there are a number of chest tombs, several of which are collapsing. A number of 18thC memorials survive, the earliest seen being of 1726.

Furniture: none.

Earthworks: the yard interior is raised, not only on the north and east above the valleys, but on the west by about 0.5m and on the south by over one metre.

Ancillary features: simple wrought iron gates on the south, between stone pillars surmounted by balls. Tarmac path to the porch. Store shed at south-west corner.

Vegetation: two yews of moderate age on the south, and elsewhere a few small conifers.

Sources consulted

Church guide: 1995
CPAT Field Visit: 12 September 1997
Ellis Davies 1929, 227
Faculty 1875: NLW
Faculty 1879: NLW
Glynne 1884, 101
Hubbard 1986, 209
Lloyd Williams and Underwood 1872, pl 24
Quinquennial Review 1989
Thomas 1913, 220
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 Llanfair Talhaiarn 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 ( 22:01:18 ).
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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